Saturday, August 30, 2008
DNF Better Than A DNS?
That was my dilemma at the Waldo 100k. I tested my leg at the Haulin' Aspen 1/2 marathon and knew that 62 miles was not in the cards for me a week later. I was pretty depressed as Waldo was my main goal for the year. I had never run beyond 52 miles so it was a big jump for me on a tough course. As I contemplated what to do I had some logistical problems that I had to deal with also. If I decided to run I knew that after 32 miles it would be hard to quit as there is not a good spot to quit and get off the course without a major hike to a road. I studied the map and figured that mile 20.5 at Mt. Ray AS or 32 miles at Charlton Lake would be the best place to quit. I wondered if I should even start the race with the hassle of getting a room and driving all the way to Willamette Pass anyway. Decisions, decisions....
I thought about it and figured that I would need a long training run anyway as the McKenzie 50k was about a month away and I didn't want to lose my fitness in the meantime. So off Gail and I went to Waldo. We did the crazy thing of getting up at 12:30 am so we could be on the road at 1:00 am for the 0500 start. I was going to do the 3:00 am start if I was going to do the whole race but I knew that wasn't going to happen so why run 3 hours in the dark if I didn't have too? Plus starting with all the "fasties" would be fun. The drive up was easy as my crew (Gail) slept in the backseat. We arrived about 4:00 am and went into the lodge to check in. I got all my stuff together and headed out to the start. This is a USTAF race so no headphones are allowed. I brought mine along thinking I could put them on and get kicked off the course instead of quitting! (Ha!)
At 5 am sharp the RD said go and off we went. The first part of the course is about a 300 yard run then you power walk up to the top of Willamette Pass ski area. You are working hard but it actually is a good way to warm up for what was to come. It was still very dark and the road/trail was covered with a very fine dust. The headlamps we wore created a eerie look of dust and halo's. I passed a few folks and we had some nice chats. Soon I caught up to Olga and we were about the same pace so we chatted while pushed up the hill. I turned around at one point and saw a beautiful view of the moon just over Mt. Scott, it sure was a great sight to see.
We reached the top and started to trot. I stayed with Olga as we were the same pace. Soon we hit some downhills and off she went. I had to take a couple of coffee relief stops as usual but other than that I felt pretty good. The trail was nice and not to many obstacles to overcome as the light started to increase. I do know that I need a brighter headlamp. My 3 LED is not quite enough. If anyone has suggestions on make and models please let me know. I chatted with a woman from the Bay area in California who grew up in Portland. She was a coach for Ultra runners so I thought I would pick her brain a bit. We had some good talks but soon she fell back and I continued on.
We came into the mile 7 AS and someone yells "Hey Fatboy!". It can only be Sean as I look up and see him in a long red dress. Yep a dress. It is good for a laugh. I refuel and try to eat and drink more than usual to prevent a bonk like I had at PCT. Plus it is going to be hot today with forecast highs over 100 in the valley and the 90's up in the mountains. Those that finish today are going to some real tough folks! I head out on the gravel road and we hit the Fuji Mt trail. This begins the second climb on the course. We go from about 4,800 feet up to the top at around 7,100. A nice 2,300 foot climb over the next 6 miles. But the climb was not to the killer on this part of the course. It was the mosquitoes!
Up the mountain was probably 80% a walk. Not much area to run but not that steep where you you really felt out of breath. Soon I caught up to Olga again. This is where the bugs got bad. Every step you took hundreds of mosquitoes would fly up. These are the black kind that are very, very hungry. I figured with our record snow pack and cool spring many of them were just hatching out for the first time. Usually by this time most the bugs would have been gone. I had put on DEET prior to the run just in case as I had read some blogs of folks who had trained on the course a few weeks earlier and described them as "black clouds". One even left there camping trip a day early due to the massive blood sucking.
I followed Olga up the hills as we chatted and swatted bugs. I would look at her legs and see many mossie's on her. I mean many! I counted one time about 9 on one leg, 5 on another and a few on her unprotected shoulders. I was getting bit too even with DEET on. Some right through my shirt and socks. It was really driving us crazy. When we hit runnable areas the breeze would keep them off us so we kept hoping for spots to run in. Olga said " I got to pee but I don't want to stop and get eaten!" Soon we got into some sunny areas and she stopped and I went on by.
At AS 2 at mile 12.4 I loaded up the water bottle for the 1.3 mile push to the summit of Fuji. I asked for bug spray but the poor AS workers said they gave out all they had plus there own personal stash. They were suffering too. Most had coats and hats on but the bugs were feasting on them. You guys were awesome...thanks for putting up with such miserable conditions to help us out. Just before this AS we saw the fast folks coming down the mountain and man some of them can fly. Olga caught back up to me and got the bad news about no spray too. I told her Gail would be at Mt. Ray and to ask her for my DEET from her.
Then next push is a pretty good climb of about 800 feet in just over a mile. Olga and I stayed together and ended up taking some pictures on the way up. As I took some pictures of Olga she was dancing around screaming and giggling as the bugs were eating her up. We both had a good laugh and got going again quickly We got to the top and had a magnificent view of the Cascades and the high lakes area including Waldo. The summit was like a real mountain top, just an area about 25 yards square. Some volunteers were up there taking pictures and ensuring no one shortened the course. I spent some time just enjoying the view as I knew this would be my only summit of the 3 main mountains on the course. Olga stayed for only 30 seconds or so. She took off and yelled at me "C'mon Bret we gottta go!" The woman was on a mission as she is in most races. I let her go and stayed for a couple of more minutes. It was a such a fantastic view I wanted a good memory of it.
I headed down at a nice running pace. The trail was a bit rocky but nothing too challenging. I got back to the Fuji AS and just did some minor refueling. I took off for the nice downhill portion of the course to the Mt Ray AS at mile 20.5. I was running pretty good and gel-in every 3o minutes. I was adding in as much non-sweet foods at the aid stations as possible. Mostly potatoes, chips and pretzels. I didn't want to get the over sweet feeling that I seem to have with just gels. This downhill section was nice to run with some rollers and nice flat areas. You lose 2,100 feet over 5.6 miles. Some sections were really steep and you had to walk down them lest you bust your fanny. In this area I would still see patches of snow and even had to cross some. Amazing this late in the summer. I crossed a nice meadow of wildflowers and picked some (don't tell the Forest Service!) for Gail. I started to get a bit tired in this area as the heat was picking up a bit. I drank as much as I could handle. I usually drink every 10 minutes but would add in some extra today as I still think I don't drink enough especially on warm days.
Soon I could here voices and new I was near the Mt Ray AS. Would I drop here or continue on for 12 more miles? What should I do? My leg felt pretty good with just minor pain. But I was getting tired. What to do??? Soon I saw an AS worker up on the trail. She would radio down to the AS my bib number so they could mark me off as coming through. Then it happened. "Ouch!!! What the F!" I just got stung by a bee on the leg. "Damn that hurts!" The AS worker said they would have Benadryl at the AS. I rolled across Waldo Lake road into the AS that Gail and I had volunteered at last year. It was run by Cindy who is from Eugene and works Ski Patrol at Willamette Pass. Gail was there and it was great to see her. I took my time and reloaded my pockets with gel. Took care of the bee sting and ate some food. I chatted with Cindy and she didn't recognize me. They do a great job at Waldo aid stations. Everyone really takes care of you. I talked with Gail and decided to head on to Charlton Lake and I would quit there. We also decided that Gail could run out from that AS and meet me and run into my final AS. It would be up to her to decide how far she wanted to run. I got some more DEET and put it on. Gail said Olga had just come in and screamed at Gail "Bret says you have DEET?" So Gail rubbed it on Olga as the woman is no nonsense at an aid staions. She always says she doesn't stick around long in them.
As soon as I headed out of Mt. Ray I felt tired. I didn't feel like running at all. I really thought about turning back and quitting. I pressed on and just told myself it will get better. I barely ran the flats as the temps really started to climb. I was struggling for miles. Finally on the Bobby Lake trail I started to run some more. I knew there was only 3 or 4 runners behind me and was sure they would probably pass me at some point. I got to the PCT intersection where the course was vandalized last year and many of the front runners went the wrong way. This year they had great markings on the course and marshals at the major intersections. This part of the course climbs from about 5,400 feet to about 6,500 feet. It is not steep at all but my low energy made running much hard. I soon recalled the altitude I was at and now understood why I was so tired. The lack of O2 does make a difference even though your breathing seems normal. In this area a 30 something woman passed me. She had a good pace but I would keep her in sight at times. I ran out of water on this section a good mile or so from the AS. I had 2-18 oz bottles so I was really drinking well but the heat an altitude really drys you up fast.
I rolled into The Twins AS and was pretty much done. They had belly dancers which did help my attitude! They had a water sprayer which sure felt good. I had lost my ice bandanna somewhere on the course so I couldn't have my nice cool water drip down my neck. They even gave me a fruit juice Popsicle! I ate some food and took my time getting back on the trail. They said it was 5 miles to the next AS and was mostly downhill.
I power walked out of The Twins as we had a 400 foot or so climb for the next 1/2 mile or so. I came around a corner and saw a woman sitting on a rock. She was the one who passed me earlier. I stopped to ask how she was doing. She said she was "tired and that this course was harder than I expected". We chatted a bit and I started to head out. I said "I am just going to walk so if you want to join me you are more than welcome." She hesitated for a bit then said "Yeah I think I will". It was great to have some company. Her name was Karalee and she was from the Sacramento area. I told her I was going to DNF at Charlton Lake and she said she was going to do the same. I think she was having dehydration issues as she only had one water bottle and said that she didn't see any reason why the RD's said you should have two water bottles. She now knew why. And this is from a woman that trains in the 100 degree heat of the Sacramento summers. We talked and walked for about another 10 minutes. Then I saw a lovely sight. Gail running towards me on the trail. Oh how it was great to see her! We stopped and I introduced my new trail buddy to her. She turned and joined up as we continued to walk. This was an interesting portion of the trail as some massive rock formations pushed right up to the edge of the trail. I love geology so this was probably more interesting to me than most folks.
The three of us chatted and the course turned downhill. I started to jog and all kept up. I was still drinking allot as I was very thirsty. At one point Karalee even asked if she could have some of my water. I said "sure" and gave her half of my remaining bottle. Poor gal was really dry. Lesson learned here for both of us for sure. I was running 90% of the time. I said I was going to walk and Karalee cheered. It was great to have all 3 of us together as it made the time pass much more quickly and also made me run more than I probably would have alone. Soon we started to see the AS signs like "Surfs Up", "Party area up ahead!" My leg had started to hurt pretty good in this area and I knew I had made the right decision to DNF. I could have gone on but it was getting close to the cutoff time and I probably would not have made the next AS.
We rolled into Charlton Lake AS to the cheers of the volunteers. They asked "what do you need" with big smiles. I said "I'm done!" The smiles disappeared from their faces as I told them that I had an injury and this was my plan. They looked disappointed but I was very sure of my decision. Karalee met her husband and they left pretty quickly. Gail and I ate and chatted. The lake was gorgeous and people were swimming in it. So I took off my shoes and went wading in the water to cool off and clean up. I was tired but not so much I couldn't have gone on. Finish? Probably not unless I would have to walk a huge amount of the course. My leg was swollen again but nowhere near the pain I had on the PCT the previous weeks back. Gail and I grabbed some great cookies and had the short walk to the car. We drove back to WP ski area and got some food and drink and hung out for a bit. We had a long drive home so we didn't stay to see the first finishers.
Well my first DNF ever. Yeah it was planned but it still stings a bit. I just looked at it as a training run but I was sad about missing my goal for the year. Everyone says there is always next year but I will also be year older and you never know what will be hurting next year too. Waldo is a tough course and those that finish get a huge amount of respect from me. I ended up completing 32 miles in 7:53. 7 minutes before the cutoff time of 1pm. I only had a couple of runners behind me at this point. Looking at the stats about a 126 runners signed up 21 did not start the race. 22 of us DNF'd. So 83 finished. The winner in 10:06 and the last runner at 19:07.
I think the portion of the course I ran was tough I still had 2 more mountains to climb and about 4,800 feet of climb left. So even if I was in good condition could I have finished? I guess we will find out next year. Thanks to Gail for crewing for me, it is such a mental boost to see a friendly face on the course. What's up next? Well its McKenzie River 50k then the Portland Marathon in early October. Kind of sad but it feels like the Ultra running in the Northwest is coming to a close for the season. Maybe we should all move to Southern California so we can do this crazy sport year around. (Wasn't this the guy who said he was done with these after the PCT???) Will I ever learn?