Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Waldo 100k Race Recap

   Well, I'm happy and relieved to say that this one went well and according to plan.

   The trip down to the race was uneventful and stress free. My travelling partner Nicola convinced me that we should head down Thursday and drive half way instead of the entire distance on Friday so we wouldn't be stuck in a car for eight or nine hours straight.  I had been fighting a tight hamstring/soleus in my left leg for a couple of weeks previous so this was a good idea.

   After arriving at our motel in Castle Rock, Oregon we went for a short run and my leg felt good as new - a very positive sign.  I really didn't want to have to deal with any pre-existing muscle tightness during the race.

   Oakridge, Oregon was our home for the duration of the race and we stayed at great little place called The Cascade Motel - clean, cheap, quiet with super helpful and friendly hosts.  After driving that hot day without AC I was ready for a lake swim so I enquired about local swimming holes.  In a hushed voice the manager told me about the locals-only secret hotsprings alongside a river nearby.  Bonus!!  Perfect therapy for my muscles.  After driving around a while we finally found them and indulged in a series of hot/cold baths. Perfect.

McCredie Hot Springs
  Later that evening we headed up to the Willamette (pronounced Wil AM it) Pass Ski Area to sign in, pick up our race packages (my number was a very auspicious 217), and to get the mandatory pre-race briefing which unlike many I have heard in the past was interesting and entertaining. Fellow ultrarunner and  Race Director Craig Thornley did most of the speaking and proved eloquent and charismatic while masters superstar and Assistant Race Director Meghan Arbogast provided a fairly accurate course description - somehow I would miss the "fun 4 mile downhill finish"!

  The headliner for the evening however was the description and demonstration of the bizarre hat/bag that is the prize for the most creative "Show Us Your Waldo". From the race website:

"Show us Your Waldo This subjective award is judged by the aid stations. Each aid station will get one vote for the runner who shows or has the most or best Waldo. Early starters are eligible for this award. Prize is a free entry into the 2012 race, and the crazy perpetual hat that you must return in 2012 with your unique contribution added."
  I wish I had the demo on video but here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of this weirdo hat.            
Crazy Hat lady and RD Craig Thornley not wanting to touch the Crazy Hat.


  Ok, so on to race day.
I'm in the middle trying to start my watch.

   The race started at 5am so it would be dark for about another 45 minutes after that. Lights of some sort were necessary. Most had headlamps but I found a small hand-held more than sufficient for this short period of time.  As I predicted a lead pack of about 7 runners broke away right from the start but I kept my promise to myself to go easy and let them go.  Right off the bat the course went straight up the ski hill so it was either slow running or fast walking, keeping my heart rate(HR) nice and low which, because of the elevation (5000'), ended up being 10bpm higher than what it would be at sea level. It took me a while to get used to the idea of running comfortably at 142bpm when I would normally restrict myself to 131bpm for an easy up hill pace.

   I kept on nice and easy to the summit of the first major climb, Fuji Mtn.  At this time the sun was coming up, the view was spectacular, and I was feeling strong and relaxed and not at all worried about my position. My plan was to run steady and relaxed and see how the day unfolded. According to the results I was in 13th place at Gold Lake, and 12th at Fuji Mtn.
 Descending Fuji early in the race.

   So up until this point my legs were feeling great but then I hit some flats and wouldn't you know it my hamstring turned into a softball size knot and my soleus  tightened up into a golf ball somewhere above my ankle.  Not good.  This was what I was worried about throughout my last few weeks of training and tapering.  It wasn't crippling by any means but I could feel it with every stride and it was all I was thinking about. So I just kept running, trying to relax, wishing it away, thinking that it would loosen up like it had in the past.  I had brought ibuprofens with me but didn't want to use them unless absolutely necessary.

   I stayed on top of my hydration, fueling, and electrolyte (salt basically) consumption from start  but at this point I started to drink more water and slammed back a couple of extra electrolyte capsule to see if this would loosen the knots. No dice. Finally, after 3 hours I popped  the first two of ten extra strength IB's along with 300mg of caffeine, a Gu gel, 2 Saltsticks, and within 30 minutes my tight leg was not bothering me anymore.
   So I was feeling pretty great now, no pain and I had moved up into the top 10. Just cruising along. Not a care in the world.
Storming across a swampy meadow.
Feeling good!

   The trails that make up the Waldo 100 course are for the most part very dry and dusty. The day started out warm and ended up boiling hot (34 degrees Celsius on exposed mountain sides feels a lot hotter!). Hot weather = hot feet = wet feet which can result in blisters.  Dust inside a sock for a long duration can create friction which also causes blisters.  It's funny because I always brag about how tough my feet are and how I never get blisters except for maybe really insignificant ones on the ends of my index toes.  The blister I got immediately after my leg started cooperating was not funny and was definitely significant.  I ran with this intense pain in the arch of my right foot for quite a while before I stopped and took off my shoe to see if I could straighten my sock or do something that would provide some relief. I was at a loss when I saw a bleeding red loonie-size wound with a big flap of tough skin that used to be my super tough callous hanging off of it.  I ripped the skin off, put my dirty wet sock back on and got back into my shoe.  Just before I took off again I reached down to pull my sock from the heel to ensure it wasn't bunched under my foot and lo and behold I ripped the top part of my sock right off!  Now my sock didn't even cover my foot above my heel.  Great.  My only comfort at this point was knowing that at the next aid station I had dry socks (I managed to rip the top off one of  these socks as well!) and a change of shoes.  Amazingly, this blister did not bother me again until after the race.

It looked more dramatic covered in blood...

   The Charlton Lake Aid Station is roughly the half-way point of the race. Here I replaced my shoes and socks and restocked my supplies and found out that I was in 7th place.  The day was starting to heat up but I was in excellent spirits and feeling strong and pain free.  Before I forget I have to mention that the volunteers at the aid stations for this race were by far the best I have ever had.  Apparently, getting the royal treatment is common at a lot of the bigger U.S. races but this was a first for me.  At every station my bottles were taken from me  and filled and returned with the lids on  and the garbage emptied from their pockets!  At one memorable station at the start of the heinous Maiden Peak ascent a fellow met me a hundred yards before the aid station, took my bottles and ran them up to get filled.  By the time I trudged up this steep section to the station they were filled and ready to go.   At the Maiden Lake station, the last before the finish, one of the ladies insisted on wiping my forehead with a clean, cold, damp cloth!  Other stations offered goods ranging from popsicle's to bug spray.  Each and every station was a total spirit boost.  First class volunteers!!!

   From this point I caught a pretty good second wind, cruising the great single track, humming giant guitar riffs out loud (actually scared a couple of runners when I passed them), having a good old time.  I knew the hardest climb on the course was coming up but it was also the last climb before a generally downhill finish so I just kept plugging along.  Starting the ascent I found out I was in 5th place with Yassine Diboun ahead of me by five minutes. Yassine is a super nice guy I have met at a couple of other races but he is also a kick-ass runner so I was pretty excited to be running this close to him.  Knowing I had a huge climb ahead of me all I could do was continue and plug along. My only concern was getting to the top and maybe I could catch him on the descent.  My legs were still feeling strong and I hadn't blown my quads on any of the other descents so I was in good shape for some fast downhill running.

   It's about 4 miles from the bottom to the top of Maiden Peak. Starting at 4900' you run/hike (mostly hike) to the top at almost 8000'.  Some sections are so steep that you are on your tip toes digging into the slope. Basically it's just head down and one foot in front of the other ad infinitum.  The forest here was very beautiful and there was the odd snow patch to cross over so it was somewhat cool.  When the trees ran out and I stepped out onto the exposed mountain the heat seemed to rise 20 degrees  and really took it's toll on me.  I had run out of water about 20 minutes previous to this and there was absolutely no running water anywhere so I was getting pretty thirsty and desperate for the next aid station.  Up and up over a couple of false summits and I finally spotted a volly on the side of the trail. Yes! Aid station!  No, just the final pitch to the top. "Just 5 minutes to the top," he says. "Back down, and a mile down to the next aid station".  Well, all that down sounded good and I was inspired to keep power-hiking to the top. And Yassine was somewhere just ahead of me.  I think that in powering up this last portion of the course in the blazing hot sun, slightly dehydrated, I think this is where my tank was reading empty.  I caught Yassine at the very top, we exchanged pleasantries, I politely thanked the mountain gods for the great times, and got the hell out of there.  I followed Yassine down the rocky mountain goat trail for a few steps before he let me pass and I was gone!  See, the good thing about steep down hill sections is they only require the effort to stay balanced and on your feet. Gravity does the work. I love running downhill and this section was a blast. I felt a huge surge of energy that lasted all the way to the last aid station...

   So now I was in 4th place. The ladies at the aid station answered that 3rd place was about 10 minutes ahead of me. Hmmm...  8 miles to go, mostly downhill, nope, wasn't in the cards. At this point I just wanted to stay ahead of Yassine. I hadn't been passed by anyone the whole race and did not want to be now.  I said thanks to the vollies and started down the trail... "No! Wrong way! You have to go up that way!" Up?!  Yep, the next 4 miles were not down, they were rolling.  Normally, rolling terrain is a blast - good for fast running.  Instead of cruising to the finish I bonked and never recovered. I couldn't run up any of the hills, not matter how gradual they were. Eventually the flat sections felt like hills  and I had to alternate walking and running.  And to make matters worse I was running out of steam on the downhill sections.  Nothing was steep enough for gravity to help me get down this damn mountain.  Believe me I was leaning so far forward but to no avail.  And I ran out of water.  Exhausted, parched, beaten down, and baking in the 34 degree sun (it felt hotter) I knew I was close but time had sloooooowed down. I knew I would finish faster if I moved faster but my legs just didn't want to go. So thirsty too.  I finally came to a lake and had a look at the mosquitoes and bugs at the edge and thought no and a minute later I was filling my bottle and having a drink of warmish water.  Just as I spit it out I saw the tiniest stream flowing into the lake. Ahh, cold, clear, running water. Nectar of the gods. I bet I was at this stream for at least 3 minutes drinking, filling, drinking, soaking my hat and head.  I kept listening for foot fall but luckily I was still ahead.

4 miles to go!

   Not much to say about the last 4 miles other than they were among the most torturous I have ever run. I have never had to walk down hills before. My pulse was so low. My damn legs would not push. They didn't hurt, they weren't stiff. They had abandoned me.  I ended up alternating between running and walking until I was at the bottom of the hill where I forced myself to run through to the finish. Painful. But I was elated with my performance nonetheless. My plan had worked and I finished ahead of my expectations.  And I learned a thing or two that I can use in my future races.

At last!!!

   4th overall with a time of 10:22:15 and 2nd in the Master's division. Not bad considering the first and second place runners Dave Mackey and Ian Sharman are two of the fastest 100k racers in the states right now. Dave also took first place in the Master's division.

   This race was the first race in the Montrail Cup Ultra Series.  The first and second place runners in each of these races gets an automatic entry into the popular and impossible to get into  Western States 100 Mile race. If one of the top two already has a spot in Western then the automatic entry rolls down to third. Both Dave and Ian are already in so I have been wondering if in this case there might be a roll down to 4th. That would be me and that would be pretty cool!




Yassine said...

Downie! Great race...sorry I didn't get to chat w/ you after the race...I was pretty wrecked and was just looking for a place to lie down. I ended up staying for a while but then I had to catch a ride back to Portland. Man, you ran a killer race- 10:22 is stout! and I'll never forget how shitty I felt when I saw you bomb down that trail Leap of Faith and out of sight...You were flyin! It sounds like we had similar experiences the last 10k or so...walking on anything remotely resembling a hill and the flats just sucked! Anyway, my legs are starting to come around finally and I'm looking forward to hangin' out more at Pine to Palm. Are you driving or flying? You should email me and we can talk logistics, etc. You're welcome to crash at my place if you need to break up the trip if you're driving. I live right off Interstate 5 in Portland. My email is yassine.diboun@gmail.com Peace brutha!

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