I promised Bangle I’d blog about Hood to Coast and I cant really do that without talking about Waldo first.
I really don’t know what I was thinking when I signed up. I loved every second of the Bandera 100k and you can’t go wrong hanging out with Mild Sauce and the Matzes, even if there’s a pesky 62.5 mile race crashing the party. Mild Sauce swooned over the race, lyrically describing the course as “Only 2 bad climbs – one at the beginning when you’re fresh and the other at the end when you’re delirious!” Forgetting that Mild Sauce is a freak mountain goat, I said I’d think about it. Only there wasn’t much time to really think about it because before I knew it registration day arrived. The race sold out in 15 minutes and I made it out of the frenzy with one of the highly sought after slots.
Training had been going well, I had an awesome 50 Mile PR in the muggy June heat and overall felt stronger than ever. But in late June came a break up and with that my motivation to do just about anything. Eating, running, sleeping…all of that sucked. The thing about a mutual break up is there’s no anger to fuel the fire….just the sadness and the knowledge that it was the best thing to do. It took me almost a month to snap out of it (just in time for a trail 50k PR with Abby). but even with the 50k my July mileage was only 115, far too low for what was supposed to be a monster month. Waldo looked even more scary.
After an uneventful flight to Portland, Mild Sauce picked me up in her pimpin Carolla to cruise the PDX streets for some Poutine. We were successful!
After the deliciousness, we stopped to get some coffee and make a sign to welcome the Matzs at the airport. Most of the strangers passing by got a kick out of our sign. We’re hilarious broads like that.
Upon arriving at Willamette Pass Ski lodge, I quickly realized the joke was on me. This was a legit race where everyone looked competitive. Like true ultra runners they would never let me know it…but I was WAY out of my league.
Sleep was hard. Literally. We piched our tents on the parking lot because all the good flat spots had been taken. Luckily my sleep pad held up and I like a firm mattress….and I had the best tent buddy ever. I was still on East Coast time but my heart was racing. The 2:15 wake up for a 3am early start came way too early. UGH.
I really dont even remember starting. I bent down to fiddle with my back, looked up, and everyone was gone. There werent many early starters and I struggled to keep their head lamps visible as I tried my best not to die up the ski hill. At a little over 1,000 ft in 2 miles, I knew it’d be the smallest climb of the day…and I was already winded. My mind was spinning only 1 mile in:
You’re gonna have to get a lot higher than this.
You have 61.5 miles LEFT.
You have asthma.
You are going to die.
I still had some people in my sights and, while I find it really embarrassing, I gave myself permission to be a heavy mouth breather. At 3:20 am I’m sure I sounded super creepy. It seemed to work though because the two people I passed didn’t try to keep up. About mile 2 was a turn onto the most glorious single track downhill. It was really dark but really well marked with reflective streamers and signs. The markings were awesome because there were times I wasnt even sure if I was on A trail, let alone THE trail.
It seemed like I blinked and I was at the first aid station. They were as enthusiastic as possible, despite it being nearly 5am at a campground full of people sleeping. No raging cow bell but the kind of support you’d expect from volunteers willing to give up so much sleep to help a stranger whose face they cant even see.
The climb to A2 is exactly as it looks in the profile. The first 1,000 feet reminded me of the first big hill in the WV Trilogy 50k. It sucked but over quickly enough and once it leveled off the gain to the aid station wasn’t too bad. After A2…well, I have nothing nice to say about that climb other than the views at the top of Fuji Mountain were really pretty.
About a half mile from the top
Really glad we didn’t have to climb that one!
I got dizzy at the top of the mountain so I didn’t stay long…just checked in and scrambled to get back down. on my way down the speedgoats from the regular start were coming up. I took the downhill harder hoping to make it back to the aid station before the caught me. I almost did. Almost.
I thought I’d enjoy the section from A2-A3. It was really runnable downhill, but something about the first climb was holding onto me. Everything felt heavy, I developed a headache that would last the remainder of the race, and my mood was sucky. Went I saw Mild Sauce all I could say was “You’re a liar. That SUCKED” and when I passed the Matz’s I gave them a half assed high 5 and a half grunt/half mumble about the climb. People from the regular start were really blowing by me, but almost every single one of them said some sort of encouragement.
Looking hella tired nearing A3 (mile 20.5). Photo by Matt Hagan
The Mt Ray Aid Station is one that is easily accessible by road so it felt like a party. It was a bit disorienting but it seemed like the people anticipated that because someone came up to me and introduced herself as my escort. Woah, red carpet service! It felt like I had a NASCAR pit crew and I wish I had been in a better spot mentally to really appreciate it…but I was really grumpy and slow and didn’t want to waste time. I just wanted to get out of there and only stopped long enough to get some watermelon, a cup of coke, and a bottle refill for my Tailwind before heading off to A4.
The first climb to the Twins was surprisingly easy. Not that I was any faster. This was probably the section that broke me the most. It looked so runnable, but I was in a fog. Every time I started to run I’d make it about a half mile before Id need a break. It wasn’t a breathing issue, which I had anticipated for my first run over 4,000ft….it felt more like a dream in which you try to run but can’t. It’s not that things felt heavy – more like I was dragging a parachute.
Pulling into A4 all I could think was: How the heck am I gonna pull off the remaining 35.4 miles?!
Similar to A3, the support at the Twins was fantastic. The volunteers had to hike in supplies 1.5 miles so you know they were top notch. They filled my pack with ice and reminded me to drink more. I was still grumpy and grunting and got away as fast as I could.
The downhill to Charlton Lake should have been glorious. It looked so easy. The only problem was I kept nodding off! It wasnt even noon and the sun was shinning and I was “running” downhill while losing the battle to stay awake. In case you didnt know, closing your eyes while shuffling downhill on a single track is a BAD IDEA. I fell a few times and started to lose hope of ever finishing this race.
“HEY, I KNOW THAT BUTT!!!”
Like a trail angel, Mild Sauce came floating behind me. I cant even remember what we talked about…or if I said anything coherent…but I do remember following her. We all know she slowed WAY, WAY down to stick with me and I worried about her ruining her race in between nodding off. That’s right. It’s every Loopster’s dream – running down a beautiful mountain with Mild Sauce – and I was trading it for literal dreams.
I don’t think I played it off well because when we reached A5 I had 2 escorts all over me. “So you’ve taken a couple falls? Have you been eating?” They brought me my drop bag and the contents looked unappealing. The fresh socks sounded stupid. The fresh shirt was dumb too. Running was dumb. And then the volunteers asked me if I wanted to get in the lake. I said no, hoping my voice and facial expression didn’t reveal I thought that was the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a day full of dumb things. Again, “Do you want to get in the water? You’ll feel better.” No. But before I knew it my shoes and socks came off and I hobbled to the lake.
AH-MAY-ZING! Those volunteers really know their sh!t.
Charlton Lake – There are worse places to get dunked
Mild Sauce stayed with me long enough to make sure I wasn’t totally dead. She probably wasted a good 40 minutes on me between the slow miles to A5 and staying with me during the interrogation…but she “does want she wants.” I’m pretty sure if she hadn’t shown up when she did I would have DNF’d. I love that broad!
The same volunteers who dunked me took care of some blisters I didnt realize I had and sent me on my way. I spent almost a half hour there, but it was totally worth it because I felt like a new woman. I was still super slow, but my mood was better and I felt more alert than I had in hours. I got an extra shot of adrenaline when I pulled out my pacing guide (which was totally off now but whatever) and realized I was getting close to the cutoffs. Leaving A5 close to 12:30 gave me about 1:45 min to get to A6 before the 2:15 cut off. Shoot!
Despite the sun and the warm-for-Oregon afternoon, I really enjoyed this section and enjoyed running again. It was no longer dumb. If I could make the cut offs, I was finishing no matter what.
Here’s the chart again if it helps my rambling seem more coherent
After A6 it was time to start working again. Between me and A7 was 7.5 miles of mostly mountain. I think mentally this was the worst climb for me. I expected it to be easy like the first climb up the Twins (Nevermind the first climb was only to 6,600-ish ft and the second one was to 7,362 ft. Darn elevation charts in 500ft increments). It never seemed to end.
I think we climbed that but don’t quote me on it
The higher I climbed, the slower my pace and by the time I reached the top all feelings of awesomeness steeped from Charlton Lake were gone. While I was happy to be done with the second major climb, drowsiness during the 1000 ft decent to the aid station was total BS. I hoped the Matzs would come up behind me but had pretty much assumed they passed me while I was being dunked in the lake. I barely made the cut off with 22 minutes to spare.
A7 was a totally different place than the A4 I went through 5.5 hours earlier. Runners sitting. Hikers hanging and cheering. Knowing I made the last cut off, I relaxed a bit. As long as I could stay awake I could finish. I took a cup of ramen and some ice and kept on truckin…knowing the next 17.5 miles would be the toughest of the race.
Ramen broth went down ok but I ended up spitting out the noodles. Chewing and swallowing sounded like a chore. In hindsight I think I blamed the altitude for my extreme fatigue but I think the fact that I’d barely eaten anything for 13 hours had a minor role. By mile 45 I was feeling nauseous and scared eating = vomiting. This ended up being a lucky thought because I found a caffeine pill Linnea had given me before Bandera hidden with my ginger chews. Another broad to the rescue!!
The pill worked wonders and as A7 closed the resting runners came alive and started passing me. I was able to keep up with them, talk to them, do the things that make ultras totally amazing. I even more alert than after my swim! It seemed like I blinked and we were at A8 (Mile 50).
Going into the climb, I remembered Mild Sauce’s words of wisdom:
Pregnant women walk half marathons
Just what I need to hear. I didn’t have a person inside me. I can get through 12.5 miles.
I hate how hills always look so much flatter in pics. This looked like a wall in 3D
All of the race reports bashing the hellish climb that is Maiden Peak did not fully prepare me. The gang from A7-A8 left me in the dust. Boo. I was also sad to be coherent again because the numbing brain fog would have been nice. Nope, I remember every painful step of this climb, which involved several rounds of sitting on a log and debating if it’d be easier to just die there or keep climbing. I wish I was exaggerating but that was a legitimate internal conversation. Eventually survival instincts would kick in and I’d vote for “Not Dying” but about every half mile or so I revisited the debate. Finally, I cleared the tree line to find two volunteers. It was still another .25 mile and prob another 300 ft of climbing so I sat with them for a minute before continuing.
The summit was beautiful. More because the real climbing was over than the view. The man who checked me in said “Raleigh, NC? This is no Umstead Park, huh?” OMG no it’s not! I’d choose the 100 miler at Umstead over the 100k at Waldo any day (dont hold me to that – Umstead 100M registration opens this week)
With the setting sun and the course sweeper right behind me, I scrambled down the rocky, technical section into A9. You wouldnt know I was DFL with how the volunteers cheered for me. A sweet lady told me the sweepers were behind me, but I had plenty of time so not to worry. Then they made me get out my head lamp and turn it on before letting me leave.
The next 7.5 miles were a blur. I thanked my stars for the caffeine pill since this section of the course wasn’t really marked for night running. There was one section where I got really confused and had to wait for the sweepers to catch up to advise me. The sweepers were pretty much right behind me the rest of the race. I could hear them but they gave me my space and it was comforting to have them there. They had seen my horrible state on Maiden Peak and kept shouting about how well I was moving and how proud they were of me. I just felt slow and exhausted and not proud of myself at all. But I survived.
19 hours 53 min and 15 seconds of getting my butt kicked
I’m still processing it. A lot of what I wrote sounds like a long line of excuses but I know I wasn’t trained for a 100k in the real mountains. East coast trails? Yes. The Cascades? Let’s just say the lowest point of Waldo was still higher than the tallest mountain I’ve ever climbed on the east coast. I completely underestimated the fatigue, headaches, appetite and energy loss, and overall suckiness of trying to run at attitude. I dont know how you people do longer races even higher!
I didn’t hit any of my goals. I didn’t get a hat. But I got a lot of love and I seriously have the best friends ever. Thank you to everyone who checked in. Your positive vibes might have swayed the Maiden Peak debate towards “Not dying”!
The Matzs and Mild Sauce took care of me as if they hadn’t had equally tough days – gave me a hug and a beer and said I did a good job. Maybe someday I’ll believe them!
Sorry for the long report…but it was a long day.
Real friends hug you even though you’re dirty and smelly. Photo by Matt Hagan