Last year I finished my first 100 mile race, Leadville 100, and was left conflicted on whether I enjoyed the distance or not. On one hand, I was proud to finish the race and had many fond memories of the event. While on the other, I didn’t like the extended recovery after the event or the amount of walking a mid-packer like me does. In the end, however, one feels some pressure to attempt a 100 miler if you do enough 50k and 50 mile races. For good or bad, 100 mile races are largely considered the ultimate in ultramarathon distances.
|Hope Pass Leadville 2009|
Several factors contributed to me signing up for the Pine to Palm 100. First, I’ve become a much stronger runner working with Ian Torrence for the last 7 months. I was sure I could handle the distance better than last year. Second, I wanted to experience the trails that draw top ultrarunners to Southern Oregon like a siren’s call. Finally, and most importantly, I was pretty buzzed one night and got on ultrasignup.com and registered for the event.
|My kit set out the night before|
I felt pretty confident in my training leading up to the event. The 69 mile loop I did in the Evolution Valley of the Sierra Nevada last month was a huge confidence booster. My main goal was to finish the race despite how bad I felt or how crummy the weather got. Driving out to the start, however, Josh Brimhall gave me a little pep talk just in case I would have any thoughts of dropping. While I can’t quote him directly, the phrases “just think about going back and telling all the other SMUT (Saturday Morning Ultra Team) members you quit” and “I won’t even pick you up if you drop, you’ll have to wait hours in the rain so you may as well keep going” have a certain countenance to the tone. Because of the deep respect I have for Josh these words certainly stuck in my mind throughout the race.
|Minutes before the start|
Suddenly, Hal Koerner (elite runner and race director) was yelling go at the Williams Grange and we were off. The field seemed to spread pretty quickly and, despite being towards the back, I felt I was keeping the right pace. We had about 6 miles of road before hitting the single track just after dusk. About 30 minutes into the race it started raining. The rain continued almost non-stop until the race cut off 34 hours later. Because of this I didn’t get to see many of the beautiful sweeping views the Siskiyous offer. Ian Torrence did a lot of trail work getting the course ready and took pictures which can be seen on his blog.
|The Start Line-Williams Grange|
The next 25 miles or so I just slid into a comfortable pace. I wasn’t feeling very strong, possibly due to not taking in enough calories early on. These hours passed by quickly due to the excellent company I shared along the way. We had some deep and personal conversations despite not even being formally introduced in some cases. The bonds that occur with total strangers sharing an undertaking such as running 100 miles is hard to explain yet a profound and intriguing aspect of ultras.
At mile 31 aid station I had a drop bag and picked up an EFS gel flask, put a Starbucks Via in my bottle, and had some chips. I sipped on the flask for about 5 miles and felt a boost in energy. I decided to pick up the pace at mile 37 and was able to continue to suck down gels with impunity. At this point many of my contemporaries were walking almost all the uphills while I tried to run them all except when the grade made the exertion too taxing. In turn, I picked up several positions over the next 28 miles.
I still felt strong coming into the 65 mile aid station, Dutchman’s Peak. An aid station volunteer said a lot of people were dropping relatively few continued on. I sat by a propane heater for a minute to warm up and have some soup. At first I decided to forgo a heavier jacket in my drop bag until another runner sat down next to me. He had just come down from the peak and was visibly shaking and muttering “it’s so f..ing cold”. About .68 seconds later I was asking for my drop bag back to put on that jacket and some calf sleeves. The wind was howling along the ridge to the peak and the rain stung. The climb was short, however, and soon enough I was heading back down out of the worst of the weather.
|Road to Dutchman’s Peak-Gives an idea of the conditions|
About 2 am I was having a bit of a rough patch. I convinced myself that I missed a turn and started back uphill only to see some headlights coming the other way just when I reached the top. This cost me about 20 minutes, but at least I wasn’t lost. The course was extremely well marked and there weren’t that many crossing roads or trails to diverge on.
About an hour later I was jogging down a forest road swerving side to side like a drunk. I was just so tired I was almost falling asleep running. At the next aid station I had a hard time communicating with the volunteers and finally muttered something like “I just want to sit here for and close my eyes”. Even in my stupor I could sense they were thinking that I was a goner. However, after about 5 minutes I pepped up, had some soup and a quesadilla and headed out.
The next few hours are mostly a blur. As the sun started to come up the rain came down more relentless than ever. I was heading up the 4 mile out and back to Wagner Butte. Once at the top we had to climb some fairly precarious rocks to reach our flags. Normally this wouldn’t have been too challenging, but after 24 hours, 88 miles, and the weather this definitely got your attention. Getting the flag was a nice boost. From there it was 12 miles downhill to the finish. Not too say that it was easy though. We dropped over 5000′ in those 12 miles.
I took a bit of a detour after the mile 93 aid station which cost me about 20 minutes. Again the course was extremely well marked, I just totally geeked it. Maybe I was still distracted by the three beautiful ladies manning the aid station. Eventually, I found myself making the final turn to the finish coming in at 28:10.
|Happy to be done|
I am really happy with my performance at the P2P. It’s a challenging course but isn’t hard just to be hard like some courses. My recovery is already going much better than last year after Leadville. I had a better run 3 days after the race than I was having 3 weeks after Leadville. Although the rain was miserable during the event I have to admit it’s kind of cool that years from now I’ll be able to say I ran the P2P the “rain” year.