Tag Archives: 100k

Quicksilver 100k race report 2015

A bit slow in posting this race report but better late then never.

Entry into my second 100k race of 2015 happened quite unexpectedly. It all started when I read a tremendous local ultra-runner, Denise Bourassa had hidden a silver coin somewhere in Bend,Oregon. The lucky person who found it would get free entry into the Quicksilver ultra marathon compliments of Quicksilver Running Club and Greg Lanctot.  There were several hidden in other states as well. She posted several clues and I thought I knew where it might be hidden but I waited. I thought a more deserving, experienced ultra marathoner should get it. However after several days and two more clues nobody had claimed it so I thought I’d see if I could. The next morning on a run on Pilot Butte I found it.

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The silver coin!

I was thrilled and nervous at the same time. This is not an easy race. Not just because of the distance, but also because of the over 13,000 foot elevation gain mixed with potential heat.

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Gonna have a lot of climbing to do.

I did have the option of choosing the 50k instead of the 100k race. At the time I had never run a 100k and I was to run my first 100k 6 weeks prior to the Quicksilver race. Not sure if it would give me enough time to recover I threw caution to the wind and went for the 100k. If I finished the race in under 16 hrs it would also qualify me to get into the lottery for one of the most prestigious ultras around: the Western States 100.

In the weeks leading up to Quicksilver I was struggling with aches and pains from my first 100k the Gorge Waterfalls. It was a tough race and I struggled to finish it and now as this race drew closer my confidence wained.

I was dealing with a niggling injury and my body wouldn’t let me put in the training I wanted. After one group workout I approached another runner who I crossed paths with before. I expressed my concerns and she gave me a vote of confidence. She reminded me that I’d already put in the work and I was ready. Even my previous race could be looked at as more preparation for this one. Coming from someone who completed so many ultras and was still going strong helped put me back into the right frame of mind. Thanks Rhonda Sundermeier for taking the time to talk to a newbie like me.

As the race was located near San Jose, CA over 500 miles away I used the prize money I and another lucky silver coin finder from Seattle had received, to help pay for my air fare courtesy the Darcy Fick Memorial Travel Assistance, Greg Lanctot and Quicksilver Running Club. Flying out for the weekend to travel and participate in an ultra made me feel like one of those elite runners. Jetting from one locale to another across the globe to run various races. As this was my first ultra race outside of Oregon it wasn’t hard for my imagination to take flight and I was feeling loose and confident on what lay ahead.

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The race started at 4:30 am and before the start we got a debriefing of the course markers and a quick introduction to cougar etiquette. Seems several lived in the area and one in particular had been seen on the trail numerous times recently.  In fact the race was almost called off because of this. We were encouraged to run as a pack or at least try and be in the vincinity of another runner until daylight. That got us ready to run fast.

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Awaiting the start.

The course immediately started to take us uphill as I followed the stream of headlamps twinkling up the hillside.  I did my best not to head out too quickly, as I have a tendency to do so.  With my first 100k under my belt and still fresh in my mind I did my best not to push too hard too soon as I had previously. It didn’t take long for the racers to spread out a bit but I kept contact with other runners as I didn’t want to mimic the wounded or sickly one out of the herd to attract any possible cougars.  Ha!

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Keeping an eye out for cougars!

The race takes place in Almaden Quicksilver Park and many of the remnants of the Gold Rush days of California remain.  While still running in the cover of darkness we ran around the perimeter of an old cemetery and did a brief in and out into an old abandoned mine.  The race directors sense of humor was to show again later in the course to the chagrin of many of us.

At the arrival of dawn we were greeted by banks of fog.  It would be a while before it burned off and I was happy with the delay of the direct sun and the inevitable heat that would accompany it.

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I found this course very runnable as it is on single track and fire roads most of the way.  So when I wasn’t climbing I did my best to take advantage of this and also tried to attack the downhills aggressively.  I believe one has to increase their pain tolerance in this sport to be successful.  During races of this length a runner goes through many highs and lows along with ever increasing physical pain. Going into this I wasn’t sure if I’d even finish because of ongoing leg issues from the previous race. Luckily some of those issues didn’t get as bad as I feared and I gritted my teeth and trudged on when at times my knees hurt like hell on the downhills. I figured if my body was going to give out I’d go down in flames trying.  I recalled a podcast I heard where ultra marathoner Jeff Browning described some of his physical pain he went through during a race but didn’t injure himself.  This gave me the confidence to do the same. I wasn’t hurt just uncomfortable.  I recall on one section of trail as I bombed down and passed two runners hiking one of them said “Yeah, I used to be able to run downhill like that.”  That gave me a positive boost and during a race like this you have to take them anytime and any way you can.

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Many more miles and hills to go.

But it is a long race and as I approached about midpoint I was going to run by the starting area.  At this time I was in a very low mental state.  My car would be very close by and it would be so easy to just stop, give up and call it a day.  Fortunately it was fleeting as I told myself over and over I needed to get to the end to earn my first ultra buckle!

Now I mentioned previously that it seemed the race director and those who created this course had a sense of warped humor shall we say. Well it was about mile 44 when I encounter a steep hill of loose, jumbled rock.  It seemed the course could have easily been routed to avoid this pile of scree. I think to myself “Are they f..g serious!”  Now at this point of the race I’ve logged a lot of miles, my legs are fatigued from all the miles of racing.  I’m hot and sweaty as the sun beats down unobscurred now as the fog from this morning is long gone.  I watch as another racer scrambles over the top and I set forward as well.  I quickly relax though and take it for what it is. There’s even a photographer off to the right side to document the spectacle of tired ultra runners trying to scramble this rock pile without falling.  I see the humor in this and make my way gingerly.

Quicksilver 100k

Trudging up a steep, rocky section during the Quicksilver race. So fun!

This photo of another runner summed  up what many a runners initial response was in seeing this obstacle.

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All in good fun. But at the time…..

Some time later during the race I started to feel nauseous.  I felt terrible and my energy level plummeted.  I stopped and let another runner go by.  Not knowing what else to do I pulled out an energy bar to see if it would help.  To my surprise it stayed down. Turns out I was hungry and in need of energy.  I greedily ate it and began to walk. Slowly I began a slow shuffle and within several more minutes my strenght came back and I was cruising down the trail again.  I soon passed that other runner I had previously let by and I would wind up finishing the race ahead of him.  Earlier at an aid station I emptied out my pack and unfortunately took out all but that one snack. But at the time I wasn’t eating much and the aid stations had these awesome turkey avocado sandwiches that were hitting the spot.  So I figured the food in my pack was just extra weight.  It’s well worth keeping more at all times as one never knows when they will need that pick me up between aid stations.  Another lesson learned.

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As the miles accumulated I tried to find different motivations to keep me going.  I’d take my mind off the task at hand by observing and taking in the scenery.  I had reception on my cell phone so I’d exchange texts with my wife, giving her updates.  She’d give me encouragement and even sent a photo of my two kids cheering me on.  As they could not travel with me to be at this race it was a tremendous energy lift.  At times I’d find myself next to another runner and as we were running the same pace we’d chat a bit.  I don’t usually do this but found it to be of great benefit.  The last dozen miles I focused on several other runners I kept trading places with.  I used them as my pacer to keep pushing and trying to keep moving.  At the last aid station there was one runner who I had previously passed but she now caught up to me once again.  As I munched on some fruit she came into the aid station, serious and almost angry it seemed.  Brushing by me and other runners she grabbed what she needed and was off in a huff.  I thought to myself “Geez relax.  Your not racing for the podium.”  I decided to try and catch her again.  It was hot and we still had some climbing to do but we changed places a couple more times.  Eventually she passed me and I had to let her go as my legs started to  begin talking to me as we entered the last downhills.  I was ok with it.  In retrospect I realized her rude behavior at the aid station was just her focus and determination to get in and out as fast as she could and get to the finish.  It’s that kind of single-mindedness that gets you across the finish line in an ultra.  A few more runners were to pass me before the end as I also passed a few more, but as I heard the music from the festivities at the finish line I was happy to know I was nearing the end.  I went up a small slope and there ahead of me was the finish line. It turned out to be a great adventure and in the end I bettered my previous 100k by 43 minutes and finished in a time of 13 hours 31 min 21 seconds and earned my first buckle and entry to the Western States lottery.

The event was very well organized and featured great aid stations and volunteers. In this race during and after I encountered some of the friendliest runners anywhere. I highly recommend this race to any runner out there. Great post race bbq , great runner swag and plenty of sweat, pain and sometimes blood and tears. But us ultra runners wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you again for all who made this happen and especially to my wife Julia for all her support day in and day out and for letting me be out of town on mothers day weekend.

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Some post race notes and observations.

Nutrition:  Eating at aid stations helped immensely. I found a particular sandwich they had was really hitting the spot. Had turkey and avocado. Also fruit too. I definitely ate the most in this ultra then others and it helped. Yes don’t waste time at an aid station but do spend enough time to replenish. Time well spent.  Reduce rice balls. I make bite sized ones out of sushi rice, a dab of miso, small piece of fresh ginger, sprinkled with some chia seeds and wrapped with sushi grade seaweed. Last two races I only finished 6 of the 12 I had. Six gets me to about 30 miles and then I need something else.  Phase out gu. Almost didn’t use any. Stuck with real food and Skratch in my bladder. My stomach doesn’t like that condensed sugar.  Picky bars are my go to energy bar/snack.

Putting ice in bladder.  At one aid a volunteer asked if I wanted to put ice in with my water in my bladder. I never did that before and it helped having cold water go into my system those last four hours of the race with the sun beating down.  Ice water soakings help air to cool off the body too.
My shoes felt awesome need to stick with them. Sauconey Paragrins.

New headlamp worked great, Black Diamond.

Changing shirt and hat was good.  Compression socks on calves felt fine. Not sure if they helped but sure didn’t hurt. If it got any hotter I would not wear them as they are warm. It was in the 70s last quarter of the race. Also probably not good if they get soaked in water.

I tried going out slower and hike more hills in beginning of race but still had a faster first half. Maybe need to work more on that so I can have more energy at finish.

I definitely need to get better at hiking up steep grades that I can’t run. I repeatedly got passed in these situations by most runners and lost time. Effort was there but not the result I wanted. On the positive I did awesome on grades of about up to 14% Similar to my training and it really paid off in these sections. Need to train more on steeper grades. Hiking up and maybe learn to use poles. Might help. Could use when allowed in races.

Lastly, next race try to arrive 2 days early. If I could have arrived Thursday night then I could have slept in late Friday and been well rested even if I had trouble falling asleep night before the race. Also might give me an opportunity to scout out parts of the course.

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Waldo 100k 2015 Race Report


My last race of 2015 was the Waldo 100k. From their website:

The Waldo 100K Ultra marathon is a challenging 100K loop-type course starting at Willamette Pass Ski Area (70 miles east of Eugene, Oregon) at elevation 5120′, climbing up several mountains including Fuji, The Twins, and Maiden Peak before returning to the ski area. The route is mostly single-track trails with some fairly remote sections and has many incredible views of pristine Waldo Lake. It is not a beginner-level ultra and participation in the race should not be taken lightly.

The last sentence was in bold for a reason. This is a tough as it is beautiful course. Coming in I was confident I would finish the race, after all this would be my third 100k race this year. Having bettered my finishing time from my first to second 100k I hoped to continue that trend here. But it was not to be.

The ride from my home town of Bend, OR to the ski area was a pleasant short drive. I shared a ride with friend and fellow runner Brian Frankle. We took a back road which offered less traffic and more scenery. We engaged in pleasant conversation and as we neared our destination he pointed out several of the peaks we would climb during tomorrow’s race. They looked beautiful and I was excited. However upon arrival my troubles soon began. Something I ate at home before departing did not agree with my stomach and I soon had to find the nearest restroom. Then while setting up my tent I aggravated my back which was just coming around after I injured it a couple weeks ago. Little did I know these were to be just two reoccurring issues effecting me throughout tomorrow’s race.

The morning was on the chilly side and I quickly made my way into the ski lodge for a little warmth to await the 5 am start. Headlamps were worn by all as we made our way to the starting line.

Long Run Picture Company http://gallery.longrunpictures.com/Ultras/Ultra-Trail-Races-2015/Waldo-100K-2015/

First climb comes pretty quick.

Soon after we headed out and in no time came to our first ascent of about 1,100 feet in the first two miles. I reminded myself not to hurry and for the most part didn’t get too anxious. This first climb would soon be over and we would get to run down hill until we reached the first aid station at mile seven. I had taken my running shell off as I had heated up quickly on the ascent. As we made our way to the aid station I dropped off my headlamp and grabbed some watermelon and water. I was so focused on running I forgot a couple of friends were there helping man the aid station until one of them noticed me. I always find it rejuvenating to see a familiar face during a race. As I left to continue on I saw a bathroom available and went for it. Once inside my stomach let me know all was still not well. After what seemed like ten minutes I was back on the trail. We made our way towards the next trail that would lead us up Mt. Fuji and a 2,000 ft climb. As we left a road and got onto the trail I simultaneously heard a buzzing coming from behind a downed tree next to the trail and then felt a sharp pain in my right shin. Dang! Got stung by a bee. Luckily I’m not allergic but I’d feel some pain from the sting the rest of the race. As I settled in and tried to get back into a rhythm I started to get gas pains. Sheesh. If its not one thing it was another. Despite these nuisances I was able to focus on running and the forest scenery. I maintained a steady pace, took in my nutrition and drank from hydration pack. So far so good. As we approached a trail junction I saw two race volunteers sitting in sleeping bags waiting for runners to come to make sure they went in the right direction. I can only guess at what ungodly hour they had to hike up there to be ready for the first runners. I am always so thankful to the volunteers as without them these races wouldn’t be possible. The volunteers at Waldo fantastic. Offering encouragement, humor, and help if needed.
Somewhere after the second aid station at mile 12.4 I began seeing some of the early starters and front runners coming down. I saw my friend Brian during this stretch coming down and he looked composed and running well. I briefly wished I was farther along but then reminded myself I was right where I had hoped to be. My previous two 100k races I did the first half of the race too fast and I was determined not to let this happen again. I had a goal of reaching Charlton Lake aid station between 6 ¼ and 6 ½ hours. My goal if all went well was to shoot for a race time of under 13 hours.
As I approached the top of Mt. Fuji the wind was blowing hard and the views were spectacular in the morning light. Thankfully smoke from various forest fires elsewhere were being held at bay from the winds. I took a moment to take in the views at the top. I pulled out my camera phone to take a few pictures but it seemed not to be working. I played around for a moment with it but I quickly put it away as I was in a race after all. Time to head down.

Near the summit of Mt. fuji.

As I made my way down Mt. Fuji and eventually aid station 3 Mt. Ray we would lose all the elevation we had just climbed up. I usually try to hammer down downhill sections as best I can but I decided to hold back a bit as I figured there was still plenty of miles left to run so it was best to conserve my quads. Even so, more issues started to creep up. My back started talking to me. No sooner then it seemed to go away it was replaced by tight glutes and hamstrings, then the bottom of my right foot started hurting. It seemed all the aches and pains from the running season started to rear their ugly heads. Any one of these by themselves was not a game breaker, but to constantly have one after the other come up and I was only a quarter of the way through the race started to wear on me mentally. Was this how it was going to be the rest of the way? I just didn’t feel right and I wondered maybe I wasn’t totally over a cold/virus I had just the week prior. For the first time ever I seriously was considering dropping out of a race and I hadn’t even reach the half way point.

Despite the various discomforts I made it to Charlton Lake aid station. As I approached I could hear the crowd gathered there. Even as I smiled seeing the first spectators in my mind I was debating if I should continue on. As I entered the aid station I was greeted by a pleasant surprise. My wife Julia had come with our two children. Seeing them always lifts my spirits and today was no exception. But as I grabbed my drop bag and told her of my troubles she asked if I wanted to drop as we both new the second half of the course would be more isolated and if I dropped out there getting out would not be easy. Despite having my doubts if I could finish I was determined to try. Worse case scenario I figured I could always hike out if need be. With a quick kiss to my family I was off again.

Carlton Lake

It was just over five miles to the next aid station and it helped that this section had a slight loss in elevation. It was still tough going mentally and physically, but the farther I ran the better my frame of mind. By the time I hit aid station six I was feeling better then I had in some time. However not long after departing this aid station I had to soon pull off the trail as my stomach issues once again returned. As I was taking care of business the stillness of the forest was suddenly interrupted by what I’d describe as a loud primeval sound. I heard it again, closer this time and then realized it was another runner who was having problems of his own. He was throwing up repeatedly. I thought to myself I was lucky as things could be worse for me. The next seven miles the trail steadily climbed up as we made our way towards The Twins peaks. At this stage of the race some of the other runners were running a similar pace as I was. I’d focus on one ahead of me and do my best to try and catch up to them. Other times a runner would pass me by and I’d try my best to keep pace. A few of us would seesaw back and forth that way as the miles wore on. On one occasion as one guy passed me as I was struggling with my pace. We exchanged a few words of encouragement as he went by. He slowly disappeared from my view as he continued on but I was to see him again. This section of the race was extremely difficult as I’d be forced to slow down to a walking pace at times. Regain some strength to run at a slow shuffle to again be forced down to walking pace. This continued all the way to the Twin Peaks aid station.
After refueling as much as I could I headed out towards the next aid station at the foot of Maiden Peak. When running long races such as this I find it helpful to focus on one section of the trail at a time. Just think of getting to the next aid station, getting over the next incline and sometimes just picking out a spot on the trail a few yards ahead and focusing on reaching that goal. If I think too much about all the miles remaining I’d never get it done. This next section of trail we’d lose about 1400 feet in elevation over the course of 5 miles and this is probably part of the reason I was able to pick up my pace a bit. I passed another fellow runner who a few miles back had passed me up. He stepped aside to let me by as I was now the one going much faster as he struggled along. I said I had gotten a second wind and was going to ride it for as long as I could. He joked that maybe I’d get a third wind later as well and we both laughed out loud. I ran as hard as I could and these five miles seemed to go by fairly quickly as I reached the Maiden Peak aid station. The volunteers here were great, taking my hydration pack to fill it with water and one told me they had popsciles. Oh yeah! A prior aid station had some as well and this was a great way to help cool off and rehydrate before hitting the toughest climb of the day. I was immensely greatful these volunteers where out here in the middle of nowhere and I told them so. As I got ready to leave the guy I had passed previously came in. This helped get me back on the trail heading up as I used other runners as motivation.

For whatever reason making it this far into the race I now knew I would be able to finish. No doubts lingered anymore in my mind. I had no clue how much longer it would take but I knew I’d be able to do it. Climbing Maiden Peak was a real challenge. It had a similar gain in elevation as Mt Fuji at about 2,000 feet, but doing it after running 50 miles made it way harder. As I moved along I found myself slowing down more and more as the elevation went up and up. Soon I heard my fellow runner from earlier coming up behind me so I stopped to let him by. We offered encouragement to each other again and joked again that I could get a third wind. Not likely on this steep trail section. Soon he was out of sight but in time I saw another runner ahea.  I tried to focus on catching up to him. He was a shirtless, bearded, grey haired man who looked much older then me so I assumed I’d catch him in no time. But at some point I stopped gaining and we maintained an equal distance apart. Damn this old guy was fast! As we got closer to the top I lost sight of him through the trees and wouldn’t see him again until after the race. As it turns out this “old guy” was the legendary Gordy Ainsleigh.  And by calling him old I don’t mean any disrespect as I can only hope 20 years from now I’ll still be racing like him. For those who don’t know he is he’s the first person to run what we all know now as the Western States 100 mile ultra marathon in 1974. When he ran it this event was a horse race, not a foot race.  Some say this is were modern ultra marathons began. You can learn more at Where it all began.

Eventually my slow plodding got me to the top of Maiden Peak. I was greeted by three volunteers who where there to be sure people made the full climb up before descending down again. One of them offered to take my photo.

Maiden Peak

Top of Maiden Peak.

 

Maiden Peak panorama

View from Maiden Peak.

After taking in the views and getting a boost of positive energy from being up there it was time for the home stretch. At first it was slow going as I encountered lots of rocks on the trail but eventually it gave way to a nicer trail. I couldn’t really go as fast as I wanted but eventually reached the final aid station at mile 55. Just seven miles to go. I got a warm reception and lots of encouragement at this last aid station. One volunteer who had finished the race already had come out to cheer people on and told me there were just a few more inclines and then I’d reach a downhill stretch to the finish. This indeed was the case, but as I ran along those short hills they seemed to be more numerous and longer and steeper to my tired legs. Along this final stretch there were several lakes offering a bit of respite with their aesthetic views.

Eventually with about three miles to go it did start to go downhill and I picked up my pace.  I was motivated along by a runner who came up behind me. I asked him if he wanted to pass but he said this speed was good for him. We soon passed other runners including my buddy who shouted you did get a third wind! As my competitive spirit kicked in and I didn’t want this runner behind me to pass I ran even harder and harder. In time he dropped off and I ran alone again. Soon I could hear a truck driving on the highway.  Then I heard the announcer on the PA system. I was almost there. Suddenly I was at a clearing and I could see the finish in the distance. I also saw three figures and one of them came running towards me. It was my family awaiting me. Soon my son Leonardo was running along side me and what has now become a tradition we crossed the finish line together.

Finish line

Finish line!

My official time was 15 hours 10 minutes and 10 seconds. Two hours later then What I aspired for but I did complete my other goals. That is to finish the race and have fun. Although this race presented many physical and mental challenges I did enjoy myself along the way and am left with the great satisfaction of completing the event. I highly recommend this challenging race to anyone and I myself will one day return to try to better conquer it again.

A trail racing season comes to an end

With the completion of the Waldo 100k race my tired body will get a rest from any more long races this year.  This race was my third 100k race of 2015.  The Gorge Waterfalls 100k being the first and Quick Silver 100k the second.  If I include The Siskyou Out and Back 50 miler I completed my own personal grand slam.  Not even close to the Grand Slam of Ultra Running which entails running four tough 100 mile races in one year, but I am proud of my own accomplishment  regardless.  This being just my second year running ultras I almost bit off more than I could chew.  But that’s what drives many of us who run these challenging races.  To test ourselves physically and mentally.  To see what are limits are.

Trudging up a steep, rocky section during the Quicksilver race. So fun!

Trudging up a steep, rocky section during the Quicksilver race. So fun!

I’ll spend the coming months reviewing how my races went and try to figure out what went well and what didn’t. For example was my fueling strategies adequate, how was my running pace, do I need to concentrate more of my training on hills etc.  It is a good time to reflect not just on the past year but also what the future may hold.  I will start considering what races I may try to get into for next year.  Two races on my bucket list are Western States 100 miler and the Lavaredo 119km in The Dolomites of Northern Italy.  The stars will need to align just right to make either of these happen, but who knows. That’s the fun part of race planning. Imagining oneself taking on even greater challenges in new locales.

The Dolomiti along the Lavaredo ultra.

The Dolomiti along the Lavaredo ultra trail.