What a month this has been. July 4th the Sauvie marathon. July 14th the SOB 50K. And now my first 50 miler! The PCT 50/50 from Timothy Lake to Timberline Lodge and back. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would run 50 miles.
Friday night I drove up to the Clackamas Lake campground where Rick had set up his trailer. The campground was only about a half mile from the start which worked out so nice. Rick and I had the usual spag and bread dinner then crashed about 10pm, wake up call was to be at 0400 for the 0530 early start. I had never taken an early start before but with a 12 hour cut off I had no idea when I would finish.
I got to the start line about 10 seconds before they shouted "Go!". I was messing around with my Garmin GPS watch trying to get it to acquire the satellites. If I run before it syncs up I often will not get any readouts the entire run. So I had set it on the car waiting for it to work. Then off I ran the few hundred yards to the start just in time. I threw off my old sweatshirt and off we went. (Olga and Monika you can keep it.)
The run first went up the road to about a .7 turnaround they had to add due to the Forest Service not allowing us to run into Little Crater Lake. Back down past the start and up the hill to the trail. We went by big signs that said Pacific Crest Trail but a hundred yards beyond that was the chalk to mark another trail. So being the back of the packer that I am I followed the "experts" and off we went into the woods. About a 1/4 mile into the trail folks started yelling and some runners came back towards us. "They marked the wrong trail!" and so we turned around. Lucky for us we didn't run very far. Well onto the PCT we went. The trail was nice and wide and just rolling with the usual rocks and roots. Rick and I decided to take Olga's advice and for the first 2 hours run 8 minutes then walk 1. 2 to 4 hours we would run 6, walk 2. Then from 4 hours on run 4 and walk 2. We did walk up all big hills and run down the downhills regardless of time. It was hard to walk early on but it really helps in the long run.
At around mile 12 or so we got our first awesome views of our goal, Mt. Hood. This was as we traversed a very steep mountain. We then drifted down to the Highway 26 crossing. I was still feeling good as I making sure to drink about a bottle and a half of water per hour at least. (Hand carried one bottle and one in the water belt). I took the usual 3 endurolytes and 1 gu per hour. We then cruised up another mountain and through some super dense forest then crossed Highway 35 and the Barlow Road aid station. This is where the real climb started. From here out it is uphill to just above Timberline lodge. I walked probably 75% of this portion, trying to walk fast while still keeping my heart in my chest! About half way up you run onto the beach. Yes there is a beach on Mt Hood. It is sand just like you find on the coast. The walking was not overly difficult as we made our way up the east side of the White River Canyon. I could see the lodge and knew we had to go up higher then drop back to the lodge. At the lodge aid station my buddy Eric was there again to help out as he had been at most the other stations. I changed my socks as I still don't have any Gators and I wanted my bad heel blister to stay dry. I felt really good here at mile 25, much better than I expected. Out of the chair and off I went.
You climb back up the mountain a bit then its 90% downhill to the Barlow Road aid station again. I didn't run fast but tried to stay a nice constant pace without trashing my quads. I ran into Rick coming up the hill and he said he was pretty beat. We chatted for a minute and then both continued on our quest. About half way down the trail I started feeling pretty crappy. I thought about quitting, "DNF wouldn't be that bad? At least I tried?" As I rolled into the 32 mile aid station Eric was there again. I got my drop bag and sat down to change my socks or maybe I didn't? I don't know as its all a blur now. But I do remember being a little dazed and confused. Eric kept telling me to eat..."yeah yeah I know" I crankily said. I got up and nibbled at the snacks. At this point I had them put ice in my bandanna, tied it around my neck and had a great drip air conditioning system! This thing is the best for warm days. This was for sure the low point in the race for me.
I crossed the Highway and knew it was big uphill coming. I felt dead and mostly just walked. After about 10 minutes I remembered the Advil I had brought and took 2 of them. I forced down some Sport Beans, endurolytes and lots of water. After about 30 minutes of climb I started running. "Wow! I feel great! This is fun! Look at those views!" I suddenly realized that I felt good. Once again I think the Advil just took enough of the pain away to let my brain be free again. I felt real good now till about mile 43. There was one more big hill but I just power walked it. Then the sweetness of long easy downhills. Two things gave me more boost here. One was that when my GPS watch said 40 miles and I was in new territory. "I have run 40 frickin' miles! Woo-Hoo!" Second was the the course became more technical with lots of roots and rocks. This forces me to concentrate on where my next step will be and really makes the time pass by.
Just before the last aid station I was walking and looked up and there was Eric heading towards me. I said "Your not supposed to see me walking." We laughed and he joined up behind me as I walked then started an easy run into the last aid station. He again helped me get my bottles filled and made me eat. I started to feel pretty weak again by this point. Eric said "could I make it in on my own?" and said "no problem". It was only a bit over 6 miles to the finish. So he headed home and I went off to the finish.
About a mile out of the aid station my blister popped on my heal, actually it was a new one too. I was pretty tired and was walking at least half the time here as the course was pretty flat. It soon hurt more to walk than run so I tried to trot as much as I could. I came up on a woman and her pacer. She had cramped up and couldn't run anymore. They said the finish was only about 3/4's of a mile away. This juiced me up and I ran the rest of the way in.
As I came to the finish line maybe only 50 people or so were still around. But the Ultra community loves its own so the cheers were really loud. At the finish, Olga the RD was standing there with a medal to put around my neck and arms outstretched to give me a finisher hug. I hesitated as I thought "are you sure you want to hug this smelly thing?" But she did it anyway. As I watched later she was giving big hugs to every finisher. That was pretty cool. I think everyone really appreciated them.
Well I did it. I still am sort of unbelieving in what I just accomplished. Yeah I finished slow at 11 hours and 51 minutes. But that was secondary. The goal was to finish so I am extremely happy with that. I am no longer a 50 mile Virgin!
My true hero in this race is a woman I don't even know. At the mile 32 aid station her running partner said to watch her close and make sure she gets some electrolytes. I went to talk to her and she was in a fog, looking very dazed. She said she was dizzy and that she should have run the 50K not the 50 miler. Luckily the EMT's were nearby as I thought for sure she would probably need them. Well about and hour after I finished this woman crosses the finish line. I stand up and cheer loudly as she had the courage to get up from that chair and finish the next 18 miles. That takes more inner strength than I have. I would have called it a day I think. As she finished you could see the emotion in her come out. It was quite an experience to witness and makes me proud to be a part of this.
Rick came in a while later and said he has new respect for those that do 100 milers. I agreed. we ate some Garden Burgers, chatted with Hippo, rested for a bit then off to the trailer and I headed for home. I felt really good on the drive and relished in what I had just done. Whats next? I don't know. I figured Haulin' Aspen but my feet are blister trash so I guess I will just wait and see.
Eric you are the man! At most every aid station. You kept me on track, not let me forget stuff and gave me the encouragement to keep going. Thanks so much and the Beers are on me at your request!
Pete aka "Hippo". Your chair and the cold Starbucks Mocha you gave me at the finish was so sweet. It really helped me cross that low blood pressure threshold I often get after the finish. Thanks!
Sarah and Marc: Marc you are amazing! No training and run 50 miles in someone elses shoes! Sarah, thanks for the photo off your blog. I stole one as I had no camera.
See all you Waldo folks at the aid station at mile 20 or so. Gail and I will be working there.