Ah and so where to start? Well you probably know the outcome which involved an ambulance; no flashing lights thankfully, and a quick trip to the hospital; well actually I was there most of Sunday afternoon, but let me start at the beginning…
I had taken Friday and Monday off to both travel and recover and so as I drove to Burbank Airport, somewhere I have never been before I merrily sailed by my exit, thereby turning a leisurely 45 minute 40 mile drive into a high speed 45 minutes 60 mile journey, anyway I managed to make the flight and was Oregon bound. After a short stop in San Jose I touched down and was met at the airport by Robyn and her Mum who had driven down from Seattle to crew for me. We tried to meet up with Christine but it wasn’t working timingwise so we headed out to the florally named Rhododendron to check into our hotel and go to packet pick up.
We found the hotel and checked in and then drove another 30 minutes or so to packet pick up where I met the recently married and ever high spirited Olga, I collected my number and shirt and we headed back to the town, we grabbed a bite to eat and basically parted company, I spent the next hour or so resorting my kit and all that good stuff, stood in the middle of the street to get a phone signal to phone my wife and then hit the hay with the alarm set for 3:30am.
The alarm came and by 4:45 we were at the start, it was cold, but short sleeves and armwarmers were enough and the sunrise was due in another 90 minutes. Everyone was in high spirits, headlamps were bobbing up and down everywhere and shortly we were called into line for the start, I unceremoniously headed to the back of the pack, I had a pace chart and knew what I need/wanted to do and that was really my strategy to pretty much run my own race by myself…this may seem a lonely or even selfish option but I was there to finish and to be honest to try and finish as quickly as I could.
With a whoop we were off and running down the road where we quickly turned onto a singletrack path, being that I was at the back or near the back I suffered from the dust kicked up by 100+ runners, ears, eyes and nose all became choked with it during the race (I didn’t actually realize how bad I looked until looking at myself in my hotel bathroom some 38 hours later!) and it created a fake cloud in the beam of my headlamp. I settled into a nice pace some running some walking and slowly the miles clicked by. The race comprised of two out and backs, 28 miles for the first one and 72 miles for the second. During the period the sun came out and I was treated to a great view of Mt Hood. Between mile 12 and 16, (I previously though 20 but some in some video from Mile 16 I talk about my knee), I stumbled on my right foot and landed awkwardly on my left twisting my knee, it hurt but it was very runnable on and wasn’t really and issue, I anticipated taking some ibuprofen when I got to Robyn and my bag.
To be honest a lot of the Aid Stations are a bit of a blur, Robyn and her Mum were awesome, appearing with sports drinks, gel, a smile and a cheer. I had also marked on my pace chart where to switch out 305s; I liberated my wife’s and as a result have all but the last 10 miles recorded, had I been faster I would have recorded it all, and for the last section it kept going for nearly 13 hours before dieing. I remember being at 28 miles in 6 hours (4.7mph) a sub 24 hour finish speed and thinking wow this is going really great. I was feeling strong and my hydration and nutrition was pretty dialed in, I predominantly used Cytomax in two flavors usually with a Nuun tablet thrown in and Chocolate#9 gels, I took a flask of Hammer gels also, during the day I was also refueling with PB&J sandwiches and during the night chicken noodle soup with occasional cup of coke/spirit and S-Caps although the latter did make me feel a little queasy after taking them so I only took them every other hour. For the record I drank somewhere around 30 bottles of fluid; about 660oz, which works out to be just over 5 gallons, and about 20 gels.
My knee was getting sore and so when I got to Robyn I grabbed a baggie of Ibruprofen, taking four straight away, another two and hour later and another three and hour after that, I thought they were 100mgs each, turns out they were 200mgs each! They were having little effect and I didn’t want to overdose on them, thinking I had already taken 900mgs, so I left it at that. I started up the second out and back which would take me up to the turnaround at Breitenback Lake where I would meet Christine who was going to pace me from mile 65 to mile 75.
The next section entered Warm Springs Indian Reservation and we were not allowed to have any crew meet us so I was on my own till mile 54 where I would meet Robyn again. The next 22 miles were covered in 6:05 so I was clearly slowing down a combination of the terrain and my knee. We were also instructed to carry flashlights/headlamps etc for the stage which, with hindsight, seemed odd as it wouldn’t be dark when we arrived and I was hovering around DFL (Dead F%^&#@*g Last)! There were four Aid Stations along the way but like the others these were a bit hazy! I distinctly remember having a low point here after being passed by four other runners who I knew, having seen them on the first out-and-back, at least 2 hours behind me! Nevertheless I plodded on, my knee was getting sorer and I knew at mile 55 I would be able to tape it proper with some KTTape that I had in my bag, I actually had zero discomfort from either my runner’s knee that had been plaguing me for the last month and had taped it from the start, or my ITB which had threatened to make a comeback, I had removed my ITB strap earlier on.
I rolled into the Aid Station and Robyn directed me a camp chair that she had prepped for me, while he Mum got me some chicken noodle soup. I tapped my thigh with all the KTTape I had, about 7 pieces in total, basically wrapping up my quadricep in as much of a supportive way I could . I had had a hot spot on my heel for the last 10 miles so I changed my socks, there was no blister and it felt like a tiny piece of gravel had got into my shoe. It proved to be something more and a blister did appear later on; it grew, grew some more, then burst, then tore off and then just plain hurt, as it was right on my heel I got to practice my forefoot running which is all well and good but now my toenail is about to drop off…note to self; dress early! I grabbed an extra later knowing that I was heading out into the soon to be arriving darkness and unforecasted cold.
From here I headed up towards Brietenback Lake, 10 miles away, I covered the first four miles in about an hour making the next Aid Station just before sunset. I remember thinking how surprised I was about the lack of wildlife I had seen, a grand total of one grouse and a chipmunk, seriously that was it. When I ran into Aid Stations during the day typically the first question I was being asked was ‘can I fill your bottles” well not here, here I was asked ‘hey did you see the bears”? Eh no and I never did and that was just fine!
I had six miles to the turnaround and to the high point of the course at about 5500’, this was by far the gnarliest part of the course, nearly every step threatened to twist your ankle. I was seeing occasional runners walking towards me and not one of them was running, quite possibly it could have been run in the daylight but in the dark it was next to impossible. I just got my head down and got on with it, fighting the hill and fighting the cold. I reached the turnaround, took my now compulsory cup of soup, then another and asked had anyone been waiting for me, I was told no but apparently the road was nearly impassable in all but a hi-lift 4x4 which reinforced what Robyn had told me earlier on. To be honest I was concerned that the trail would be too much for Christine and she could have injured herself. I was relieved to find out the next day that she had gotten lost and given up after driving around in circles. There was no point in delaying the inevitable and so I left. I reached the next Station and headed straight to the fire pit to warm up. This twelve mile section had taken five hours!
My leg, while not too painful as I was really only walking, had slowed me down some but combined with the terrain I was really behind schedule. I had four miles to the 75 mile point where I would pick up Lori who would be pacing me through to the finish, I had given her the window of 8:00-11:00pm, I arrived at the Aid Station at about 1:45pm. I saw Lori and her husband and thanked them for coming out and waiting and waiting! Without a shadow of doubt without Lori I would not have got as far as I did during the night and next morning, but I am getting ahead of myself. We left the Aid Station just after 2:00am, just ahead of the 3:00am cutoff.
Now it's late. So this is to be continued...