I left Horse Camp at 12:05pm with both bottles full plus a handheld and walked a few minutes just to let the salt and all the calories kick in. As I begin jogging, I realize this is not the same course I ran the PCT 50 miler last July. For one thing, the course is initially flat and very runnable. In fact, I make really good time and hit the first fire road crossing after a few minor hills. I make a mental note of the course as I had passed Miller trail about 1.5 miles before the fire road. I feel really good all the way up to Red Wolf Pass and even though I get passed by Anil (who I met on the last 25 miles of Tahoe Rim 100), I'm okay with it. I drink, eat ginger and pee regularly. Get to the aid station in just a little over an hour and think I see Gilles leaving, but I take my time getting bottles refilled. I know I have 69 miles to catch him, so I'm not worried. It's starting to get warm so I hustle back on the PCT because I know I have 2 miles of shaded downhill singletrack in front of me.
I remember how good it felt the last time I did the section two months ago and with no sour stomach it was even better. I let gravity take over and pass another runner who I thought was Gillles, but some other guy. Hmmph. I guess like me, Gilles wants to redeem himself after Cascade Crest. Hit a fireroad, slight right and back on the PCT. More downhill and the temperature's a little cool which just encourages me to speed up. I'm actually feeling good and take advantage of this mood to pick it up. I hit the first patch of exposed trail which I know is the prelude to the little creek with a log bridge. No sooner do I hit the bridge, I see three of the six racers who I will spend the next 20 hours with leapfrogging each other for most of the race: Anil, Glen and Kate. As soon as they see me at the other end of the log bridge, they started running up to Warm Springs. By the time I get to the other side of the bridge, they have vanished, but I catch them pretty easily as I know it's a steady hike to the aid. Soon it's just the four of us in a conga line going up, mostly walking with a little running here and there. We come up to another runner Perry with red shoes and matching socks even though that was a coincidence or so Perry claimed. Most of the runners scoot ahead as I take a pee break, (damn proper hydration!) and when I catch up we're at Warm Springs (Mile 38.5) where the most delightful little guy asked for bib number and in almost hushed tones said there was possibly some pumpkin bread available. Sure enough, the little guy's mum was slicing up a loaf and if Iwanted some. "Bread? I'll have some of that. And I did and it was good and there was much rejoicing....." I also spot Gilles here who's just leaving. I get my bottles refilled,take some cookies and more pumpkin bread,mumble "Thanghk yaew." And I starting climbing with the Party of 5. We do a fair bit of walking here ,picking Gilles up along the way and then see a nice little dusty descent. As Gilles, Glen and Kate take off, I spend a little time soaking my bandana, and tying it around my mouth as a makeshift dust mask and it feels good for about 20 seconds. Then I have to stop and dump out all the accumulated pebbles and grit out of my shoes. Perry passes me here as I had passed him doing the same thing that I was doing now. I put away the bandana and haul ass down the trail leaving Anil in my proverbial and literal dust. I catch up to Perry, then Gilles who lets me pass, I'm still running downhill when I spot a curious sight. A runner (#12) has taken off his waistpack and is lying down on the incline on the right side of the trail and I think he's taking a nap! I ask him if he's okay and he's fine, just laying in the shade. I resume my run and not less than half a mile later I see pictures of Pinheads. A little bit of a run and I make it to the Pinheads aid station (Mile 44.4). I take some hot chicken noodle soup from the really helpful and attentive volunteers. I soon see Gilles and I ask him about the napping racer. He couldn't believe it either. Now we get told that there may not be any aid at Lemti Creek because the guy is currently walking there hauling 4 jugs of water as we speak, so I immediately refill all three bottles as the sun is out in full force. I finish the rest of the soup and see the candy table, snag a Kit Kat bar and notice the three bottles of Jack Daniels, rum and decide to make a move out of there before temptation kicks in. We (Glen, Kate, Gilles and I ) climb again for about 5 minutes and then starting running a moderate downhill. About ?minutes later I see water jugs on the side of the trail. Was that really four miles we just ran? Are we at Lemti already?" Nope, it was barely two miles." said Glen. Kate refilled her bottle,letting Glen off the hook. I run with Gilles as we take the lead on Glen and Kate. Perry and Anil are about 5 minutes behind them. Gilles and I take turns leading/setting the pace onthe flats. We still walk anything that resembles an uphill. We both figure that a sub 24 is out of reachbut maybe a PR for Gilles sub 26:30 is very doable. As for me, I was happy just running, taking care of any issues before they flared up. There was a little bit of confusion as we lost the PCT on our way to Lemti Creek,but we just followed all the shoe prints on the trail. I mean what were the odds there was another race going on. I consulted the aid station chart and figured we were another 1.25 miles away from the aid station. Some nice cruisy singletrack was ahead and while I was looking for some skin lube in my pack, Gilles took off like a man possessed. I got my gear sorted and spotted Glen and Kate coming around the corner. That spurred me on and I was quickly back on Gilles footsteps. Now there was apparently some issue with the Ollalie Campground aid station. It was all sorted out by the time we got there but there were rumors going around that the race leaders had ran past the previously unmarked station and followed a different set of markings alltogether. Oh, well. Soon we came to a volunteer who directed us to the 3/8 of a mile that led to the campground. This was a little more technical trail and a welcome relief after all the running we were doing. Gilles got ahead of me at this point and was first in the aid station 55 mile mark. It was about 5:40pm, so 12:40 total time to run 55 miles and I was feeling pretty good compared to Cascade Crest,where I had to drop out at 53 miles in 16:45. There were various volunteers milling about,the racers were all sitting down. I pointed out my drop bag to a vollie and sat down and retrieved my 2nd handheld, reflective jacket, Runners Den longsleeve thermal shirt, dry shorts. I made my way behind a car and quickly changed. I spent a few extra minutes waiting for some ramen noodle soup. Gilles went on ahead and I wouldn't see him again until Mile 65 Breitenbush a/s. I dropped the waistpack (minor mistake here),opting for the double handheld for the night section. Grabbed some extra paper towels for "just in case" .
I was a little slow doing the 3/8 back to the PCT, waiting for the calories to kick in, by the time I startedthe hike up to rejoin the PCT,the leaders were coming back into Ollalie and headed back home. They were already twenty miles ahead of me. Well, so much for going for the win,but as Karl once said, "Without big dreams, you wouldn't have spectacular failures." Small little climb and as my right achilles is starting to make its presence known and my left foot with the plantar fascia occasionally screaming at me, I decide to just walk a little bit. I make it to the top of the hill and everything is fine again which is weird considering I havent taken any ibuprofen yet. I still concentrate on drinking and eating when I can, it's just hard as I only have so many pockets and I wearing this jacket for the first time so I'mtrying to get comfortable. Terry comes running the other way, pacing Shawna who looks really strong. We say hi to each other and I soon find a rhythm balancing my bottles, headlamp in one pocket, gels and ginger in another all the while running down the trail.Everything is very peaceful, the sun is setting, I'm just rolling along. I come to a volunteer who's hanging up glowsticks for the night section. I pick up my pace as I think the aid station is close by. Then I hear it. Is someone playing a guitar? Now who could be playing a guitar around here? Holy crap, it's Show N Tell fromthe Portland Humpin Hash! We greet each other as only hashers can and I make my way down to Ollalie Lake, 58.6 miles. Grab some more soup and spot Nic Plemel who was sitting down adjusting his pack. Glen has arrived with his pacer and we're all refuelling ready for the night section going into Breitenbush. As I'mheading out with Nic, I ask the vollie what's the course leading up to Breitenbush like. Well, the vollie said, the leaders are running the out and back in under 3 hours . Oh, okay. That's like 14:30/mi pace. That's sounds reasonable. If the trail is anything like what we just ran over the last 59 miles, it should take me about 4 hours and it'll be easier because it'll be cooler.
It did not take me 4 hours.