Totally Focused. Photo: Win
With that in mind, the morning of the race, Joe dropped me off at the ski lodge at 4:45am and in 15min we would be chasing the light of our headlamps up the ski slopes to kick-off the 11th annual running of the Waldo 100k (or, in the case of this year, 105 kilometers due to the rerouting that had to be done as a result of the fires). Speaking of headlamps, at 4:50am I realized I had forgotten mine back at camp, so I ran 300m across the parking lot to our campsite (tripping over some tree branches in the process), snagged it, and casually walked back over with 3min to spare. Deep breath. A determined look forward. A few "good lucks" and Craig sent us off.
Engaging the opening climb, Ian, Yassine and I were out in front with Timmy and Jesse Haynes right there in the mix as well. Ian and Yassine settled into a powerful, yet quick hike, which sort of prompted me to take the lead. Here we go I thought. I wasn't necessarily pushing up this climb, but not taking it easy either. My breathing became deeper, legs tickled with benign streams of lactic acid, and tightness barked from various areas in my legs. I had about 20-30 seconds on a bobbing headlamp behind me, but just focused on finding the course markings and making sure the mechanics were as efficient as could be. Lift with the glutes, stay forward, quick feet.
After just over 1000' of opening vert, the course flattened/mildly rolled and led me over to the Taits Trails where it would weave and descend to the Skyline Trail and eventually pop out at Gold Lake Aid (mi 7.4). Just before hooking up with Gold Lake Rd, I saw a headlamp closing in on me. I intentionally eased a little (I was trying to keep my breathing/heart-rate as relaxed as possible) and Ian Sharman pulled up next to me. It was nice to have someone to chat with and we both pulled into the aid at exactly 1:00. A quick refill, short jog up Waldo Lake Rd, and a left onto the Fuji Mt. Trail (with Tim now right behind us). In the ensuing miles, this 5+mi climb would take us up 2,300' to the summit of Fuji (7,144').
|Ian reeling me in just before Gold Lake Rd. Photo: Win|
Ian and I said our departing words and I just focused on getting up Fuji as relaxed and efficient as possible. At times, I would glance back to see Tim chipping his way up maybe 30-40 seconds back and knowing he is one of the best climbers in our sport, this motivated me to keep on it. I summitted Fuji (2:04), took in a quick glance of the misty, green landscape that lay before me and got back to work. I looked at my watch to see what sort gap I had and was semi-comforted to see that Tim was still ~40 seconds back, but Ian, Jesse, and Yassine were 4-5min back, working in tandem.
I made quick work of this long, rolling descent; hooked up with the Mt. Ray Trail and kept the 7-8min pace flowing. Nutritionally, I was popping a gel every 20min, drinking when I felt thirsty (which was super minimal), and about 2:30 in, gnawed on my first S-Cap.
|Probably somewhere on the Mt. Ray Trail. Photo: Gregory Shumavon|
The Mt. Ray Aid (mi 20.5) came pretty quick (2:57) and it was pretty comical to see the puzzled looks on everyones' faces - trying to piece together who this bearded, hairy man with a samurai ponytail was - as I surely was not the guy people expected to be leading this race. A few times before Mt. Ray I was called "Ian" to which I would let out a chuckle and say "Thank you!" in my pseudo British accent (just kidding).
After leaving Mt. Ray, this next portion consisted of uber-douchey grade that climbed, what seemed like forever, but I kept the foot on the pedal and eventually hooked up with the 3/4mi (still douchey) road section up Waldo Lake Rd. A bike pacer joined me and informed me that I had 4min up on Tim and no sooner than he spoke did the rain start coming down. Ah, so refreshing! He was dancing on the pedals next to me so as a fun, mini-challenge; I wanted to see if I could out-run the bike pacer on this uphill stretch, so I upped my turnover and cheerfully chipped my way up the road as he worked the bike next to me. "At the crest of this road, take a right and it's another 1.5mi climb to the aid-station." He informed me. Man, this grade is starting to wear on me.
Sure enough, when I regained the trail, I started to feel the effects of nearly 5mi's of continuous gentle-ish climbing. And again, the thought of the recently-crowned WS course-record holder and potential '12 UROY nipped at my psyche, therefore, I kept the pace honest all the way up to the aid at Twins #1 (mi 25.5, 3:44). The transition - as it had been so far up to this point - was quick and I began to hit some rollers just out of the aid with the expectation of enjoying a much welcomed overall downhill section into Charlton Lake (mi 30.4) where I would see my wife and pick up Joe as a pacer for the last 35mi's. However, I hit my first mini-rough patch through here as my climbing legs over the rollers felt worked a bit. On top of that, I'd been fighting off the need to pee and deuce for over 15mi's and my tummy felt slightly on the bloated side because of that.
Some mental ping-pong went back and forth and I decided I was willing to forgo some time in order to feel better down the road. I squatted, released some gel-paste and in a swift 10-second production was back on the trail. Whew, that felt good. The bladder was still giving me "open the flood gates" signals, but I didn't want to stop again, so I didn't. I was wearing a sweet pair of Injinji socks that I scored at packet pickup and unlike the sockless vulnerable feet I had at AR50, I figured the Injinji's could handle a little urine. So yet again at another race I just pee'd my shorts and kept going (The socks did protect my feet from any painful blisters later on!)
Once I got through this bad-patch, I started moving again at 7min pace down to Charlton Lake. I was so pumped to be hooking up with Joe and let that fuel me during this section. I literally flew into the aid-station n (4:21), grabbed a few gels, received some encouragement from my wife, saw Joe fiddling with his jacket, and took off.
Joe caught back up and I was pretty eager to fill him in on how the race had been unfolding thus far. He too was doctor-like in "examining me" to make sure I was taking in what I needed and still running with efficient mechanics. The section from Charlton to Road 4290 Aid is so sweet and super fast. Therefore, Joe and I made honest work of this section and I could feel that we were pushing a solid 7-8min pace. "Elbows!" "Quick feet!" "Chin down, sternum down, chest forward!" Like a drill instructor building up his soldiers with timely commands, Joe provided the right cues when I needed them.
We came into the aid at 4290 (mi 35.6, 5:04) and Joe suggested I down some Coke in order to get some quick cal's and salt. I pounded a few cups and exclaimed, "Wow, that was goooooood!" Like a sugar-rushed adolescent I felt all giddy after sucking down some of that liquid nectar. "Dude, I'm totally doing that again at the next aid." So from there, the plan at each aid was simple: Pound Coke, grab gels, refill, and then get the hell out of there!
This next portion of the course from 4290 up and over the Twins (7,362') would be a pretty big test for us and the uphill rollers are relentless and the upper-section of the Twins is a somewhat challenging climb. To help ease the mood and add a little cheer to the mix, Joe decided to belt out some early 90's tunes. Boyz 2 Men? TLC? Snoop Dogg? Nope. What came next was: "La Dadda Dee Da Da Da Da!" He chose La Bouche's "Be My Lover!" Here we were, two grown men charging up this 2,000'+ climb, in unison, singing "Be My Lover." But it worked!
For a brief moment, that is. Because just before the top, my energy levels hit the floor and I became pretty woozy. "I'm bonking!" I belted out. Contrary to Joe's pacer report, after he told me not to eat up this climb, I really didn't. So when I felt my body wanting some sugar, I sucked down a gel and after a few min on the ensuing descent, felt a little better.
|Just about to the shoulder of The Twins. Photo: Phil Vaughn|
The descent down to the aid at Twins #2 (mi 43.1) was pretty ugly though. My quads were pre-cramping, my form was super inefficient, and I was thirsty. I stumbled into the aid (6:20) half-dazed, but a few cups of Coke and some needed water and fuel did the trick.
Up next we would be going down that douchey grade I had come up earlier. And pretty much the next 6+mi's were essentially either flat or downhill which was awesome. Therefore, Joe barked orders to get my downhill stride back in an efficient state and it did come around, but not as well as I'd liked. From analyzing the splits, this is where Tim would begin to pull back some time on me (I had held my 8-9min lead for 13mi's since Charlton).
The long descent down to Gold Lake (mi 49.6) was pretty uneventful as I just tried to maintain an honest pace and keep pushing. Joe and I tried switching it up at times in the pacing department where he would take the lead and try to pull me along. It did help on some stretches, but on others I was just sort of out of it and in survival mode. My quads were pretty trashed, but in spite of that, I was still able to keep moving decently well.
Soon enough, with the sun now shining and the last monster climb left, we rolled into Gold Lake Aid #2 and I was out just ahead of Joe. I moved pretty well up Gold Lake Rd and I could hear Joe behind me trying to catch up and working pretty hard himself. We eventually turned left onto the Maiden Peak Trail and made the pretty gentle-ish 3mi/1,000' climb up to the next aid (about 400' of that coming in the last 1/2mi of it). Just before the aid, my climbing legs - on the steeper stuff - were starting to give-way and I ended up hiking (for the first time on the day) up to the aid (mi 53).
Through here, Joe began to sense some urgency and got me out of there pretty quick and into the last big climb of the day: 3 more miles and 2,100' of gain up to the top of Maiden Peak (7,818'). I started climbing fairly descent initially, but from there, a gradual digression began to take place. Running turned into shuffling, then shuffling turned into more hiking. I just knew Tim was making up ground. Not only is he a strong climber, but he is usually the strongest in the later stages of the race (as exhibited by recording the fastest last 38mi's of WS by a huge margin and a 58min clip from Hwy 49 to the finish; unreal!). I kept telling myself I just needed to get to the top and I'd be able to close it out on the descent. More hiking. Ugh! Thankfully, Joe kept cracking the whip (which is what I needed) and kept emphasizing that we couldn't let Tim see us after descending Maiden Peak because if he smelled any blood, the hunt would be on.
|"HOW MUCH FURTHER?!?!" Photo: Kelly Woodke|
Thankfully, finally, we reached the top. Ok, we had to get down as quickly as possible. No sign of Tim. Perfect. And then, there he was chugging up the climb and almost to the top. I guesstimated my lead to be just over 1min. There's still hope.
|Joe pushing me down Maiden Peak. Photo: Long Run Picture Co.|
Joe then unleashed a string of expletives and hollered that we had to get down asap! I tried my best down "Leap of Faith" (a brutally steep descent with boulders and rocks lining your path). My quads hurt bad, but I tried to push. And then, "AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!" I yelled out in pain as I hit the ground and my right calf seized up. I had tripped on one of those boulders and landed awkwardly on my right leg, causing my calf to feel like it was tearing in two. "GET UP! GET UP!!!!!!! Joe yelled. "Relax the foot! RELAX!" I did and got up and that seemed to help. I shuffled for a few strides until I felt the calf fully release. How has Tim not caught up yet? Ok, back to work.
The trail was still pretty steep still and I picked my way down - each step painful as my quads protested the effort. I kept my head on a swivel and looked for a charging Tim Olson. A few huffs and puffs from behind and there he was. "I was wondering when you were going to catch up, what took you so long?!" I said. He laughed and congratulated me on an impressive run and on snagging a WS spot. I asked him if he saw Ian (knowing full well that Ian can descend with the best of 'em) and was surprised to hear that he pulled out at mi 20. Tim assured me that there was nobody close which was comforting to hear. All I had to do was not blow it in the last 7.5mi's and I had, dare I say it, a coveted entry into WS '13.
Now with the "W" likely out of reach, I still made the effort to try and latch on to Tim. He pulled into Maiden Lake Aid (mi 58) just ahead of me and left just before me. I got what I needed and knew that if I could just get over these few rollers ahead, the rest would be super fast downhill/flat into the finish. It was a rough going out from the aid, but with Joe's help and timely cues, my stride regained some of its former glory on the descent. I was now moving again and just after Lower Rosary Lake - not even thinking about Tim at this point - a photographer (named Win) shouted, "He's 3min up!" I then called ahead to Joe, "Should we go for it and try to get him?" "Let's do it." Joe replied.
|Making the final push (with Joe in the background). Photo: Win|
The pace then kicked down from 8min pace to 7:30's and even though it hurt, it was a manageable pain it seemed. As much as I wanted to kick it down even further into the 6min range, my legs just couldn't get there, so I resolved that Tim had it fully wrapped up and all I needed to do was cross the finish line, which, after cruising off the PCT and making a ~400m "sprint" back to the lodge, I finished 4min behind Tim in a time of 9:52:43, 2nd place and the first Montrail Ultra Cup WS entry of '12/'13. I still can't believe it.
Joe's Pacer Report
|My goodness.....I just want to lay down. Photo: Marc Laveson|
|Ok, much better. And an incredible wife by my side:) Photo: Marc Laveson|
|I must've laid there for like 2hrs. Joe holding up my "Ticket to Western States" tag. Photo: LB|
|A very nasty foot with a very appropriate "name tag". Photo: Sara Rydman|
|NB 890v2's are legit. See, Tim thinks so too! ha Photo: Marc Laveson|
|Yep, sounds about right. Hey, if you can tire out Tim Olson, you know you're having a good day:) Photo: LB|
Sara said I look like I'm 40yrs old here (the denim "Jirt" doesn't help either). Beauty and The Beast! Photo: OOJ
RD's Craig Thornley, Meghan Arbogast and Team - Western States picked the right man for the job as Craig was thorough, transparent, and professional in handling the unfortunate fires that took place on the course days before the race. Craig put runner safety as the primary focus, but did all that he could to ensure this event would be run in such a way that everyone would be able to enjoy this beautiful course. Thank you Craig, Meghan, and team! Waldo was top-notch on every level. Perfect course markings, outstanding volunteers and AS captains, ideal location, some of the best prizes I've seen, sweet bbq post-race, great community of folks to hang out with, and Maiden Peak! I would recommend this race to anyone (but you have been warned that this is a tough course!). The mantra I kept hearing: The pain of running 100mi's crammed into 100km. Yeah, my body agrees.
Shoes - I went with the New Balance 890v2's (same shoe I wore for AR50). There's a reason this is my go-to shoe for most runs. Ideal weight-to-support ratio (9+oz/8mm drop/plenty of cushion for the long-haul). My feet felt pretty good post-race. My joints didn't ache and I didn't experience any weird/unusual pain in my knees from all the descending or in any other place. I'm thinking this is the shoe from Foresthill to the finish at WS (heck, maybe even for the whole race!). When your leg muscles poop out in the later stages of a long ultra, you need a shoe to be there with the right amount of support and lightness to it and frankly, this shoe does it for me.
Friends and Family - God has blessed me with this gift to run and I pray that I use it wisely with an open hand and he is glorified through it. It's been a wild journey (as following Him is) and I'm continually humbled by His love for me through the thick and thin of the craziness of life. Also, I was so glad Sara was able to be up there. Her presence, love, and joy is contagious. I really couldn't do it without her and continue to love her more each day simply for who she is and for God's love that pours from her heart. And Joe, man, he sacrificed himself for the betterment of my race. What a great friend and an awesome time that we got to run together. I really enjoyed my 5 days up in Oregon mostly hanging out with him. Looking forward to the trips he'll be making down here as we prepare for WS and eat barrels of pickled chips at the Auburn Alehouse. New Balance Roseville is consistently awesome in their support and I'm so appreciative that they help me pursue my passion. I hope that store is blessed in return and others support them as they support me.
The Runners - Thank you to the early starters who I would come across at different points on the course. You guys were awesome and it was fun to briefly chat and laugh on the way. I have much respect too for all who toed the line at Waldo. As one early starter said to me, "We're all in the same boat, some of us just do it a little faster." So true, my thoughts exactly.
Tim Olson - ...."This is the guy who took the bread out of Jimmy's mouth!".... You intentionally/unintentionally pushed me to a level I had yet to experience until then. That's what it's all about. Brothers out on the trail, pushing together, and bringing out the best in one another. Thank you for that! And I hope you bought A LOT of diapers with your winnings. You are an awesome Dad.
Thank you all!