|North Cascades National Park|
Wow what a whirlwind trip. Kerrie and I headed up to Seattle after work on Friday to spend the night with her family in order to break the drive up a little. The next morning we headed out for Hwy 20 and North Cascades National Park as we wanted to take the scenic route over since I don’t know when we’d ever be up in that area again. The drive over was pretty amazing. We had perfect weather, little tourist traffic and wonderful views of Ross Lake and many other rugged mountain peaks.
We pulled into Winthrop, WA around 4pm, and we’re shocked to see how packed the little western themed town was. If you’ve been to Sisters, OR, this is another level of western themed flair and architecture. Definitely worth spending some time in sometime in the future when we can really check it out.
After picking up my race number and t-shirt, Kerrie and I took some time driving around to all the different Aid Station, as Kerrie was going to be acting as my solo crew member for this adventure. She had to pilot the Green Machine to a few somewhat remote Aid Stations, get all my water bottles ready and mixed, distribute gels, perform minor first aid if necessary and generally keep me in a good head space. Definitely a tall order for only one person, but she did amazingly well for her first time! Couldn’t have done it without you! Thanks a billion.
|In case you don't know where Winthrop is|
We then headed to our campsite for the night at Pearrygin Lake State Park, which was pretty pretty, although our actual campsite was less than ideal as it had its own overflowing pond and creek (or Crick, if you’re from Montana) running through our campsite. Only a slight inconvenience as we were able to find some dry land and get everything set up. I briefed Kerrie in on the plan of attack for the race, prepared my kit, ate some spaghetti and sat around the campfire before heading to bed.
|This is all I got for the campsite. Kerrie reading her book.|
Woke up around 5am on race morning, packed up the tent and sleeping bags, threw them in the back of the car and headed over to the starting line, which was around 30 mins from our campsite. Note to self: find closer campgrounds in the future.
|Here is the race course|
When we got to the starting line, people were just arriving, waking up, getting ready, visiting the blue boxes, etc. I prepared for the race, while Kerrie catnapped in the car. Once prepared, I did a very short warm up jog then chatted with Amy and Marta, my fellow Portland Trailfactor peeps, before making my way over to the start/finish line.
|Me: Red Shirt, White Visor|
A few words from RD James Varner and we were off! In the wrong direction! Quick backtrack and we were off in the right direction! After the mix up, people were jumbled in terms of positions. Some people found themselves in the front and didn’t want to be so they pulled over, some found themselves in the back and pushed their way to the front. I settled in quickly with a group who had ran the course before. Perfect I’ll get some local knowledge and just cruise with them for awhile. Well this was definitely a slow group. I wanted to start out conservatively, but this was slow going, but I settled in and just trotted along.
Around mile 5 we headed out into some private prairie land which was teeming with wildflowers, I broke off from this group and came through Aid 1 by myself, refilled with nuun and headed out. I was feeling great and happy to be running in such a unique and beautiful landscape. A nice change from the greenery of Portland. I passed a few people coming into Aid 2 at approx mile 13 before starting a monster climb right out of the aid station. It was super steep so I began power hiking up and up and up. I was still feeling good, like I was holding back, so I pushed a little harder to catch a few people. (In hindsight, prob don’t need to be hunting ppl down at mile 14 of a 50 mile race.) Any way finally got to the top, began running on the ridge for a bit before the trail turned straight down and I did my best to conserve my quads and knees, but by this time they were beginning to feel it. I popped out on the dirt road and headed 3 miles back to Aid 3, where Kerrie was waiting.
|Trail ran through areas like this|
We had a nice quick exchange, and I was out in no time. Another 2ish miles before the 50mile course united with the 50k and 25k course. By the time I hit the trail/road up to Thompson Pass Aid 4, I was beginning to hit a wall physically. My knees were shot and my hips were super tight. “Really!” I thought, “Mile 23 and I already feeling this shitty!” Not a good sign. I hadn’t felt this bad since the end of Gorge Waterfall 50k last year. I never even felt close to this bad in any of the training that I did this past year. Why, all of a sudden, were my knees giving out on my after only 22ish miles!
Oh well, this climb is steep enough that I’d probably be walking anyway. I’ll just trudge along and see what happens. And Trudge along I did! All the way to the top. I jogged here and there, but basically felt like crap. Kerrie had made me a 1hr bottle of perpetuem, but I had never had just a 1hr bottle before and it tasted horrible. Way too watery! I ended up dumping it out half way up the climb and re sorted to gels. During this climb, however, I was getting passed all the time, but surprisingly not by any 50 milers. Tons of 25k and 50k runner blew by me, but not until the very top did a few 50 milers trot past me. “Well, at least that’s a good sign,” I thought to myself.
This was the darkest part of the race for me though. Not even half way through and I can barely run. I never thought about quitting, but the thought of having to walk the rest and potentially getting dead last put me in a bad place mentally. I tried to console myself with the thought that this was a long race, and it will have many ups and downs. This was just one of the down sections and it will get better.
Eventually, I made it up to Aid 4, but I couldn’t even run in. I saw Kerrie and told her that I wasn’t doing well. I had run out of both food and water on this section so I pounded a few Dixie cups of plain water, took two Succeed Caps, popped two Vitamin I, grabbed my new bottles, attached my iPod shuffle and pushed on down the road towards Aid 5, approximately 7 miles away, almost all downhill! Great! My knees are going to love this!
|Coming up to Thompson Pass Aid|
I got passed by a number of 50milers both at Aid 4 and shortly after. I alternated walking and running when it was flat or uphill, but was able to painfully run downhill for the time being. My music was able to get me in a better mood and I was once again happy to be out running in such a beautiful place. The trail leveled out around mile 33 and I started to feel good. Surprisingly good. Almost all my knee pain went away and I was able to start consistently running for the first time in a few hours. My music was pumping me up and I pushed on to Aid 5 feeling great.
At Aid 5, Kerrie was surprised to see me so soon and feeling so great. She scrambled to get everything ready, while I down some plain water, succeed pills, vitamin I and for the first time in a race, two Dixie cups of Coke! Tasted soo good! And I knew I needed the caffeine! All geared up, I headed off after Kerrie warned me that the next section had a tough climb.
Most of thing section was nice rolling singletrack so I was able to keep a good pace, still riding out my second wind. I caught up to a few 50m people at this and point and just tucked in behind them. Eventually, we came to the loop section where they sent me straight up on a trail to Sun Mountain Lodge. I switched to power hike mode and started to reel a few people in as best I could. This section was hot and exposed. I put my hands on my knees and carried on. I grabbed some water at the top near when it started to drizzle briefly. The drizzle and slight breeze felt good and powered me on to finish the OAB loop section.
|Sun Mountain Lodge, courtesy of Sun Mountain|
At this point, I knew that I was going to finish, but I was unsure of my time or place. I was only 8 miles away from the finish. According to my watch, I was relatively close to being on pace, but I knew that I still had a giant climb with around 5 miles left. I knew that if I could pass a few people between now and the start of the climb that they wouldn’t have the legs to out climb or descend me so I began pushing it pretty hard. The next 3 miles until Aid 6 felt like I was just on a tempo run in Forest Park. Things were clicking, and I blew by probably five 50 milers. I was running up hills and pushing maybe a 7 min pace at times.
|Coming into Aid 6|
I came into Aid Station 6 still feeling pretty good. My plan was to only take a bottle of Nuun and a gel with caffeine. No need to take another handheld for only 5 miles. I believe that I also took one Vitamin I and maybe some Coke. Then headed off down towards the hill.
This was a big climb, but especially big for this late in the race. The trail went straight up Patterson Mountain. I got into power hiking mode and quickly passed one runner. I downed my gel and started running where I could. I was making pretty good time and was slowly picking off 50 mile runners. With each person behind me, it only made me work harder to find the next person. How many people could I pick off on this climb? I ran past a group of 3 50 milers slowly hiking up. I could see the disbelief in their eyes that I was running up this steep incline so late in the race.
|View from the top of Patterson Mountain. Sun Mountain Lodge is right behind the tree in the middle.|
Eventually I got to the top. Let out a Hooray! Then switched to my downhill gears. This was going to hurt! Down I went. Shuffling down the steep parts and running the somewhat flat parts. Running form deteriorated to basic instincts. The pounding continued all the way to the bottom. I looked behind me. I could see almost all the way back up the mountain. None of the people I had passed were close enough to catch me. I wouldn’t have let them if they were close enough.
I pushed onto the road and crossed onto the final section. I asked one of the course marshals how much father. She told me 3k. Translate: Farther than I thought. Damn!
Onto the fireroad. Why was the course still going uphill? Jog Jog Jog. Turned iPod off. I have to be able to hear the finish by now! Jog jog jog. Ah! They’re cheering! Im so close. Ah! Stupid hill. I’ll take a quick walk break. Walk Walk Walk. Sucked it up and run! Ouch! Motherf&^%!*! What was that!?! Damn my foot hurts. So close. Ah there it is!
Through the finish line, High Five Varner, Kerrie hug, plop into chair. Where’s my beer? Don’t Move. I smell pizza!
8:30:28. 13th overall. 2nd in my age group.
Very proud of this accomplishment. My goal was top 20 so very happy with 13th. Congrats to Amy and Marta who both beat me. Fast chicks! Time to rest! Probably more than I want (foreshadowing...)