Saturday, May 12, 2018

Dark Sky 50: May 12th, 2018

For Jessica's 40th birthday I took her to Chicago for the weekend where we stayed in a nice hotel, ate some good food, and seen the acclaimed musical Hamilton.  She asked what I wanted to do for my 40th birthday and I chose to run a 50 mile race in hot and humid Tennessee while staying in a cheaper-ish cabin.  Sounds great, right?  We left work early on Thursday and road tripped down through Ohio and Kentucky on interstate 75 south.  About 60 miles from the Tennessee border google maps had us get off the freeway and we would be on Kentucky back roads for the next two hours until we reached our destination just over the border.  Our cabin was about 4 miles past Pickett State Park campground and we decided to stop at the state park because my friends Ron and Chas were there and we had a few beers with them.  Chas hauled his very large camper down there and was telling stories of white knuckling it for about 20 miles of winding roads, tiny lanes, and no shoulder.  I am not sure how he managed to do that because there were a few spots that were even tight for my car.

It was still kind of early since we switched to Central time. The state park was right on the line between eastern and central time zones so our cell phones kept switching back and forth when we could get a signal and this was confusing but amusing at the same time.  Chas was also running this race and using it as a training run for Mohican 100 which is in June.  He was very fit from all the training he did and I was somewhat trained but nowhere near his level.  The forecast was set to be in the mid 80s and very humid and we were definitely not use to that after the long Michigan / Ohio winter but we had all the necessary gear to combat the heat.  Also, Ron and Jessica were going to crew us and they are both straight up rock stars when it comes to crewing so I was not too concerned about the pending heat.

After hanging out for a little while we ventured down the country road to the campground where our "full service cabin" was located.  The area was extremely dark because there is hardly any light pollution in this area as no major cities are close.  In fact, this area is one of the top 20 darkest places in the U.S. and known for its excellent star gazing.  Thus the name of the race: The Dark Sky 50.  We pulled into the campground and entered our cabin for the weekend.  It had quite the old cabin type smell and was pretty outdated but those things were not a big deal.  Then Jess flushed the toilet and we heard water bubbling in the shower and the kitchen sink, uh oh!  It was going to be very hot and humid this weekend and there was a large window unit air conditioner in the cabin but unfortunately it was sitting on the bedroom floor and not in the window!  We had a long drive and were tired so we decided to just go to bed and deal with all the cabin issues in the morning.  Upon waking up the next day we made some coffee and were relaxing in the small kitchen when we noticed a few bees had made their way into the cabin.  I walked up to the nice campground bathrooms and ran into Traci, the owner, and I told her about the issues.  She agreed to knock some money off our amount due plus give us some free ice and said she would get her husband over to fix the plumbing later that evening.

We relaxed outside at the campground all morning hoping to not get stung by all the bees flying around us.  Then we gathered some things up and drove around to find a store where we stocked up with some gallons of water etc.. Then we drove over to the state park and chilled out with Chas and Ron for a few hours before going down to pick up our race packets.  I had parked in a empty campsite next to Chas's spot and the people who reserved that empty site pulled up to it.  I apologized for parking there and moved my car.  We ended up walking with them down to packet pickup etc..  Turns out those people were none other then elite ultra runners Liz Canty and her husband Luke Hough!  Very cool they showed up to run a small non publicized second year race in the middle of nowhere.  Jess and I went back to the cabin and cooked some potatoes along with preparing everything else for the race the following morning.  We were able to get into bed pretty early but I didn't fall asleep until probably 11:00 or so.  Then I was up off and on throughout the night, basically just antsy and ready to get the race started.  The alarm went off at 4:15 central time and I quickly got ready for my 50 mile adventure.  We grabbed some of our free ice and met Chas and Ron at the state park.  We got down to the start line and off we went but little did I know my whole race plan was going to hell.

Early miles, feeling good and morale is high!
The beginning was a 2.7 mile loop and an aid station back at the start line (according to the runner's manual).  The next aid station was not until mile 9.3.  My plan was to drink as much of my water bottle and tailwind bottle as I could on the first loop and then fill up for the 6.5 mile stretch to the next aid station.  Somehow there must of been some flags moved or pulled in the first loop because we were back at the start line after 2 miles and I didn't see the natural bridge or the arch that we were supposed to run by.  We followed the flags the entire way and the whole field of runners ran the same route as us so something definitely got screwed up and it was not our fault!  There were some really cool rock formations and nice scenery in this Pickett State Park loop.  I stuck to my plan and downed a lot of my water and tailwind mix but when we got back to the start line there was no water or anything put out for us.  Not sure why they advertised that as an aid station if they were not putting water out there.  I knew it was going to be a hot day so I wanted to stay ahead of my hydration plan.  Essentially we had to go the first 9.3 miles of this race without any aid or water but I guess that's not the end of the world since it was the beginning of the race.  I knew I would not be ahead of hydration because of this but I should be able to maintain without issue, right?

Awesome views from high up on the ridge line
We were winding around this huge gorge on single track trails with some really great views.  To say this area is awesome would be an understatement.  At some points you have sweeping panoramic views of large foothills and huge rock formations.  What an awesome place to have a race!  The scenery took my mind off the fact that I was not following my hydration plan.  After all of the awesome views we dropped down into a dense forest where we did a major river crossing, they even put up a rope and I am glad they did because I slipped on a rock under water and almost bit it but the rope saved my fall!  Then we followed the river for awhile on single track trail, this was all pretty technical because there were tons of rocks and roots.  It was hard to get a good running rhythm when a lot of the trails were not too run-able.  I was happy to reach the mile 9.3 aid station which was every bit of 10.5 miles into the race.  This was an unmanned aid station that only had one large water jug and one large jug with tailwind / water mix and this was in the middle of the woods, I am not even sure how they got them back there.  I filled up one bottle with just water along with dumping my own Tailwind powder in the other bottle and topping it off with water.  Off we went and did a bunch of gradual climbs up to the next aid station where Ron and Jessica were waiting for us at mile 13.1.  It was starting to get hot out and they hooked us up with with our ice bandannas and also we each took an extra water bottle because it was a 7.7 mile stretch to the next aid station.

Dense forest, getting super hot and humid!
I wanted to get some extra water in my system right away when we left that aid station so I drank my extra water bottle within the first mile of leaving.  We had a very reasonable pace going up until this point.  I was letting Chas lead because I didn't want to mess with what he needed to do for his training.  He and Ron were simulating the first two loops of Mohican 100 by doing all of the aid, nutrition, and shoe / sock changes etc.. which I thought was genius.  Also, the fact that it was hot and humid out made it the perfect Mohican 100 training run.  I was just along for the ride and hoping that I could hang on since I was not in peak ultra shape.  I had a really good 50K at Trail Marathon Weekend two weeks prior and was hoping to replicate that performance but some things you are about to read changed the course of that plan for me.  Chas and I both drank all of our water within the next 7.7 mile stretch because it was getting very hot and humid out.  We got to the next aid station at mile 21 which was also just large jugs sitting in the woods.  So glad to finally get some more water!  Chas pushed the button on the spout of the cooler and guess what, no water!!  So thirsty and Tailwind was not sounding good but they did have some of that in the other jug.  We both filled up our bottles with the warm ass tailwind.  The sodium in the tailwind was just making us more thirsty for regular water.

Crazy Ass ladder we had to navigate down
The heat was really starting to get to me at this point because my energy level went from hero to zero around mile 23.  The trail led down by a river with cold water and I jumped in to douse my head with water to cool off.  Chas did the same and he was ready to push on but I needed some more time in the cool water so I told him to soldier on!  I was glad he did because he was doing well and I didn't want to hold him up plus I knew I would be slowing up for the rest of the race.  All I could think about was getting to the aid station at mile 27 so I could get some damn water!  The next 4 miles were slow and brutal as I was dying of thirst but I eventually stumbled up to the aid station which was another one out in the middle of the woods!  They asked me if I wanted some Tailwind and I quickly replied NO, just plain water PLEASE!  The guy felt bad but informed me they only had a half a pitcher of water left and he put about a third of a bottle in and said e had to save some for the other runners.  Wait, no water at mile 21, no water at mile 27, and we have four more miles to the next aid station?!  I kept my cool as I knew there was nothing I could do about it.  It was not the volunteers fault so I didn't say anything to them, just walked out of the aid station.  I was surprised that race management was so irresponsible about having water on the course especially when the weather was so hot and humid.  It's a huge issue of safety, I can see running out of food etc.. but with no water someone could of gotten hurt.

Random cool rock shit you see on the course
The next four miles were very tough with no water, I knew that my crew Jessica and Ron would be at mile 31 and would take good care of me so that kept me going.  Also, most of this section of trail went along a big river with cold water so myself along with a slew of other runners were randomly jumping in the water and soaking ourselves to stay cool.  I have to admit, I was seriously considering the risk of giardia and guzzling a bunch of that river water, it looked clean and refreshing but I know someone that suffered severely from this bacterial born illness and it just was not worth the risk.  As I was coming down a big hill I finally seen the aid station and Ron and Jessica were right there to meet me.  They were yelling they had PLENTY OF WATER as Chas informed them I would be thirsty!!  It was nice to sit down and reset a bit.  Jess and Ron told me about this crazy hike they had to do in order to get down to the aid station and found some craft beer at some lodge that was down there in the woods.  I was glad they were able to have some fun as they were out there waiting on us all day and it was nice to get my mind off the suffering that I was experiencing.  I thanked them and the volunteers at that aid station and with two bottles of ice water I set out on the next 5 mile loop getting a bit of a second wind.  I got back to that aid station and they had almost ran out of water there but were carrying another jug up as I was there.  Phew!!  I don't think I could of handled it if they didn't have any water.  The next aid station was mile 38ish and Jessica helped me change shoes ans socks.  I put on a brand new pair of Altra Lone Peaks and Ron was laughing that I was going to roll the last 12 miles with new shoes on.  In fact, I scuffed them up a bit just so I didn't look ridiculous!

Chas popped the cork a little early!
I got to the next aid station around mile 43ish and finally starting to get hydrated I decided I should probably eat something.  They were making grilled quesadillas and that just sounds really good for some reason.  It tasted great, although it probably was not the best choice, but since I only had 7 miles left I didn't care!  The trail went into a really steep downhill back down to the river.  I crossed the river again and once again my feet were wet.  Since I was in the rivers all day my feet never really dried out until my shoe and sock change at mile 38.  Oh well, only another 5 miles or so and this trainwreck would be over!  The thought of food, a shower, and multiple beers helped me kick in the after burners.  I ran with a group of people who were also finishing this race up.  Jess pulled up next to me in the car on this mile or two section of road we had to do before finishing.  I came down the final stretch and was super happy to see Jess, Ron, and Chas there cheering me on.  Chas completely dominated that race ad he still had energy left in the tank which was a tribute to all the hard training miles he had put in this year.  After getting a bite and cleaning up we sat by the fire at Chas's campsite with his family, drank many beers, and had a lot of laughs.  It's always such a great time hanging out with those guys and I hope we have some more adventures in the near future!

Post race, let the party begin!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Trail Marathon Weekend 50K: April 29th, 2018

Pre-race, ready to roll!
I ran this event a few times in the past.  I enjoy it because it's my home race since it's done on the Potawatomi trail (the Poto for short) in the Pinckney Rec Area.  I do most of my big training runs for ultra events on this trail and it's one of the best trails that Michigan has to offer.  This year was very special because my friend Steve did his first ultra marathon at this event.  Steve is a friend that I kind of knew in college because he was my neighbor and he also knew Jessica through a series of friends.  Steve also grew up in Ohio not to far from where I am from and spent a lot of time hanging out at Oak Openings which is where I trail run every time I am visiting family back home.  We reconnected when he moved to Detroit a few years ago and he started dating my friend Molly.  It was nice getting to know him better and we had many discussions about running as it was an activity that we have in common.  Steve loves the outdoors and going hiking so I often pushed the idea of ultra / trail running on him because I knew he would love it.  Combining his love of the woods with one of his favorite exercise activities of running along with a great community of people, does it get any better?!!  I talked to Steve last fall and told him about this race and he decided to take on the challenge!  I was excited because there are not many people that decide to embark on a journey like this and you can not explain how great the mental and physical rewards are which result from training and achieving this goal.  I was also happy because not many of my college friends are into ultra running with the exception of Lucas.

Mid race, just enjoying this great day!
Steve trained really hard for this event in his newer-ish home town of Grand Rapids, MI.  We met up once in Feb. at Oak Openings for a training run and we also did a nice training run on the Poto in April a few weeks before the event.  I was getting excited for him as I remembered the feelings I had leading up to my first ultra marathon.  I had no doubt he was going to do great just from the amount of training he was doing and he was mentally in a great place for the run.  Race day arrived and Steve and Molly drove all the way from Grand Rapids that morning!  I was glad that Molly came and Jess got to hang out with her for a little while.  I worked with Molly for quite a few years and we became good friends throughout that time so it was nice to catch up.  We were standing around outside pre-race and freezing while waiting for the race to start.  It's late April and temps were in the 20s on race morning but was going to heat up into the 50s and be an extremely nice day for the race, perfect running weather.  Steve and I started the race slowly and then settled into a nice steady pace.  We were having fun chatting and hanging out for the first six or seven miles.  Steve was feeling really good and decided to roll with his momentum and I was glad he did.  Before the race I told him to make sure he runs his own race and don't feel bad if we are not together the whole time etc..  Also, I did not want to push myself to hard during this race because I was only two weeks away from the Dark Sky 50 miler in Tennessee.

One of the many eco systems in Pinckney Rec
I stayed steady after Steve and I separated and I talked to a few people that lived in the same town as me, Royal Oak.  One guy was wearing an old cashmere sweater and said he ran in it all winter.  Wool is the best material to run in because it's extremely moisture wicking and can keep you warm in the winter or cool in the summer.  This was obvious because the back of his sweater looked soaked with ice crystals but it was just all the sweat that migrated to the outside of the sweater.  Natural wool never smells because bacteria does not stick to wool so you don't have to wash it very often.  I thought this was a genius move by this guy to find purpose for an old sweater!  The temps started warming up on this first thirteen mile loop and it turned into a crisp spring day.  I will make this statement a second time, this IS the perfect running weather.  I got done with the loop and saw Molly at the start / finish area with her Dad.  They said that Steve left out of the aid station about five or ten minutes before I got there.  I was glad he was doing well.  The second loop was nice just being out in the woods on this amazing day and enjoying the trails.

Steve just crushed his first 50K!  Congrats!
I finished up loop number two and upon arriving back at the start / finish I heard that Steve kicked major ass on his second loop and took off like a mad man for his final five miles.  That got me super pumped up just to know that he was doing well.  At mile twenty - six of my first ultra I felt like I was going to die and I had to pretty much walk the last five miles.  I really enjoyed the last five miles of this race and was excited to finish up so I could hear about Steve's day.  As I was running to the finish line I heard Steve, Molly, and her Dad cheering me onto the finish.  Seeing the joy in Steve's face over what he accomplished was worth the price of admission.  I knew exactly what he was feeling and was glad he embraced the journey with training and got to experience the culmination of hard work on race day.  He was so pumped up at mile twenty - six that he took off without his water bottle and pretty much sprinted the last five miles!  That's incredible for someone to do on their first ultra.  It just shows how much training and hard work he put in for this thing.  He said it was life changing and I completely understood and it awoke that feeling in my memory.  After the race it was great to hang out in the parking lot and have a beer with Steve, Molly, and her Dad.  The feeling after an ultra is great, even though you are hurting like crazy it's hard to not smile.  I am glad that Steve enjoyed the overall experience and I wish him the best of luck when he chooses to raise the bar to a fifty miler!

Finishing this race up, what an awesome day!

Nothing better then post run coffee from Bear Claw!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Forget the PR Race Director 50K: March 24th, 2018

This was my 7th year completing the Forget the PR 50K.  Rob Powell always let the volunteers come out and run the course before the actual event.  He handed off the race to Mark Carroll and Chad Heald they upheld the tradition and let us come out to run the course along with having beer and pizza afterwards.  It's a great tradition and since this race was my first ultra marathon back in 2012 it holds a special place in my heart.  I was also excited this year that Chas was volunteering and going to do the volunteer run with us.  It's always fun getting in some miles with all my Ohio running friends.  They really are a great group and even though I only see them a few times a year I would say they are like family to me.  This year was true race director race weather.  Pretty damn cold in the morning with a little snow on the ground and it warmed up into the low 40s throughout the day which seemed nice since we had such a cold long winter to that point.

First Trip up Big Ass Hill!

We started the race and Chas and Ron both had to run down to the laundry mat and use the bathroom.  I took off instead of waiting but I did let them catch up at the fire tower.  I started out with a group and we made our first trip up the snow covered big ass hill.  After rejoining Ron and Chas I ran with them from Fire Tower to Covered Bridge and then through the dam loop.  One difference in the course this year was that it was not marked.  Many of us thought we knew the way and through a series of different decisions on the dam loop we managed to get some bonus miles.  I stayed true to the course after we accidentally added some distance and I think I ended up going 33 miles or so.  It was really nice of Kathy to volunteer to give us an aid station at the covered bridge she had all kinds of goodies for us.  Also, Bree, Robbie, and the kids were at the fire tower and Mohican Adventures for us which was great as well.  It's so nice that people volunteer for the volunteers race!  After leaving the covered bridge to head back toward Mo Adventures I had to duck into a rest room and could not catch back up with Ron and Chas.  That was ok because I needed to go at my own pace for a little while.

Still Fresh, on the way to Fire Tower
Catherine, Chas, Ron, and Amy coming into Fire Tower
I got back near the campground, Ron and Chas were heading out for loop two.  I went to my car and refueled.  Then I went down to the pavilion at Mo Adventures where Bree, Robbie, and the kids were.  I hung out for a little while and then headed out for loop two.  I was definitely hurting as this was the first race of the year and I was under trained.  I powered through the last loop and was extremely glad to be finished.  The warm room at Trails End along with some pizza and a few beers really hit the spot.  It was so nice seeing everyone and getting to hang out afterwards.  This event has really become part of my life and I cherish it each and every time.  Got a coffee to go and drove back to Seth and Tania's house, where we were staying, for a few more beers with Jessica and the Petersons!  

Here are some more pics from the day:
Robbie dropping some knowledge!
Covered Bridge mayhem

One of the many climbs on the dam loop
About to go up the dam stairs

Second and last time up Big Ass Hill

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fall FA Oak Openings 25K: November 04, 2017

This was the annual Fall run out at the 16 mile scout trail in Oak Openings Metro Park near my parents house.  It is always really nice to come out to this run and see my Toledo running friends.  In the true Halloween spirit the organizers put out a bunch of doll heads on the course, creepy!  Everyone brought a ton of good food and there was no shortage this year.  They even had some killer vegan soups!  I only did one loop.  16 miles was enough for this cool fall Saturday.  The coffee tasted good on the way back to Michigan after this was done.  Always a lot of fun doing this run!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mountain Lakes 100 "Empty Handed": September 23, 2017

This year leading up to race week:

This year has tested me physically and mentally more than any year I can remember.  2017 started out fairly normal for the first two months and we had a great vacation to Cabo San Lucas at the end of February.  Then on March 8th a wind storm caused major damage to the plant where I work.  This resulted in having to put in 60 plus hour work weeks for the next four and a half months.  During this time Jess and I decided to sell our house because the housing market in our area was booming but this added to the chaos of my busy schedule.  I also suffered an injury at the end of April around the time I was supposed to start my training plan for Mountain Lakes 100.  I did a 20 mile trail run in Lake Tahoe around the end of June with Chas Adams but other than that my training miles were limited until July when I was finally able to start ramping up.  Basically I had to jump right into running high mileage weeks to be on pace with my plan and this was exhausting since so much time was being spent at work and fixing up our house to put on the market.

I was able to get in some consistent training weeks with long runs and felt like I was starting to get in good 100 mile race shape.  I was able to get some hill work in during a trip to the Smoky Mountains with my family in late July.  At the beginning of August I had a hard fall on a training run and landed on my hard plastic water bottle.  I am pretty sure I cracked a rib and it was very painful for the next 6 weeks leading up to the race and made training more difficult.  There were wild fires in Oregon all summer which threatened the race but some wintry wet weather really helped the cause and the race had to be rerouted a bit but was going to still happen.  There was a road closer from Detroit, Oregon (where we were initially going to stay) to the race start at Olallie Lake.  Since it's so remote there were no ways around the fires so I had to cancel my lodging in Detroit two weeks before the race and find somewhere new to stay.  Our house sold at the beginning of September and we had to be out the weekend before the trip to Oregon for Mountain Lakes.  So during my three week taper we were boxing stuff up and getting ready to move.  The weekend before the race we worked non stop and completed the move on Sunday afternoon.  I was relieved to be done with the house, work started calming down, and I felt great physically but was not mentally prepared for the race which was less than a week away. 

Race week:

On Sunday night Jess urged me to get a new Garmin watch that I had been looking at for quite some time.  I ordered it with Amazon prime's two day shipping and it was supposed to arrive on Tuesday.  Monday and Tuesday were the only days I had to pack since I was leaving for the airport directly from work on Wednesday afternoon.  Of course, the watch got delayed in transit and was not going to arrive until Wednesday.  I was going to run home during lunch to pick it up if delivered in time but the post office website went down so I was unable to track it.  I decided to just use my old watch and leave without the new one.  When I got to the airport Jess texted me to say the watch had arrived and she was going to send it over night shipping to where we were staying in Government Camp, Oregon.  I contacted the Airbnb host Charlie to make sure it was ok to have it sent there.  He said there is not a mail service there but I could have it sent to his place in Hood River, Oregon which was an hour North of Government Camp.  I didn't really have time to explore other options so I told Jess to send it to Charlie's place.  I thought I would drive up to Hood River to retrieve the watch on Thursday but it turns out that overnight shipping from Michigan to Oregon is more like two day shipping and it would not arrive until Friday.

Jess is usually my crew chief for 100 mile races but she unfortunately had to much going on at work to make the trip.  Luckily Jess's mom, Jane, along with her two friends Buff and Deirdre were already planning on helping Jess crew for me and they were up to the challenge of getting me through the race.  Also, Joe and Debra Gatton made the road trip from Colorado because Debra was going to help crew and Joe was going to pace me.  I was very grateful for everyone coming all that way to help me out.  Thursday afternoon we arrived at our lodging for the race and we made a whole bunch of food for dinner.  Another guy running in the race, Chris, posted on Facebook and wanted to know if anyone else staying in Government Camp wanted to grab some dinner.  Since we had more then enough food I invited him to come over and eat with us.  I am glad he took us up on that because it was cool to get to know him and also get some help eating the overabundance of food!  Friday morning, the day before the race, I packed up all the gear bags for the crew and we had a meeting about the overall plan for the 30 hours I would be racing.  It was early afternoon and the Garmin watch had not yet arrived yet so we decided to go and check out Mount Hood and also drive out to Olallie Lake so my crew would know where to go and I could pick up my race packet.  It took us about two hours to get out to Olallie Lake which we did not anticipate.  The forest service roads were very narrow and also had a lot of craters which made it slow going.  There was a lot of snow on the ground at Olallie Lake and we heard there was a foot of snow on the first 26 miles of the course.

Race Check-in at Olallie Lake
It was after 6:00 PM when we were leaving Olallie Lake and had a long drive back.  I was freaking out a bit because I still had an hour drive North of where we were staying so I could pick up the Garmin watch!  So I drove like a madman on the way back and the van / SUV crew mobile was getting beat up from the potholes.  We arrived back at Government camp around 7:45.  The ladies cooked some dinner and started preparing my food for the race the next day.  I was gracious they were able to do that for me.  Joe offered to drive me to get the watch so I could rest.  Charlie who had my watch agreed to meet us part way so our drive would only be about 45 minutes.  The check engine light came on in Joe and Debra's Subaru as we were driving North on a "out in the middle of nowhere" highway through the mountains.  Joe did not think it was a big deal at first but when we got to the meeting place he had to keep the gas pedal down so it didn't stall out.  On our way back to Government camp the car was not sounding good at all.  I was trying to program my new watch in the dark.  We made it back and Joe and Debra were going to take their car in to get looked at in the morning.  It was about 10:00 o'clock and I was getting ready to lay down.  I had my alarm set for 4:00 am to make sure I was dressed and ready to go since it was a long drive to the race start.  Before closing my eyes I noticed on my phone that I had a message from my new friend Chris.  The Government Camp gas station closed at 8:00 PM and they were not able to get gas so he needed a ride to the race in the morning.  I told him no problem and we would leave around 5:15 AM.

The alarm went off at 4:00 AM but I had already been up since 2:30 AM.  It is so hard to sleep the night before a 100 miler because the anxiety is at an all time high.  The lack of sleep the night before definitely adds to the challenge but it's a part of the overall experience for many participants.  We loaded up all of my race stuff and also the supplies for my crew since they would be out and about for a long period of time.  Everything was nicely organized.  Jane said she would drive to the race so I could rest my legs etc..  All we had to do was pick up Chris and we would be on our way to Olallie Lake.  Jane backed the crew vehicle up and something didn't seem right.  As she started to pull forward it felt like we were driving over a bumpy stretch of road.  I got out to see what was going on and when I got around to the drivers side of the car I noticed the front tire was completely flat!  Noooooo!  It was so flat that the rim was on the ground.  I was very nervous at this point because we had such a long drive to get to the race start at 8:00 and it was about 5:20 when we discovered the flat tire.  I messaged Chris about the tire and he decided to start walking from where he was staying to where we were.  We pulled the car up out of the steep parking lot and onto some level ground.  I was tearing the car apart trying to find the spare tire.  I found the jack which was contained inside of the panels in the back of the car.  As I was freaking out I was lucky to have such calm and collected women along with me to keep the situation in check.

Deirdre was immediately solution oriented and was rifling through the manual.  Shocking enough we had to peel back some carpet behind the front passenger seat and use the tire iron to turn a screw and lower down the spare tire underneath the car!  This lowering procedure was taking a long time and Joe came out and suggested that Chris and I just take his car but we would have to keep gas to the car so it didn't die out.  We jumped in the Subaru and I quickly realized there is only a quarter tank of gas and the car was badly shaking when pressing on the gas.  I immediately turned the car around because there would of been no way for Joe and Debra to get gas even if we did make it to Olallie Lake.  Back to plan A of changing the tire.  We got the tire changed but I was really nervous about driving on those rough forest service roads with a doughnut tire!  We did the best we could as far as taking it easy on the rough roads but driving fast enough to get there in time.  Chris was a bit nervous because he still had to get his race bib but check in time had ended at 7:00 AM.  We got to the race about 7:45 AM and Chris was able to check in and I was able to get ready to roll for the 8:00 AM start.  I was relieved that we got there before the race started.  The morning was very representative of the entire year leading up to the race because it was very busy and chaotic but it all came together.

The Race:

We lined up at the starting line and I was feeling good despite all the craziness leading up to the race.  Olallie Lake and a view of Mount Jefferson were behind me and I was imagining crossing the finish line with that same view on Sunday morning.  The first 26 miles of the race was a big out and back and the most technical part of the course.  The weather was cool at the starting line but I knew it would be warming up throughout the day so I did not overdress.  Due to snow on the course Chris and I debated whether or not we should wear traction over our shoes.  I didn't see many others with it on so I decided against it.  The traction devices can be tight and restrictive on the feet which is the downside and why I opted to not use them.  Chris decided not to use traction either, I was ultimately happy with my decision but I think Chris regretted not wearing it because it lead to some stabilizer muscle issues.  Using certain muscles and tendons for balance and slippage in the snow can lead to some painful miles later on.  The race started and I waved goodbye to my awesome crew whom I would not see again until mile 26!  The first part of the course wound around Olallie Lake and presented some fantastic views.  When we got to mile 1 my new watch beeped and I realized the lap feature was on.  I did not want my watching beeping after every freaking mile so I literally had to figure out how to navigate the settings and turn that feature off while hiking up a long gradual climb to the first aid station around mile 3.  I pretty much blew thru this aid station since it was so early in the race.  I did make sure I had enough water because it was about 11 miles to the next aid station.

Ridge Line.  Photo Credit: Todd Vogel
The next section was through some snowy trails but since I was in the middle of the pack the snow was mostly packed down.  There was some climbing and rocky sections that lead out to a ridge line that presented maybe the best views the course had to offer.  This was a little out and back section and on the way back thru this ridge area I had to pause and really take it in.  It made me grateful to just be alive and healthy enough to be out in nature and doing something I love.  Continuing on toward the next aid station we got to run around some beautiful mountain lakes and since the foot of snow was beginning to melt there was a lot of shin deep slush that was soaking our feet.  There was really no good way around that stuff.  One girl had fallen and her knee was cut open, I offered her some small band aids but I doubt they were going to hold up.  A few miles from the next aid station Chris passed me going back the other way, yes he is very fast and was about 5 miles ahead of me.  He mentioned the fun part was coming up and before I knew it there was a huge drop in elevation and the trail kept going down and down.  I thought to myself this was going to be fun climbing all this was back up!  I made it to the aid station which was about mile 14 and my watch said it was over 16 miles.  This was a bummer, I set it to a conserve battery type mode so I could go the whole 100 miles without my watch dying but this meant it did not ping the GPS satellites as often and my pace / mileage was way off.  I had no idea where I stood as far as time and pace on course which presented a mental challenge.  I felt decent leaving this aid station and powered up the super long climb but wheels slowly started to fall off.

Ridge Line.  Photo Credit: Todd Vogel
 This was an extremely long 9 miles back to the mile 23 aid station.  The snow had melted quite a bit more and the trail condition had turned slippery and even more slushy then before.  There were a lot of fallen pine trees on the course and I caught the tip of my shoe on a little nub and I fell bashing my knee on a rock.  My back started hurting and my pace was extremely slow due to taking so much caution on the trails.  I got a bloody nose from the dry air and it lasted for quite awhile.  When I finally reached mile 23 I was exhausted and told them I was glad to see them and they said they were glad to see me.  I descended back down to Olallie Lake and was exhausted but excited to see my crew.  I sat in the back of our vehicle while Jane used all her power to work out the knots in my back and Dierdra and Buff helped me change socks, shoes, and get me some food.  I needed calories and powered through some potatoes wrapped in tortillas.  They did a great job getting me refueled and ready for the next part of the race.  It felt great to have dry shoes and socks on when leaving this aid station and the rest of the trails were at the lower elevation and dry which was also a nice relief.  I jumped on the Pacific crest trail heading North and felt great.  I flew through the next 4 miles or so and beat my crew to the next aid station.  They were walking up with all my stuff shortly after I got there.  I grabbed a few things as I would not see them for another 25 miles or so.  I loaned my backup head lamp to a guy who did not have a light and his name was Charles Lindberg, "like the pilot!" he said as I left the aid station.

View From Ridge Line.  Photo Credit: Todd Vogel
The next 20 miles or so were very peaceful as I imagined all the through hikers who had navigated their way up this famous trail.  There were rolling hills along with sweeping views that extended out over Native American Reservation land and I paid mental respects to the true native people of our country and all the hardships they have faced over the last 500 plus years.  I was at peace with nature and it made me feel good but the events of the year and days leading up to the race were catching up to me and I started to get physically and mentally tired.  I was drinking coke at the aid stations but it was not helping like it usually does.  At mile 50 it was dark out and the temperature had dropped.  I stood by some warm heaters in the aid station tent drinking hot veggie broth and it was hard for me to leave but I knew I had to keep moving.  As I left here I started to get a familiar dull pain in my right side.  I've had issues with my digestive system in general over the last 8 years or so after a bout of serious food poisoning.  Digestion is not easy for my colon and when I do endurance events it gets worse.  During the three of the last four 100 milers I ran there has been a pain in my right side that crops up during the last 4 or 5 miles.  It is my colon getting inflamed due to blood going to my legs and not having enough in my gut to help with digestion.  There are usually unpleasant consequences for a day or two after my races as well but I can manage to get through that in order to get my 100 miler finish buckle.  I was worried this side pain was starting much earlier then usual even though it was minor at first.  I am not sure why it started early but I can only think of a few possibilities.  Perhaps I ate too much food at once when I saw my crew at mile 26 or I was not staying hydrated because the weather was cooler then I was use to and did not feel the need to drink as much.  I wish I knew the exact reason so I could avoid it happening in the future.  Heck, the side pain might even be from something different all together!

Snow, slush, and mud. Photo Credit: Todd Vogel
I got to mile 55 aid station, Clackamas Ranger Station, about 45 minutes ahead of the cutoff and Jane was there waiting for me along with Joe and Debra.  The pain had grown a little worse but I was still moving and determined to finish the race.  Joe was jumping in and ready to pace me for the rest of the race and his excitement about it really got me pumped up.  Before leaving the aid station one of the volunteers asked me three times if I had warm enough gear for the next 16 mile trail loop around Timothy Lake because the temperature drops big time during the middle of the night and the air around the lake gets very cold.  I assured her that I had enough warm clothes etc.. which I thought I did.  The next 5 miles or so went pretty well, I was mostly power hiking with a little running sprinkled in here and there.  Joe was upbeat and making me laugh a lot.  I also found out they ended up having to buy a new car earlier in the day!  It turns out their car engine had completely blown up and it was going to be very expensive and take a lot of time to fix so it made more sense to buy a new one.  After leaving the next aid station the pain in my side had grown from mild to severe and I became extremely exhausted which led to me having to stop every minute or so and rest with my hands on my knees and head hanging down.  I leaned on some trees here and there as well.  Then I realized that I did not have enough warm clothes with me as I started to get very cold.  My body temp dropped because I was not running at all and moving very slowly.  I've overcome this type of exhaustion in the past but two things were different this time around.  It was the pain in my right side that I became very worried about and also I was chilled to the bone.

Joe was being a great pacer and was pulling out all the tricks to get me moving again but things were quickly going downhill.  Eventually we made it to the Timothy Lake Dam aid station at mile 65.  They strung lights up across the whole bridge and all over the aid station which was quite an awesome sight!  I was able to clean up a bit after having to use nature as my bathroom a few miles earlier.  I contemplated dropping out because of my concern over doing permanent damage to my intestines and the fact that I was moving really slow and could not even run anymore due to the pain in my side.  Debra, Jane, and Joe talked me into doing one more section before making a decision and I am glad they did.  You never know when things can change and take a turn for the better.  Unfortunately that was not the case at this race.  I actually made the 5:00 AM cutoff at Clackamas Ranger station, which is mile 71 after completing the loop around Timothy Lake.  However, I still had 29 more miles back down the Pacific Crest Trail to get to the finish and at the rate I was moving and the thought of my side pain getting worse I would not of made it.  It was a really tough decision but dropping out at that point was the smart thing to do.  I would not see my crew for 25 more miles so if I dropped somewhere in between I would not have cell reception and we (Joe and I) would have to wait hours to get a ride.  I found out that Chris ran into some issues as well which ended up knocking him out of the race around mile 50.  It was his first 100 miler and I am sure that he learned some lessons as well but like I said, we are constantly learning in this sport.

I got in Joe and Debra's new Subaru Outback and was looking forward to getting the heat cranking so I could warm myself up.  I was chilled to the bone and I realized how stupid it was to take the warnings lightly and not take all my cold weather gear with me around the lake.  We learn so many different lessons when running these races and most of the time we learn the hard way.  I will also make sure I eat a little bit at a time in future races so my body does not have to work so hard to digest food.  I will also make sure I am drinking enough fluids no matter what the weather is like.  Lastly, I think I will try to avoid caffeine as this possibly had something to do with my side pain but that is just speculation.  I am still extremely disappointed that I did not come home with the Mountain Lakes finisher buckle but deep down I knew that dropping was the right thing to do.  I hope that someday in the future I can return to Mountain Lakes and claim redemption.  We had a lot of fun with the rest of our time in Oregon.  It's such a fantastic state and hard to believe we have such awesome wilderness in America.

My crew and I hanging out Joe and Debra not pictured
I want to finish this write up expressing deep gratitude to my crew and pacer.  Jane, Deirdre, Buff, Debra, and Joe stepped up to the challenge and were very excited to help me out.  They dedicated part of their vacations to getting me through this adventure.  They never complained about anything and were having a great time.  I am forever grateful for their generosity and lucky to have such awesome people in my life.  One inside joke that I need to end this report with is "30 DAYS IN THE HOLE!!!!"   

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Chas and I Crewing the Show: Ron's Western States 100 Domination: June 24th, 2017

Pre Race Meeting - these seats all get filled
I want to start diversifying my posts and writing about something other then races I have run.  I could not think of a better topic then my crewing experience at Western States 100 this year.  For those unfamiliar with this race, it's a tough 100 miler with 18,000 feet of elevation gain and 23,000 feet of downhill.  More importantly this race is one of the most iconic 100 milers in the U.S.  It is the oldest 100 mile run and was started by Gordy Ainsleigh in 1970.  He was in a 100 mile horse race and his horse had issues so he ended up doing the distance on foot in less than 24 hours.  Western States is a point to point course which starts in Squaw Valley, California and ends in Auburn, California.  Each year toward the end of June runners who embark on this historic trail will encounter all kinds of weather from snow in the mountains to 100+ degree heat in the canyons.  Western States is the toughest race to get into because thousands of runners apply through a lottery process but only around 370 are selected.  I have always wanted to be a part of this event in some way to check out the hype since we hear so much about the energy and ultra spirit surrounding it.

Snow in June!!  It was hot out too!
An opportunity appeared upon hearing the news that my friend Ron Delozier had been selected to run the event.  Chas Adams, Ron's longtime friend, immediately got a plane ticket to go out west and be the crew chief for this race.  I didn't want to miss this chance to be a part of the race and assist Chas in getting Ron through this thing so I got my flight scheduled.  I arrived on Friday morning the day before the race started and got right down to business as Chas and I had a lot to do.  We went to the pre-race meeting which was cool to be a part of because there were a lot of notable ultra runners and race directors there.  Then Chas and I went to the grocery store to get food for ourselves during the 30 hours we would be driving around in the middle of nowhere.  We were trying to figure out what to buy and ended up just throwing a bunch of random stuff in the cart as we went down the aisles.  The high cost of living in California slapped us right in the face when we checked out.  In the chaos of getting groceries we did manage to get the most important item, Ron's pre-race 6 pack of Budweiser!  After that Chas and I did a hike around the Squaw Valley area and we reached a big snow field.  The snow pack this year in the Sierras was extraordinary compared to the recent past.  It was very odd seeing snow in June but it is the mountains!  Then we managed to get some dinner and relax for a minute while going over some last minute things with Ron, although Chas already had the race day itinerary dialed in.  Ron proceeded to drink his pre-race beers, after eating his pre-race large pizza, and was getting some weird looks by the other runners.  I guess that is expected sine they were unaware of how bad ass this dude really is!

Final Race Meeting (Beers) 

Ready for complete Western States domination

Race morning was busy around the check in and starting
Starting Line
line area.  We walked up the path a little ways to get a spot where would could see everyone start.  I have never seen so many spectators at a 100 miler before!  The runners were off and it was cool to see the elites out in front of the pack go by us and we bid Ron a farewell as he started the initial 4 mile climb up the escarpment.  After the start Chas and I had some time to kill since we wouldn't see Ron again until he reached mile 31 at Robinson Flat.  The place where we were going was not even that far away as a crow fly's but you have to drive around the mountains to get there.  After two hours of driving we found the parking area for Robinson Flat.  We had to ride on a shuttle bus for a few miles down a one lane road to get to the actual aid station.  When we got there it was like a huge party.  There were a ton of volunteers and spectators scattered about.  Chas and I nervously went through our crewing supplies hoping that we brought everything Ron would need.  We went through the game plan a bunch of times and also had to find the perfect spot to have Ron sit down when he came into the aid station.  That spot changed a few times as the sun rotated around us.  One would think that two ultra runners crewing would have all this stuff dialed in but we were a nervous wreck!  I think it may have been the fear that if we screwed something up that it could really mess with Ron's race.  He is a low maintenance runner and does not require much from a crew but we wanted to make sure we kept him going. 

Ron coming in to Robinson Flat looking strong
Assessing the feet 
We were starting to get concerned because Ron was behind his scheduled arrival time at the aid station but then we were informed about knee deep snow and ankle sucking mud on the first 15 miles of the course.  The temperatures were also beginning to rise early.  It would get up to 100+ degrees.  We did not have cell phone reception so we were standing next to the HAM radio operator's tent and could actually get enough of a signal to check Ron's previous aid station check in times.  Ron came into the aid station and he was soaked from falling in the snow and sweat etc..  We got him a towel that we soaked with cold well water to wrap around himself, he changed his shoes and socks, ate a little food, and drank some coke.  He initially wanted to wait until the night portion of the race before consuming caffeine but I think the tough miles in the beginning took a little toll on him.  He was playing it smart by taking his time through the tough sections.  Some runners were dropping out from the heat and exhaustion from pushing to hard through the first third of the race.  We filled Ron's ice bandanna to put around his neck and off he went.  We told him he only spent 6 or 7 minutes there but after he left we realized it was more like 15 minutes.  Crap!  One of our jobs was to make sure he was in and out of the crew points quickly.  Extra time at aid stations can really add up and put a runner behind the cutoff times.  Oh well, he needed a good reset after the crazy sections and we declared it would not happen again!

Off we went to the next crew point called Michigan Bluff, which was mile 55 for Ron.  We fueled up and got some ice in town before heading to the aid station.  The parking situation was pretty rough when we got there and we had to drive pretty far up a steep paved road until we found a spot along side the road where we could park.  It was super hot out so we sat in the car chilling with the AC blasting.  We were wondering how Ron was doing in the 115 degree heat in the canyons and we felt a little guilty for sitting in the AC, actually, no..we did not feel guilty at all.  In fact, we may have laughed about it a few times.  We decided it would be a good idea to get some sleep before heading a mile and a half down this really steep road to the aid station with all our stuff.  I was just dozing off when all of a sudden a super loud noise was all around us.  Chas's cell phone was hooked up to the bluetooth and when his wife called the volume must of been all the way up because it scared the hell out of us!  There was no going to sleep after that so we did some math to try and calculate when Ron might be coming into this aid station.  The we loaded up all our stuff and hiked down the road with it.  There were a lot of spectators and crews lining the street leading up to the aid station.  It reminded me of a parade that everyone got to early in order to get a good spot.  I ran into a few different people here that I knew including Mike Pfefferkorn and Jay Smithberger.

Coming into Mich. Bluff still looking strong!
Ron came down the trail into the aid station and had made up some good time in that 24 mile stretch.  He was a few hours ahead of the cutoff and we felt pretty good about that.  We gathered up his drop bag and walked him down the street to where we set up.  Ron took his time here to make sure he had everything he needed.  By the time Ron was ready to leave this aid station the last shuttle back to the cars was pulling away.  Chas jokingly gave Ron (who was half way done with a 100 mile race) some shit for causing us to miss the shuttle and having to walk a mile and a half uphill back to the car.  It was all in good fun because we did not mind at all.  Once again we were concerned that Ron had spent to much time at the aid station and we vowed to get him in and out of the next crew point in town at Foresthill which would be mile 62.  Ron's family was going to be there to see him and we got all set up so it could be a quick stop.  Upon arrival Ron declared he had a blister that needed medical attention. Chas went with him back to the medical room.  The woman who was working on his foot took her time in order to do a good job and was being very talkative as well.  There was some very nervous texting back and forth between Chas and myself because we could not believe how long this aid station was taking and time was quickly elapsing.  Ron finally got out of there, said hello to his family, and then we got him everything he would need as the next time we would see him was at mile 78.  Chas ran with Ron for a mile or so as he left and I was cleaning some things up when I noticed that Ron forgot his ice bandanna!  It was still hot out even though it was night time and when Chas got back to the car we both started freaking out that we might of put Ron's race in jeopardy by forgetting to send him with that ice bandanna!  We also realized he spent more than a half hour at this stop and we were a nervous wreck about that as well!!

Gordy and the guy he gave his entry too. 
Video of the crazy shuttle ride below:

We made it to the next aid station where we caught a little bit of sleep in the car and then rode in the scariest shuttle ride of my life.  This old rickety shuttle bus was flying for a few miles down this old dirt rode next to a cliff drop off.  It made for quiet ride for those of us on that tin can of death on wheels.  We made it to the Rucky Chucky river crossing which was mile 78 for Ron.  There was a Doctor at this site and he was intently eyeing up every runner coming into the aid station.  He was all business and we saw him almost put an end to an older runner's race when he came in with a sideways lean!  Gordy Ainsleigh was at this aid station doing chiropractic work on runners.  He gave up his race entry so a runner from Vermont on the wait list could do the race.   We happened to be there when the Vermont runner came into the aid station and was giving his gratitude to Gordy.  Ron came in and we actually got him in and out of there in pretty good time.  This was the type of pit stop we were hoping every crew point would be and we felt a lot better about things as Ron was well ahead of the cutoffs.  We drove to the next crew point at mile 94 where we would have a lot of time to get some sleep.  We had to hike a mile to get to the aid station from the parking lot.  I don't think either of us go much shut eye as our adrenaline was pumping in anticipation for Ron getting his Western States 100 finisher belt buckle.  We were watching the online runner tracker waiting for Ron to check in to mile 85 just so we knew he was on track.  His check in never appeared and there were runners that were at the same pace as him who had already checked in there.  We started getting very worried about why he did not check in and a million things were going through our mind.
The famous Ron and Chas Ultra Backpack

I told Chas that best case scenario is the aid station did not register his chip and he had been there and left but it did not add up.  As the cutoffs elapsed the mile 85 aid station we decided to hike to the aid station we were at and check with the HAM radio operators to see if they could find out what Ron's status was.  We were scared that he either got lost or injured and had to drop out of the race, actually we were both delirious from not sleeping and were completely convinced in our minds that his race was done.  As we were hiking to the aid station with our heads hanging low I hit refresh on my phone for the online tracker and BOOM he had checked in to mile 90 a half hour earlier!  That meant he would be at our crew point soon so Chas took off running to the aid station and I sprinted back to the car so I could grab the Star Wars backpack which had things Ron would need.  I have to explain the significance of this backpack.  Chas and Ron purchased it (at the Dollar store I believe) last year when Chas crewed Ron at Leadville 100 and it brought them good fortune so we had to keep tradition alive and use it at Western States.  It is a mandatory piece of gear for all their "A" races and gets a race pin added after finishing.  I sprinted as hard as I could up a hill and all the way to the aid station.  I passed Mike Pfefferkorn who laughed and commented that I was getting some miles in.  As I got close Chas was giving me the slow down and walk sign because Ron was not there yet.  Our morale completely changed and we were psyched that Ron was still in the race and doing really well.  He came in here and we got him in and out of this aid station quickly.  He only had 6 miles to go so we told him no need to camp out here just get to the finish line.

Ron Leaving mile 94 aid station, easy money!
Chas and I arriving at Placerville Highschool
We drove to Placerville high school where runners go around the track to finish the 100 miler.  We walked a mile down the street where Ron would get to the mile 99 aid station.  This was a very cool aid station because we got to see a lot of runners coming in here and the whole neighborhood was out cheering them on.  It is a point where the runners
Ron entering the final stretch around the track
know they are going to finish the race and their excitement is very emotional.  We also got a good laugh witnessing a local kid on a hover board who was zooming by the aid station table and stealing cookies.  Ron came in and we were super pumped for him.  How cool is it that he only had a mile to go with a lot of time left?!  As we got near the track I did a facebook live video of Ron entering the track and running around to the finish line so everyone back home could see him finish.  We were super pumped that Ron got that buckle.  He persevered through crazy weather and extreme course conditions and ran a very smart race.  It turned out the extra time he spent at those aid stations probably saved his race contrary to what Chas and I thought.  The woman that worked on Ron's foot at Foresthill was at the finish line med tent and she reworked the wrappings.  She was very smart and a protege to the guy who wrote the book 'Fixing your Feet".  I was talking to a gentleman standing near us about the book and he said "I wrote that book!"

Ron's latest hardware, a shiny WS buckle

Fix-A-Foot team
Chas and I had a great time in the adventure of crewing for Ron.  We definitely had a lot of laughs throughout the crazy 30 hours that we were on point.  We decided to reward ourselves and do a run in Lake Tahoe on the Monday after the race.  We were both flying out of Reno on Tuesday so it worked out perfectly.  We picked a random trail and ended up having the best views of the lake that we could of ever asked for on our 20 miler.  It was so majestic and seemed very
Ron got it done
surreal.  Then we had an awesome lunch and off to Reno for some gambling and a bunch of celebratory beers.  I am really pleased that I got to be a part of Ron's crew with Chas and experience all the ambiance that Western States has to offer.  It was definitely an experience of a lifetime and I will never forget it.  This race is sort of like the super bowl for 100 mile ultra marathons and we had a front row seat on the 50 yard line.  Here are some pics from our run in Lake Tahoe:
Marlette Lake

The backdrop is not fake!
Great views of the mighty Lake Tahoe

Ron got his buckle and we are running in Tahoe, life is good!