Saturday, August 28, 2010

Where's Waldo 100K

Welcome to Oregon! This was the view from the flight into Portland - Mt. Hood with Mt. Jefferson in the background...

It was so nice of Carrie and Aaron to move to Portland last year. Giving Kami and I a good reason to run Where’s Waldo 100K in south east Oregon. A first visit to this beautiful part of the country for both of us. I’d heard good things about this race and figured it would be a good one to train for over the summer. As it turned out, foot surgery in June decided otherwise. But having built up the miles over the past month, and with Kami having run (and won) a tough 50 miler at Dances with Dirt in July, we were both looking forward to a relatively relaxed long day on the trail.

The weekend kicked off early, flying out to Portland mid-week. A fun night camping by the ocean, falling asleep to the music of the sea lions, was followed by one of the most memorable runs ever through old growth forest to the town of Seaside.

Ecola State Park and the northern Oregon coastline...

Friday morning we chilled out in Portland, a little shopping, and then a fun trip east past Mt. Hood, via Bend and south to our pre-race accommodation at the Gilchrist Inn which I totally recommend if you are ever in the area.

With a 5AM race start, the morning wasn’t long coming. We’d decided to go without drop bags (hardcore ladies that we are!) having not made it over to the pre-race meeting the evening before though as it turned out they were still taking them in the morning so we threw a few things in a bag for mile 37. The weather was perfect and promised to remain so throughout the day. Cool for the most part with some sun breaking through the clouds every so often. Carrie and Gary (Chris’ uncle) had brought their road bikes and planned to bike a few hours in between seeing us at the few accessible aid stations. It was awesome having those guys there for support. And equally cool to show up at race start and see a few familiar faces – Kerry and Aaron from the DC area that I know from the Virginia races and Amy whose name I recognized from a number of races. Ashley, who’d won the 100 miler at Bighorn, and a few other locals.

And then it was time to run... or... walk. Myself and Kami took it nice and easy up the first (1000ft) climb on a dirt road (a.k.a. ski hill). And right at the back of the pack is where we stayed for the next 20 miles. Happily running along with regular photo stops as the sky brightened and the amazing mountain scenery revealed itself. 62 miles is a long way to go and we were in no rush.

Despite what I had heard about technical terrain the trails were super smooth – at least by MN standards – very runnable for the most part. After the initial climb from the ski resort at Willamette Pass, we meandered through the woods and then a nice easy downhill. Through the first aid station and then some rolling hills before the climb to Fuji Mtn (7144’). We turned onto the out and back section and passed through the second aid station before the climb started in earnest, meeting runners on their way back from the summit. The view from the top was breathtaking – the gigantic Waldo Lake to the north, with Mt. Bachelor and Sisters peaks beyond. Snow capped Diamond Peak to the south and the impressive series of mountains to east, a few of which we’d soon be seeing up close and personal. The next several miles were a lot of fun. We ran nice and steady through the pine forest, different from the northern Minnesota forests with little undergrowth among the tall trees. Through a few meadows and soon we were at AS 3 at mile 20.5 where Carrie and Gary were waiting for us on their bikes. Awesome volunteers here, and at all of the aid stations – it’s pretty impressive how well manned all of the stations were considering how remote this race is.

Back into the woods and soon the climbing began again. We were headed towards the first (and smaller) of The Twins. This section was beautiful and we were able to run most of it at a pretty gentle pace. This AS crew had gone all out as we were welcomed into “The Pearly Gates” by, literally, volunteer-angels! Refueled with a mix of sweet and savoury goods, we continued to climb for another mile or so before hitting sweet downhill that led us all the way to Charlton Lake at mile 32 where again we got to see Carrie and Gary. Perfect spot for this aid station, along the lakeshore. I think we got here at about 7 hours on the clock – pretty much where we’d planned to be for a 15 hour finish. We’d passed several people in the last two sections and would continue to do so as the climbs and altitude took their toll. The next 5 miles were by far the most runnable of the course, almost totally flat after an initial climb out of the aid station. However, foliage was greatly lacking in this section and with both of us badly in need of a bio break, we arrived at AS 6 happy to find toilet paper :)

Dropping out was not high on our list on things to do at this race but we did recall the advice from the website as we left here...

"The second half of the course is remote. From the aid station at 37 miles to the finish the course does not cross a road. Dropping out in that section will not make your life much easier."

I’d greatly underestimated the next section of trail and also thought it was about 2 miles shorter so it was probably the only time during the entire race when we got a bit frustrated. Heading back to The Twins aid station we assumed the climb would be somewhat similar to the earlier one but as it turns out Twin number two is quite a bit higher. Or it could be that we actually summitted this one and not the first, which, at 7362’ took a while! Still, we seemed to be moving well up the hills and sometimes the break from running was welcome. After a good mile or more of downhill, we finally arrived back at the aid station which had now turned into Hell, complete with volunteer-devils… these guys really knew how to keep our spirits up! Several runners were stopped here, taking a little extra time to refuel. Many were also picking up their pacers here, at mile 44.7. We were very happy to see the mileage posted as I’d convinced myself the aid station was at mile 43 and thought it would come much sooner.

We continued on, hitting more downhill for a few miles before rejoining the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) as we headed towards Maiden Peak, the highest of all at 7818’. The trail started to wind its way up and we soon found ourselves at the mile 50 aid station. 11h30 on the clock - feeling pretty good and, oddly enough, looking forward to seeing just how tough the next section would be. We left the aid station with a girl from Houston, and a few guys just ahead. As Kami remarked later, this section was “every man for himself.” Indeed! Three miles to the summit and I decided I would push up that hill as fast as I could. One hour and seven minutes later I was at the summit freezing my ass off taking photos. I had passed about ten people on that climb. I am not sure why but I was quite pissed climbing that mountain and while I normally run much better when happy, a little anger seems to work quite well for speed-hiking! I came down from the summit, met Kami along the way, and hung out at the junction for her before we descended through some rocky terrain to the final aid station at mile 55. Not only were the ladies here in great form, they provided face-wipes and neck massages! Nice.

There’d been much talk about the last section being all downhill. Unfortunately there was a little climbing to do first. And some flat along a beautiful lake – what a perfect setting for camping. I need to come back here! We hit the downhill with around 3 miles to go. The altitude was beginning to take its toll and breathing was not as easy as we’d have liked as we made our way towards the finish line. Still, it had been such an amazing day. The chance to run all day with Kami. To see friends, old and new, along the way. To enjoy a beautiful part of the country. I would not have wanted to spend one minute less on that trail on that day.

For the record:
- Kami & I crossed the line 14:50:20, 59/60th overall, 13/14th female
- Chris finished in 13:41:51, 40th overall, pretty sweet time for a first 100K - 6 weeks after his first ultra!
- 123 starters / 107 finishers
- Men's 1st: Timothy Olson 9:25:04
- Women's 1st: Meghan Arbogast 10:52:50 (12th overall)

Some photos from race day...