Thursday, August 6, 2009

The "New" PCT 50 mile

Due to the Over-Gov-ment's decision to add some wilderness area near Mt. Hood on the PCT we can no longer run through that area. Oh wait, yes you can run but you can't have an "organized" run. Whatever! Well it caused a drastic change in the PCT 50 this year, instead of running up Mt. Hood we could only go out 14 miles towards Hood then turn back to the start and run a 22 mile loop south on the PCT. At first I was really bummed about this then I figured it's a good thing as I get to see a new section of the PCT. And, of course it will be so much easier than running up a mountain. Wrong!!

Gail had to work this year so it was just me out there. I took the regular start at 0630. I chatted with Olga, Monika and Zirk before the race. Said hello to some other friends while I got ready. It was going to be warm today but we missed out on the super heat by a day or so.

Da hot er...cold check in girls.
Olga gathered us all up near the start and basically said if you get lost you are stupid. Then taking a saying from the Hardrock 100 start she told us to "Go on, get out of here!" and off we trotted. It was nice this year as we didn't have to go up the road and do the short loop. We just headed out down the road towards the PCT trail going north.

"Listen up!" Spoken in Russian.

As usual I was in last place at the start, trying to get the oil in my engine to warm up. I have never figured out why slow runners start out so fast in long races. Maybe its just fun to be up front? Maybe I will try it some day.

My goal for this race was just to PR and then try and break 11 hours. Last year I ran it in 11:26 so it was a pretty good push to break 11. But last year I also got sick and had really bad leg pain so I figured it was doable.

Shot while running and I didn't crash!

As we hit the trail along Timothy Lake we just chatted and enjoyed the blue sky morning. The only down side was it has been very dry and the trail is very dusty here so you are sucking in tons of dust.


I pulled in to Little Crater AS at mile 6 at around 1:06, a slow time but I did stop a couple of times in the trees. I never get tired of looking in this beautiful Spring fed lake. I just checked in at the AS but didn't grab anything as I had two water bottles and the next AS was only about 4 miles away. Back on the trail I really enjoyed this section. It has some nice easy climbs with some rocks tossed in for fun.

Little Crater Lake

At AS 2 I refuled and was told they moved the drop bags from this AS to the next one. Oh nice to know now. So I now have only one Gel, no big deal as I grabbed food from this AS but the drop bag set up was a bit of a cluster this year. The mossie's were bad at this AS again this year but I was prepared and covered in Deet. Out I go and now we start the first good climb. I like this section too as we get to walk a bit and then get a great view of Mt Hood as we run along a steep hillside. I was feeling good with no pains. I was planning on drinking more than usual early as I knew dehydration would be a problem later. In this area we first started to see the early starters and the leaders. It was fun but got to be a pain as you had to yield all the time, this was a problem to me later in the race too and I think cause a large blister on the side of my foot. (Came from getting up on the steep uphill side of the trail) The last few miles of this section has some big downhills and it was fun to fly but I was dreading the walk back up on the return.

Hey Marc! And he beat me by a minute-thirty!

Love this view

I got into AS 3 quite a bit ahead of schedule. I carried a laminated pace chart for each AS. I tried to make best guesses that would get me in a finish time of 10:18. This was at just over 14 miles. I saw my future pacer Eric working the AS here. We chatted and I told him I felt real good and that I would see him in 5 to 5:30 time back at the start (28 miles). Off I went back across Highway 26 and on the trail heading back towards the start. Soon the climb began and it didn't seem that steep, so I was running up this section that I had just dreaded because it seemed like I would walk this section for sure. Well that wasn't the case. It was nice to be able to run this as most years this would be around mile 38 and I would be dead and walking for sure. I again had to stop and water the forest a couple of times, what is up with me today I thought.

My favorite section of the course. Dueling cameras??

I rolled into AS 4/2 and fueled up. I had made turkey and cheese sandwiches for my drop bags this year. I would half about every aid station rather than doing Gels all day. It did seem to make me feel good early on. Kind of normal if that is possible on a long race like this. Off I went towards the short distance to Little Crater.

I want to interject a few thoughts here. I sometimes get frustrated at this Ultra Running sport. There is something strange here that I feel not many sports have. I can line up at a race with a runner who probably ran in college, maybe was very very good at his distance and will run times that just amaze me. And here I am, a 49 year old fat guy who never ran in school and barely survives these races. I get sick, I hate life, I wanna die and all of this. I know the fast folks fight the same pains and I am not taking that away from them. But at times I feel like I am in an NBA game and of course I don't have the skills to be here. For us back of the packers it is just dang hard to run these courses. I think it takes all of our strength to get it done. I am not sure where this is coming from but I am fighting an inner battle right now. As you will read I had a rough finish in this race and my whole goal this year is to run and finish the Waldo 100k this month. This is a tough race that might be over my capabilities. I dream about this race, I fear this race but I want to finish it. But on the other hand do I have the skills to do this? And why do I want to beat myself up so bad, mentally, emotionally and physically? Why?

Out of Little Crater I was looking forward to running this section of the PCT along the lake. The last two years this section seems to go on for ever and ever. But this year on fresh legs it would only be mile 22 to 28 and I was going to enjoy it. And that I did. I just ran and had a blast. I was making good time but refused to look at my GPS watch until I got into the aid stations.

Eric picking me after 28 miles

I came off the PCT and ran up the pavement to complete the loop. I got in with a 5:15 time, not bad I felt for 28 miles on the trail. Eric was there and helped me refuel and get some items from my drop bag. After a few minutes off we went. Eric was to run the last 22 miles with me. He was there to get in some good trail training and to help my sorry ass as needed. We ran a bit on a trail then got on a gravel road with some good climbs for about 2.5 miles. I was walking most the hills. Then back on the PCT we had some more big climb. I started to struggle a bit here but felt OK. I was really drinking allot, about 40 ounces an hour as it started to heat up in this section. Just before the Red Wolf AS at mile 33 or so we saw the leader go he was fast. At this AS we saw our friend Caroline and all her helpers dressed up as wolves. It was pretty cute.

Out of this AS and then we crossed under one of the major power lines that cross over the Cascades. I see this almost every day I fly south so it was kind of cool to final see it from the ground. This next section was huge downhill and slightly over grown in sections. I was flying down probably in a 7:15 pace or so. I was just letting my legs float. I wobbled a few times but never really came close to falling. We came upon a real steep down section that ended up at the Warm Springs river which is just a creek at this point I also saw what looked like an area of worship, kind of like an outdoor church. This is on the Indian Reservation so I don't know if it has religious implications for them or not? We crossed the little bridge and I dipped my hate in the cool water, man that felt good for the next few miles. Now the big ass climb. Up we went. The guy in front of me picked up a pacer at this point too. He chatted him up all the way on this climb which was a good 1,000 feet or so. This is were I started to die. I just had dizzy spells and stomach problems. My legs felt fine. It was a tough section. But we made it to the AS and I hear "What are you doing here?", it was Kelley who I seem to run into everywhere, she is a writter for so I think she goes to most races. Well she helped me get ice for my bandanna and to get food into me. I chugged down another Starbucks espresso and cream, my new miracle drink. We then headed out south to do a little 1/4 mile loop or so to get the mileage right. Then back to this same AS. I loaded up a boatload of crap in my shorts pockets. Peanut butter crackers, gels, sandwich, S-caps, 2nd ipod shuffle and some other stuff. I think my shorts were touching the ground at this point.

Out of this AS its a nice downhill section. I needed that and just let my legs go. I was probably doing 7 to 7:30's at this point. I wasn't pushing but was just gliding. At one point Eric wasn't behind me. I thought about stopping but figured maybe he needed to water the trees. (I found out later the heat had gotten to him and he was losing his lunch) I passed quite a few folks and soon came down to the Warm Springs river again. I so wanted to get totally wet here. But I decided to just wash off. Boy it felt good, the cool water on my head and legs. I took a few minutes to just get some energy back as I knew the next climb would kill.

Up out of the valley we went. At first its not bad, slight climbs through thin new Pine trees. But it was getting warm for sure as it was now mid afternoon. A few runners I had passed now passed me back. I had some nice chats with familiar friends, even some new ones from Kansas. (They said they have hills were they live!) Then came the big grind. The last 1200 foot climb or so to the final AS. I died here. I got sick, I dry heaved and I couldn't slow my breathing down. I got worried as I felt like I was hyperventilating, I just couldn't slow down my breath! My pace went to a crawl here. The hill never stopped. Our Kansas friends began to suffer too. I so wanted to DNF at the next AS. I don't like this! I am not enjoying myself. What do I have to prove in doing this. I feel like crap! But I kept walking, only stopping to wretch a few times.

By the time we got to the last AS at mile 45.5 I was done. I told Eric I am going to sit down and to get me up in 10 minutes. I needed to think if I was going to quit or not. I needed help to get my bandanna off. I had them fill it with ice and then I put it on my face to cool down. Tears started to flow, I was so spent in so many ways. I just kept the ice on my face. Then I put it on my legs and my arms, it felt so good. I asked for some 7-Up with ice and it actually tasted pretty good. I just kept rubbing the ice over me. More and more runners came and went. I just sat on my log thinking. I knew the next 4.5 miles were mostly all downhill. If it would have been a climb I think I would have quit.

I got up and said "I'm going now. Thank you everyone" and I walked out. I was still a mess. I would walk then shuffle for 30 seconds or so. This went on for awhile. Then maybe I ran a bit more. I started to feel better. We got some nice downhill and I actually ran. I was feeling good. But most the flats I would still walk and run. This whole time my legs felt great. I had no back pain, no leg pain, one little blister. It was just my gut.

We passed folks again then they passed back on the flats. Finally we dumped (thats for you Gail:) ) back on the gravel road. This seemed so steep up and now it looked pretty flat. I mostly walked this section and just chatted with Eric. Lots of folks passed as they could feel the finish was close. We finally dropped into the trail again for a few hundred yards before popping out onto the road near the finish. Olga was there, she yelled "Can't you run any faster?" So I turned around and ran backwards...which I think was faster. As I came by her she started running. She ran the last 100 yards up the road beside me. I told her I might cry at the finish. She said " I like men that cry" That made me laugh. We crossed the finish and I got the same hug from her that every finisher got that day. This was to be her next to last day in town as she was moving to Texas to be with her husband to be. I whispered "We are going to miss you". Olga has been a good friend and mentor. I knew nothing about running a distance beyond 50k. She taught Rick, Gail and I quite a few things about the sport that really helped me get to this point in my distance running. Thank you Olga and best wishes!

I soon felt pretty bad after the finish. I chugged another Starbucks but I think I had too much caffeines this day. So I gathered up my drop bags and headed to the car. I wish I could have stayed and eaten and had a few drinks but I just wasn't feeling up to it. I thanked Eric again for being a great pacer. He was da man that kept me going for sure today. Thank you sir!

For many days after this race I knew I wouldn't run Waldo, now two weeks later I am still not sure. Maybe I will attempt Waldo then retire from anything more than a 50k. I don't know why I need to keep doing harder and longer races. But anyway I want to thank Monika, Olga and Mike for putting on a great race. I loved the first 35 miles!

I finished in 10:49, a new PR for PCT. 25 minutes or so faster than last year. I met my goal of sub 11 hours. My pace chart was 10:18 but that was a dream time. So I guess I am happy for that time. To me this race is not about time but about finishing alive. This is my third year and the third battle. I won every time but walked away beaten up pretty good. Will I do it next year? Yeah probably, not sure why tho?

Eric looks great after, I look pretty white!


Backofpack said...

If it makes you feel any better, I have the same thoughts in every marathon and longer. I think "why did I sign up for ..." "I'm gonna start running halves", "why do I keep doing this?" Then, when it's over and we are heading home I think about how much fun I had and how good I feel about the whole thing. This whole thing is especially bad when my heart acts up (I've had those same breathing problems you describe while walking on flats!) I don't know what it is that gets me back out there. I do know that the longest challenge you'll find me doing is PacRim - because I can manage it since there are no cut-off times.

Sorry for the ramble!

olga said...

Aww, I am going to cry...and I don't like women that cry one bit:) I am already missing all of you, and thank you, thank you for such warm and kind words! It was a pliveredge to run up with you to the finish, I wouldn't change it for anything. Now, dear, get you butt to Waldo and say hello to all the hills we did together - and then I did without you. Give hugs to Gail! And I will see you in just over a month!

Sarah said...

I know you can get that Waldo hat! Keep thinking positively. You can do it. : )