Friday, September 27, 2013

Hundred in the Hood, the One and Only Running

PCT Ultra Hundred in the Hood 100-Mile Endurance Run
Saturday-Sunday 26-27 September 2009

1:  this exact race no longer exists, but large portions have been resurrected this year (2013) during the same last weekend of September at the Mountain Lakes 100.  (I hope to run that one before too long.)
2:  I don't really expect anyone to read a rambling report about a race that happened 4 years ago and no longer exists that I am publishing now because I spent all this time over the past few years writing it, but, you never know....

Rick Gaston's slickly designed logo (on the long-sleeved tech shirts)

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, in September of 2008, I was looking for a replacement 100-mile run to replace the cancelled 2009 Angeles Crest 100 . With the help of several great colleagues at work, and the generous permission and understanding of my wife, I was able to get out or switch out of the last 10 1/2 hours of my 18 hour phone shift the day before the race, as well as sick call coverage for both ED's the day of, so that I could run the inaugural Pacific Crest Trail Ultra Hundred in the Hood trail race south of Mount Hood in western Oregon.

As one could expect for a start-up, there were quite a few glitches; at times many of us runners were cursing the race directors. But in the end, it was all worth it. I think all the runners had a great time, and the directors and volunteers are to be applauded and thanked for putting on such a great race experience with BONUS CHALLENGES.

Due to less elevation change and one additional week of recovery time (though still not enough time), I finished Hood much faster than I would have expected to finish Angeles Crest.  For the first time in two years (in fact, just a few days over two years), I was able to finish a hundred mile race in under 20 hours (in fact, just a couple minutes under 20 hours).  I completed my "tri-tri" goal of finishing an Ironman distance triathlon followed three 100-mile trail races in 8 weeks. (It was originally going to be within 7 weeks, the 100 milers 3 weeks apart, the first one week after the tri.  But close enough-- this wasn't significantly less stupid.)

making it to the race

Everything was tight.  I logged off my computer working my phone shift from home at 1:30. I had seen an hour before on the live traffic website, but luckily it had cleared. I even had a 6:50 pm Southwest flight originally booked as backup, in case I missed the 3:30 pm flight, but I made it easily. All my race supplies and clothes were packed into a carry-on, to prevent lost baggage from ending my race before it began.

I was surprised I could walk to the car rental office from the Portland terminal. Since I didn't think I'd have to sleep in the car, I downgraded to a Yaris. A few miles out of the airport, the Garmin Nuvi GPS I had brought from home went out, so I called the rental office, who offered me another car with a working elecrical outlet if I drove back. However, I realized it was getting late and would be short on sleep enough already, so I drove on, stopping at a Safeway to grab some portable food. The directions were good, and I missed the final turnoff Highway 26 only because I was spacing out. About 12 cars parked along the roadside confirmed I was at the right place. I asked a couple in a pickup truck and the volunteer manning radio control where I was supposed to go. Apparently official camping was miles away, but I was already way too sleepy, so I decided to illegally set up my portable tent in the woods atop a bed of some springy plants near the start.

my old tent.  I have since upgraded with several newer, higher performance models.
As it turned out, an unfriendly ranger saw this setup the next day-- it's possible that I killed this race in its infancy-- whoops! :(
Race start was an early and evil 5 a.m., but I woke up around 4 needing to use the bathroom. Absolutely no line for any of the four Porta-potties-- in fact I got to to take my pick!  RD Olga Varlamova gave me my race number, which was 60 more than the 121 listed on the race website, so I spent a few minutes changing all the 2s to 8s on my drop bags. No time anyways to move my luggage to my car, so I stashed it in my tent.

I missed the beginning of Olga's talk, but asking others, learned that because the course stays almost exclusively on the already marked Pacific Crest Trail, there were minimal course markings, except some turn off around Olallie (mile 50 something?), and at the very end. Not hearing this myself made me a bit anxious later.

I realized I had gloves for later in the race, but not at the beginning, and it was freezing! (Apparently 35 degrees, no wonder I was so cold.) Co-race director Mike "Bushwhacker" lent me an extra pair ("I thought someone might need some")-- nice thinking, Mike! My nose running from the cold, I would blow them on the gloves, which I felt bad about when I returned them to him post-race.

start to mile 28

Olga started the race, and we ran out with our headlamps onto the road and quickly turned left onto the Pacific Crest Trail for a (relatively) short out-and-back, 14 miles each way. Two guys shot out ahead. In spite of my own intentions and expectations not to run out front, I ended up running behind them. Soon, I was talking and running with Ray Sanchez, who usually tries to race every week, but for a chance was rested. I also meet Tom Ederer, who like Ray and I, had been registered for the cancelled AC100 so chose this as a subsitute.

Ray finishing Firetrails 50 two weeks later

Tom was nice, but several times a mile he would let out the most nasty-smelling flatulence.  The silent, deadly kind for which you had no warning.  Ray and I were dying, but neither of us wanted to push our pace enough to get in front of Tom.  No idea what he'd eaten last night.  If this was an intentional cutthroat competitive ploy, Tom, you are evil and should be barred from further competition!

Some nice views of Mt. Hood running back.

At the 28 mild aid station (close to the start and finish), I dumped my jacket and light, but forgot to pick up my visor and I hastily dumped my loaner gloves too fast.

I finally lubed up at the aid station. Then, even though it was 9:15 in the morning, I put the small headlamp I stashed in my drop bag around my waist. Why? Because when I had noticed on the race website that "lights required." I was stupid enough to ask Olga about his by email, who replied that she would be checking, and then doubly stupidly I complied.

miles 28-58

It was supposed to be 4.9 miles to the next aid station, Red Wolf Pass. I knew that my Garmin Forerunner tends to lose reception in the deep woods, so when my lap distance hits 5 miles, I started to get nervous. Also, I deliberately swallowed a gel at about mile 4.5 in anticipation of more liquid soon. Another half mile-- and still, no aid station. Finally I saw this guy holding what I think is some radio. I ask him "Where's the aid station?" He tells me "Keep going straight." Note, he doesn't tell me "Sorry there is no aid station, keep going straight." He tells me "Keep going straight" as if there were an aid station straight ahead. I keep running, the trail turns, I start descending, still no aid station. Eventually, I figure out, there is no aid station. With my empty bottle I start to get nervous.

A couple miles later, I came to a fire road. The single track PCT crosses many fireroads, and it was obvious that you should just cross them. However, here, there was no trail immediately across the road. I looked up and down the fireroad and saw no arrows or ribbons. Phuck. I'm starting to get pissed off at Olga. I stopped, look back, to see or hear if anyone is behind me, worried I made a wrong turn. I decided finally to turn left. After running 100 yards or so, I saw no ribbons, then decided to check the other direction. Luckily, I saw a small trail on the left with a very inconspicuous ribbon. I felt irritated at the uncertainty and fear, and the time lost.  I later met another runner who lost more time than I at the same crossing.

My mouth became parched and having run over 35 miles, I started to feel my energy reserves dwindling. I had another gel in my pocket, but without anything to wash it down, feared it will get me sick. A few runners passed me. They weren't happy about the missing aid station either, but they were both carrying two bottles. One guy offered me a little swig of his almost empty second bottle. I hesitated, but took it, worried then that this constituted muling and could get me disqualified. Increasingly I was feeling weaker and weaker. I felt like I'm going to hit the wall soon, like I did at Lake Sonoma. Finally, I saw the aid station tent (mile 38.5), a true oasis in the desert of imminent bonking. The Duncan family was so nice (photos below courtesy of Sarah Duncan from her blog), the pumpkin bread delicious.  They told me they wouldn't have been ready had they not arrived an hour earlier than they were told.  (Whoa, thanks for NOT following instructions!)  I spent extra time replenishing.

Having ingested extra food to make up for my depleted calories, I had to set out more slowly. I eventually corrected myself, but not before a couple more runners passed me. We all have fun bitching about the missing aid station and thinking of ways to kill Olga.

One of those who passed me was David LaDuc, whom I'd met at Redwood earlier that summer, in this photo pacing a friend at the Golden Hills Trail Marathon two weeks later

At Pin Heads, we were told there was no Lemiti Creek aid station. This sucked, but at least we're told this ahead of time. Since I only had one bottle, I expressed my dismay, but a volunteer gave me an extra bottle (he had a bunch). No convenient Ultimate Direction holder, but I gladly accepted it. I'd only have to carry it 10 1/2 miles-- or so I thought.

What ended up happening is another "this-can't-be-right moment."  I was looking at my Garmin Forerunner, it was 11, then 12 miles for the split, and no aid station.  I got nervous, stopped, started looking at side trails. Finally, a Greg from Utah caught up with me, expressed the same frustration, and we ran together, bottles dry, and unhappy about the situation.

Greg Norrander from Utah

As it turned out, no one had marked the turn off from the main Pacific Crest Trail to the aid station, so the first 20 or so runners, Greg and me included, missed the turn off.  Although this effectively cut our total distance, the strain on our bodies from dehydration, underfueling, the mental stress, and the wavering on the trail, may well have cost us the saved 10-15 minutes.

The total stretch from the last aid station ended up being more than 14 miles.

miles 58- 75

The next ascent was fairly technical and steep going up, triggering some dormant left knee pain I'd been having earlier that year.

I saw the leaders coming the other way back from the turnaround, and I was delighted to see fellow Californian Ray Sanchez in the lead. Runners 2 through 6 were not much farther behind.

At the Breitenbush aid station turnaround, after wasting a few minutes looking for it, I couldn't find my drop bag, a small Gap bag (chosen since it probably wouldn't come back to the finish before I had to leave the next morning). It has the detachable belt portion of a Fuel Belt pack I won as part of the race series 3 years ago, along with my iPod Nano, 3 spare rechargeable batteries, and a packet of Vespa which I got at the end of Lake Sonoma.  A volunteer goes back to the truck and after a few minutes, comes back with it.

Descending the technical part, despite slowing to a walk, in a feat of extreme coordination, I manage to trip, and completely wipe out, and I'm covered with dirt, abrasions and embarrassment in front of myself.

Despite being told the turn-off that we missed the first time is obvious, I'm still paranoid about missing the turn-off, and actually go over a branch blocking another trail before figuring out that it's not it. When I get to the correct intersection, it's obvious since a volunteer is there sitting in a chair in a roped off area.

The trail is mostly downhill to the aid station. I put on my headlamp, Firetrails 50 windshirt, and the earbuds of my Nano. But I decide the rest of the pack and my fleece vest are overkill, along with the spare headlamp I've been carrying around my waist for the past 48 miles.

mile 75 to the finish (about mile 101)

I'm pretty sure no one passed me the last 25 miles.
It helped having my tunes on.
I start making calculations in my head about what I need to do to finish both under 19 hours, which would keep my race all on Saturday, and 20 hours, which is, well, 20 hours. Which gets me confused, since they are an hour apart.
No aid at Lemiti Creek. I do see a some large bottles of water, but I can make it without filling up.
After Pin Heads (mile 85.6), my lights starts to dim. In spite of my experience at McNaughton 150 with rechargeable batteries, I must have convinced myself that the reason they died so fast was that I hadn't fully charged them right before the race and that it was so cold.
This is what I get for trying to be green.
I turn my Petzl Myo RXP to the lowest of 3 settings. Since I'm trying to move fast and at times there are rocks and roots, this is quite risky.
At W/S Meadows (mile 91.5), I change out my batteries with the help of volunteers, one of whom gives me a nice shoulder rub.
I either misread my mini-aid station chart or more likely the chart was wrong, since I run more miles to Red Wolf Pass than anticipated.

The volunteer at the last aid station is nice, but he's not any more sure about the distance to the finish that I.  It's a crap shoot, and there is not special sub-20 hour buckle, but I decide I'm probably close, so start running for all I'm worth.  I must have inverted each of ankles 4-5 times each, but having resilient ankles with titanium springs, can keep running.

I finish with barely two minutes to spare, in 19:58:07 and 11th place overall.

surviving the cold, and getting home

The first thing RD Olga asks me when I finish:  "Do you hate me, Mark?"

"Nah."  Of course not.  Not that I didn't want her to die a slow painful death earlier, but in the end it was a blast, and she and everyone did the best they could.  Any race in its inaugural year gets cut a lot of slack.

Pam Smith & RD Olga (then Varlamova)
lifted from Pam's blog
Before crawling into my old, second-hand tent, I talked again with kinda local Pam Smith, who would less than four years later surprise the ultrarunning world with her victory at Western States.   She is now on the La Sportiva Mountain Running Team with me, helping me think I am bad-ass by association.  her Hundred in the Hood race report


the race directors

official race website -- probably this link doesn't work anymore

split time, cumulative time

1:24:12    01:24:12
0:45:47    02:0959
0:44:12    02:54:11
3:25:06    06:19:18
1:00:58    07:20:16
2:33:23    09:53:39
1:37:07    11:30:47
0:05:05    11:35:52
1:41:33    13:17:26
1:00:34    14:18:01
2:10:42    16:28:43
0:05:08    16:33:51
0:51:06    17:24:57
0:04:13    17:29:10
2:28:57    19:58:07

photos of me running

link to list of other blogged race reports

Greg (ran into him during the 14 mile stretch without aid)
Yassine Diboun

Big belated blog thanks also to my coworkers Jenn and Chris for covering part of my Friday shifts so I could fly out on time.  And all the volunteers, I am still thankful 4 years later!

1 comment:

milsom said...

I read the whole thing!