Monday, September 19, 2016

Pine to Palm 2016

I write, eating frozen salted chocolate in bed, desperately not wanting to return to the real world tomorrow, and I bask in the afterglow of the sober elevation of mile 98 flow. I hope it never stops. But I know how it goes. I know that self-surprising feats of performance are rare, and that if they were frequent they wouldn't ever be meaningful, nonetheless special. I know that every day can be purposeful, however truly phenomenal moments only occur in truly phenomenal settings and scenarios. My friends, the 2016 Pine to Palm 100 Mile Endurance Run was a phenomenal setting and scenario.


That paragraph was great. I couldn't keep writing after that and haven't written in a week because that paragraph was nice and poetic, and I can't romanticize Pine to Palm at this moment. I did that in my 2014 report and last year in a really emotional finish. Pine to Palm is hard. It's diverse, singletrack, roads, vert, heat, a small tad of altitude for us seadwellers. It's small, mostly old school, slightly unorganized, just fabulous. This year was my third year finishing the 100 mile odyssey in Ashland, Oregon. When doing races multiple years in a row, it's tough not to compare your experience to the previous years. "I was in such good shape in 2014!" "I was overconfident in 2015--but can I even run close to that 2014 time?"

2016's P2P was different. I knew the course. I committed. I wasn't distracted by girls, or anything. I committed. I put in some legit (but not excessive!) training. I logged the vert, the time, and the miles. Pacing four different buddies at hundos this summer really helped too. Elan at SD100 just crushed it, was happy the whole day. Jim at SD100 was pulling through a tough day, but was fully committed on finishing and did everything he could to grit it out. Seb at Bighorn100 slogged through the night, contemplating dropping, but rallied and made it to a strong finish. Aylwin at AC100 was consistent as a hundered miler could ever be, running steady for 28 hours. They were all endlessly inspiring in my P2P preparation. And personally, I just "dated running again" which was fine by me. You get out what you put in.

The other reason P2P was different this year was because of Franz. Franz and I logged a good number of long training runs together this summer, and spent two whole weekends together traveling and shredding. His commitment, his first hundo, inspired me to do my best. Franz and I are very similar in speed, and I was just hoping to keep up with him during the race.

This is Franz. (All photos Wyatt Lowdermilk Productions)

Put the icing on the cake, Wyatt and Jordy were flying out to crew. It was bound to be a spectacular day. The setting was phenomenal. We just needed to execute.


It was a true team effort. I literally ran with Franz from miles 0-10, and 25-98. I was chatty on the climb up Grayback, which is always a good sign because I'm notttt that chatty. I was comfortable. I was on one of my favorite climbs, a favorite trail, my favorite people, my favorite state, my favorite race. The hike was strong, and it would stay strong all day. Social miles turned into somewhat lonely miles on the long road that eventually went to the first aid station at mile 28. Franz caught up on the road after I put a little space on the downhill just because I wanted to run my own strides down the mountain. We rolled into the aid a couple minutes shy of 5 hours, just perfect. We looked good. We felt good.

The folks at the aid station recognized us from the last two years, and commented on the efficiency of the crew. Shirt off, new iced crop top on, ice bandana on, sleeves on, pedialyte, PBJ in hand, food in pack, pack on, ice in sleeves, hat, sunnies, go go go! Wait, HIGH FIVES! Bye!

Franz and I had run the next section together during a training trip, and I knew it was important to hike the whole climb even though it is runnable. A runner Brian caught up to us, we snapped a couple photos on his phone, and continued down to the lakes. I think P2P was my 30th ultra in a race-setting, and this was my first time ever stopping mid-race to take a photo. We were having fun, not rushing it, just living life on a beautiful day.

The lake loop, the lake dip, the flawless crew transition, then more hiking. Franz and I started to feel the heat coming into mile 50, but we hung tough and made it to the crew spot, still looking good and feeling in control. Up to the peak, grab the flag, down the peak back to the crew spot. I sat, refueled, and got outta there.

Looking REAL good

The next section is a lot of road. I wasn't bored, but I just needed to zone for awhile so I started some tunes action, apologizing to Franz for being antisocial. Tralala, we were going to make Dutchman Peak at sunset! In 2014 I had my highest high ever at Dutchman at sunset. In 2015 I arrived about an hour and a half after sunset. One of my goals for the race was to make Dutchman at sunset, just because it's so freaking beautiful. We hiked up, squad strong, Franz, Brian and myself three-wide on the fire road. We were one short of a boy band, but Spencer was hiking in tow not far back, so yes, threes company but fours a squad. Squad deep up to Dutchman. Wyatt snapping all the photos. Cheers from the loyal crew members and ultra families. Soup, smiles, we didn't rush it. We probably could have ran a bit, but my goodness we basked in that sunset. That breathtaking sunset. I was happy.


Pure stoke.

Headlamps on. SFRC squad deep. Still with Franz, we both picked up pacers so it was just a jovial 35 mile group run in the dark to Ashland. I started to get sleepy, which I knew would happen, but I plodded along. I switched shoes into Sense Pros (dumbest move I've ever made in a race--hey let's switch into a more narrow shoe!) which made my feet scream instantly.

Jordan Chang literally gave me the shoes off his feet on the side of the PCT in the middle of the night. 

Franz started running some uphills, Brian caught back up to us, and I had to listen to music to stay awake. I was still hiking strong, so I didn't worry.  Jordy and I didn't talk too much, but man it was nice being with him. I could follow Jordy all day, anywhere. I caught back up once I recognized that we were on the SOB course, and we rolled into the mile 80 aid station only like a boy-band could, all flair. We didn't stay long. Switched up the pacers and gave heartfelt hugs to Jordy and Mario. See you at the finish!

New section of the course for this year. Meandering. Started to get over it, the race itself. Mile 80 you're sorta ready to be done. But I was walking in the woods, a little chilly, behind my best friend and all was right in the universe. We finally made the out and back after what seemed like forever of really slow, half-caring miles. We moved down the back of the mountain, this time without huge blowdowns (thank you Forest Service!). I tried not to think of previous years. I mainly stayed in control--just try to keep it stable. I wore off my sleep cycle, felt the caffeine, the temperature was no longer frigid, and followed Wyatt into the abyss. Franz' headlamp batteries died, and Wyatt and I would wait in the aid station for him.

We strolled into the last aid station, mile 90, and saw the next place runner eating there. I hadn't seen this guy all day. I had no idea what place we were in. He left before Franz came into the aid, Wyatt and I waited. Franz had waited plenty for me during the last 19 hours, and I wasn't going to leave my man behind here. Later I said that Franz got me to the aid stations and I got Franz out of them. Team. We took a couple minutes in this aid, not rushing, in control like we had been all day. Right before leaving the aid station I saw the aid station captain write down our places on a sheet of paper. Sixth and seventh?! That guys in fifth! Oh shit.

Wyatt asked, "do you guys want to catch fifth?"
Franz and I simultaneously, instantly, and emphatically responded "no!"

Franz ran ahead. He started to walk. I ran past, stating that if I stopped to walk I wouldn't start running again. Franz started running. John B started running. Wyatt started running. Hey, we were running under 9 minute pace.

We saw the headlamps ahead. Nobody said anything. We started to dip closer to 8 minute pace. Nobody said anything. Four wide, headlamps beaming, Wyatt hollered. We were going to catch this kid.

We started breathing. The headlamps ahead turned back and started running faster, away from us. We dipped below 8 minute pace. I started falling back, trying not to say anything, trying to hang on. I caught up, breathing. Franz started to fall back, trying not to say anything, trying to hang on. He caught up, breathing. We were literally running a tempo workout, nearing or below 7 minute pace, 95 miles into a 100 mile race. What were we doing? How were we doing this? Our eyes were wide. Our pacers were flawless with pushing us but not killing us. We were a team.

We caught the runner, exchanged a couple of words, and kept running. We were hammering. It was 3am above Ashland. The most perfect sentence I've ever written. I realized PR potential was in the books. Franz had fallen back slightly, I couldn't stop. Would he catch up? Wyatt, what do I do? We ran this whole thing together, we have to cross together. We're still racing. That kid is still fighting, look, they're still close to each other on the switchback. Wyatt, do we stop right before the finish line and wait? Do you want to stop on the road? No, it's too steep. We're going to PR. Wyatt, this moral dillema is killing me. Do we wait? I can't stop. I can't stop. We turn the corner. We're going to PR. We're about to finish this near perfect day. This day that was shared by amazing people, best friends, beautiful trails, endless memories. Our happy place, our secure community, where we can be us, and don't have to deal with all of the bullshit. We're crossing the finish line, Jordy's there. Eyes wide. Eyes so wide. Eyes wide.

Franz finishes two minutes later. Holy goodness Franz finished his first hundo in style! We did it we did it we did it. Thank you thank you thank you. We did it we did it. Together.

I'm living high. 

1 comment:

  1. That 'kid' you passed who was in 5th is my grandson....another Wyatt.... on his first 100 miler. You captured the essence of the ultra-race. Thanks for sharing. Papa Goshorn