Sunday, October 28, 2012

Waldo 100k (106k)

If there's one thing you can count on it's that, things rarely go as planned. For starters my plan for Waldo 100k was to be fully recovered from my hamstring injury that I suffered in April and had carried with me into Miwok 100k.  After all Miwok was May 5 and Waldo was over 3 months away.  It's just so difficult to avoid going out and running, when so many of your friends and your girlfriend are training for 100 mile races. With the many weekend runs that were planned up in the mountains at high elevations and the extremely scenic routes these runs involved, it's tough to stay away.  Although Joshua Malpass with OC Rolfing did an amazing job of keeping the injury at bay, eventually I had to give in and give myself a 2 week break, problem was that it was three weeks out from the race, not the best timing, that should be my high volume weeks before I take a week of very low training if any at all. I signed up for Waldo with the intentions of trying to qualify for a spot into Western States 100, that meant finishing in the top two. A lofty goal but one I was hoping for. At this point I had no choice but to set my aspirations aside and change my plan to, just head out onto the trails for a day of playing on the best single track course anywhere.
Then the Wednesday night before the race, another monkey wrench thrown into the 2012 Waldo plans. Race director Craig Thornley sent out an email stating that a fire had been started by a lightning strike and was unsure at this time what implications it would have on the race, and that he would keep us updated as soon as he knew. The next day my girlfriend Keira told me that the fire was still smoldering, but still no word as to whether or not the race was canceled. As I packed for the race that night Keira being a race director herself, assured me that this was Craig Thornley race director extraordinare, and that he would figure something out. We were on our flight headed to OR the next morning still unsure if the race was going to happen. Whatever the outcome, we knew that we would at least get to run some big miles up there even if it was just for fun and we would still have a blast. As soon as we landed we had word that the plans for the Waldo 100k did indeed change and that the race would be rerouted around the burned section, making it now the Waldo 106k.
At the pre race briefing Craig was as cool as a cucumber as if the course change and the problem with the fire was no problem at all. We had our course description and an explanation of the many different awards that were up for grabs by co race director Meghan Arbogast, including the description of the Wheres Waldo Award.
Keira and I went over our crewing game plan as far as what calories and fluids I wanted at the selected aid stations she could get to. Little did we know that even this would not go as planned.
Race morning came early at 4am, but I woke up feeling rested and ready to go. After putting down a few calories we headed to the ski lodge around 4:30 am. I did a easy 10 min warm up due to the fact that the race starts straight away up a ski hill and I know no matter how much I plan on going out easy it rarely goes out as slow as I would like, and with two spots for entry into western states being given out to both the men and the women this race would be a fairly quick one.
After a quick hello to a few of the competitors that was hoping to get to run on the trails and a hi five from Meghan as she made her way across the front of the start line, we were off on our 66 mile journey.
The plan was not to go out fast, but as the lights from the ski hill faded and the headlamps took over and the group began to thin to what seemed to be a dozen or so runners, Jacob Rydman decided the pace of the group was not for him. As he slowly made his way off the front I guess Timothy Olsen was not willing to let him go or maybe it was just that Jacobs pace was exactly what he needed.
With the group dwindling smaller and smaller, I began to power hike and watch the two guys up front climbing away. With only two guys in front of me now sitting in third place maybe 10 minutes into the race, it wasn't hard to know who was behind me, as Yassine Diboun and  fellow Rudy Project teammate is never short of conversation. Although I didn't really plan on being in front of him it was good to know that he was still right there as I was hoping to get to run with him that day. Not too long after I began to hike I could hear footsteps coming up on me with heavy breathing. Much to my surprise it was Joelle Vaught and Alison Bryant going step for step up the mountain. I practiced self-restraint quite a bit as I watched  these two women jog their way up the mountain and away from me, but I wasn't about to destroy my race by going beyond my early race limits. I usually don't even start to race until I start to hurt, the first portion of any race is my time to just enjoy the trails. I managed to keep the two ladies in site by hiking like Keira would to save my energy for the latter portion of the race, a strategy that got her a win and ninth place overall finish at the Angeles Crest 100 mile back in July.
I was finally able to catch the ladies as we began descending and not long afterward came up on Timothy Olsen, with Ian Sharman joining us not more then a couple minutes later. I could tell Timothy was out having fun on the trails as he would jump over rocks and trail furniture as if he was a deer. We came into Gold Lake aid station mile 7.4, within seconds of each other. As we left and crossed the road this was the first unplanned spots I got to see Keira. She gave me a carbo pro shot and a dose of encouragement. I really couldn't believe I was keeping pace with runners of such caliber, with Timothy coming of his course record western states 100 mile win, Ian Sharman owning the Rocky Racoon 100 mile course record, and Jacob who obviously knew of his own abilities, taking it to the course and putting it all on the line. As we started the next section up to mount Fugi, the three guys put about 20 seconds on me but still visible, as I could see Timothy and Jacob begin to gap Ian on the climbs. It was only a matter of minutes and  I was on Sharman's heals, that is until we hit the downhill part of the rolling sections, where he would pull away. Next aid station Fugi Mt mile 12.4 was where we had decided I would see Keira, but she was not there. The aid station directions on the web site pointed out that it was a 1/4 mile hike in so I imagined we would be possibly crossing a road shortly where she must be. After what seemed to be about a mile I finally gave up on the fact that I would actually see her and would be heading to the summit without the planned carbo pro I was hoping to take up with me and back down and to the aid station we had just come from, which would be a  2.5 mile round trip. Ian and I wound our way up the climb together and were only a minute or so from the summit when we saw Jacob and then Timothy nearly step for step who appeared to be enjoying themselves flying down the descent. I  hit the summit just ahead of Ian, paused for a moment to glance around, and took off for my own high speed technical descent with Ian right on my heels, thinking he would be ready to pass me at any moment, but I kept the pressure on as I was lost in the concentration it took to keep your feet moving and avoid tripping and taking a rock right to the face.  Judging by the point at which I saw Yassine I figured he was three to four minutes back with Joelle and Alison not far from him.  As we hit the Fugi aid station again now mile 14.9, I made sure I filled up both my bottles because at this point I forgot which aid stations and what distances I had planned on seeing Keira, although I had full confidence she would make certain she would be where she could be, but I had no idea where that was.  So with full bottles and still plenty of fuel in the form of gels, I was off to see what the next section of this beautiful course had in store for me. With mount Fugi being an out and back I got to see some of my southern california friends working there way up.  Always nice to get and give encouragement from and to friends. Again I could hear Ian's footsteps not far behind, but after a couple miles and a few uphill rollers I didn't hear him anymore. I may have been running a little faster then I should have in this section, but I was enjoying the soft trails and light rain that had begun to descend upon us. Before I knew it I was at a road and the next aid station which was Mt Ray mile 20.5. Keira was here and  she of course had a slew of stuff for me including chocolate, fresh handhelds, and the usual premix of carbo pro to pound down.  Before the race began we had a plan to change the way I took my carbo pro, but not knowing if she would get to the planned aid stations, I asked her to switch back to my old method of running with a bottle of carbo pro and nuun in one handheld and water in the other. A couple miles out of the aid station I came upon co race director Meghan who stationed herself at a critical junction to make sure we took the reroute turn on the course away from where the Bobby fire had been burning. She seemed surprised to see me, not sure if it was because of my placement or more of where I was in relation to Olsen and Rydman. Nonetheless she cautioned me  "Don't be silly", that was advice I probably could have used 10 miles earlier as not long after seeing her I began to feel the effects of the long fast decent off Mt Fugi.  This section of the reroute, included a 3/4 mile portion of pavement.  I really need to thank the mountain biking volunteer that rode along side and accompanied every runner up the blacktop to make sure we knew where the reroute turns were and for keeping me real. I soooo wanted to walk that portion but just couldn't bring myself to do it with someone by my side, so a big thank you to that volunteer. Heading to the next aid station I passed the volunteers as they were bringing water in with a powered wheel barrow, now that's dedication and determination from the Twins double aid station volunteers. I hit the Twins aid station at mile 27,  took a quick top off on water and was on my way, the next time I would see them would be 17 miles later. This next section had a few easy ups with a number of  small rollers mixed in with a  bit off a down hill grade. A section that you could definetly cruise on. That is if you dont have a injury that affects a smooth long stride that would lend itself to a fast decent. This is where Yassine came up on me, we talked a bit and in a couple minutes I told him to just go because I knew that my form was gone and I was just slowing him down. I spent the next couple miles in my own private misery. My hamstrings were getting really tight and my butt was now hurting pretty bad. Next aid station Charlton Lake mile 32,
coming into Charlton Lake aid station
Keira had fresh handhelds and a Guayaki yerba matte energy shot, along with avocado. As I refueled, I used the opportunity to stretch out my legs which were shaking uncontrollably. At that point I told her that I needed some pain medication at the next stop.  I didn't want to use anything with all of the horror stories about how bad it is for your kidneys, and this would be the 3rd 100k in a row that I would need to use it. The next 5 mile section was tough for me as it seemed to be fairly flat, and I always have a trouble running the flats. Next aid station 37.2  Rd 4290 was more of the same from crew Keira, avocado, fresh handhelds, watermelon, and much needed ibuprofen. It took about a half hour for the ibuprofen to kick in but as soon as it did I was able to finally get my stride back and I worked my way up the Twin peak and down to the aid station 44.7 miles in, pounded a couple cups of coke and was off on my way to chase down Yassine. Although I had no idea how much time and distance he had put on me. It seemed like it took forever to get to the next aid station but it felt like I was running pretty good and starting to feel strong again, which showed by the situation that I came upon at the next aid station. This looked a lot like the first aid station of the day but I have no idea what mile into the race we were, due to course changes because of the fire, and also because I never really know what mile I am at unless I memorize the aid station distance or know the course. As I approached the aid station I saw Yassine was just leaving. I filled up my bottles and took on some coke knowing the catch was imminent. The volunteers fired me up telling me that the western states ticket was just ahead of me. I hadn't even thought about it until then, knowing the race would be long and a lot can happen from start to finish. I started off the slight up hill running after Yassine who was now out of sight but probably only a couple hundred meters ahead. As the gap diminished and I closed in on Yassine I could tell he was fatigued as I caught him right as the single track and the real climbing began. I tucked in behind Yassine as my Rudy Project teammate gave me some insight on what lay ahead for us with the climb up to Maiden Peak. We also talked about the Western States ticket that would be in the hands of whoever was able to beat the other to the line. I took this opportunity for conversation and a little slower pace that comes with conversation for a bit of recovery from my hard push to catch Yassine. We hid the next aid station, which was kind of like a nice surprise to me as it seemed maybe Craig Thornley just threw it in there to make up for the extra mileage that the reroute incurred. The volunteers at this aid station were awesome as they were so excited for both of us knowing that one of us would get the ticket to WS. I was a still unsure if there was someone else that was close to us in fifth place so I took the lead out of this aid station to put in a good effort to make it up to the top of Maiden peak. I tried to drop Yassine in this section by hiking hard and running on the grades that were less steep, but to no avail. He was stuck to me like glue. We made it to the top of Maiden together which was a situation we had talked about days before the race began. On our descent off the peak Yassine took the lead, I was following only a few meters away trying to negotiate the super technical rocky terrain, that is until he took a right turn as the trail was not clear due to the rocky nature. As he went right I noticed the markers taking us left, I yelled that he was off trail. I recognized this as my time to fly going  into animal style and pushed hard on this technical section,
Coming down off Maiden peak
 quickly coming up on the next aid station. Again the volunteers were eager to show their excitement for me as the third place person and running for the final WS ticket. I left the aid station thinking that Yassine should be right on my heels, I looked to my right and up the trail I had just come down but I didn't see him.  The cheers and encouragement coming from the aid station told me he was about 20 to 30 seconds away. From that moment on I was running scared trying to put distance between us. I knew it was about 7 miles to the finish so I was still trying to take care of my hydration and nutrition although it gets tough to do after hours and hours of running. The miles kept clicking away and I took every opportunity to check behind me to see if Yassine was getting close. Finally I saw the finish line come into view and it wasn't until that moment that I knew I had the ticket to the Big Show,  Western States 100, as I crossed the line finishing the longest run of my life in a time of 10:31:28. Wow I couldn't believe it. I had hoped and wanted but never really expected it to happen. I had just accomplished something that was seemingly unattainable. I got my finisher hat from Craig Thornley and a congratulatory hug. I was next greeted by an ecstatic Keira, who I think was more excited then I was. I still didn't know who had won, but as Timothy Olson congratulated me on my WS entry, I asked if he came out on top. All it took was a smile from him and I knew. He had finished  9:52:19, 4:23 ahead of Jacob Rydman who was still lying on the ground had his ticket to WS dangling on his bare toe, who was taking a well deserved rest after putting in a unbeliveable effort. He had run off the front for the majority of the race.  But to hold off the current WS record holder would have been an amazing feat. I knew Yassine couldn't be that far behind me, as he came in 4:18 seconds behind with a time of 10:35:06. Joelle Vaught was first in for the women with a time of 11:04:26 and 6th overall with Denise Bourassa taking 7th overall and 2nd woman with a time of 11:22:34 and Alison Bryant taking 9th overall and 3rd woman with a time of 11:47:04. My thanks go out to Craig and Meghan for persevering under adversity to make this race happen under such extraordinary circumstances. To the firefighters that kept the Bobby fire at bay. To the volunteers out on the course and at the finish line for keeping us fueled and safe. To Michael Lebowitz and Long Run Picture company for all of the amazing photos. Ink n Burn for the cutting edge designs and super comfortable shirts, shorts, and sweat bands. Salt Stick salt tabs that kept me from cramping all day. Smartwool Socks that always keep my feet blister free. Brooks pure grit running shoes that performed flawlessly. Big thank you goes to Keira that is always there to keep me going with nourishment and encouragement, couldn't have done it without you. This is a course that I will definitely visit again.                          


  1. That was such an awesome and unforgettable race! Really excited for you to go run Western States...See you soon Jess!

  2. Congrats dude. Looking forward to running with you soon!