Friday, October 2, 2009

Hangin' in the 'Hood: Part 1

So there I was: It was a very cold Saturday morning last week where I found myself at my car, directly across from the start line, with two minutes to go, pulling on the souvenir long sleeve tech shirt over two t-shirts and Moeben arm sleeves with this single thought going through my head: "What the !@#$% am I doing here?"

Of course I knew what I was doing here, having DNF'd Cascade Crest 1 month earlier and running over 11 hours at Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) 50 mile left me very few options to requalify for Western States (two time loser + fire rules!). I only had two more chances: Hundred in the Hood and Haney 2 Harrison 100km. I was not looking forward to running 100km on the road in November so the Hood was my best option. 12,000 ft of climb spread out over 101.9 mi. That's right. We'd be running over 100 miles, which was fine, this being a first annual race and all, I'd much rather it be overdistance than under. I want to get my money's worth. I was even okay with the fact that I would not be getting a buckle as the race website clearly stated, had to run sub 24. Since I dropped out at Cascade at the 53 mile mark (Hyak) at 16:45 with a queasy stomach only 30 short days ago, I was just looking to finish under 30 hours. Up to this point my previous best time for 100 miles was 29:29:59 at Stormy.

Cue Saturday at 4:20am, I'm up and trying to stay warm as it was a very cold night to sleep in my car even though it was my best sleep ever before a race. The three IPA's helped, I guess. There's an endless row of cars looking for parking on Hwy 42 and I walked amongst the racers huddled by the heaters for the race briefing by the RD Olga. There were a few important changes on the course on race day which differed from the website. Little Crater Lake was no longer an aid station. For those of you reading this who ran the PCT 50 mile in July, you may remember going out on to a boardwalk/plank trail to a parking lot/trailhead. This was no longer possible. I think the out and back to Little Crater Lk was at the most 1 mile, and seeing as we would skip it on the way back, meant to me, the first outnback was two miles short at 26 miles long leaving 76 miles for the 2nd loop.

Also, the night section would not be marked (reflective tape, glowsticks). This was to test our confidence. As you'll read later, a lot more than our confidence was being tested during the night. Furthermore, the Ollallie Campground aid station would be the only deviation off the PCT, we would be going 3/8 of a mile to the aid station. And because we would hit that station twice the total distance off the PCT would be 12/8 of a mile or 1.5 miles. Also no official clock, except on the watch of the RD which was 3 minutes faster than mine. Of course all this new info meant nothing to me as my brain was starting to freeze without the assistance of a Slurpee. Since I had packed all my longsleeves in my dropbags, I decided to break with tradition/race taboo and put on my souvenir Hundred in the Hood shirt. I had one minute to spare and dashed my way to the back of the pack, but because of the extra shirt, my Nathan two bottle waistpack no longer fit. "!" I spent another twenty seconds tightening straps, shifting bottles around and briskly walked out of the start/finish area and onto the Hwy.

"Where did everybody go? " Then I saw a stream of headlamps and flashlights round the curve going toward the trailhead. I jogged after them knowing full well what was to come having done the same thing two months earlier. Logjam at the trailhead. I walked up the hill following the conga line towards Frog Lake and was one of the last participants to enter the narrow, dark trail. "Well," I thought to myself, "here we go."

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