This was by far the most difficult event that I have ever experienced!! I did this same race last year but this year was much harder. Many ups and downs. Many calm and chaotic moments. In fact, it seemed as though I experienced just about everything during this race. It was an intensely humbling and cleansing 11 hours and 48 minutes. I have several pictures and stories of the race so keep reading.
Here I am at the start of the race at 5:30 a.m. I have my three drop bags in my right hand and my water bottles in the other. At this point I am a bit nervous about the journey but also very excited. The early starters took off in into the mountains with a calm spirit. Two miles into the race my watch beeped to let me know that the signal from my foot pod (the thing that tells me my pace) was lost. I stopped for about 10 minutes to look for it and finally found it. Then I looked at my shoe to find the clip that holds the pod onto the shoe and it also was gone. I got mad and threw the foot pod out into the forest. About a mile later I realized I was looking at the wrong shoe and the clip was still there. DAMN IT!! I thew a $100 foot pod away for nothing. This was mentally discouraging because from that point on I never knew how far nor how fast I was running.
Here is a nice shot of what much of the 50 mile trail looked like. Lots of roots, lots of elevation change, and lots of dust. My legs were almost black at the finish line. The fact that it was a trail run is also a major factor in what and how sore I get. My ankles are very sore now because of the different terrain. There is also a lot of leaping and jumping involved.
Miles 1-8: After losing the foot pod my mental side of things kind of pooped out. Around mile 6 my legs were burning on the up-hills. This was also alarming but I knew I had to press on.
Miles 9-17: This was basically the first climb up the first major hill. It is a very steep and long hill that occasionally had ladders/stairs to get you up to other parts of the trails. I was still in pretty good spirits though and I usually pass a lot of people going up because my walk is pretty fast. The down hill sections are the ones were I usually get passed by others. Once I got to the top of the first hill it was a relief but I knew that it was still only the beginning.
Here I am at the 27.2 mile aid station. It took me 5 hours and 23 minutes to get there. My wonderful wife met me with some water and socks. I washed off my feet and changed socks. What a refreshing feeling it was just to change my socks. I had a blister developing on the ball of each foot at this point. These blisters were not show stoppers by any means but they were still there. At this point I told my wife that I was having a tough time with the run and that it was harder than last year. It did feel good to be half-way finished but the long down-hill tromp took a tool on my legs. The turns at the switch backs were really hard because you have to come to almost a stop to make the turn and that takes a lot of leg power when going down hill.
After a 3 or 4 minute rest, I am off again to tackle the second major climb of 8 miles. The second climb is a bit shorter but also a bit steeper. By the time I got to the top I was stumbling around a little. HAHAHAHA Feeling a little fresher from my rest felt good mentally but I knew that the next 8 miles was going to hurt. This section is also mostly exposed to the direct heat of the sun. This complicated matters for my attitude.
Miles 27-37: This was gruesome. I inched my way up that gigantic hill running any flat or down hill portions. This hill also contain lots of rocks which frustrated my ankles and hips. When I got to the top one of the aid station volunteers was worried about me because I was stumbling and maybe swaying a little. I told her that I was stumbling and that I planned to sit down for about 10 minutes to rejuvenate. So I did just that. At the top of the mountain I sat down and the aid station people when to work on me. They sponge bathed my head, arms and legs. Got my water bottles filled up with my calorie drink. Got me some Mt. Dew to drink to get me pepped up right away. They asked me questions to make certain that I was coherent and ready to run again. After that I was off to tackle the most difficult section of the race in my opinion. It is a steep 7 mile down hill on a gravel road.
Here are two photos of the view from climb #2. That is Mt. Rainier with the snow on it. Keep in mind that the trail that I was running on was basically a ski resort without the snow so that gives you a small glimpse of the steepness of the trails. And believe me, running down the trails IS NOT EASIER than running up the trail.
This is just another view of the majestic wilderness of the Mt. Ranier National Forest.
My beautiful wife came to the race with me. Boy she makes it so much more fun. I love my wife so much and her presence at this race made so much difference to me. You know when you are a kid and you hurt yourself out of the presence of your mom. You don’t cry at all but the moment that you see your mom you start to cry. Well, that is exactly what I did. After I finished the race my wife asked me how it was and I told her it was the hardest thing I had ever gone through and started to cry. I held it in because so many people were around but if they weren’t I would have just balled right there in her lap.
Crossing the finish line was a major relief. I thought probably 100’s of time that I just couldn’t make it but I did. Races like these go much deeper mentally than shorter ones. It was a very trying experience but I would certainly do it again. When I finished, there were still about 90 people out on the course and about 50 of those would eventually finish. The rest either did not make the 14 hour cut-off time or just had to stop running for whatever reason. Whatever happens, everyone who gets to the starting line is a winner in my book.
Moments after the finish I took a much appreciated rest on my wife’s blanket to take in some hydration and watch others finish. The after glow was nice and the amazement of the accomplishment was very heavy in this picture.