Monday, September 15, 2014

2014 Pine 2 Palm 100 Mile Race Report

One of the many gradual downhill gravel roads at mile 77 or so. That's where I found myself moving the to side of the road trying to throw up. I'm horrendously horrible at throwing up, but I was trying. My stomach had been uneasy for hours, and something needed to change. I'll try anything, so I bit an S-cap in half. Gagging, eyes watering, stomach probably too empty to throw anything up, I was spitting on gravel in southern Oregon, slurring together curse words.

Or maybe the aid station just a couple miles back from that failed puke spot. Where I sat icing my quads that were toasty to the touch, shivering, body undergoing a full blown shut down. Wyatt staring at me, hoping I can get up. 

But it was probably 200 yards from that aid station where the moment came--the moment which many ultrarunners look for-- the moment where you get the opportunity to see what you're made of. I had forgotten to take food with me from the aid station, even after sitting there for what felt like five minutes but Wyatt said it was more like 15 or 20. I was so cold even though it was 80something degrees outside. My body had been going through hot flashes for the past hour, and now my hands were on my knees, again. Head spinning, a moment of utter misery while Wyatt ran back to get me food. He had asked what I wanted and I'm pretty sure I muttered, "I don't care." He came back and I walked a few steps before I had to put my hands of my knees again. Then I said what I'd been thinking for the past hour and a half. 

"I don't see me finishing this Wyatt."

I was completely honest. I was dropping things, fumbling food, blurry eyed, and pretty sure going hypothermic. But you know what Wyatt said?


Hahahaha. Oh man. I can't remember how I responded but I think it was something like "I am a bitch!" I would have walked right back to the aid station and quit if Wyatt wasn't there. So no, I'm not made up of some far-flung tough-guy stuff. I just have a really good friend who didn't give up on me when I gave up on myself when I thought I was dying. 

Those were just the bad parts of the race. I'm writing them down so I don't forget how much they sucked. Up there was also mile 90 right outside of the aid station. Ten miles to go on a gravel road, 2am, and I couldn't move because my ass was chaffed so badly. My pin legs COULD run, but my ass wasn't having it. It wasn't pretty. It was comical and it sucked. Wyatt and I kind of gave up there even with three guys pretty close to us. We walked four miles rapping wrong lyrics to each other until we got passed. Then ran the rest in a glorious daze, both of us hurting. Wyatt had flown from Indiana, crewed me all day, then ran the last 35 with me. He was rocking best friend status before I picked him up at the Oakland airport Friday morning, but now...

Let's talk about the good parts of the "race!" I put race in quotations because I did not RACE this 100 mile endurance run. And it worked quite well for me. For one, 100 miles is really freaking far, so it's pretty foolish to focus on competition when the number one thing is to take care of yourself. Before I ran Bighorn 100 in mid June I was thinking of running Pine 2 Palm, but after Bighorn said nooo wayyy. I'd race a fast 50 mile or something instead in the fall. But once I started my job in the Bay Area I realized I didn't have the energy to train for a fast race. I'd rather just have an adventure. And buddy Jack Finn was running P2P and getting me stoked on it. So what the heck, I'll go run 100 miles. Oregon is sweet, I have no pressure on myself, AND Wyatt offered to fly in as he was aching for an adventure himself. So my former roomie and I had some good laughs catching up and driving to southern Oregon. We met some cool folks & barely made it to the start line on time. I joked that I was going to win the "most casual runner" award for this one. Never once did I focus on the other people around me, my position in the field, getting caught, or doing some catching! My goals for the day were to finish with enough time for Wyatt to catch his flight at 4pm out of SFO (so I couldn't run more than 26 hours), and to HAVE FUN! The latter required me to not care about positioning, and indeed made for a fun time. 

A good spot to sleep!

The first climb was huge. 5thou feet up, never really steep, but consistent and GAWGEOUS. I was somewhere in 30th place and It was fantastic. I possessed no ego. No "I got second place at hellgate, or second at PL, or whatever, I should be up there in front!" No, I knew from Bighorn that half the dudes up front are going to fade big time. I also knew that 100 miles is really far. Did I say that already? But the climb. Huge Doug-Firs in a recently burned area, fire retardant on the ground, single track. Mmmmm I was in love. The decent off the backside was steeper than the climb up the front, and I had to use my quads a bit more than my liking to brake frequently. Knowing none of the course, the next 13ish miles of downward trending gravel road was interesting which I banged out pretty quickly with nobody in sight in front or behind me. I basically ran the first 45 miles alone. 

Wait the race starts in five mins? Photo: Wyatt

On the road smoke started to become visible. A nearby 100,000 acre wild fire was causing a ton of smoke in the air, which made for some really eerie and entertaining light. I came into the mile 28 aid station happy and smiling. I was somehow 10 lbs underweight, which was definitely not true. I weighed in 15 lbs heavy than normal Friday evening--not something you want to see before you run a really long way. But, I would rather be overweight and undertrained than underweight and overtrained going into a 100. I undoubtedly gained some upper body muscle mass with my new job. I also undoubtedly gained a pound of fat the week before the race as I let myself indulge a little too much in lots of ice cream that was meant for after the race. Oops.

Hands full of goodness out of mile 28! Photo: Wyatt

The climb out of the mile 28 aid station was hot and smoky. I was moving well but slowly, which is A-OK for a 100 miler. I ate my homemade PB&J and hiked everything. You don't really ever want to move fast I think. Around mile 40 came a flat 2.2mile loop around a lake. I saw Wyatt before and after the little loop. A pleasant and quick 22 minute loop which included a pit-stop and a cool jump/dive in the lake, I was HAVING FUN! I locked eyes with Wyatt and gave him a big ol' smile. It's a good day.

Climb ~mile 30. Soft trails. Photo: Wyatt

Coming into the lake loop, mile 40. Photo: Wyatt

Soon I found myself at mile 50 a tad under 10 hours. That 50 miles had almost 14,000 feet of climb! What! (That's a lot). A little 2 mile out and back up to a peak to grab a pin flag, I saw about 10 people which was nice to see other runners. I exchanged encouragement, feeling good vibes. On the climb I felt fat and slow. Mostly fat. I sat in a chair for the first time all race at the bottom of the climb, iced my quads a little, and got back at it. Two dudes left the aid station right with me, and here came a big highlight of the race. Brian, Stroh, & I exchanged some great positive vibes and made good work on some slightly climbing road. We split up a little bit but would mesh back together. Stroh pulled away, really motoring and ended up with a spectacular finish, while Brian & I chatted about previous adventures while hiking & climbing. I was really chatty, a bit uncharacteristic. Having fun!

Mi 52. Pretty happy getting down some ultragen. Good hair day too. Photo: Wyatt

Getting up to 7,000ft and Dutchman Peak, I started to vibe. The high was mounting, crews were at the top of the peak, runners were descending, the sun began to set while pop songs blared from a speaker. I crested the mountain with a catchy unknown beat played through the speakers. I looked to the sunset and lifted my arms to a flying position, and briefly closed my eyes and felt the wind. Cloud nine. 
Pre-sunset from Dutchman Peak, Mile 65ish. Photo: Wyatt

Hungry, I started grabbing a bunch of food. It was past dinner time. Wyatt found somebody to drive my car to the finish and he could pace me the 35 miles in! Heck yes! We chatted and ran two miles downhill to where the car was parked and stopped to get night gear and clothing. Here came a pivotal mistake. I needed my PB&J and I forgot it. Realizing it a quarter mile out of the car, Wyatt asked if we wanted to go back for it. I said no. Dumb dumb dumb! Another mile or so down the trail I started to fade, out of fuel. We turned on our headlamps and almost instantly my high turned into rock bottom. We walked downhill on the PCT miserable. How things can change so quickly. Here came the low points previously written.

Real high, coming off Dutchman Peak. Photo: Wyatt

After the failed puke attempt, we settled into a 2 min jog/2 min walk routine, which turned into running all of the slight downhill. I started to bounce back after my initial sleep cycle weaned off. We started up the last big climb, and we got caught by a runner and his pacer. Wyatt was dying and I had a four miles out and back to a peak, so he waited for me while I ran with the runner and other pacer. Seeing a lot of dudes on the out and back made for lifted spirits and I chatted with the runner's pacer, probably too much for the runner's liking. I was joking, asking if he had any fizzy lifting drink from Willy Wonka to help me burp. 

Topped out of the climb, I ran the whole downhill, including the few slight ups, because, hey, all of the climbing is done. We still have 15 miles though. Don't think of that. A steep decent took Wyatt and I into the sleepy mile 90 aid, and the race was basically over. Although we still had almost 2 hours. Woof. The final four miles we ran hard, and I crossed the finish line a little after 3:30am. A happy occasion. 

I want to put some subjective grades on aspects of my race.

Pacing: B+: I did NOT go out too fast. I intentionally wore my heart rate monitor at the start, which I intended to wear for the first 28 but did for the first 42. I kept my HR mostly below 150, which is just a nice number that has a small amount of meaning behind it for me according to various HR algorithms. The pacing is not an A because when I felt really great at mile 60 I pushed too hard. A fine game btwn capitalizing on feel-good spots and pushing too hard when those spots arrive. The same thing happened to me at Bighorn where I got caught up passing folks in the 60-75 mile range and worked too hard. It is tough to learn that miles 80-100 matter a lot. I have much to learn in the 100 game. It is not my strong suit. I think I am too young to be really good at 100s. 

Legs/feet: B+: My legs felt pretty darn good, but my quads were toast early. I didn't put in any big miles for this race as I'm generally exhausted after dragging brush all day at work, so the late miles were certainly felt in the legs. My feet were good though after blisters formed and stayed on the tops of my pinky toes. I wore the same Solomon Sense Ultras I wore for the first 66 of Bighorn (that I wished I didn't change out of) for the whole time here at P2P. Injinji socks, which were my backup pair because my first pair were two lefts, as I had found out about 10 mins before the start while I was getting dressed in my car about a half mile from the start line. I developed an odd pain on the outside of my lower left shin that pulsed whenever I hiked after mile 60, but it was tolerable. I took three ibuprofen throughout the race: one around mile 50, one around mile 67, and one around mile 92. I took two tylenol or something while I was dazed out at the mile 74 aid station. I felt the ibuprofen pulsate through my legs instantly after taking it. That was weird. 


Stomach: B: I give it a B because I was able to eat every half hour almost throughout mile 70 or so. I ate a plethora of stuff, including gels, the whole time. The rating isn't higher because my stomach was uneasy from mile 65 on, like it didn't want to take anything else, understandably. Also my bowels were causing me to stop quite frequently in the first 50k of the race--something that's never happened to me in a race before. Imodium solved that problem eventually. The race was not overwhelmingly hot but definitely hot. I took electrolyte pills on a non-consistent basis. 

Mentality: A: So stoked on my approach to this race. No pressure on me. New trails, I was almost constantly engaged and present in what I was doing at the time. I focused on the process of the race and not the outcome. I was excited to run, unlike Bighorn where I wasn't feeling many emotions pre-race. I surprisingly only listened to music for maybe 2 of the 21.5 hours I spent running. I listened to music for about 12 hours at Bighorn. I was encouraging to my "competitors" and all around positive and happy for the other runners. The A is not an A+ because of my mega low point from ~mi 68-75, and that I was discouraged and felt fat on the climb around the half way point when I took my shirt off. Dumb. 

Overall: A: I accomplished my two goals for the race and really can't ask for too much more. Could I have run 20 hours if I didn't fade the last 25 miles? Yeah, but whatever. Starting work has made me realize that running is just running. It is a hobby. A hard hobby to keep when doing laborious work 8 hours a day. Running is not my job and there are thousands of better runners than me in the world. I do not seek to "go professional." I seek to better myself and I hope that I can continue to do so. That said, running is really hard with my job as an arborist. I'm making it a point for running to stay in my life, but it is not my life. I will not run another ultra in 2014. I will not run for 10 days. I have other things I want to do, like read. I am happy with a 100 mile PR on a tougher course than Bighorn--nicer trails and lots of road, but much more elevation change. 21:32:40 and 10th place. The top 10 is nice.

Beautiful & Smoky. Photo: Wyatt

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