Monday, September 7, 2009

Where's Waldo 100k Race Report

(Photo by Richard Bolt)

This year's Where's Waldo 100k, designated the 2009 USA 100k Trail National Championships, also kicked off the revamped 2009/2010 Montrail Ultra Cup. Taking place in the Willamette National Forest in Crescent Lake, Oregon and being only 1 hour and 20 minutes from my front door, it is the closest I have gotten to a "local" ultra marathon.

Three weeks prior to the race I had a great 50K training run on the the course, including solid climbs up Mt Fuji and Maiden Peak done in 5:03. From that point on I had a sketchy hip flexor/knee injury that had me in serious doubt for finishing the WW100k. Race week I took three days off and had a massage and two Active Release/Chiropractic treatments in hopes of maximizing my chances of finishing.

Lewis Taylor and I arrived early evening the night before the race, just in time to attend the pre-race meeting/instructions. After that I hit up the pasta dinner (which would come back to haunt me) prior to settling down for a short night of sleep in the back of my truck. The alarm went off at 2:30AM and I was up for my pre-race coffee. We lined up behind the Willamette Pass Ski Lodge (5,100 ft. ASL) and at 5AM we we headed up the slop by the light of headlamps.
I immediately settled in to a very conservative pace, monitoring my body and not even thinking about racing. For the first time, I went to the start line not knowing if I could finish, never mind finish in the top 5. So it went, following the glow sticks on our way to the Gold Lake Aid Station (7M).

Casual Start
(Photo by Richard Bolt)

Within a few miles of the start I made my first bathroom stop. I jumped out of the bushes, back onto the trail and caught up to a small group, including Joell Vaught of Boise and Brian Schmidt of Virginia. Before long I was back in the bushes for stop number 2. Back on the worries its a 10 hour race. Right. Hold on...upon arriving at Gold Lake, I was in the real bathroom maintained by the park service for stop number 3. No problem...only down a few minutes at the first aid station arriving there in (1:07). Normally this is where everyone drops off their headlamps prior to the 2,300 ft. climb up to the summit of Mt. Fuji (7,300 ft.), but I ran through and forgot until I was well passed.

Crossing over Rd. 4290 (Waldo Lake Road) for the first time, I moved passed Bev Anderson-Abbs. At this point I was still sorting through my stomach issues, while trying to stay comfortable. From here to Fuji Mt. 1 aid station (1:58), I would make pit stops 4 and 5. The climb up to the summit of Mt. Fuji was uneventful. It was my first look at who was actually up ahead of me. As the leaders were coming down from the summit I recognized most (Skaggs, Miller, Bryant, Andrish, Olsen, Lantz, Anderson-Abbs, Vought) and arrived arrived at the top with William Emerson. At this point, I was quite happy that my hip was not an issue at all and I told RD Craig Thornley as much when I saw him. I was also ok with my 13th place overall after the first peak. Normally I would have liked to have been closer to the top 5 but with my pre-race concerns, I was very happy. If my GI tract would only finish what is was dealing with, I would be on my way to moving closer to the front of the field. Just prior to Fuji Mtn 2 AS (2:28), I hit the bushes for pit stop 6. Once that was through, I passed my headlamp to Gary Stott (who was working the AS), grabbed my re-filled bottles from the super volunteers and headed down the South Waldo Trail in search of those ahead of me.

Mt Fuji Summit
(Photo by Laurie Monico)

From Fuji Mt 2 AS (14.9M) to Twins 1 AS (27.1M), I would finally finish my business in the bushes with 5 more pit stops. En route to the to Twins 1, I moved from 13th overall to 9th by passing Bev Anderson Abbs, William Emerson, Brett Rivers, and Brian Schmidt arriving at (4:18) into the race. I felt like I was finally moving forward and was actually having alot of fun being able to compete. This is the point in the race where I just tried to pass the time and let the miles go by. Arriving at Charlton Lake AS (32M) in 5:02, it was great to see RD and local guy Craig Thornley again. As usual I tried to move through as quick as possible.

It was at this point that I actually gained serious time on those ahead of me. Heading into Rd4290 AS (5:47) at 37M, I would catch and go back and forth with Women's Leader Joelle Vaught. She was running very tough and was a great steady climber. We would continue to run close to each other until the climb up the Twins. Her and I would both catch up with Mark Lantz and then Mark and I would climb up The Twins (7,100 ft.) together. Arriving at The Twins 2 AS (7:09) at 44.5 miles, I had moved into 7th place and was feeling very good about my chances of moving into the top 5. Ever since I got rid of my small waist pack at 21 miles, I had started a great routine of taking gels and S-Caps at the aid stations. This was the first time in 8 ultras that I have not carried all my own gels and S-Caps. This worked quite well. I think I may have found a new routine!

Soon after the Twins 2 AS, I got a visual up ahead of Yassine Diboun and he looked to be cramping up. I knew that Mark Lantz was right behind me and thought that this was where the race would really start to heat up. After moving past Yassine (into 6th place), I felt a stabbing pain on the medial side of my knee. This was one of those pains where you think to yourself "this is not good". The downhill stretches were excruciating and I knew I would pay for it after the race. There was not much else to do but push through it and move forward as quick as possible. I often took brief stops to massage the area, knowing that it was not doing a dam thing. My only respite was the dreaded climb up Maiden Peak, which involved a solid amount of hiking. This was the one action that would not elicit the pain.

Maintaining my 6th place, I arrived at the Maiden Peak AS (50 miles) in 7:55. After filling bottles, grabbing 2 gels, and swallowing 2 S-Caps, I started the steep 3 mile climb up to the Maiden Peak Summit (7,800 ft.). Just behind me, I could here someone else arriving, most likely Mark Lantz. Sure enough Mark and I were together 1/3 of the way up. He relayed to me that Yassine was in trouble with cramps behind us. I knew that everyone had a problem or two. Halfway up, the climb started to get on Mark and I moved ahead to try and put some ground between us.

My last long run 3 weeks earlier I had climbed this stretch in the middle of 31 miles in 44 minutes. Today, I thought 60-65. Nearing the summit and going through the rocky final 300 meters I came across last years' winner Neil Olsen coming down. I was surprised that 5th was so close! I pushed on to the summit, arriving in 55 minutes from the AS. However, I knew I was going to have to pay the piper on the steepest decent of the course...."The Leap of Faith Trail". Just before this trail head I saw Lantz and "alive again" Diboun approaching the summit together with Joelle just behind them. The race was on over the final 9 miles.

Just as I thought, Lantz and Diboun closed the gap on me on the downhill, as my knee was screaming at me. We arrived pretty much together at the final Maiden Lakes AS (55 miles) in 9:10. I was back in 8th place, hoping to stay in the race. I often caught myself looking over my shoulder, hoping not to see anyone behind me. There were times on the final 7 mile stretch were I thought I was still moving well and was close to a finish of 10:20. Somewhere, a couple miles from the finish, I saw Yassine up ahead and thought maybe I still had a shot at him. Before I knew it, I came across Sean Meissner at the final turn of the course telling me I had only 400m to the finish. Once on the final straight away, I could see that I was very close to both Yassine and Mark Lantz. Pushing hard to the finish, I ran out of trail finishing in 8th place (10:16:36).

At the finish...I had never been as fresh and as full of energy after 50M+ as I was on this day. I guess I attribute this to not being able to go to the well like I normally would because of the stomach and then the knee. This gives me hope for the future at races of 60-100 miles. All in all, this was a great experience and a confidence booster. I look forward to coming back to Waldo and really getting after it. WW100k was the best organized trail race that I have yet to take part in! The trail markings were unbelievable, the volunteers on top of everything, and the course was awesome! Thanks Craig and Curt and everyone else for putting on a top notch event.

Top 10 Overall

1. Erik Skaggs, OR (9:11:05) CR
2. Zach Miller, MT (9:39:35)
3. Jason Bryant, NC (9:49:08)
4. Neil Olsen, OR (10:02:39)
5. Sean Andrish, VA (10:03:36)
6. Mark Lantz, CA (10:15:49)
7. Yassine Diboun, OR (10:16:16)
8. Matt Lonergan, OR (10:16:34)
9. Joelle Vaught, ID (10:23:32) CR
10. Jace Ives, OR (10:55:54)

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