|Photo Credit: Rainshadow Running|
Not since my first ultramarathon, the 2012 Leadville 100, have I prepared so intensely for a race. I ran over 1,125 miles since January and put in over 105,000 vertical feet in preparation. Apryle and I discussed the prospect of doing a Western States golden ticket race back in September of last year and I immediately signed up when the registration opened up on October 22nd. With my graduation from Physical Therapy school set for December 11th, and our migration from Austin, Texas to Seattle, Washington set for the next day, I knew I would have plenty of time to devote to training in a comparable climate and geographical location. Thus the planning for a targeted race began.
|One of my favorite places in Texas;
I considered my time in grad school to be somewhat of a two-year hiatus from serious training. Although, it was hard to stay away from the competitive side of the sport. I ended up running three or four races a year, and my time in Texas was capped off with the beautiful Franklin Mountain 50 kilometer race. However, once January 2016 hit, I was in full ultrarunning mode and my mileage and effort began reaching the levels that I have wanted to obtain for years. I ran two tune up races in the form of a rolling 50K and an undulating trail marathon. I was riding the high from these two races with a 3:25 and 3:28, respectively. These were solid performances but I knew Gorge Waterfalls would challenge me at a whole other level.
|Build-Up Race: Fort Ebey Trail Marathon|
Luckily my unrelentingly supportive fiancé, Apryle, developed me a training plan and even scheduled a weekend course preview trip. This weekend consisted of van camping in pouring rain and previewing every inch of the course over three days. It was a beautifully miserable venture, we saw some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the highest concentration possible, but the cold rain ensured that we would not take too long to enjoy them. At any rate, I feel like I made every wrong turn I could and thus learned exactly how not to run the course during the race. I also learned about what pace I thought I could handle and when to push and back off.
|Gorge Waterfalls Course Preview|
Finally when the race week was upon me, I began losing confidence, I trained all winter with the hope and desire that I could finish within the top two and earn a spot on the start line at Western States. But who was I kidding, the list of names on ultrasignup was deep with competitors who had won or finished in the top ten at some of the most prestigious races in the nation. Not to mention, I was battling some nagging injuries related to overtraining for the event. But with the support of Apryle, my parents, future-in-laws, friends, and co-workers, I pulled it back together and toed the line confident and excited for the day.
The race was underway at six in the morning, the pace set by the leaders was fast, much faster than had I expected. My prerace plan was to power hike the switch backs around the Multnomah Falls area no matter what… that did not last one switch back. I pretty much ran the whole thing and was still back in about eleventh or twelfth place. I felt comfortable though, and the sun illuminated my way down the slightly sketchy descent to the No Name aid station, where I was told I was eleventh and already ten minutes off the lead. I grabbed some calories and was back on trail.
|Running by Ponytail Falls (Preview)|
There was a short road stretch, maybe two or three miles that I used to catch a small chase group in front of me, I believe it consisted of Ben Stern, Rob Russel and Ryan Ghelfi. Embarrassingly, one of the miles was a 5:50, which Apryle was not happy about when we were analyzing my splits. None the less I left Yeon aid station in sixth or seventh place. Quickly Ryan and Rob caught back up to me on the trail I ran with them for a while. Then shortly before the Cascade Locks aid station at mile 22, I caught Jeremy Humphrey and Gary Gellin and began to think I was getting in over my head. Perhaps I was pushing a little too hard early, but I was feeling very comfortable.
|Running in Olympic NP|
Between Cascade Locks and the turn around in Wyeth aid station there was some more shuffling, I caught someone on trail, then Ryan caught me and we ran together for a while. After some solid miles in the mid eights, a small climb unhitched me from the pace, and Jeremy Humphrey rocketed past and I matched the pace of Ben Stern until we reached Wyeth aid station. This was an interesting stretch because I was able to see the leaders, Rui was flying, Ryan Smith was seconds back and Chris Mocko was a few minutes back. As Ben and I were reaching the aid station Ryan and Jeremy were back out on trail. I took a bit longer at this aid station to refill calories and water. As always Apryle made this process so easy and seamless, that I barely lost any time at all.
|Another Previewed Course Section|
My watch said 31.2 miles 8:32 pace, and 4:26 overall time at the turn around. I joked that if I kept up the same pace that I would break 9 hours. However, even at this juncture I knew that was not going to be possible. During the next few miles I passed Ben, then Rob passed me, then just before Cascade Locks aid station at mile 40 I saw Ryan Smith walking down into the aid station. I assumed that either the early pace was taking its effect or he was recharging for a late race push. At any rate I was not expecting to keep the place that I picked up there.
|Sea Turtle in Port Aransas
(Perhaps they have a quicker
pace than terrestrial turtles?)
Just out of the aid station Ben passed me and said he something to the effect that the turtle race was beginning. This seemed to be an accurate statement and my pace began fading fast. As I came into Yeon at mile 49, I was feeling defeated, I asked James Varner what the gap from the leaders was, and he said you are about five minutes behind Ben. I took this to mean that first through fifth place was now certainly out of reach, but I still wanted to finish strong. The road section was quite helpful because my pace on the trail was getting quite atrocious. But once the road section was over it was back to the perpetual excuse mes and on your lefts as I gutted out the final miles of the course.
|Running in Olympic NP|
I knew I was not going to catch anybody after I went through No Name aid station, I hiked the switchbacks around Multnomah Falls and when I got to the runnable sections my quads were shaking, making running a laughable idea. I continued to peer over my shoulder thinking any minute I would lose my spot to people that ran a more consistent race. But I reached the flat portion to Benson State Park without a person in sight and mustered my remaining energy for one last kick. I crossed the line in 10:14, good enough for seventh place.
I did not get a golden ticket, I cannot say that I or anyone else is too surprised by that, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I trained everyday thinking that I could do it, and that I will continue to train everyday thinking that I can do it eventually. I love running for the sake of running, keeping my lifetime stats (striving to hit 150,000 miles before I die), exploring knew places, meeting new people. I love running for the way that it makes me feel, the endorphins and the sense of accomplishment. But most of all I love running for the eternal since of optimism it gives me for the future. If I work hard enough and put in the time and effort, one day I will accomplish my dreams. But most importantly, even if I never attain a single one of my goals, as long as I continue to strive for them and believe that I can see them come to fruition, then I am quite content.
|Family at Graduation|
Now back to the race… the course was everything I hoped it would be and more, competitive, stunningly aesthetic, and miserably painful. I owe gratitude to such an extensive list of people that I could not possibly include them all on this post, but there are a few that I must single out.
|My Strava Race Map Data|
First, thank you to Rainshadow Running and all of the volunteers for putting on another top notch event, the course was well marked and mapped and the post race pizza and music always makes for a memorable atmosphere.
|My Strava Elevation Profile Data|
Thank you to the participating Oregon State Parks and the Forest Service for allowing all of us to run the beautiful trails in the area. Thank you to my parents, future in-laws, and friends for the support and checking in on me on the race feed. Finally, thank you to my fiancé Apryle for all of your encouragement and your unwavering support of my quest to accomplish my dreams.
|December||27 to 2||75.08||11:15:19||8:59||14.01|
|January||3 to 9||116.75||15:14:45||7:50||31.2|
|January||10 to 16||82.98||12:59:15||9:23||18||10052|
|January||17 to 23||83.72||12:49:50||9:11||17.42||12025|
|January||24 to 30||64.91||8:53:01||8:12||14.32||8874|
|February||31 to 6||89.12||11:39:46||7:51||30||7454|
|February||7 to 13||84.82||11:03:20||7:49||26.25||9436|
|February||14 to 20||73.24||10:41:02||8:45||21.79||7913|
|February||21 to 27||88.63||11:33:22||7:49||29.1||7215|
|March||28 to 5||46.48||6:29:12||8:22||10.15||3885|
|March||6 to 12||93.67||12:50:14||8:13||25.03||8060|
|March||13 to 19||69.42||10:19:24||8:55||15.41||9529|
|March||20 to 26||66.22||8:47:32||7:57||13.8||5173|
|March||27 to 2||90.5||14:11:00||7:57||7.7||14361|
7th Place Overall in 10:14:11