Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's like a Sauna out here

The 2013 version of the Pine to Palm 100 was an awesome event. Hal and Company nailed it, pre-race pasta party and camping to the course and aid stations. Mother nature threw what most would consider a spectacular day our way, albeit a hot one. High temperatures clocked in somewhere around 95 degrees, a fair bit hotter than those that I had encountered during my summer training. The heat was just another obstacle though in this race; one that I admittedly did not handle all that well. I finished though and that in and of itself brings an incredible amount of satisfaction. There are a ton of things I would tweak or change about my race in retrospect, but the fact of the matter is I like to run so that's what I do until I inevitably blow up.
You don't say?

I'm going to try to keep this one as succinct as possible. I could certainly write what many would consider a large volume on this race but I'm not really sure anybody is interested in reading paragraph upon paragraph detailing how bad I felt during a 5 mile section of the race.

The evening before the race my buddies drove me out to Williams for the aforementioned pre race festivities. They were awesome. I got to catch up with Bryan, Geoff, Deb and Sidra while eating pasta, obsessing about drop bags and talking about how it was going to be pretty hot on race day. The hours seemed to fly by and before I knew it we had all retired to our respective tents. Our drop bags having already been given over to the race staff the only things to obsess over were sleep and what to eat prior to the race the following morning.

I slept well, which was a surprise. Last year at Cascade Crest I think I managed 2-3 hours of sleep the night before the race. Keep in mind Cascade Crest doesn't start until 10 AM so I'm not exactly sure what went wrong there. In any event, I slept well, woke up, ate some food, drank some coffee and before long we were all piled in Bryan's car heading towards the start. We quickly parked got our race bibs and were off running the 2013 Pine To Palm 100. was a blur at the start line. We got there and were off and running within about 10-15 minutes.

I ran with Bryan and Tim for a few miles but then decided I needed to settle into my own pace. (Those dudes are fast) Near the top of the road portion of the climb we ran into Race Director Hal Koerner, smiling away taking some photos of the early morning runners. A quick dip on single track and then we turned back up the main climb. This section went quite well for me. The grade was manageable, the heat wasn't an issue (yet) and my energy levels were high.

I have to say the miles to the first major aid station were just about as ideal as they could've been. The views on the top of the first climb were stellar. Unfortunately when you are running a race you don't have much time to enjoy then. I wanted to stop to soak it in but also realized I needed to take advantage of the cool morning air. Ducking back into the woods I continued to descend down to the extended fire road section. This was the first portion of the race that actually started to feel hot. At this point it was probably 10:30 in the morning so my brain was having difficulty processing the fact that I would have to deal with increasing heat over the next 7 hours. We ducked into California briefly, turned back into Oregon and hit up that first aid station mentioned above. The spectators (Mostly crew for the runners) were amped up and the aid station volunteers were predictably helpful. I refilled my water, ate some food, filled my bandanna with ice and headed off to the second climb.

On paper this thing looked like it would be easier than the first, in the flesh however it was by far the most difficult climb of the entire race. A combination of the time of day, heat, the fact that I had already run almost a 50K all contributed to this being more of as slog to the top. I felt pretty good for the first 1/3rd of the climb, not so great the second 1/3rd and was firmly in the pain cave feeling sorry for myself during the final 1/3rd. Near the top some exposed ridge lines and drainage's fried my brain and evaporated what little positivity I had left in my brain. Aid station mileage in ultra's is notoriously spotty and the mileage between the prior aid station and the one near the top of the climb was no exception. My Ambit had it pegged at about 5 miles whereas the course manual listed it more around 4. That extra mile resulted in me moving for about 45 minutes without water.

There was tons of this
At the top of the climb there was carnage and a whole lot of misery. Runners were sitting in every available chair. All the cool stuff was being consumed. I personally ate a fairly massive amount of cold grapes. After resting for a few minutes in a chair I decided I needed to start up again. The lake was calling and I wanted to take a dip. Unfortunately what I thought was going to be a continuous downhill to the next aid ended up being another series of exposed climbs finally followed by a nice, somewhat steep single track section to the Squaw Lakes. I was in pain again here and knew that my day was going to get a lot worse. The heat was oppressive and I just didn't want to walk. I kept forcing myself to run despite the fact that my body would've been better served by an even distribution of walking and running.
And a heavy helping of this

There is a short two mile section that takes you around the lake. My plan was to run a bit and then take a dip in the water. Unfortunately I never got around to jumping in the lake. This was extraordinarily stupid on my part. Jumping in cold water can greatly help manage heat in these types of situations assuming of course that you are not already suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Since I was suffering from nothing more than tired legs and a slightly overheated body I should've been taking every opportunity to dunk myself. I didn't do this, felt even worse when I got back to the aid station and was only able to eat a half of a graham cracker before heading out for a short downhill to the third climb.

This section was miserable. I walked...I stood there...I sat on the side of the road. I arrived at the water only aid station and was convinced I was done. Fortunately there wasn't any place to bail. I scraped myself together and death marched my way to the mile 52 aid station. This was probably the slowest section of the race for me. I ran in to a family heading into the aid station that was upbeat and cheered me in. The dad told me he ran the race last year and was equally miserable at this point and was able to turn his race around. I wasn't overly optimistic. Sitting down yet again I was convinced my race was over. The volunteers again scraped me up off the ground, convinced me to eat some grilled cheese and low and behold I felt a phoenix rising from the ashes on a cheese induced high. I actually ran most of the section up to the lookout tower and then blew down the hill.

The sun set, I settled in with a fellow runner heading out of the aid station and made my to the next major aid station. (Dutchman Peak at mile...67+...I can't remember) Temperatures were now cool and I was locked into a walk/run with a group. I realized I should've been doing this from the beginning but as stated above...I like to run and I'm determined one day to RUN most of a hundred mile race. About a mile outside of Dutchman peak my energy levels tanked and I was yet again convinced my day was done. This was the last time I would feel this horrible.

The volunteers at Dutchman peak were miracle workers. I hadn't eaten for about an hour and was pretty foggy from a lack of calories. They sat me down, warmed me up, gave me food and then provided a huge mental boost. I have no idea who talked me into moving on but I will be eternally thankful for this person. When I was down in the dirt and had zero confidence they had enough to convince me that I could not only keep going, but finish the race running. I finally got out of the aid station and kept this with me for the next 30 miles. I ran through a moonrise and set, a sunrise, a scramble to the top of a little lookout and then a killer downhill into Ashland Oregon. Those last 30 miles were some of the greatest I've ever experienced...low points and all. I owe much of that to the folks that propped me up and gave me the confidence I needed to finish this thing off. Lesson learned...misery in 100 milers is oftentimes temporary.

The finish was rad. Hal was there cheering everybody on, snapping off pictures and was even able to chat with us for a bit after we finished. I quickly made my way to a cot, ate some food, laid down for a bit...then cleaned up, collected my buckle and hopped in a car for a seven hour drive back to Seattle. Thanks to Marc and Doug for coming down to Ashland...and driving my semi broken self back to Seattle. 

So there you have extremely late race report from Pine to Palm. Maybe I'll blog a bit more this year. Hopefully I'll brew some more beer soon...just need to get through this gluten free month. In the meantime enjoy these pictures of my kiddo and puppy!

Pippa doing her stretches

I'm a walking advertisement for Seven Linley Impressed?

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