I feel like I am slowly, but surely, learning more about the distance and easing into the 100 mile race mentality. I know I am capable of a faster time, but by going faster and pushing harder, you risk blowing up, which could cost many hours and even a finish. There is so much that goes into a successful hundred from nutrition and gear to race strategy and even luck. Completing the distance is monumental, but racing it is totally different and much harder. I don't want to sound arrogant or cocky after a 7th place finish, as this is not the case at all, and I think anyone who knows me would agree. Eventually, I will race one of these things, but for P2P 2014, I was solely focused on executing my race and managing my effort without any epic lows. Doing so successfully would be one step closer to racing a 100 miles. However, I did have time goals and splits, but I had no intentions of trying to keep pace with anyone else. My A+ goal was 20 hours, while my A goal was 22 hours. Here is the strava file for those interested.
I am incredibly excited for my first Hardrock qualifier (although P2P is being phased out hereon after). And since I already have Western States qualifier, I am hoping to get lucky in one of the December lotteries.
My 2014 Pine to Palm adventure started the Friday before the race. My friend Nate Dunn, who was also running, and I drove up to Williams, OR from the Bay Area. The drive was super easy, and it was cool driving by Mt. Shasta knowing I had been at the summit a few weeks ago. Eventually, we rolled into Ashland, OR. We had a quick lunch and stopped at Rogue Valley Runners before we headed West to the start in Williams.
Williams is a super small town consisting of a gas station, general store and thats about it. I love these small, remote towns in the mountains. It reminded me a lot of Vermont. Friday evening we had a pasta dinner and listened to the race briefing. I saw numerous Bay Area friends who were also running, crewing or pacing. Then, we camped with many other runners just a few miles from the start.
After a good night sleep in the bed of my truck and some last minute gear preparations, I was ready for my journey from Williams to the finish in Ashland. At 6:00am sharp, we were off.
I felt pretty good at the start, and I was anxious to run. However, I was hoping to use a bathroom beforehand, but unfortunately, they were far down the road and I didn't have time. So I accepted the fact it would only be a matter of time before I ducked off the trail to take care of business. I totally forgot about my pre-race laxative, which had worked well for San Diego and Boston. Oh well.
It was dark and cool when we started up a long climb along the road. A few minutes after the start, I talked with my buddy Rudy Rutemiller, Chris Wehan and Dom Andreotti. We were all anxious and excited for an epic day in the mountains, and knowing they are all fast runners I knew I would be seeing them throughout the day.
The first 10 miles is a long, 4,500' climb up Grayback Mountain at 6,500' above sea level. The climb wasn't steep or technical, but long and this would soon become the story of the day. After a few miles, we turned off the road on to some single track as the sun was starting to rise. Off to the east was a glorious sunrise over the mountains. Heading up Grayback, we ran through a dense pine forest with a fair amount of fallen trees due the severe drought. It was also apparent some of the smoke from nearby forest fires would be a factor throughout the day. Summiting Grayback was pretty epic. The views were incredible, especially with the plumes of smoke off in the distance. The smokey, hazy air gave a unique view as the sunlight was reddish-orange color.
After the 10 mile climb was a long, 18 mile descent. The first 5 miles were on some glorious, steep, technical single track, which ended at the first major aid station at mile 15. I only stayed for enough time to quickly fill my bottles. The remaining 13 miles was a long, gradual, gravel downhill to the Seattle Bar aid station at mile 28. This part was tough because I felt I needed to run the entire downhill, and an 18 mile downhill run is really tough on the body. I felt OK afterwards, but was looking forward to start climbing again. In hindsight, I was slightly unprepared for the long climbs and descents. I am used the Marin Country trails, which are relentless up and down, but are only a couple miles long. So as the day went on, there were long periods of running downhill and long periods of hiking uphill.
My first dropbag was waiting for me at Seattle Bar. Since I had no crew or pacers, I heavily relied on dropbags. I replenished my pockets with my favorite gels and little baggies of the Tailwind. Although, it looked very suspicious, I filled small ziploc bags with a single serving of the Tailwind Electrolyte drink. The baggies were about the size of a gel, which worked out perfectly to carry in my pockets.
Next up was the notorious climb up Stein Butte. The P2P veterans all warned us of this nasty climb, mostly because it would be in the midday heat. However, the smoke filled air help shield us from direct sun exposure. Although it wasn't ideal to be breathing in smoke, it helped prevent the 95+ temperatures that were predicted, and instead, I suspect it didn't even hit 90. That said, the climb up Stein Butte wasn't bad as I ran the flatter portions and hiked the uphills.
I was running with the eventual female winner, who had a fantastic day. We were hiking the climbs together, when all of a sudden she started running, and I never saw here again... I couldn't believe it, but she held it together! Congrats!
Atop Stein Butte was an aid station, where I filled my bandana with ice. Although it was nowhere near as hot as San Diego, it felt great to have ice water trickle down my back and chest. Without wasting too much time, I moved on to a 8 - 10 mile descent to Squaw Lake. I don't remember much about this part other than running the vast majority of it.
Soon, I pulled in the Squaw Lake aid station, and I had to run a 2 mile loop around the lake. I ditched one of my bottles since I would be returning the same aid station shortly. This was a nice secluded lake nestled in the mountains. There were a few people on paddle boats and swimming, along with many campsites. I returned to the same aid station, except this time it was mile 42. I filled my bottles and bandana before embarking on a short descent before another long climb to Squaw Peak at mile 50.
Maybe it was all the smoke, but I was really thirsty. I only carried two bottles, but drank an entire bottle in short order after Squaw Lake. As I started the long climb to the Hanley Gap aid station, just below Squaw Peak, I looked at my note sheet. I was comforted by the fact there was a water-only station at mile 45. However, mile 45 came and was long gone, according to my watch. I started to panic a bit because I was nearly out of water with a 4+ mile climb to the next aid station in the midday heat. This is not a good situation, and it can be very hard to recover from an extended period without water (Rio del Lago). I started thinking I had unknowingly missed the water station because they were unmanned and only had a few jugs of water. I thought I was screwed, and began devising a way to ration my water. I remember thinking I could take a very small sip every half mile, or 8 minutes at my current uphill pace.
After 20 minutes of wondering if my race was over and if I could recover from being dehydrated, a silver pickup truck drove up the fire road behind me. It was Hal Koerner's dad brining up the water for aid station, and within 10 minutes, I was refilling my bottles. Unfortunately, the advertised mileage can be quite far off at P2P, but I didn't care and was just happy to refill my bottles.
Soon after, I made it to Hanley Gap, where we had to head up one mile to Squaw Peak and grab a flag, which signified a successful summit, and return it to the aid station. The view at the summit was really nice as one could see pine trees and smoke in every direction. I didn't stay for long, and quickly ran back down to my dropbag at the aid station.
After resupplying my pockets with plenty of gels and baggies of Tailwind, my buddy Dom came flying down from Squaw Peak. He quickly ate some of the aid station food and we headed off together working our way up to Dutchman Peak at mile 66 and the high point of the course. Although there were a couple downhills this was a long 16 mile climb. We hiked the vast majority of it and talked about how our day was going. We committed on how this was by far the most difficult 100 we had run before and how unprepared we were for the long climbs and descents.
As the sun was setting we could hear the music blasting atop Dutchman. At the peak, I had another dropbag waiting for me so I could resupply my stock of gels and Tailwind. The view was pretty epic at the summit, especially as the sun was setting to the west. Another runner caught us and left before us with his pacer. Dom left a few minutes earlier than I to pick up his pacer at the parking lot down the road. I eventually caught up and the three of us ran together moving along the Pacific Crest Trail towards the Long John aid station at mile 74. At this point, we knew we were top 10, but had no idea of our exact place.
Unfortunately, this was one of the few sections of single track on the course, which was glorious. It was mostly flat or downhill and with the help of Dom's pacer, Trace, we ran the vast majority of it. By now it was dark, and we had turned on our headlamps. I love running through the night. We keep telling ourselves only one more climb, however this made it sound a lot easier than it was.
Eventually after another long descent we made it to the bottom and the Wagner Butte aid station at mile 80. From here we had a tough 8 mile climb to Wagner Butte followed by a long 12 mile descent to the finish. The climb was steep, never ending and fairly technical. After a few miles, we had to do a two mile out and back up to Wagner Butte to grab yet another flag. At this point, we were hiking every step so it took awhile. Finally just shy of the summit, we were forced to do some technical scrambling to reach top and grab the flag.
I was hiking faster than Dom, but he was inclined to run more than I wanted to. My core was destroyed so I preferred a fast power hike to a run. That said, we bounced back and forth for a little while, and I pulled ahead on the descent down to the mile 90 aid station, Road 2060, where I had my last dropbag. This steep, technical descent was brutal at times. I anticipated the aid station around every corner, but I was greeted to more dark trails and no aid station.
I finally pulled into the aid station, and I got rid of my extra bottle and heart rate monitor, while grabbing a few gels and some water for the final 10 miles. I must have been a couple minutes ahead of Dom at this point since I left the aid station with no sight of him behind me.
From hear to Ashland was a more gentle downhill on gravel roads. Natured finally called, and I will just leave it at that. I was cautious not to push too hard as I had San Diego in the back of my mind. After all 10 miles is still pretty far and anything can happen. Therefore, I did a combination of power hiking and running. Eventually Dom caught back up, but again, what was left of our running abilities didn't match. We did our best to keep up with each other.
|Finish! Photo Credit: Dominick Andreotti|
We decided it would be fitting to finish together since we spent so much time together on the trail. We both finished with smiles on our faces with only Dom's mom and a race organizer to greet us. And, that was it, good enough for 7th place overall.
Overall, I loved Pine to Palm. It is a small local race, where the local community comes out to support the runners, which was really nice. Some people complained about all the gravel roads, but I couldn't care less. I was running new trails and was excited to see what was around every corner. This was my first point-to-point 100, which was pretty cool too.
Congrats Dom, it was a pleasure to run with you!!! Thanks to Trace for keeping us honest out there! Also congrats to Rudy for finished about 15 minutes behind us! Thanks to all the volunteers and Hal Koerner for putting on a great race!!
|Taking off my shoes!! Photo Credit: Dominick Andreotti|
I think I am now in a position to start thinking about racing 100 miles. In hindsight, it would be interesting to know what would have happened had I tried to keep up at Dutchman. Of course, it is still of upmost priority to run your own race. However, now that I have a established nutrition and gear strategies, I can experiment with pushing harder. In this way, I am only changing one variable at a time. In the past, the problem was that I thought I could race the distance with limited experience on fueling and hydrating for the distance. Obviously, there are just too many variables, and the odds of everything falling in line, is slim, which I learned the hard way (Rio del Lago).
I also realized when you stay within your comfort zone, which I did, the race may not have much sedimental value. I never really had to push through some epic low, which in the past, have been the most memorable experiences. So it will be interesting to see what happens as I push harder in future races, and I think these races will have more meaning attached to them. Of course, I still had a blast out there, and there is nothing else I would have rather been doing! Sometimes it is not always about soul searching, contemplating the meaning of life or competing, and instead, just have fun out there!
I am not sure of my next 100, a lot will depend on the December lotteries, but I am anxious to start thinking about racing and pushing harder.
Lessons Learned and Tips (no particular order)
1. Take care of issues immediately - May sound obvious, but any issue that comes up, take care of it immediately, which may also require carrying some extras. During P2P, I experienced some chaffing early on, however, it was not a major issue because I carried a small tube of AquaPhor at all times. For me, I will always carry a small baggy with Tums, AquaPhor and lip balm. The bottom line is don't suffer anymore than you have to and take care of anything that comes up immediately. Also, little things can be easily forgotten at an aid station only to comeback a half mile out.
2. Core - After all the long descents, my core muscles were pretty sore, which made the final 12 mile descent pretty tough. Downhills can be really taxing on your core muscles and I was feeling that long 18 mile descent from mile 10 to 28. I need to start doing more core exercises...
3. Race Day Nutrition and Dropbags - Everyone has their favorite gels and electrolyte drinks, and unfortunately races don't always supply the brand or flavors you want. There is no sense in risking the aid stations will have what you want when you want it. For example, you may not like certain flavors or want caffeinated gels early on. So, you have to bring your own. I packed my drop bags with exactly what I wanted, which included little single-serving baggies of Tailwind. Sure it may look suspicious scooping white powder into little bags, but it made a huge difference, especially if you don't have a crew.
Specific Tips for the Pine to Palm 100
1. Long climbs and long descents - P2P starts with a long 10 miles and 18 mile descent. If you can be prepared and train on similar long gradual climbs. Make sure you have some legs left for the final 12 mile descent to the finish!!!
2. Gravel roads - P2P has a lot of gravel roads, which can be quite dusty during the day with traffic. There might not be a lot you can do about it, but be aware of it.
Shoes: Montrail Fluid Flex II with Dirty Girl Gaiters
Socks: Injini mid-weight, mini-crew socks
Shorts: North Face Long Haul Shorts
Top: Pearl Izumi M's Infinity In-R-Cool sleeveless
Headwear: Patagonia Duckbill Cap
Bottles: Ultimate Direction 20oz Handheld (two)
Thanks for reading!!