Friday, October 02, 2009

Hundred in the Hood!

Shortly after being notified by my wife that she would be visiting her grandmother in Iowa at the end of September, my eyes were glued to race calendars, I know I get bored easily and am always looking for something to do (that's still fun) when ever she's away. I was surprised to see that my local options were quite limited, it came down to 2 races, the Bellingham Bay Marathon or the Hundred in the Hood, the major obstacle with both being expenses. Right away, I knew which race I was more interested in, here's how I saw it, I could pay $110 to run 26.2 miles with about 1400 other runners (including the half marathoners and 5Kers) on the streets of a city I've been to numerous times -OR- I could drop an extra $40, get to run an extra 73.8 miles (turns out it was even more than that) on the famous Pacific Crest Trail which I had yet to step foot on in any state! Again, the decision seemed simple.

After wrangling up some spare $$ (thank you record collection, I knew I kept you around for some reason), arranging a dog sitter (thank you Zale & Morrie), and working out travel arrangements (HUGE thank you Tony, Shawn, & Bob), all that was left to do was the small matter of running 100 miles!

Friday morning I headed to Shawn's house and meet with her and Tony, soon we were on the road to Government Camp, OR. After checking into the hotel (again, HUGE thank you Tony & Shawn) we headed to the race's starting line where packet pick-up was being held, there we said our hellos to a few familiar runners and after a little while headed back into town for pizza and an early retirement to the mattress.

The next morning 3:00am came as early as it sounds like it might, never the less, it was up and at 'em, we got prepared, checked out of the hotel, and drove to the race start with a good half hour or so to spare. The morning was surprisingly chilly and I ended up spending most of the spare time staying toasty in the car, with about 10 minutes 'til the start we headed up and schmoozed a bit with some familiar faces. While waiting for the start I was able to find Rob, he and I had emailed back and forth a bit prior to the race discussing the idea of shooting for a sub-24 hour finish, we had decided that we'd give it a shot but that ultimately, finishing was still the main priority.
(Mt. Hood from about 12 miles in - Photo by Danni Coffman)

At 5am Olga, the co-race director (who, by the way has a great race report on here blog - follow the link), said "GO!" and we were off, into the darkness. I allowed Rob to take the lead, knowing I have no abilities when it comes to even pacing, and soon we were in the woods on the PCT where we would spend the majority of the run. The early going portions, I don't think, could be considered 'technical' but in the dark they did require a bit of consideration prior to each step, but as the hours went forward the trail became smoother and soon the day light was enough to guide our way. Once the headlamp was turned off I really came alive, besides avoiding bees (who managed to sting 3 different runners who were near me, but didn't get me), I was really enjoying my time on the trail, the miles seemed to rush by and before I knew I found myself at the turn around of the first out and back section of the race (mile 14 at Frog Lake). At the aid station I grabbed a few snacks, refilled my water bottle, and was quickly out again.
(The sun begins to sneak through the woods - Photo by Danni Coffman)

The next 14 miles to the 'Horse Camp' aid station flew by even quicker, though I know it is not the case, in my memory the whole distance was a gradual, fast down hill just begging to be run. I felt so comfortable and loose as I cruised down it was ridiculous. When I did arrive at the 'Horse Camp' aid station I couldn't believe 28 miles had already fallen away, in that time I had been treated to great trail conditions and wonderful views of Mt. Hood and Timothy Lake.
(Up along the trail on a perfect day for running- photo by Danni Coffman)

As the race progressed, Rob and I began to get separated on occasion, Rob had run 70+ miles at the Plain 100 less than 2 weeks prior, and as a result, I was just 'feeling' some portions of the race more than he was at the time. I would run ahead then walk for a while until Rob would come up fast on my heals, we kept this going for some time until, at one aid station, Warm Springs Meadows I believe (mile 38.5), I took an extended detour into the woods, working on some, umm, 'secondary business,' when I emerged back on to the trail I was unaware of whether or not I had been passed so I decided to go on as if I had been, it turns out that Rob still was behind me at this point but that wouldn't be known for hours.
(About to begin the second out and back - Photo by Lucinda Iglesias)

The miles between Warm Springs and the Olallie Meadows camp grounds (mile 55) now seem uneventful in my mind, though I can specifically remember my amusement as I headed into the 'Pinheads' aid station and continually passing and being passed by the same two runners as we headed away form it. I guess that since the miles were not momentously bad or good the only portion I really recall well is the brief mile or so that leads off the PCT to the camp ground at mile 55.

When I sat down at Olallie Meadows I changed my socks and shoes, attempted to address some blister issues on the heal of my left foot, and proceeded to eat most everything in site. The volunteers at Olallie were amazing, rushing around making sure each runner had what they needed and then some, I must admit this did make the getting up and leaving all the more unappealing, never the less, I did eventually get up and was once again on my way.

From 55 to the Olallie Lake aid station at mile 58.3 I ran alone, despite the actually distance, this portion seemed long but soon enough I was once again being greeted by friendly volunteers (including a guitar strumming, beer drinking, singer who welcomed runners as we approached)!

I had been feeling good through out the race, but as I continued on to Breitenbush Lake at mile 65 time, time seemed to slow, and miles dropped off slower and slower. At one point, on my way up the hill that way clearly between myself and the aid station, I caught up with Gilles (whom, you may remember I spent the night running with at STORMY), I asked him how much further and he told me that the runner who had just past us going the opposite direction (on the "back" portion of this out and back) told him he had left the aid station 40 minutes (!) ago... I was stunned... how could it still be that much further?

Eventually though, I did arrive, I promptly sat down and soon was talking with 'Mike,' a Californian runner who was attempting his first 100. While talking it became apparent that he was in a bit of a jam, it seems he was with out his drop bag due to some miscommunication between himself and his crew, it was getting cold out and he nothing but what clothes he was already in, I loaned him some cheapo gloves and an extra shirt to layer over what he was already wearing and soon we both headed back into the woods. Once on the trail, it seemed to me the the head lamp Mike was wearing may not be adequate, I insisted he take my hand held flash light as well in case we ended up getting separated, soon there after, that's just what happened. I, for some reason, had gotten my second wind as night fell and was now running good again, eventually I lost sight of Mike behind me but continued forward knowing needed to take advantage of any strong running I had left.

Between 65 and the next aid station at mile 71.4 crossed paths with Rob once again, obviously he was behind me but I was glad to see that he appeared to be moving well so imagine my surprise when I got to the next aid station and there he sat, wrapped up in a blanket sitting next to the fire. He told me he had decided to drop back at mile 65 and was given a ride up to this aid station, I was disappointed for him as I know he was really hoping for a finish, but I won't begin to pretend that I know how it feels to run 70 at Plain and then another 65 less than 2 weeks later, especially knowing that we had both gone out too fast.

I joined Mark Dahlby on the way out of the aid station, together we ran for quite some time. At mile 75, the second visit to Olallie Meadows camp grounds, I once again changed my socks as Mark mumbled a bit about dropping, after a little shit talking from me and some pampering from a very helpful aid station volunteer, we were back on our feet, trying to stay warm as we headed back to the 'Pinheads' aid station.

Despite the good company from Dahlby, miles 75 to 'pinheads' at 85.6 were an unquestionable low spot for me. The entire 10 or so miles, I struggled trying to regulate my temperature going back and forth between too cold and too warm, on the few occasions that I did feel comfortable drowsiness would creep in, and my sleepy feelings were only worsened when the batteries in my head lamp began to dim. Mark did his best to keep me going though I am confident that I slowed us both down considerably, at one point I even needed to use his hand held as my headlamp had dimmed just too much to be useful. When we finally got to 'Pinheads' I was a mess, i sat down to change my batteries and was soon falling asleep being cared for by the volunteers like an ER patient. I told Mark to be on his way, as he was clearly moving better than I was and I had already wasted enough of his time as he waited there for me.

When I finally did head out, I was lucky enough to quickly end up on the heals of 2 more CA runners, Danni & Chris, they first offered to let me pass, but I had just worked hard to catch up with them and when I declined, Danni asked if I wanted to stick with them for a while, I jumped at the opportunity and was thrilled to have company. Despite the fact that I had gone back out on the trail on my own accord, I was still feeling, mentally, very fuzzy, and I can say for a fact that had I not joined up with these two I would have really been stuck in my rut.

I ran with Danni & Chris up until the last 3 miles or so, at which point I decided I'd see what, if anything, I has left. Shortly after breaking off and moving ahead of them I paused and sat on a log (don't ask me why, I really can't say except that I was feeling sorry for my self) very soon after I heard Chris's voice instructing me to "go on, git!," it made me laugh and got my ass in gear one last time, from that point on moved forward with purpose, running a good chunk and walking with determination when running didn't feel like an option. Finally, I saw the turn off on to the road which I knew lead to the finish, I began to run and didn't stop 'til I crossed the line, relieved and exhausted. My official finish time was 28:56:19, almost an hour faster than my STORMY finish time.
(At the finish line with co-race director Olga - Photo by Allison Moore)

At the finish line I was meet by Bob (who's been frequently referenced in past posts) who drove down to see me finish and, eventually, drive me back to Washington. We stuck around for quite some time BSing with other runners and sipping on a few brews (me, not Bob ;-). We ended up seeing all but the final finisher come in and from there headed back to Government Camp to have a burger and beer at the Mt. Hood Brewery. Within about 15 minutes of leaving the restaurant, I was fast asleep in the passenger seat, I stayed that way until we were about 50 miles into WA.

(Surveying the damage - Photos by Allisone Moore & Bob)

In the end, I generally had a great time out at 'Hood,' though I must admit, I feel like I'm may need to be out there next year again, just because I do think I can run better and faster on that course. At this point recovery is going well and I'm looking forward to the Carkeek 12 hour at the end of the month, between now and then I have my first half marathon (weird, I know) and hopefully plenty of good training miles!


Anonymous said...


Funny, I'm sure I was slowing you down! Thanks for the kick in the ass at M75, the sports beans, and motivating me to finish.

Thomas said...

Sipping my coffee while reading your race report. Fantastic job and congratulations on finishing your 2nd 100 miler and setting a PR, you make it look so easy! Feel bad for Rob for his consecutive failed attempts but I know he'll be back with a vengeance as he gets stronger and learns from each race. Have a great weekend!

Aaron Cunningham said...

Well done Nic.

Great race, great race report. I like it even better with the pics. :)

See you at Carkeek

Danni said...

Great report! And it was fun running with you. I was fun wasn't it? I'm sure it was.

Amber said...

Oh, gross! Your feet look sore!!! Congrats on your race and your PR! I've wanted to try an ultra but as of yet haven't had an opportunity and right now I'm nursing some sort of ankle injury. Keep up the good work!

Bozót said...

Congrats! What a lovely race (and report, of course)!
I really wish we had more events like that. There are a couple of 24/12hour races, some 80K/100K, but very few over +100K...

Backofpack said...

Whoa Nic, I'm really late reading this - but a huge congratulations! Sounds like you had a pretty good race to me. You are amazing!

Baldwin said...

Good report, thanks for the ibuprofen again. It saved my race and gave me a huge PR from Stormy.

Gary Vale said...

Great report. I met you a couple of times on the trail. It was Russ and I (Gary) who kept passing you on the uphills and you would pass us on the downs. Good job on your finish! Maybe I will see you there next year.
Gary Vale

32 degrees said...

dude, ur tough.