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I am a 45 year old long distance runner who is on a journey to regain the joy for running and life.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hundred in the Hood

This is my first post on my new blog! What a way to start!

early in the race-Me in white shirt and russ behind me in hat

On September 26th at 5am I began my second 100 mile ultra marathon in a race called Hundred in the Hood.

Terry and Daniel (my crew team) and I drove the 20 miles from our hotel to arrive at the start line by 4:40 am. It was cold and dark but there was excitement in the air as we walked towards the start line at the Clackamas ranger station near Timothy Lake in the Mt Hood National Forest. The race director, Olga, gave us the quick pre-race speech and I located Russ my new ultra running friend who I met on the trails a month earlier. At 5 am we were off!

The first 1/4 mile is on the road. After slowly running that section, all ~120 runners entered into the woods on a beautiful single track trail called the Pacific Crest Trail. It was slow going (not a bad thing) and quite dusty. It was apparent right away that we would be breathing dust for a while.

Me at the 28 mile aid station
We passed the first aid station at 6.2 miles and saw our crews. It was still dark and we continued quickly. Russ and I were running with his friend Kate and a friend of hers. Sometime before the sun came up I got stung by a bee on my leg. This startled me, but no big deal. At this point we were right on our best case time of 12 min miles (20 hour pace). We continued this on this easy to run rolling terrain until we arrived back near the start/finish area 28 miles into the race.

This was the first big transtition area for my crew. Terry and Daniel helped me change out my food, change out my electrolytes/supplements and they even threw away my used sanitary wipes that I soiled off in the woods. Boy was that a relief. Now feeling lighter and still very fresh, I was off, not to see my crew again until mile 55.

It just so happens that Russ was ready to go at about the same time. So our pre-race idea of staying together as long as possible was working out beautifully. As most runners know it is very difficult to run with someone for a long time in a race because of one runner feeling better than the other or natural paces being different. But Russ and I kept asking each other if the pace was fine and it was just perfect for both of us so we stayed together. And this was extremely enjoyable. It sure is nice to have someone to talk to. It makes it a lot easier.

So at this point we were both feeling extremely good. We were ahead of our predicted time but both felt like we were going easy. Somewhere around mile 40 I was complaining of a slight twinge on my toe. We stopped, Russ popped my small blister, we applied some moleskin, and we were off. Four minutes flat. Then shortly after that we addressed a hot spot for Russ, four minutes flat, and we were off. What a team!

We ran all the downs and flats and power walked the hills and came into the mile 55 aid station at 5 pm. That is about a 13 min/mile avg and a 22 hour pace. We were still very fresh and excited and were pretty confident in a sub 24 race.

At this aid station I changed shoes into my trail shoes, changed out my food and supplements, Daniel re-addressed my blister, I put on an extra shirt, a hat and gloves. I ate some soup and got ready to go. And just as I was ready to go Russ was too.

We got to the next aid station in good spirits still on sub 24 hour pace. At this point only had 6.5 miles to go to the 65 mile aid station which was the turnaround. As we headed up the trail we immediately hit some tough technical trail and I think one of us said " I hope it's not like this all the way to Breitenbush Lake (the turnaround)." Ha ha. That would be funny. This was gnarly, rocky like you can't imagine, hard to run on without falling down, trail. Ha ha. Just imagine if it was like that all the way to Breitenbush. Thank God it's not. ---Well, it was. " Oh my God, ouch, shit, oh shit, Oh my Lord, I can't believe this, shit, no way, this can't be, it's got to end, right? No. So we were slowed to a crawl. About 20 min/miles or slower, all the way to Breitenbush Lake. Russ really pulled me along as I was really having trouble not falling down. I think I stubbed my toe 100+ times and I just couldnt run without tripping on the loose "boulder size" rocks. In retropsect if we would have known that this section was going to be so different from the rest of the trail we would have been mentally prepared and would have went much faster. This terrain really trashed me and my attitude sucked. Russ pulled me along and we made it to the turnaraound way behind schedule with the hope for a sub 24 hour race gone.

At that point I really wanted to quit. I was trashed and I knew we had to go right back over that 6.5 miles from hell. Russ had no quit in him, so I just followed. We trudged our way for over 2 hours (20 min/mile pace) and finally reached the 71.5 mile aid station and we knew we had made it out of hell. Even though we were out of this section our pace did not pick up very much. We slowly made our way back to the 75 mile aid station and arrived after midnight. We were now averaging over 15 min/mile and were on 26 to 27 hour pace. Still well within the 30 hour race cutoff. My spirits definitely improved at this aid station. I got to see my crew and they were awesome. I asked Terry and Daniel how they were doing and I remember Terry saying he was fine, but he was shivering. I also told Terry that was the hardest 20 miles I have ever ran. Brutal. It was now about 32 degrees and they had been at that aid station for 7 hours. Thanks guys. We changed out my food and electrolytes/supplements, I drank some water and chicken broth, and I looked for Russ.

When I saw Russ he had a blanket around him and he was puking. Well that is a fairly normal ultra occurence and he said he felt fine other than an obviously queasy stomach. We picked up his pacer and good friend Bud, a long time ultra veteran with lots of experience, and we were off. It was about 12:20 am.

We took off walking and kept walking. At some point between around mile 80 it was obvious that Russ couldn't run. And that was fine by me. I was very tired and was enjoying the walking. I knew we were well within the time limit to finish so there was no urgency. We made it to the mile 85 aid station around 4 am which gave us about 7 hours to finish before the 30 hour cutoff, so we had to avg about 2.5 miles per hour. At this point we really had about 17-18 miles left as the race ended up being about 103 miles. Bud made it real clear at this point that we had to get moving because with Russ's quads shot, and based on the pace we had just went the last ten miles ( 4 hours for 10 miles is 2.5 miles per hour) we would have to do that to just finish before the cutoff. It was gonna be close.

So we took off with a renewed sense of urgency. About a mile or two out of the aid station Russ was really hurting. I gave him a couple natural anti-inflamatory suppelment caplets, Bud offered Advil, and I tried to run in front of Russ to pull him along a little faster. But his quads were gone. I have been there. It sucks. He just couldn't run at all and the walk was becoming difficult. Bud had also been there and with his experience knew things were looking rough. But Russ and I just kept trudging along, Russ going as fast as he could on dead quads, and me just following along. I had been walking behind Russ with Bud in front for nearly 5 hours and was in a "follow the leader" mental state. I was just thinking ok. It's gonna be tough to finish now. Let's just keep going. Then the wise, less sleep deprived, veteran ultra runner Bud abruptly stopped us and said, "look guys. We have to make a decision." Then he looked at me and asked me if I thought I could finish. I gave the whimpiest response in the history of man. I said,"ya?" very uncertain and unmotivated. I didn't even know if I could run. I asked Russ if it was ok and what he thought about the idea. I know it hadn't crossed his mind either. Russ and I were just moving forward together. Without Bud being there this moment would not have happened, I am sure. So Russ said he wanted me to try to finish and he thought that Bud and I would be running off together. Bud explained to both sleepwalkers (Russ and I) that I would be going off on my own and Russ and himself would continue to the next aid station or two to stop. "Oh." Now Russ and I seemed to understand the situtation. Once that decision was made I said goodbye to Russ and Bud and took off into the dark, running by myself for the first time in the entire race.

For some reason which I am still not quite sure why, I took off and immediately felt awesome. I know I was running 10 min/mile pace or faster and quickly came to the 91.5 mile aid station. I had just ran about 3 to 4 miles in 35 to 40 minutes aprox, and felt great. Knowing that I only had to avg about 2.5 miles per hour and I was running 5 to 6 miles per hour, I knew at that point I would finish.

From mile 91.5 aid station to mile 97 aid station there is a big climb. I was actually able to run most of it. I know that leaving Russ and knowing he wasn't going to finish sucked, but I was drawing motivation from his sendoff. I couldn't wait to see him at the finish and give him a big hug and thank him for his positive attitude and friendship that had blossomed over the last 24 hours.

Russ in hat, Me - hammer man
I hit the mile 97 aid station at 5:50 am and the sun was just coming up on another beautiful day. Now I had six miles to go, mostly gradual downhill. I did a quick shirt change, ate a gel, and headed off. I passed 4 or 5 runners in this section and ran it in exactly 72 minutes to finish at 8:02 am. That is 27 hours 2 minutes. Wow. What an experience.

Terry was there to get a little video footage of the end. I got my hug and congradulations from Olga, my hug and congradulations from Daniel and Terry. Then I saw Russ and it was pretty cool. He was happy for me and I was happy for him and happy to have experienced so much in 27 hours. We hugged twice and that was quite emotional. This report can never convey the experience that we had out on that trail. All I can say is that it was awesome and I absolutely can't wait to run 100 again. I will be back to run sub 24, you can count on it. Oh and a huge thanks to Bud for helping us make that important decision that we would have regretted forever. I hope to run with you again. And of course, a huge thanks to Terry and Daniel being a great crew. And thanks to Russ for making it an "epic" experience. Many more to come!!