Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Success in 2015

2015 has been a pretty good year. I PR'd the 100k distance at Pigtails 100k and came in second female in the process. I achieved my goal of running 100 miles in under 24 hours at Elijah Bristow 24 Hour. I actually won an ultra (first female) at the Pick Your Poison Relay (24 Hour Solo Trail division) and I finished my third 100 mile trail race within my time goal at Mountain Lakes. To top it all off I was the Female Masters winner of the Oregon Trail Series Long Race division. In addition to my own accomplishments I was able to play a small part in my good friend Desiree's completion of the Larry Slam (WSER, TRT, CCC, P2P). By all measures, it was a successful racing year.

But when I think back on the year, on all that happened, it's not the numbers I remember. The images that come to mind are of friendships and camaraderie.  Those relationships are the important things from 2015 and what I will cherish when the statistics of the year fade away.  That's the true success of 2015.

A few images that make me smile....

Elijah Bristow 24 Hour with my awesome crew/pacers Megan and Desiree

Desiree's spectacular WSER finish

Running the Timberline trail with Megan and Teri (picture by Teri Smith)

Pacing Desiree at Cascade Crest 100 (picture by Glenn Tachiyama)

Desiree coming in for the finish of Pine to Palm --- and the Larry Slam
(picture by Paul Nelson)

Mountain Lakes 100 mile finish with my awesome crew Ethan and Desiree
(picture by Paul Nelson Photography)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Farewell 2013.....Looking Forward to 2014

Early in 2013 I stated here that this year I wanted to train better and see what I could accomplish if I gave it my all.  Well I guess I accomplished that goal because I did focus more on my training and I achieved more than I could have ever thought possible.  Instead of a rundown of my year, I'll just list my top five running accomplishments.  And yes, I feel extremely fortunate to have had a year that included even more than five highlights.

#5 Tie - 5k PR and Oregon Trail Series Age Group win

Okay, I  lied and can't keep it to just 5 highlights.   In September, the week before Mountain Lakes 100, I ran a neighborhood 5k and finished in 23:17.  That's a 7:29 pace in case you don't want to do the math.  Whoa!  I really didn't know I had that in me. I'm the gal who usually plods along at a 9-10 minute pace.  And since I didn't feel like I needed to puke for the last mile I'm pretty sure I could have pushed it more and maybe even finished under 23 minutes.

In September I also found out that I won my age group in the Oregon Trail Series.  Technically I was second,  But fortunately for me the overall winner was in my age group.  Nevertheless I'm proud of my result and I won another cool pint glass to add to my collection.

#4 Waldo 100k

I never would have thought that finishing Waldo would NOT be the number one highlight in a year.  But it still makes the top 5. :)  This was a tough day for me, but I still had a pretty strong race and earned my hat.  And now I want to go back and finish sub 16 hours.

#3 Mt Hood Circumnavigation

This was a spur of the moment adventure.  For my 49th birthday I decided I wanted to complete an epic run.  Yassine suggested this one.  I had my doubts whether it was the right time or place, but I'm so glad I took the plunge.  What a wonderful adventure!  Marc joined in the fun and we spent 15 glorious hours circling the 40+ miles around one of the most beautiful mountains in the country.  This is one birthday I'll never forget.

#2 Javelina Jundred

After the disappointment of Mountain Lakes, I'm so glad I was able to move on and finish my first trail 100 down in Arizona.  Some things that made it extra special were my brother pacing me a lap from miles 62 to 77 and finally getting the "first 100" monkey off our backs with good friend Desiree.

#1  Mt Hood 50 mile

Even in a year where I finished Waldo as well as my first trail hundred, I can honestly say that my third running of the Mt Hood 50 miler was my best running moment.  This was a perfectly executed race.  It's the one I'll judge all future races against.  Plus, finishing sub 10 hours, which I never in my wildest dreams thought I could do in a trail 50, was pretty sweet.  My finish pictures pretty much say it all!  And this being the race I fought so hard to even get to the start the first time, is just the cherry on the top.

Looking forward to 2014, I know that 2013 will be tough to top.  I do have a few big goals in the works and hope I can keep riding the wave and eek out two good years in a row.  Whatever happens, I love this sport and it's participants.  I'm forever grateful to be a part of it. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

I'm famous! (okay, not really)

When the guys at Animal Athletics asked me to write a short piece about my experiences with them, I didn't hesitate.  I love working with Yassine and Willie!  They put my write-up together into a blog post which you can read here

I'd already been planning a post here about Animal Athletics and may combine that with an end of the year wrap up.  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Javelina Jundred 2013 Race Report

I was disappointed after Mountain Lakes, but confused about whether I should focus my energy on another 100 mile race or wait until next year.  On the one hand, I really wanted to finish a 100 miler this year.  I'm confident it would have happened at Mountain Lakes so not getting that 100 mile finish there, surrounded by friends and family, was a huge let down.  But on the other hand, it had been a long season and I was tired. I've seen other people miss getting a 100 mile finish and then jump right into another one to fail again.  I wasn't sure I had the mental fortitude to do it.

Javelina on October 26th was a possibility, but as I was visiting my family in the Phoenix area the weekend after Mountain Lakes, I still wasn't sure.  I did a few runs and it felt hot and dry.  What a contrast to the prior weekend.  My parents live in a retirement apartment complex with a central dining hall where most of the residents eat their meals.  As my parents introduced me to their friends and neighbors, they often mentioned I was a runner.  To all these people I was a young person and I heard many stories of the good old days, mostly now a distant memory.  It made me realize I  need to take advantage of every opportunity given to me in life.  I had been fearing another failure , but I now knew I had to seize every moment.  I would come back again in 3 weeks to give it another shot at the Javelina Jundred.

Getting back into training mode for another three weeks was difficult. And then Marc had a medical emergency which resulted in a four day hospital stay. I didn't think I'd be able to make the trip after all. And honestly I was a little relieved. But as he recovered enough for me to leave him I realized I really wanted this second chance for a 100 mile finish in 2013.

This race consists of six 15.3 mile loops and one shorter 9 mile loop. The loops are run washing machine style so you always head back out the way you came. Since I would be without a crew I decided to splurge on a small tent to keep my stuff. The day before the race I went out to drop off some gear and scored a tent not too far from the turnaround. At packet pickup I saw my good friend Desiree who was also down from Portland looking for her first 100 mile finish and Dana, who was crewing and pacing someone else. It was nice seeing friendly, familiar faces since I was missing "Team Sarah" - Rose and Seth who had been with me for my other 100 mile attempts.

Can't run a race without wearing my Animal Athletics shirt! pic by Dana Katz

Before long race morning was finally upon me. Since I had to take the shuttle to the start I got there early and by 4:45 I was all ready to go. I met a few friends (Rick and Renee!) whom I had only known online, which was fun. We socialized and took some pictures and before I knew it the 100 mile journey began.

With Desiree, waiting for the start. Pic by Dana Katz

With Dana, Rick and Rick's wife.  Pic by Brian August

We're off to a blazing start!  Not.  :)  Pic by Aravaipa Running

Loop 1- clockwise
Mile 0 to 15.3
3:09 hrs/mins
12:21 pace

Des and I decided to stick together for the first loop. We'd been warned that the course was very runnable and we'd need to make an effort to keep it slow so we wouldn't burn out. My goal was to keep it to 13:30 pace which didn't exactly happen. But I never felt like we were running too hard. It was nice to have the company and we spent the time chatting away just as if we were on Wildwood in Forest Park.

Not yet 9am and I already have my sleeves rolled down in the warm conditions. Pic by Aravaipa Running

Loop 2 - counter clockwise
Mile 15.3 to 30.6
3:41 hrs/mins
14:26 pace

It was already starting to get warm so I took the time to change into my cooling sleeves, cooling shirt and hat with flaps. The pace slowed down on this lap, but this also takes into account the time spent at Jeadquarters (about 12 minutes) plus extra time at the aid stations on course. I wore my Mountain Hardwear fluid race vest with a 1.5 liter (50 oz) bladder. The first loop I didn't need to fill, but with temperatures rising I now wanted to make sure it was always topped off with water and ice.  The main thing I remember about this loop is that I started out by downing a chocolate coconut water from my cooler and then immediately ate a trail butter wrap.  Ugh.  Too much all at once. What a rookie mistake.  The only good thing is that it forced me to slow up compared to Loop 1.  I walked and slowly ran a lot of the first 4 miles which helped my stomach digest and settle.

Decked out in my full cooling outfit. pic by Aravaipa Running

Loop 3 - clockwise
Mile 30.6 to 45.9
3:45 hrs/mins
14:42 pace 

This was the expected hot loop I'd been dreading. I'd committed to the race only 2-1/2 weeks prior but had managed to get in eight sauna sessions of 20-35 minutes each. I read and re-read Pam's post about how she conquered the heat at Western States. I drew the line at cotton (going with the cooling clothes instead) but took to heart the advice to get and stay as wet as possible. I also bought and used one of those crystal cooling bandanas. It all worked. The ice in my bladder helped keep my core cool, along with the baggie of ice I'd put by my chest in my bra. I dunked my hat in the ice water buckets at the aid stations and used the sponges to soak my sleeves. I put chunks of ice in my sweatband against the inside of my wrist. A few times it even felt too cold and I had to temporarily work the ice around to the outside of my wrist. The crystal bandana never felt as cold as the ice but I'm convinced the constant coolness against my neck that never dried up or melted away made a big difference. When I finished this loop at 4:30, as the air was cooling off, Dana asked how I felt. It wasn't bravado that answered "It didn't feel that hot." Loop 3 was actually one of my better loops and I was able to run a lot more than I expected. My time for Loop 3 was only three minute slower than Loop 2, but I probably spent longer at the aid stations filling up. So that means I actually made better time in the heat than I did in the cooler temps of the morning.  When I found out after I'd finished the race that temperatures had reached 95+ on course I was surprised.

Changed and ready to go out on Loop 4. Pic by Dana Katz

Loop 4 - counter clockwise
Mile 45.9 to 61.2
3:58 hrs/mins 
15:33 pace

With the sun due to set in about an hour I changed out of my cooling shirt and hat and into my 2013 Mt Hood 50 mile shirt and visor for the last of the sun.   I also grabbed my light.  It was only supposed to get down to 60 at night and I had a long sleeve at my midway drop in case it cooled much more than that.  I also took the time to turn on my phone to text my brother who was planning to join me for Loop 5.  As my phone started up I could see alerts from Facebook and Twitter, but couldn't take the time to look at any of them.  However, it was nice to have a bit of tangible evidence that my friends at home were following along and cheering for me.  About 4 miles into the loop I saw Desiree up ahead and was able to catch up to her.  We were just at the point that we needed to turn on our lights. (Side note:  From the tracking it probably looked like we had been running together all this time.  We did run the full first loop together. But Des was ahead of me the whole second loop  Then on the third loop I caught up with a few miles to go and we finished together.  But Des was able to leave more quickly than I did again.  All in all, I think we ran about 30 miles together which was really nice.)  We went on to run the rest of Loop 4 together.   I can't express in words how much it meant to me that we were out on this course together.  We'd put in numerous miles together over the last few years and shared many highs and lows.  Crewing Des at her first 100 mile attempt inspired me to give the distance a try myself. Being able to finish our first 100 on the same course would be extra special.

Loop 5 -  clockwise
Mile 61.5 to 76.5
4:17 hrs/mins
16:47 pace

My brother, Phil, was waiting for me at the timing area as I finished Loop 4.  After a moment at the tent to grab some more fuel we were off.  Phil is a very experienced runner and racer.  He was varsity on a top cross country team in high school, ran for his college and continued on to run marathons and other races in his twenties. (His marathon PR is 2:32 ---- no joke!)  He still races and is involved in his kids' cross country team but hasn't run longer distances in a few years and not a lot on trail.  I warned him we would be moving pretty slowly.  We hadn't really talked about his "job" as pacer, but it didn't matter because he did great!  For the first half of the loop, which covered the more rocky, technical section, he followed my lead and walked when I walked and ran when I ran.  But as we rounded the loop and the trail was more runnable, he encouraged me to run when I otherwise might not have. He distracted me with stories.  It was a great time for both of us.  He provided me with support and encouragement at a critical part of the race, but also got to experience a new kind of race for him.  (And between you and me I think he may have caught the trail ultra bug!).

I had been feeling pretty good physically up to this loop.  (For a time on Loop 3 I had some knee pain but it went away. ) But halfway through I felt a painful hot spot smack dab in the middle of my left foot.  At the midway aid station I stopped to relube and change my sock, hoping that would help.  Also near the end of this loop, my stomach started to feel queasy.  Up until that point I had been fueling consistently on my every 30 minutes and felt pretty good (except for the Loop 2 mistake).  I switched to more liquids such as broth and soda, but ended up coming into Jeadquarters with my stomach still feeling off.

My time goal for this race was to finish the first six full laps in 24 hours or under and then finish the race in 27 hours or under.  With my brother leaving me and not feeling so great, I was sure I wouldn't reach my goals.  I thought I would end up slowing down a lot on Loop 6. But Phil was super encouraging and told me he believed in me --- I could do it!

At the airport with my brother Phil the Monday after the race. We both had flights to catch!

Loop 6 - counter clockwise
Mile 76.5 to 91.8
4:56 hrs/mins
19:20 pace

Back at my tent I decided I needed to check out my hot spot more closely.  Sure enough it was a deep blister under a ball of the foot callus.  I spent a lot of time trying to drain it without success and ended up just putting on a blister pad, hoping that would cushion it and make it less painful to run on.  I'm pretty sure I spent way too much time messing around when I needed to make up some time and get out of there.  I got some broth and headed out.  Within a few miles I saw Des coming towards me as she finished up Loop 5.  I had been wondering about her, but expected her to be ahead of me instead of behind me.  Turns out we had passed her while she was taking a bio break.  Loop 5 had been a tough loop for her so I gave her as much encouragement as I could.  She has been at all my other 100 mile attempts (plus numerous other races)  and we were determined that we were both going to finish this one.  Des is emphatically not a quitter, but so much can happen in a race that's out of your control.  So I was worried.  I knew I could not be truly happy with my finish if Des didn't finish too.

Much to my surprise I moved a lot better on this loop by myself than I thought I would without Phil's company.  I actually ran a lot of the gradual uphills.  My foot was killing me, but eventually both my feet ached. So the blister spot didn't seem so bad. Even if I had been able to relieve the pressure there I'd still have the general foot ache.  It became one of those things I just had to try not to think about. Same with the nausea.  It was always there but I decided to stick to broth, coffee and coke and hard candies.  I knew I could make it the rest of the way on fumes if I had to.  But man these miles were hard.  Much of it is a blur now, but I remember having doubts and wondering why it was so difficult.  I never truly thought I'd quit or wouldn't finish, but at the same time wondered if I really had what it takes.

The night seemed to go on forever.  I never felt super sleepy but I did have a few mild hallucinations.  I recall admiring the Christmas yard decorations, which turned out to be cacti, of course.  And I saw a brilliant shooting star, which wasn't a hallucination. But mostly I just looked at my feet and the trail in front of me, focused now on the finish.

Loop 7 - clockwise
Mile 91.8 to 100.8
2:24 hrs/mins
16:00 pace

Finally, I made it back to Jeadquarters and could now go out on my final, shorter loop.  I had been so inspired by the other runners with their glow stick necklaces, showing that they were on their final loop.  Now it was my turn!  It would get light again soon so I changed into a short sleeve, grabbed my visor and got back out there as soon as I could.  I'm pretty sure I left by 5:55 which meant my brother was right and I had made my goal of finishing the first six loops in 24 hours.   I tried to do the math in my head and thought it might be possible to finish in under 26 hours.   I pushed for this goal but eventually my only care was about finishing.  The sun came out and it felt warm really quickly, much more so than the day before.  About a mile and a half in, who do I see but Des!  I was so happy to see her!  She couldn't stop, but I yelled encouragement to her as she passed.  Seeing her gave me a little happy boost and I pushed on.  However, it seemed like forever to go 5.5 miles to the turnoff to the finish.  I was still running some, but this section was generally uphill and rocky so there was a lot of hiking.  I hadn't fallen or tripped the whole race and I didn't want to now! Finally I reached the turnoff. It was only a gradual 2.5 mile downhill then one mile of rolling/flat to the finish.  I thought I would be running most of the 2.5 miles down, but still had to stop for walk breaks here and there.  I knew I'd finish over 26 hours but I didn't care.  I was going to finish!

Finally I reached the turn to the finish with a mile to go.  Soon more people lined the course and as they cheered for me I started to get very emotional.  I wanted to smile as I crossed the finish line, not cry!  So I tried to smile, but as soon as I was done I bent over and put my head in my hands.  Relief, joy, pain. I had done it.  26:10:57
pic by Aravaipa Running

Pic by Aravaipa Running

Pic by Aravaipa Running

Finishing my first 100 mile trail race felt incredible.  It had been over a year in the making. I enjoyed quite a bit of it, but there were also many moments of pain and wondering why.  Someone wrote somewhere I can't remember right now, that they ran 100's because it was one of the only times in life that required they give all of themselves 100 percent.  That is so true.  You can't fake your way through 100 miles.  I'll add that much of the appeal is also the joy, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment you get after the fact.  I know I'll be feeling this glow for quite a while.  And when it wears off, I'm pretty sure there's another 100 mile race in my future.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Am I tough enough?

When I first heard the announcement for the inaugural Mountain Lakes 100, I was super excited.  I knew this was the race for me and would be the venue for my first mountainous 100 mile finish.  All the pieces were there.  It was partly on trails I knew very well.  The Mt Hood 50k had been my first ultra with Marc in 2006.  As a family we have been attending the Mt Hood 50 Mile race every year since then, with either Marc or I running the race.  And Marc agreed to pace me for part of the race so we would run together again.  It felt like it was meant to be.

Fortunately, my stellar crew from my failed attempt at the 2012 Pine to Palm 100, Rose and Seth, were available and eager to help out again.  I had originally planned to stay the night before the race in a motel in Detroit. But when they moved the start to Olallie Lake it made more sense to camp.  Five days before race day the weather looked perfect and I let my motel room go that I had been holding just in case.  But around Wednesday, the forecast started to turn.  First some possibility of rain.  No big deal really and it might even hold off until the race was nearly over.  But as the hours ticked off the forecast got worse and worse, until eventually the forecast revealed that race weekend would be hit with a huge PNW storm, the remnants of a typhoon. 

My friends running the race and I weren't very happy about this turn of events. But what could we do but be as prepared as possible.  I repacked my bags and added in as many cold and rainy weather options as I had, including some items that I normally would consider too heavy for running.  There's no point in not trying, right?

Friday morning, the rain started, lightly at first but you could tell a storm was brewing.   I felt bad that I had only recently cancelled the motel room.  So when Seth and Rose arrived to pick me up I offered to see if we could get a room.  But without hesitation, they insisted on camping.  Race weekend had begun!  We drove to Olallie Lake and fortunately we got a campsite within a 5 minute walk to the start and were able to set up the tents under light rain.  But the wind was already blowing quite a bit.  I picked up my number/packet, had some of the pasta feed, socialized, went back to camp, ate more dinner, back to the start for more socializing...and before long it was 8pm bedtime!  With the rain picking up and the wind howling, I slept surprisingly well on my 3 pads, despite waking up every 2 hours.  I finally woke for the last time at 3:45am and was up....race day.  Today was my frickin' day!

After saying hi to a few more friends, hearing the race briefing and giving/getting a hug with the crew we were off in the rain.  The first 3 miles were on forest service road and I ran the first mile or so with my good friend Desiree, also looking for her first 100 mile finish.  Other friends were around and anticipation of the day ahead was in the air.  By the time we turned on to the single track trail lights were turned off. We were shrouded in cloud so any view was obscured,  But it didn't matter since all eyes were on the trail trying to dodge the ever increasing puddles that soon became rivers in spots.  Supposedly the gale force winds weren't arriving until Saturday night, but someone forgot to tell mother nature and we were hit with strong biting winds as we climbed over an exposed ridge and down to the first aid station.  From there it was all downhill on forest service road to the first crew-accessable aid station at mile 11.5.
photo by Mike Davis
Up to that point my body wasn't too terribly cold, but I was wearing 2 layers, plus a helly hansen shell and on my head a cap, plus beanie, buff and the hood.  However, despite my gloves and water proof (resistant?) over mitts my hands were wet and freezing. I just stood in front of the table and gobbled up candy bars, something I rarely do, at least this early in the race.  Rose and Seth had me change my gloves and put on the Gortex over mitts I was saving for later.  Ahh...with fresh warmers my hands were nice and toasty.  I thought this would be the ticket for the rest of the race.   Unfortunately the mitts weren't waterproof at all (the seams must have leaked) and it didn't take long for my hands to get wet again and the warmers to be ruined.

Photo by Paul Nelson
The course climbed back up to the ridge, this time on single track trail.  I finally reached my first washout that I couldn't navigate and was forced to wade right through in shin deep freezing cold water.  No use trying to dodge puddles now, especially since the trail just got worse and worse.  Fewer puddles and more washouts.  I passed a few people and a few passed me, but I spent long stretches by  myself.  Finally I reached the out and back to Breitenbush AS.  Despite runners coming towards me (and knowing there would be an out and back) I felt very confused and disorientated.  I have an excellent sense of direction and can usually tell where north/south/east and west are.  But not this day. Finally I saw a familiar face, my friend Annie, and she confirmed we were on the out and back and I'd soon reach the AS.   But not before braving that ridge with the wind blowing and the rain hitting me sideways.

Photo by Mike Davis
As I came off the trail and had just yards to go to the aid station, I saw Desiree heading out.  She should have been a lot farther ahead of me and I could see she was shivering.  So I instinctively reached out and wrapped my arms around her.  She said she'd wait for me so we scurried over to the aid station.  They didn't have anything hot and I didn't want to linger too long, so after a quick bio break I grabbed some food and we were off.  Back over the ridge we had to brave the high winds and rain. There was one section that was so exposed that I yelled back to Des, "We'll have to run for it!" as if we already weren't trying to move as quickly as possible.  But slowing or stopping in this particular section seemed like it would be truly dangerous.

Photo by Mike Davis

Finally we were back on the road with only 3 miles of easy running to the Olallie Lake AS.  It seemed so much calmer here that I wondered if I had been dreaming about the ridge.  But my hands were still as cold as ever.  Soon I saw Seth who had walked out to greet me.  He said there was a warm cabin open where I could change.  

Rose was waiting at the aid station and after getting a hot cup of broth she whisked me into the cabin.  It was a surreal setting. The small crowded room contained just a few couches and a table by a burning wood stove. The windows were boarded up and the only light was from headlamps that moved around.  We quickly claimed a couch and I couldn't get my clothes off quickly enough.  Rose handed me an avocado wrap and I ate as I changed.  It took a few minutes to find exactly the right things to wear, but I didn't mind since I was soaking up the wonderful heat.    However people around me were talking about dropping and I knew I needed to get out of there..  Demoralization was in the air, but I felt pretty good and my awesome crew had lifted my spirits.  More than once I told them, "I'm not quitting."   They bundled me up in long pants, a thermal base layer, half zip long sleeve, fleece vest, waterproof shell jacket, cap, beanie, buff and fresh socks, shoes, two layers of mittens and hand warmers.  My pack was stuffed with extra gear, food and lights since I had nearly 30 miles to go and wouldn't see my crew again until after dark.  It had taken me just over 7 hours to cover 26 miles and then I spent at least a half hour getting warm and changing.  Time to get out of there!

Rose walked me to the PCT turn off and away I went.  Surprisingly the weather had lifted a bit. The rain had stopped, the breeze was mild and I was actually treated to a bit of a view.  It felt good to be warm, but as I started to run I discovered I was overheating.  I took off my gloves, pulled off my hats and unzipped my jacket. That was better.  The next water only aid station was only 3 miles up the trail and it didn't take long for me to arrive there.  It was great to see some familiar faces, including Joe L. who was the aid station captain and Jesse B., also running the race.  Jesse should have been way ahead of me, but was waiting for a ride out since he had twisted his ankle miles ahead and turned back.  He offered me some of his supplies he now didn't need, along with his encouragement which I gladly accepted.

Carrying on along the PCT I now had 9 miles until the next aid station at Pinheads. I couldn't remember what the terrain would be like but I had a feeling it was up.  And I was right, but thankfully the gain was pretty gradual and I was able to alternate hiking with running.  The rain came back but it was still pretty gentle.  I had been eating consistently up to this point, never missing one of my 30 minute "time-to-eat" alarms and grazing at the aid stations too.  But now I started to get a little nauseous, partly because I was a bit warm.  It wasn't bad enough that I couldn't still gag down a gel, but I realized I needed to concentrate more on the salty/savory stuff at the aid stations and I regretted not asking my crew for a wrap or two to go or waiting long enough for Rose to grab me a trail butter pouch from the car.

The rain and wind picked up and the view was obsured yet again. Still, there were areas of utter beauty along the trail.  I recall a section where the forest was thick but the undergrowth was minimal.  The tall uniform tree trunks with moss hanging from them were like a beautiful abstract painting.  Scenes like this are one reason why I do this.  But along with moments of serenity, thoughts of doubt started to creep into my mind.  Would I really be able to finish this thing? When I saw my crew at Clackamas Ranger Station would I beg them to let me quit?  I had told many people that I was over first 100 mile race attempts and this would be my last....meaning that I fully intended to finish and subsequent attempts would be my 2nd, 3rd, etc. finish.  But maybe this would be my last whether I finished or not?  Maybe I wasn't cut out for these races?  I wondered then and I still wonder now if I'm mentally tough enough.

Finally, after steadily climbing and then enjoying some gradual downhill I reached Pinheads AS.  I knew that Ben C. would be there and was also happy to see Andrea J. volunteering too.  My friend Aric R. who I had ran with briefly earlier in the race was sitting by the heater.  Ben and Andrea were eager to help, with Ben kindly taking my bladder out of my pack, filling it and returning it without me having to remove my pack.  Andrea served me up a welcomed cup of onion broth.  I asked how long they were volunteering and was surprised to discover they planned to be there all night and into the next day until the sweeps came through.  It was only about 5pm.  They were a calming oasis in the growing storm and I can't thank them enough for their help and support.

I carried on and was glad that Warm Spring AS was next and only 5.5 miles away.  After this I'd be on familiar territory, with the rest of the race either on Mt Hood 50 Mile or Timberline Marathon sections or trail I had just covered.  Aric and I leapfrogged our way down the trail and I was surprised at how quickly we arrived at Warm Springs.  Time for more broth and the best instant mashed potatoes I'd ever eaten, served up by Amy S.  And of course, I was warmed by a classic Jason L. hug.  Another oasis in the storm staffed by dedicated, cheerful volunteers.  I was pretty much done with the sweet stuff for now and knew I'd likely not eat again until the next aid 6 miles away.  So I asked Jason to open a hard candy peppermint for me, hoping it would help sooth my stomach.  It was perfect and a new tool for my arsenal.  I believe the slow flow of sugar as I ran helped convince the central governor that I was getting more fuel than I actually was.

After I left Warm Spring I realized I had forgotten to get my headlamp out as I had planned.  It was around 6:30pm and I knew it would be getting dark soon.  So I stopped to get it out and put it on over my jacket hood.  It was raining harder and the wind had picked up so I was all bundled up again.  With a cap, beanie, buff and hood over my head, locked down by the headlamp strap, I could barely move my head outside of small range of motion. That constriction made me realize how much my body ached, especially my shoulders.  And I was all alone.  I kept imagining lights up ahead but it was always just a reflector strip or my own illusion.  Aric was ahead of me now but I didn't know how far.  Based on Amy's information, I expected the front runners to come towards me any time, but there was no one.  I tried to keep my light off as long as possible, but had to turn it on finally just as I started up the climb to Red Wolf pass.  

The trail had been fairly clear of water from Olallie Lake to Warm Springs. There were puddles, but they were fairly easy to avoid.  As the rain and wind picked up, so did the water on the trail.  The climb up to Red Wolf in the dark was difficult.  The lighting messed with the perspective and it was hard to tell how steep the trail was.  I tried to run a few spots, but quickly tired.  I remembered seeing pictures of Olga hiking at Hardrock with her hands clasped behind her.  I tried this stance and discovered it was the most comfortable and so I hiked this way up most of the hill.  As it started to level out I knew I was close to Red Wolf AS.  I wanted to run, but in the dark it was difficult to run on the now water-filled trail.  I felt like if I fell now I might do a lot of damage to my slow reacting body. So I shuffled along as quickly as I could, eager to get to the next oasis.  

Finally I could see the aid station lights across the clear cut.  Another familiar face, Kamm, was the captain.  She and the other volunteers were focused on getting us warm. I spent a few minutes in front of the heater and then more time with a space blanket around my shoulders while drinking up the hot broth.  Todd, one of the RDs showed up and announced that some trees had fallen on two cars back at Olallie Lake and that they were holding runners at Clackamas Ranger Station, my next stop.  Despite the warmth of the aid station, the darkness, rain and wind had taken their toll on me.  I was seriously cold and didn't think staying put was helping any.  But for the first time I was truly fearful.  I generally like running in the dark but on this night I did not want to go back out.  Yet I wanted to keep moving too.  Hearing Todd's words I had a feeling the race was over.  But I felt like I needed to keep control of my destiny and get to my crew that was only 5.5 miles away.

So without letting myself mull it over too long, I left into the darkness.  Fortunately, I came upon Aric within minutes.  He was going slowly.  I don't remember if we verbalized it or just thought it, but we immediately both knew we needed to stick together.  This section was horrific.  I'd just run it 2 months earlier at the Mt Hood 50 mile race, covering it in less than an hour.  It's mostly downhill so should be fast.  But on this night the wind was howling, the rain pelting and the trail was a river the whole way.  I suppose I could have sloshed through the water for 5 miles.  But that seemed dangerous in the dark, not knowing how deep it would be or whether I'd catch my foot with a rock or stump. And it was icy cold.  So we trudged along the sides, bushwacking through low bushes much of the time.  I was miserable.  It was hard work both physically and mentally. The only thing keeping me sane was knowing Aric was there too. By this time the race was likely cancelled but we didn't know it and we both vowed to quit at Clackamas Ranger Station.  I don't think anything could have made me go back out on that trail and I certainly didn't want to subject my pacers to it.  

I know this section extremely well and tried to find landmarks to assure myself we were actually making progress. But it looked so different in the stormy dark conditions.  Finally we came to the Miller trail cutoff and I knew it was less than a mile to go.  We were so weary of the water soaked trail I suggested when we got to the trail to the campground we cut down to the paved road and get off the trail.  But when we got there the trail seemed so dark and ominous. And maybe it wouldn't be quicker anyway.  We were ready for the path of least resistance not exploration so we carried on.  Finally, we crossed the campground road, navigated the short trail section and up the hill to the main road. I felt like I popped out into a different world.  The rain pounded on the pavement and cars lined the road.  We headed towards the main lights, still not running.  Aric saw a familiar face and stopped at one of the cars.  I carried on to the aid station, not recognizing anyone.  Finally, I heard my name and Rose and Julie R. were suddenly there guiding me to the warmth of the aid station heater.  And then to the U-haul trailer with the drop bags, the only real shelter where I could change.  And then into Seth's warm car and we were out of there. 

And it was all over that quickly.   

I discovered that the race had indeed been cancelled and runners had been held at all the aid stations.  Despite the hardship of those last 5 miles, I'm glad I hadn't been stuck up at an aid station waiting for a ride.  My pacers, Marc and friend Jen A. had gotten word I had left Red Wolf AS and had volunteered to drive back to Olallie Lake in Jen's 4wd truck to collect our tents. What a relief since having to go back there might have finally sent me over the edge.  So we drove straight back to Portland and I was home by around midnight.  High on adrenaline I stayed up until Jen and Marc arrived around 3:30am.  We exchanged stories and with that the wild weekend adventure was over.

The end of the journey for me. photo by Paul Nelson

As I posted on Facebook, usually in the days after a race I'm high on endorphins. But instead I'm high thinking about our awesome running community and the amazing dedication to each other I witnessed this weekend.  It's disappointing that no one got to finish this race. But we certainly all tried.   RDs Todd and Trevor along with Renee handled the unfortunate weather situation with professionalism and committment.  The volunteers could not have been better.  Stealing another quote from someone else...in many races the volunteers make the race....in this one they saved it.  My team, Rose, Seth, Jen and Marc, were amazing.  Knowing they were there to support me kept me going.

During the race I wondered if I'm cut out for hundreds.  I guess I'll have to wait for the next one to find out for sure. 

Video by Paul Nelson