Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cursing in the 'Hood: Part 4

There was still a little daylight left so I didnt bother turning on the headlamp quite yet. Nic had gone ahead of me but was walking when I caught up to him. The trail switched from smooth singletrack to rocky (and I do mean rocky) terrain after about 1/2 mile. Saw a few more front runners including Chad and Kirsten coming back from Breitenbush, they looked focused but still was present enough to say Hi to me. I was having not the best time going up this part and me and Nic shared a laugh about this. I wasnt really pushing it, but I feel this is the part of the race website where it let the runners down. I know we're still on the PCT, but there was no course description at least warning what runners would have to go through, and given the fact that we were now running at night with no glowsticks, markings, flagging made it an overall frustrating experience. A bunch of the guys in front of me took a moment to appreciate the view of Mt Hood and the surrounding peaks, I gave it two seconds. It was now me, Nic and Mark running in a little conga line. I took a potty break and both Nic and Mark scooted ahead of me, when I caught up I was at a fork, Mark was standing around and Nic was on the right. Mark asked if Nic was on trail and Nic soon confirmed. We started running a little quicker as it started to cool off and then I turned on my headlamp at 8:30pm. Nic and Mark got ahead of me here and I was by myself again. I didn't really know where the trail was, I just ran towards oncoming headlamps and flashlights. Soon I was coming to a long uphill and I bumped into Karl. He said it was about an hour away and I was worried, if it was an hour downhill, it would be longer uphill. He assured me the trail was rolling and Gilles was only 10 minutes ahead of me. I was walking up and then I met a trio of runners including John who described the trail as more climbing, some flat and a wicked downhill. I finally reached the flat section and did some easy jogging to unkink my quads and then the trail turned back to rocks briefly. I was passed by a few people here. Shawn had passed earlier and now Tony had caught up and passed me, telling me to hang in there. It was really exposed and windy before I made it to the downhill switchbacks. Kate has caught me now in a dazzling "V" LED vest and I finally spot the first glowstick. I do some more running and note that my headlamp is not doing a great job. I hear more voices and I know I'm getting closer, Tony and Shawn are now returning from Breitenbush, followed quickly by Gilles. Gilles and I exchange pleasantries and I turn the corner to Breitenbush A/S (Mile 65).

Wow. There is a lot of collective misery here. All the vollies are standing and all the racers are sitting down. I retrieve my drop bag and spot McMuff off to my right. Where's Thumper, I asked. Right here, she said, huddled under a blanket and grabbing her pacer for warmth. I finish off my last thermos of ice cold chicken noodle mush, a bottle of G2, some coconut water, and more ramen. And this is where I make a tactical error. I decided to go with one handheld bottle and opted for my flashlight which is way brighter than my headlamp. I figured I drank a lot already and I had enough calories to get back to Ollalie, but I took the wrong handheld. The handheld I took had nothing in the pouch, the handheld I left behind had all my saltstick caps, ibuprofen and most importantly, caffeine pills. I really missed those. Of course, I didnt realize this until I was going up the third switchback,by that time it was too late and then my tummy starting going south. I grabbed my secret weapon: A Payday bar, two chews later and everything was fine again. I caught up to Nic and Mark and we updated each other on our progress. Nic was good enough to stop and pull out an ibuprofen for me and this worked out great. I felt really good and ran some more downhill but lack of caffeine was starting to get to me again and my pace slowed down. In fact I was walking and was waiting for a GU to take effect when I was caught by 7 runners (three of them had pacers) which included Anil, Thumper, McMuff, Glen, and Kate. My pride took a little bit of a hit here and after I picked myself up, I chased after them. That sudden kick of caffeinated gel really helped too as I overtook many of those same runners and then there was one left who I initially thought was McMuff but turned out to be Anil who was just rocking the downhill. All the while I'm chasing a flashlight and I am moving well. I didnt like running to Breitenbush, but I sure loved running away from it. Finally I hit the base of the hill and there's Anil who's lost the trail and is wandering aimlessly to the left when I remembered we have to go right. Anil gets ahead of me again and the chase is on. We do a little climbing and then some rocky descent but my flashlight's working great here. All too soon I can see the glowsticks and some very familiar and welcome guitar playing. I make it back to Ollalie lake aid station in just over 5 hours. Three hours there,two hours back. I get some more food and soup, I beg for an ibuprofen for just in case and soon notice that Thumper and McMuff have arrived. It's getting cold and I need to warm up quickly. I ask Show N Tell to play the Harriettes a slow song and I get the hell outta there. I do some climbing and once the downhill starts, I go. I pass a few runners here and then I catch a slow moving duo: Russ and Gary. They move aside and I run past encouraged by their words. But I have to pull off to the side of the trail for a long overdue pee break. It's so long in fact that Russ and Gary have caught up to me. I move in behind them and we're talking about the nightmare that was the run to Breitenbush. Russ' tummy is off so I offer some candied ginger. It offers him some relief and I move on ahead. I catch up to another runner and we're trying to find the aid station, looking for the Ollalie CG sign and we soon find it, make the turn up and then a helpful and bundled up vollie directs us to the left. I still have some speed left and I run into the aid station (Mile 75) and am greeted by a curious sight. About four racers including Gilles, Tony and Shawn are huddled by a propane heater, then I notice it is getting COLDER in this section. I get my drop bag, switch to waistpack as I want my hands free and some more gels, some soup. Gilles, Shawn and Tony take this as their cue to move, Everyone's commenting on my ability to come back, I just wanted to leave asap as the mood was contagious. On my way out I bumped into Gary and Russ who picked up his pacer Bud. I move up towards the PCT and notice Shawn and Tony have pulled off to the side and are rooting around for some more warm gear. More runners are filtering down to Ollalie. I say all the right things that ultras say to each other, knowing full well they are going to be running you down. I catch up to Gilles who had a pit stop as we make our way to Lemti Creek. My race is going great, my energy levels are flagging a little bit from lack of caffeine but I'm still moving forward when suddenly I feel some movement. Flashback to package pickup on Friday, Olga said help yourself to the freebies which included some Nuun tabs, Sunsweet apricots and pitted cherry prunes. I had four packs of the prunes hoping it would work on race morning. Well, technically it did work on race morning, but I guess I miscalculated which morning it was supposed to work. Fortunately I still had all the unused paper towels so it was all good. Going into Lemti Creek was frustrating as I lost my bearings and didnt remember where the trail was leading into even though I saw other runners going that way, I remained unconvinced. I actually sat down on a log and dozed for 2 minutes because I didnt know if I was on the right path or not. Another runner caught me and that spurred me on and much to my surprise and disgust there was the radio operator not 200 feet away from me who redirected me back on trail to Pinheads. A little bit more climbing and a nice downhill to Pinheads (Mile 85). Calories were taken but nothing seemed too appetizing so I hustled out of there ever mindful that it was getting colder. Gary, Russ and Bud caught me shortly afterwards, but Russ looked a little out of it. Bud let me go, but I had no energy and was trying to regroup. My flashlight also kept winking out at inopportune times. I was sitting down and Thumper and her pacer Darcy gave me an energy bar, but it wasnt working well, then Gary comes tearing down and bumps into my leg and that ironically got me going. I don't see Russ anywhere, so I figured he must be ahead. Warm Springs (Mile 91)was a comparative oasis after enduring cold temperatures and general fatigue, it was about 24:20 into the run and for the first time I sat down at an aid station trying to get warm. I accepted a cup of broth and slowly let the liquid envelop my core. Miraclously there was still a few slivers of pumpkin bread were left and I snarfed them down. Thumper and her pacer, got up and moved down the trail. I finally got out of the chair when I saw McMuff come in. I started running down the long downhill but I didnt go more than 20 minutes when I felt those prunes work their magic yet again.

The only problem was I had no more paper towels left, there was some soft leaves/ferns but those were in groups of three so I decided to play it safe. I was in a panic and every person that passed me had no tp. Finally McMuff and her pacer came down and although she did stop and root around for some tp she remember she lost it eight miles ago. She takes off down the trail and I can feel the turtle's head. Then I remember, I do have paper: my pace chart, it's in a baggie and it's dry. Two small problems, if I use it, I won't know how far's the next station and the other problem, it has edges. Oh well, necessity vs practicality. Practicality wins every time!

To be concluded....

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