Sunday, September 21, 2008

Struggle in the Gorge

Mid week I emailed Nelson seeing if he had any plans for the weekends. His response "What you got in mind?" We decided initially on biking up to Mt. Hood, climbing it, then returning. A last minute decision was made - due to the changing weather - opting for riding out to the trailhead of Mt. Defiance in the Columbia Gorge, hiking to the top and returning. The hike part of this adventure would be like climbing Hood (albeit the altitude) since the elevation gain is ~5000ft (Mt Hood gain is Timberline Lodge at 6000ft and the summit is 11,200 +/-) so we thought it would be a good alternative.

We both bid farewell to the wives and headed out of Portland from Nelson's house at 10pm. Our rationale for these all-night adventures is to satisfy our addiction for adventure (and a little bit of pain and suffering) and be able to return to home at a reasonable hour - at least most of the time - to spend time with the family.

The ride out, for the most part, was uneventful. The descent from Crown Point is always fun to do.

The single track section just west of Cascade Locks, was a little dicey in areas so we did the hike-a-bike thing......the boulder fields with moss and lichen that were wet from recent showers made it slow going. Amazingly I ended up crashing once. My NiteRider headlamp worked great. They're worth every penny ---- even though they are expensive.

As usual, Nelson and I talked about future races/adventures....Hardrock, Badwater, John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail....politics, the yoyo of the stock market, family, etc.

It starting raining as we rolled into Cascade Locks. We stopped briefly to relieve ourselves and to shed clothing since surprisingly it was rather mild. There wasn't a head or tail wind tonight so we made good progress. The last 8 miles was on I-84. We flew through this part of the bike section.....fearing that some driver would run into us after falling asleep at the wheel. We rolled into the trailhead at 2:45 am after having ridden 62 miles. We filled our hydration bladders, changed into our running shoes and ditched the bikes behind a rock wall.

The hike up Mt Defiance was steep, windy and cold. Trail is here: Nelson set a good pace. My legs were a little tired from the ride and were still in recovery mode from the Wasatch Front 100 - just 2 weeks previous. The rain had stopped, but as we ascended, we went through a layer of dense fog from 1500ft-3000ft. The wind also picked up --blowing 25-35 mph. About a mile from the top we added layers. We arrived at the top at 5:20am after having hiked 5.5 miles and ascended the 5000ft. I took one photo at the top and we headed down.

We arrived back at the trail head at 8am. We climbed onto the bikes and headed home. By now the wind had picked up down by the River and we were now having to deal with a 30mph head wind. After a number about 10 miles of this torture, my engine was out of gas. I was struggling to keep the pedals going. Luckily, Multnomah Falls came up rather quickly and we stopped for about 10 minutes. Nelson stopped because my lack of riding fitness. When I returned with a 16oz cup of coffee (in the hopes this would get me up and over Crown Point), Nelson was talking with a roadie who was going some where east of the Falls. I didn't listen much but was trying get get beta (info) from Nelson about any mountain bike trails in the vicinity. I quickly downed a Clif Bar, drank some Nuun and we headed off. The first few miles went well but as we started the ascent to Crown Point I was again out of gas. Apparently I was still recovering from Wasatch.....or that this bike ride (my longest in many, many years) was just too much for me. I told Nelson repeatedly he could go on and I would meet him at his house. However, he was nice enough to stay behind and go at a snails pace. He literally pushed me halfway up Crown Point. The ride down to Troutdale went well.

The long haul on Halsey St was pure agony. It seemed like it took an eternity to get into Portland. We stopped at an AM/PM and grabbed a bag of Doritos. I downed a few handfuls and we headed off again. We arrived at Nelson's house after 15 hours on the go ----- riding 122 miles and hiking 12+/- miles. Another Nelson and Trevor adventure completed. Thanks Nelson for getting me through this one!

I got home, slept for an hour and was then on my way to pickup a glider for our soon-to-be daughter's room.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wasatch Front 100 Part II

Start to Francis Peak (mile 18.76)

The Petzel eLite headlamp was doing its job in the early morning hours of the race. At only 27g, can't complain about the weight of this little beast. The pace was a bit faster than what I anticipated for a 100 miler. I think most people were nervous. I was beginning to wonder if we were racing in a marathon and people forgot we had 100 miles with ~27000 ft of elevation gain AND loss. As we turned and made our way up Chinscraper for the ascent, the pace started to slow and people began walking. The climb up wasn't all the bad. Having climbed extensively in the Pacific NW, I'm used to steep ascents with loose, chossy footings. I refilled my water bottle at Cool Springs (mile 8.93). I still had plenty of Nuun left in my Nathan pack that I felt I could get all the way to the first aid station (A.S.). By this point I had caught up to Nelson who was moving along at a good clip. I settled into a nice pace with him and we began chatting about life, family, adventures. I again refilled my water bottle at Grobbens Corner (mile 13.35). The course follows a dirt road which is for access to the Francis Peak Radar Station - a large structure you can see from the valley's below. Nelson and I run in to Francis Peak A.S. at 9:30am (mile 18.76). Awaiting me are my Dad's and Trevor (my friend whom I met at the Peterson Ridge Rumble 50K in Sisters). I sit down briefly to grab some Clif & Clif Shots, Luna bars, orange slices, bananas and refilled my hydration bladder with Nuun. Trevor was surprised (as I was too) to see that I had only drank about 16oz out of the bladder. Trevor encouraged me to continue drinking. I left within 5 minutes of arriving. Nelson left just before I did.

Miles 18.76 to 39.4 (Big Mountain A.S)

For some reason I really don't remember this part of the course too well. I know that I had a low point between miles 30-33ish. I believe it was from lack of electrolyte/fluid intake early on. I had to sit down twice and collect myself. My stomach was acting up and was on the verge of puking on a number of occassions. Once I started gulping Nuun, I regained my composure and I was off running....all parts of the engine where now working properly again. My spirits were lifted to see Big Mountain A.S. from above. I cruized in to the A.S. at 2:41pm. Here again filled my water bottle (with water) and bladder (with Nunn). I downed a Myoplex protein drink and more slices of oranges, some Power Aid, and nibbled on a slice of leftover pizza from the night before. It was good to see the Dads and Trevor again. They really rejuvenated the spirits and the engine and told me I was doing great. Come to think of it, this was the first time I started to feel pressure points on my feet. I didn't think any thing of them since I hadn't experienced them in my long training runs and things were fine. However, as you will later find out, this is where I should have taken action to avoid what happened further along in the race to my feet. I was running in Montrail Hardrocks. I had to slightly modify the shoes...the lateral aspect of my ankle bone was rubbing against the shoe opening and I had my father-in-law cut a huge chunck out. This totally alleviated the pain on the ankle bone. Just before I left the A.S. I told Trevor to be ready a little earlier than expected - to begin pacing me at Lambs Canyon.

Big Mountain to Lambs Canyon (mile 53.13)

I struggled to get out of the A.S. After having sat for ~15 minutes my legs felt like bricks. I immediately passed a family who said a few words of encouragement. I nodded and hobbled up the incline. I was still nibblin' on the pizza which took me 20 minutes to finish. Next time, I don't think I'll get BBQ chicken pizza for the race -- more of a "neutral" flavor would probably settle better in the stomach.

This section along this course was great. Was able to run a fair bit of this section. We dropped from a high of 79o0ft to a low of ~6000ft. The downside of this section was running through a wasp or hornets nest -- one landed on my head, another on my leg and could hear them buzzing about. I took off on a full sprint waving my hands franticly, rubbing my arms, legs and head. Luckily I didn't get stung. However, other runners weren't so fortunate.

The final descent to Lambs Canyon seemed like it took an eternity. You could see the A.S. from a distance but the route kept making wide loops and turns. The final short, but steep ascent into the A.S. wasn't surprising (this course kept on dishing out these short but steep ascents). I ran into the A.S. at 6:25pm to meet the crew, Trevor and Trevor's girlfriend - Jen.

In the A.S. I ate bites or rice, potatoes, cups of Poweraid. I changed my socks. Got a brief but great massage on the legs from Jennifer - who later I found out is a licensed massage therapist! Nice!! Trevor.....lucky you!! :) I was happy to know that Trevor would be running with me the rest of the race. I got my headlamp on and carried my lightweight Patagonia jacket, gloves, bini -- anticipating rolling in to Millcreek A.S. in the dark. We left at 6:45pm. I heard at this point that Nelson was only 30-45 minutes behind me.....he was having a great race!

Lambs Canyon to Millcreek (mile 61.68)

Leaving Lambs and walking up the asphalt road I felt really strong. We were walking at a good clip -- ~4 miles/hr. Trevor and I caught up on life. The "Bear" ascent went well, still moving at a good clip. I ate most of the slice of pizza I had with me. All systems were running smoothly. The last part of this section - the asphalt road - seemed to go on forever. I should have looked at the map a little bit better. It was dark now and the temperature dropped. I put on my Patagonia jacket and gloves.

The A.S. at Millcreek was all abuzz when we pulled in at 9:15pm and it was COLD!!. I had covered just over 60 miles in 16 hours. I sat down and immediately wrapped myself with a sleeping bag. I ate a bowl of sphagetti, had a bunch of vanilla cookies (yummy!), and hot chocolate. Nothing else seemed appetizing. Trevor was forcing me to eat something. But I had lost my appetite a few miles back. Words of encouragement were coming from the Dads. I was trying to put on my best behavior but I think my spirits were beginning to suffer a bit. Also, I think I was so cold that I didn't notice my feet bothering me at this point. We were at the A.S. for 25 minutes and left thinking it would take us about 4 hours to get to Brighton (mile 75).

Millcreek to Brighton Lodge (mile 75.61)

It wasn't more than 15 minutes out of Millcreek that I knew I was in trouble. I noticed that my heels were becoming very painful. I wasn't able to walk well. My left foot was bothering me more than the right. This made me compensate and I then began to have pain in my right knee due to the extra work and due to the weird hobble I was now doing. I don't know how many times I stopped but it was fair too many. Trevor was very patient, continually saying that I was doing fair better than most racers (however, I was now getting passed by many people and he was saying that so that I would continue moving forward). It took me 3.5 hours to get to Desolation Lake that should have taken me only 2 hours tops! At Desolation A.S. I sat down and began to contemplate my chances of finishing within my time frame of 26-28 hours. One thing I had to do was get my feet tapped. Waiting for - what other volunteers referred to - the "tape-guy" to finish another runners feet, I downed more vanilla cookies & hot chocolate. I could't eat anything else. My system was shutting down.

Once the "tape-guy" was done with the other runners feet he came over to where I was sitting. I looked at his name was Carl. I asked Carl, "Are you a podiatrist". He replied...."Nope, I'm a stock broker." I laughed. Here was this guy out in the middle of nowhere taping feet......and is stockbroker! He laughed to. He did a damn good job!! We stayed there 30 minutes! It was agony to get going. My feet were now feeling the effects of 60+ miles. I never experienced such blisters on my feet before. Was it the shoes? Don't know. I had run many miles in them before and hadn't experience such issues. Was it the course...all the ups/downs...making my feet move around more than normal? Don't know.

We pulled into Brighton A.S. after I suffered for 3.5 hours from Desolation Lake. The descent into Brighton should've been a breeze but I was relegated to walking the entire downhill. People were passing me left and right...after awhile I didn't care. It was my race, not their's. I wasn't out here to prove anthing to anyone. I was doing this race for myself.

Trevor was still continually providing words of encouragement. At this point I knew my chances of finishing in my projected time were long gone. I was now just wanting to finish the race under the cutoff. I didn't care what time I got. If I could finish my first 100 miler, I would be proud....let alone one of the hardest 100 milers on the planet. I would contemplate what I should/could have done differently at the end of the race - not now - and learn from my mistakes later. Being my first 100, it was trial and error.

As I hobbled into Brighton Lodge I got weighed -- 161#. Not sure how I weighed the same. I hadn't eaten anything in hours - last my appepite hours ago. I was drinking my Nuun so that probably helped with retaining my weight. I sat down where the Dad's and Jen were waiting. I tried to eat whatever the Dad's brought to me. However, I just staired at the food, took small nibbles, not really ever finishing anything they gave me. The only thing I did finish was the Myoplex protein shake and some more cookies.

As we were sitting there, my Dad asked, "Are you going to finish." I looked around at the others, and I replied, "unless I die before I get to the finish." It probably wasn't the best response to your father who is witnessing his youngest son in the worst shape his ever seen me in. However, I was determined to finish.

Jen's massage on my right knee was a God-send and made huge improvements in my hobble. We left 50 minutes after arriving.

Brighton to the Finish (mile 100)

I left Brighton in a hobble. This hobble would continue till the finish. I was extremely sleepy and Trevor did everything possible to keep me on my two feet. It was cold on the ascent - our high point of around 10,500ft. I could feel the altitude take hold as we gained elevation. As we descended to Ant Knolls A.S. the sun was rising. My appetite was slowly returning. I ate a PBJ, a cup of OJ and some potatoes at Ant Knolls. We left in short order and headed for Pole Line Pass A.S. We arrived at Pole Line A.S. at 8:15am. We ate some more.....pancakes, PowerAid, candy and PBJ. I was no longer sleepy at this point. We caught up to some other racers whom passed me some time ago. It was good to finally be passing some one other than some one passing me. We stayed at Pole Line for only 9 minutes before heading out to Rock Springs and Pot Bottom. This section was more difficult than I had imagined. The descents were steep. The ascents were too numerous to count. The temperature was rising -- luckily something we didn't have to contend with throughout the race this year. The descent into Pot Bottom was brutal on the quads and I was relegated to walking. We finally arrived at Pot Bottom at around noon. We left and headed towards the finish -- eager to get this race done.

The 1.3 mile ascent up the dirt road was hot. Luckily the ~2600ft descent came sooner than expected and we were heading down to the finish. Some fellow racers were sprinting the almost 3 mile downhill. I walked the entire way. I figured I didn't need to "make-up" time. This would also prevent me from twisting an ankle as well as save my knees for another race.

The last mile took forever. Crossing the finish line was awesome. I hadn't experienced emotion like that in a long time. I hugged my Dad's. It was all worth the pain and suffering I went through.

There are many people to thank:

All my family who watched Mason on weekends that Christy worked so that I could get in some long runs or climbs in the Cascades.

My parents for encouraging me to get outside as much as possible when I was a young boy -- the bike rides, local races, backpacking trips -- even though they think this is crazy. I guess I can blame it on them...right?

The Dad's....for coming along on this journey and crewing me and putting up with my every need/want.

Trevor....for putting up with my slow-ass. We've got many more adventures ahead. (I later found out that we have the same middle name as well. Weird bro!)

Nelson...for signing me up to do this race. (Nelson ended up finishing with a time of 35 hrs -- not bad for a person who last ran in early May!!). We've done many adventures....on foot and bike....and there are many more to come.

In-laws....for their never ending support in these adventures. wife and son -- who put up with me and my obsession for these long adventures. Their never ending support and love is what keeps me going. I couldn't do it without them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wasatch Front 100 Part I

This is my first posting in my blog.

This past weekend I completed my first 1oo miler - the Wasatch Front 100 - in Utah.

The extended weekend all started early Thursday morning when we (my Dad and Father-in-Law) left Hillsboro, Oregon and headed east to Twin Falls Idaho which was where we would spend our first night. Friday morning we continued to our finally destination - Salt Lake City - where check-in took place at Sugarhouse Park. Luckily our hotel was located right across the street from the park - which made for an easy weigh-in and race debriefing as well as getting my 2 drop bags ready for the race. My buddy Trevor Garner from Victor, Idaho (who was to pace me starting at either Lambs Canyon or Millscreek Aid Stations) called and wasn't going to be arriving till around 11:00pm. I met my friend Nelson Snyder - who lives in Portland and have done many adventures with - at Sugar house Park. I did the weigh-in - 160.2 pounds - and dropped off my small dropped bags for Pole Line Pass A.S. (mile 83.39) and Pot Bottom A.S. (mile 93.13). After the race debriefing, both Dads and I headed out to get pizza (my favorite pre-race meal). It was recommended we try "The Pie"- . They know how to make excellent pizza. And the funky, alternative atmosphere reminded me of SE Portland. Cool place. I highly recommend it!! I opted not to have a beer. Better save that for after the race. After dinner, we retired to bed around 9pm since the alarm was set to go off at 3:30am to head back up north to the start of the race in Kaysville, UT. Surprisingly I slept well. The only interuption was T arriving.....which really wasn't an interuption. It was good seeing him again. Last adventure we did together was the Rim to Rim to Rim run in the GC (Grand Canyon) in early May. Since then Trevor completed Big Horn 100 & Leadville 100.
When we arrived at the start line I then started to feel a little nervous. Doubts started running through my mind.....Did I train enough? Was I in good enough shape? I know I should have done a few more 50 mile runs. Did I forget something?......then it was 5am, a few cheers and we were off and running.