Aug 17, 2008

Where's Waldo, in more detail than neccessary

Saturday I toed the starting line at 5 am for Where's Waldo--the USATF 100k trail championship. This year was different for me than last in that it had been 3 long months since my previous race instead of 3 weeks, I had done more long training runs earlier in the year, and I was determined not to make any wrong turns!

But I couldn't tell how good in shape I was for this. I hadn't done any timed intervals or road races by which to gage. My training is different than most in that I typically run every other day, and many weeks I get in less than 35 miles. I had a lot else going on. I hiked with Zachary and the scouts for a week 2 weeks ago. Just the week before I did a 20 hr 140 mile bike-paddle-mountain bike-hike-bike trip with some friends from church. My long-run enthusiasm had dipped when the Western States run was canceled, and my longest run in the previous 2 months was a 4 hr 23 mile hill run that wore me out. When Brenda called the night before from Waldo Lake to report on the beautiful sun-set as I was speeding her direction but still 3 hrs away, she asked if I was going to win the race. I lost cell coverage before I could answer which I thought was just as well. I was going to tell her it was in the realm of possibilities, but it would be a stretch.

My plan was to make it past half way expending as little energy as possible, then pick it up from there. I modified that a bit, thinking perhaps to run a little harder early before it heated up. It did get hot, and drinking enough was an issue, but there was a breeze, and it clouded up a bit, and most of the course is in the shade (although I still got sunburnt in a few places) so the heat wasn't as bad as I had feared. From the start Hal Koerner, Nate McDowel, Sean Andrish and some others went out fast. My splits through the 1st 4 aid stations were about the same as last year but I quickly fell 10 minutes behind the leaders. Other than a calf that got very sore, and some tightness in the hamstrings (in-door soccer is not a good way to taper) I felt pretty good.

Sheryl & Brenda and their families and my parents camped together at Waldo lake. They came to the Charlton lake aid station, and it was awesome having them there as my crew! I had given them a sheet with estimates of where I would be when, and I was running a few minutes ahead of schedule. But from there it's hard to have any contact with the runners again until the finish, which would be 5+ hrs away. They told me Pam had called and had cut short her CAR campout to meet me at the finish.

In a couple places the aid stations are 7.5 miles apart, and there is 1 major and and 1 huge climb in the 2nd half. On trail runs you can think you are all alone, but with limited views there can be people just in front or behind. Without warning, I got caught by Jason Bryant while I was checking my map. I stayed close enough to him to watch him catch Sean, but I couldn't match their pace on the uphill. I passed them both on a down-hill, and later got caught and almost passed by a very strong Joe Grant. Somehow they didn't pass me on the huge climb to Maiden Peak. Hiking uses a little different muscles, so even though my heart rate was high, it seemed to be a partial rest for my legs. I was still 10 minutes behind Nate, but a couple people encouragingly told me I looked fresher than he did. I didn't feel all that fresh, as I had been having trouble keeping liquids down. The only solids I had tried was some pretzels at Charlton. I kept urping them up and spitting them out for the next 2 hours. I stuck mainly to electrolyte (Gu-2O) downing about 20 oz every 45 min. After the aid station that only had water (but thankfully had ice!!) I swallowed an electrolyte pill and tried to down an extra gel pack.

At the last aid station Joe was on my tail, which usually would have concerned me, but I was thinking forward, as they told me I was now only 7 minutes behind Nate. My calf wasn't any worse, my legs weren't entirely thrashed, and they weren't cramping, so I maintained hope and tore out of the aid station moving quickly. I thought it was going to take the entire last 7.5 miles to catch him, so I was surprised that less than 3 miles later I spotted him, then quickly passed Nate. In doing this, I had burned a lot of energy, had forgotten to replenish my gel packs, and now had to avoid bonking for almost 5 more miles. I slowed a bit, thinking I just needed to cruise on in, but a mile later on a switch-back I realized Nate was still only 40 yards behind me. So I picked it back up, and ran in fear, hoping to get a cushion but never knowing how close he was. I ended up 4 minutes ahead of him. Last year I was in tears at the finish, in relief that the agony was over. This year the agony was much less intense, and mainly limited to the last part of the race. But for the 2nd time in my running career I got emotional at the end of the race, this time with happiness. I looked around for my family. About 10 minutes later they showed up. I finished earlier than the estimate I had given them. Emily offered to go on a long cool-down with me, but I opted for a much needed massage instead.

I'm not sure why the course was so fast this year, with 7 of us under the 2007 course record. I know without Nate pulling me along, Joe and others pushing, I wouldn't have chosen to go that fast on my own.

The race directors put on a fabulous event on beautiful trails. The aid station people were extremely attentive to my needs and so up-beat. At one station I asked for vasoline and before I knew it the volunteer had a container open, a glob on her fingers and, with a straight face, asked where I needed it applied. The logistics of marking the trails, communicating, having people at intersections etc. etc. were huge. And I was overwhelmed by the awards. The 1st place plaque is stained glass, made by John Ticer, and is a piece of art. The masters award is a quilt (? also made by John). These are the most meaningful awards I've ever gotten. There was a jacket and a shirt that my kids quickly laid claim to. There were USATF medals, and the $1500 was cool too. Maybe we'll be able to afford Emily's college after all.


Ken said...

National Champion! Why didn't they preempt the Olympics for that news! Far more interesting than beach volleyball. You make Michael Phelps look like a mamma's boy.

Way to go! You take perseverance to a new level. Sorry I wasn't there to cheer you on.

Neil said...

Hey, sorry we missed your finish!!
You did AMAZING though, we're all so happy for you!


brenda said...

Perfect amount of detail! Some of the facts are off on my blog, but check it out anyway. :0)

I can't believe we missed seeing you cry! Maybe next time.

Eldon and Janeil Olsen said...

It was great being there even though we missed the actual finish. It was amazing to see how much work goes into one of those events. We were sure proud of Neil. He's an amazing athlete.

sheryl said...

Let's do it again next year! We'll come early this time. It was a great get-together for the cousins at my favorite lake.