I had planned on running SOB all year. I signed up early as my goal was to do all of the Oregon Trail Series races this year. I signed up Gail too as she did the 15k last year and I thought she would enjoy the views the 50k has to offer. Last year Gail ran out a few miles on the course and watched me waddle and weave my way back to the finish. I had bonked hard on the 3 mile climb between mile 23 and 26. She saw what I looked like and it bothered her that she too might feel like that after doing the 50k. She had quite a bit of trepidation about whether she could do this run or not.
We had to drive to Ashland on Friday night as the last flight out of Medford was a 3:30 pm and we weren't sure if we could make it or not. So 4:30 later we made it to Ashland. We got a great little suite at the Holiday Inn Express that was only about 12 miles from the start line at Mt. Ashland.
We were up early at 0430 as Gail was to take the early start at 6 am. It was supposed to hit 100 degrees in Medford that day so we were both worried about the heat. The good news was that the start line was at about 6,500 feet so with standard lapse rates you should have a temperature of about 15 degrees cooler than in the valley in Medford. Now the bad news is the air is allot less dense at 6,500 feet! My lungs would hate me on this day.
The start area was great! Once again we parked about 100 feet from the start line. We got there 15 minutes before the the early start. Just enough time for Gail to get her bib and hit the POP's one more time. About 25 runners took off at 0600. I considered it but you were limited to a 6 hour finish time. I knew I probably wouldn't make it in less than that but you never know?
I messed around and finished eating my breakfast over the next hour. I talked with some runners including David Alavi who always seems to beat me. The usual suspects were there plus you could see the hamsters, the "fasties", the ones with 4% body fat! You know what? They have age group awards, I think they need Body Fat divisions! Yeah thats the ticket! My 22% BF would be sure to get me an award!
We lined up promptly at 0700 and off we went. I was near the back but not dead last this time. The first mile runs along pavement until you hit the PCT. I did the usual chatting with folks and was having a good time. But boy I was sure breathing hard. Once on the PCT it was hard to pass as usual for the first few miles. Most folks were good after a bit and would step aside and let me buy. The trail is pretty flat the the first 3 miles or so with just some little rollers. ( on the return trip those rollers always seem to look like mountains. Wonder why that is???) We go through a nice meadow with some excellent views. It was smoky from all the forest fires but not so dense you could smell it. The wildflowers were in full bloom as the cold spring had delayed blooming by 3 weeks or so.
Around mile 4 we start a bit of a little climb. I run most but walk the very steep ones. Then we hit the nice 3 mile down hill that I just fly over. Some are 7 minute pace. I just love this part! I just sort of let my legs loose and they just go. It is the best for sure.
At mile 8 we hit the second aid station. I am sticking with the plan. 2 gulps of water every 1o minutes but I am trying to take just a bit more with the expected heat today. 1 gel every 30 minutes and a couple of e-caps every hour. I may nibble at taters and such at some of the aid stations just to get the sweet taste of the gels out of my mouth. Out of the mile 8 aid station starts one of the big climbs of the day. For a few miles all we do is a steep climb up a dirt road that 90% of the folks walk including me. Its too early to get tired. Then we go through another meadow and some easy climbs soon we are at the farthest west point on the course and begin our way back to the barn.
At the 16 mile aid station I take out my bandanna and fill it full of compact snow and wrap it around my neck. I love this thing. Over the next 90 minutes the snow slowly drips down my back and chest acting like a swap cooler. Nothing beats it on a warm day. Zombie Runner carries them if you are interested. I think my split time here at the halfway point was around 3 hours which was good for me. Off I went and do a bit of a climb up some gravel roads and I feel good so I mix it up with some running and walking. Then we get a nice few miles of downhill on gravel road until we take the trail around Red Rock Mountain. This becomes the most technical part of the race as the trail is often narrow and rocky. After some rollers and a good hike climb we are rewarded with some awesome views both north and south. Then the fun begins. It turns it to some fun technical downhills with steep drop offs at times. I love this part as the speed with the bit of fear really gets my adrenaline flowing. I pass many folks in this area. I think some may have been the early starters. As I am behind one man he asks if he showed step aside. I look up and spot Gail just a few hundred feet ahead of him. I say "no, I got someone to talk to up in front of you". So I yell out to Gail and she responds. We stop and chat for a minute. She looks good and strong. But the words out of her mouth are "This is much harder than Peterson Ridge! The climbs here are huge!" I had felt this race was much like Sean's Peterson Ridge Rumble. I still feel that way but I think the added 3000 feet makes it seem that much harder. So I gave Gail a big kiss and off I went wishing her well. I heard chatter soon behind me and I was later to find out that the gentleman behind Gail said "You sure are friendly with the runners!" She laughed and offered him one too.
Off I went continuing to fly down the hill and cruise the flats. I was getting a tad tired but not bad. (mile 21 or so) I had taken my Ibuprofen a half hour earlier and it helped as usual. I did start to feel a slight twinge of maybe some blisters forming on my heels again. I was to find out this was true. Both form on the inside of both my heels. I still can't figure this out. Maybe its the Gaitors as they keep the moisture in more than if I didn't wear them? I don't know but they are back and I will most likely have them the rest of this year.
Just before the next AS around mile 23 I passed a woman who asked where the next aid station was as she was out of water. I said less than half a mile or so. It would end her and I playing tag for quite a few of the last miles. At this AS I grabbed my drop bag for my last refuel. Got the gels and loaded up for the last 8 mile push. Gail came in too so I stayed and chatted with her for a bit. I probably lolly-gagged in the AS a bit too long but it was fun to see Gail there. I grabbed a handful of boiled potatoes and headed out. Three times I ate taters during the run....the really seem to help me out.
Out of this AS is just a little trot downhill then the last big hill push starts. After a bit I caught up to the woman I had passed and as we started up the hill she heard me sigh and asked what this was about. I said I died last year on this section. Had to stop twice and get off the trail to catch my breath. I swore I would walk the entire section this year and not over due it, so I would have some energy for the last 5 miles. During this time I did have one mile that was almost 21 minutes long. Last year I had two that were 25 minutes long! My plan worked. After the hell of this 3 mile climb was over I soon got some energy back. It took a while to stretch out my cows, er calves or is it calf's? Heck if I know? I trotted in to the next to the last AS and just refilled my water bottles. The weather was starting to get warm. I never know how hot it is when I get tired running. I am very susceptible to heat exhaustion but never know it till it puts me down. So I will often ask others what the temperature is. I ran into some hikers and asked them this...they said 75 degrees or so. That is warm but no worries for me. I just cruised down some nice downhills in this area passing folks every now and then. One gent was hobbling along very slowly. I did my usual "How are you?" He said "I'm cramping up bad". So I stopped running and pulled out my baggy of drugs, er...E-caps and said "take two of these, bet you feel better in 15 minutes." He said "Wow thanks! I guess it does pay to complain". Pretty funny I thought as I wished him luck and took off.
I could tell I was getting tired as the little tiny rollers started to make me walk at times. But I forced my self to push it just a bit. I thought earlier that I might break 6 hours today but that frickin 3 mile climb took that dream away. But it did look like a PR on this course was a done deal which made me smile.
I blew through the last AS when I yelled out "How far to the finish?" They said "2.7 miles". So I had plenty of water for this distance. (I had one hand held bottle and one on a belt. I hadn't worn the belt in a long time so I was curious to see if it would bother me. It didn't. I felt I needed more than one bottle between AS's today if it got real warm. It was nice to have two.) This section takes you back through the original meadow. It was pretty flat with just some small runnable uphills. Most of them I ran. When we dropped off the PCT I knew we had one mile to go. The road here was a bit of a grade and I was tired so I walked for about a half mile. Then it flattened out to the finish and I ran on in. Even the last 1/2 mile I would look behind me to see if David was coming up behind. He has caught me on every Ultra we have done together. I figured he was hurt or dropped as I was running good but not great today.
As I entered the finish chute they called out my name. No matter how many times you hear this I never get tired of it. It is just a nice little pump as you are filling so good about finishing the race. As I crossed a girl came up and handed me a big bottle of Hammer Gel and said I was a raffle winner. Too funny as it was the same flavor I had won at McKenzie River last fall. (Banana btw) As I finished I was breathing pretty deeply. As I walked to cool down my breathing never slowed down. For almost 20 minutes I kept breathing at a joggers level. It was very strange.
I finished in 6:11:20 a 11:59 pace. My second fastest 50k ever. Only 5 1/2 minutes behind my PR in Forest Park in late May of this year. I placed 64 out 125 runners. Much better than I usually do in Ultras. Most times I am in the bottom 30% or less. In marathons this is about where I usually place. I was 17 out of 30 in my 40-49 age group. I think the knowledge of the course of when to push and when to go easy really helped. I hit the downhills pretty hard but not extreme and took the long uphills at a moderate walk. I fueled good but still think I need to drink more, even though I stopped to take a leak 5 times! 4 of those were in the first 2 hours though.
After I did a quick change in the car I went back to the finish line to wait for Gail. Here came David my arch nemesis to the finish. Ha! He is actually a great guy and we always spend time before and after these races talking. But for once I came out in front. He finished in 6:27. He asked what time I did and he then said "you dog!" We both laughed and discussed how I kept waiting for him to pass me and he said he kept looking for me to pass. He figured I DNF'd or something as he felt pretty good running today for the most part.
A few minutes later her came Gail. I cheered loudly for her as she is such an amazing runner. She finished in 7:31 which I thought was great. We hugged then walked for a bit. Later we just hung out and ate, drank and chatted with other runners. It was a beautiful day for a run and never did get as hot as was expected.
We had to get back to Portland that night as Gail had to be to work at 0600 the next morning and do a shift of 12 hours on her feet. (See I told you she is amazing!) So off we went down the hill towards home. We stopped at Dutch Brothers coffee and I got a large coffee and a large frozen/blended coffee drink. Did I mention I like coffee after a run???? On the drive home Gail mentioned how hard this run was for her. The hills were pretty tough she felt. She went on to say that it was the hardest thing she had ever done in her life. Even more than child birth she felt. SOB has 4,000 feet of elevation gain which isn't real big for a trail ultra but the altitude is what makes it feel so hard for us flatlanders. Gail has ran farther before too. A fifty and a forty and numerous 50k's. She also felt that she might not want to do another trail ultra and that the PCT 50 miler in two weeks? No way.....I am not doing that one for sure! During my run I had bouts of doubt too as usual. Wondering why I do this? I am not having fun. I'm sick to my stomach. My lungs hurt. Who cares about the trail or the trees or the frickin mountains. If you are reading this you have probably been there too. Never talk about the next race the day you finished the current one.
Well it's a few days after the race. I am in Seattle working and Gail is getting ready for her annual girls drunk, er gathering in Sun River for the week. While we talked this week Gail said that S.O.B was probably the best run she has ever done. She loved the weather and blue sky. The trail and views were so excellent. As I listened to her I knew where she was coming from. After the pain is gone you revel in your accomplishment and even more when the weather is top notch. As I always say I am the luckiest guy in the world. To have a spouse gives me so much in many ways and then partakes in a difficult adventure/hobby like this....what can I say?
Well what is next. PCT 50 miler in 10 days. Gail had no plans to do this but now asked me "are we going up the night before or the day of the race?" So I guess we both will be there. I told her if she is tired just make a 25 mile run up to Timberline lodge. I think she liked that idea if she doesn't feel like doing the entire 50 miles. I think we both will take the early start. One because we are slow and two because it is nice and cool that early. After PCT it is my greatest fear, Where's Waldo 100k. I am so, so nervous for this one. Oh maybe because its 62 miles and 3 huge climbs! I even think I may no show. Or maybe DNF. Or maybe.......???? Oh crap I don't know! Even if I came in DFL I would be happy. Stay tuned!