When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.
The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire
The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Welcome to our 'Hoood!
Somewhere in February of 2007, while doing trail work for Hagg lake 50k, I came up with a wild idea that Oregon needs a 100M trail race. I was feeling part of the community, had finished enough ultras to consider myself an ultrarunner, had my hands dipped into co-directing the PCT50, and the previous 100M run in OR conducted in Warm Spring Reservation seized to exist a year prior. I shared it with those around, and received a positive feedback. However, I still didn’t have enough guts to announce it and go on with it. After all, who the hell am I thinking I could pull it off? Another year and another PCT50 co-RDing later I approached Mike Buchwhacker Burke, my faithful running partner, for help. He looked at me crazy – and agreed. We prepared a presentation for ORRC, our “roof” for Hagg lake 50k and PCT 50M races, and set the date for 2008. The name was picked as a common effort, to include Mt. Hood, the prominent feature of not only the run area, but Oregon itself, as well as play on the fact I came from NYC, the Bronx to be exact, and the buckle designed right on the spot with the help of Tim Lawson. However, as we applied for Forest Service Permits in November, we learned that the deadline for next year is October 31. It was another year to wait...well, it just means we have more time to prepare!
The original idea was to utilize fully the PCT50 course that starts at Clackamas Ranger station and goes north on PCT, turns around at Timberline Lodge, backtracks to the start, and then add on 25 miles on south-bound part of PCT. Mike and I ran this section a couple of times (by the way, without Mike and his knowledge I wouldn’t be able to figure out the boundaries of the wilderness we are allowed to travel, and that was a challenge in its own right) and picked up the spots for the aid stations. Permits received, sponsors on hands, we were ready to go...
When in mid-June the news strike that a big part of north-bound PCT now belongs to a new Wilderness under the bill accepted by government in March, and no organized events are allowed on premises. That threatened not only Hood 100, but PCT50 as well. A meeting of RD’s Mike, Monika (for PCT50) and I later, we decided to extend the south portion of the run, into Warm Springs Meadow for PCT50 and all the way to Breitenbush lake area and the boundaries of Mt. Jefferson for the Hood 100. Have I mentioned yet that about a third of the 100M race was to go through Warm Springs Indian Reservation? This land is off-limits to visit, although Pacific Crest trail is a publicly owned one, and we have to ask for permits to access the roads on the land for our aid station personal. It was a pleasure to work with Reservation people, and we hope to spread a good word about them through our run. Somewhere in July there was also a wild fire danger, and Forest Service gave us a warning they may have to cancel on us - which, luckily, didn't happen, but we were on the edge ofr about 2 weeks.
After PCT50 was done and over, it was finally time to focus fully on the Hood 100. Just as I moved to Austin, TX, on August 1st, to leave Mike to deal with so much local stuff...the following 1.5 months were a turmoil for both of us to scribble all the notes and prepare for inaugural run of a 100 miler in OR. The People of The Oregon came through for us...we had best of best crews assembled to manage the aid stations, the runners kept registering in, surpassing our expectations in numbers, and cancellation of Angeles Crest 100M in CA due to wild fires plaid role into getting last minute folks in. We were ready as we could be...
It was a blast! According to the runner’s comments, everybody had a grand time. As we gathered together at 4:45 am for the pre-race briefing, I did my “don’t litter, we don’t mark the course, follow PCT diamonds, stay on trail, let horses go by, have fun, eat and drink” speech, and Mike said a few words on dedication of this run to Dave Terry, our Portland ultrarunner who died a week prior to the race, a great man, 10 times WS100 finisher, 10 times Wasatch100 finisher, 5 times Hardrock100 finisher, a Montrail athlete since its begining, a great supporter of local ultra community and the sport in general, followed by a moment of silence. And just like that, with a count from 10, they were sent off, lead by Bushwhacker on the short road section out on the trail...for the next 100+ miles.
At the start, I had my own favorites for the race, and as I and 2 of our volunteers hauled the water jags to Little Crater lake unmanned AS, runners came through exactly in order and times I predicted. Yassine Diboun, a great and relatively new-comer to ultrarunning (geez, I remember when I was considered a new comer...) who just moved from new York City area to Portland, was leading the race, and followed in hot pursuit by David LaDuc, Tom Ederer (CC100 winner last year), Brian Krogmann (Drymax athlete) and Sander nelson (our own trail-Maister). So far so good...a few falls tripping over roots into soft dust was just a fun time to begin the race.
Ham radio were reporting runners getting through our Hwy58 and Frog lake AS’s to the start, volunteers started to show up for the later AS’s to pick up supplies and get set up. and I dashed to horse camp AS at mile 28 to help man it and make sure all the runners have their lights handy for the next stretch – while more than half of them will have reached next drop bag AS at mile 55 before dark, I wasn’t one to make picks who will or not, and policed everyone equally. It IS an ultra, you know, shit happens...
Runners showed up at Horse camp in pretty much the same order I saw them at mile 6, but the times...oh, my, the times were at least an hour faster! That scared the hell out of me, and I ran to the main area to speed up the process of loading the AS crew’s trucks and sending Ham radio folks to the trail. We are going to have some fast times!
Next sections were a disaster. For race directors anyway. Not only I miscalculated the time of arrival of runners to them (and thankfully, most volunteers turned in early), we had major delays in loading area (explained later), and the front 10 runners or so passed by Red Wolf AS (mile 33) as the radio guy was setting up and the AS was not in sight. Thankfully, the Warm Spring Meadow, next one at mile 38.5, got a bit faster (and all set and ready), and Pinhead crew, consisted of Where is Waldo 100km race folks under superior directorship of Craig Thornley, a very well known and prominent ultrarunners of Oregon, at mile 44.4 was ready at least for the most part. Later in a day these guys not only provided aid for the runners in the best fashion, the also gave entertainment of costumed play along with a lot of booze to offer:)
That was not all of our mishaps. We had planned to have a walk-in water for Lemiti Creek, a middle point between Pinhead and Olallie Meadow campground, but it turned out the walk-in from the roads was impassable, and the AS crews were trying their earnest yet could only manage so much and so far. On top of it, with the delays mounting up, Olallie Meadow campground was still setting up when the Ham radio people announced they should be having front runners coming through any minute. One of the runner’s personal crew offered to help to mark the out-n-back (the only off-trail AS, set about 3/8 miles from the trail head), and did it in the wrong place! yet again, our heroes, the “fast and the restless”, ran by without turning in for aid – or for their drop bags and crew visit. Way to go, RD’s! That was corrected fast enough to catch everybody past runner 6, and the rest of the day, and night, this aid station provided the highest quality help with hot foods, blankets and fire, TLC and kick-but “get out of here” help of Gail and Sid Snyder, Maura S. and Stan N., Anna B. and Greg P. and a few others local ultrans.
Ollaie Lake AS, mile 58.6, was managed by McDonald Forest 50k crew, lead by Clem LaClava (the Father of PNW ultrarunning), and at least here there were no problems. In fact, Clem, being the Father he is, had walked down the trail towards previous aid, and encountered somewhat staggering runners with no water, with whom he shared his own bottles and pointed them to the real help. I guess in this whole situation what I am most grateful is that it all happened to the front runners, who are extremely trained individuals and were able to take care of themselves no matter what (even if slowing down from what they hoped to be doing at that point). No more glitches to speak about here, on to the final turn-around at Breitenbush lake AS, mile 65!
Breitenbush was manned by our own ultra-stars of Liz Kellogg, Caroline Klug and Dave Stevenson. Liz (as well as Bushwhacker) has been at it (ultrarunning) from the days most of you were still able to walk under the table standing straight, so they rocked their aid and TLC, and the runners couldn’t say anough.
As the race stands, there appeared to be changes. Yassine developed an injury, Ray Sanchez took the lead, and the pack of 5 runners was 2 minutes apart at mile 75. As I visited Olallie Meadows Camp AS, it was buzzing with business and love, and they provided me with details on every runner passing either direction. Top-notch help we had! I mingled for an hour, checking in with runners and crews and AS folks, and headed back to the start – by my calculations, the winners will come any time after 9:30pm.
At least I was right on one thing. I had put bets on the first course record getting set at sub-17 hr mark. A mere hour after my coming back, Ray Sanchez came streaming in 16:56. He didn’t even have a chance to catch a breather, David LaDuc followed in 17:02, and the Brian Krogmann kicked in at 17:13. They all were trying to either catch each other or run away from one another for the last 20 miles! That was a blast! The funny thing was about our winning man, who got the number 135 (have I mentioned I didn’t ordered enough bib numbers and utilized PCT50 bibs completely randomly?), was preparing to do the 135-triple next year: Brazil 135M, Badwater 135M, Arrowhead 135M. Way to go, Ray, we wish you all the best and believe you are going to kick some butt!
Our first woman was no slacker either. Shawna Wiskey, from WA, powered through most of the field, smashed the guy’s egos and finished 6th overall in 18:26. The local favorite Pam Smith was second female in 19:07, and Floren Ansley rounded up top 3 in 21:19.
It was a gorgeous day. Blue skies, high sun, mid-60’s during a day and a chilly 30’s at night. The course provided the views you will never forget once visit. Even though we got cut off the greatest Mt. Hood panorama when lost ability to go to Timberline Lodge (and were left with a glimpse instead), we acquired Mt. Jefferson views, as well as vast mountain scenes on the south end of the trail. The PNW trails are the best in the country (and I’ve been around), soft dirt, nice and smooth, secluded in pine trees and Old Growth so tight that it really answers to the word “singletrack”. Runners loved every minute of it, even when fighting dehydration, or cold, or “last 4.5 miles” turned into 6, to account for nearly 103M race. All in all, we had 85 finishers officially (plus 2 coming over 30 hrs cut off and still getting a credit), and of those almost half of the field – 41 runner! – buckled under 24 hrs. Did I tell you it’s an “easy” course (11,000 feet of elevation gain), even if too long?
Behind the scenes – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What went wrong:
As I said above, the biggest let-down was miscalculating the time to open the aid stations on the south-bound end. Point taken to heart. We will open at least 90 minutes earlier next year!
On top of this human error, we had some unpleasant encounters with our Forest Service person, and were pointed out that we are not allowed to use water spigot at the start/finish area to fill our water jags. While we bought over 100 gallons of water, we did need another 200 to be filled on site – and were stopped. While the conversation was held and decisions were made, it delayed departure of our AS crews by good 30-40 minutes and magnified the problem already on hand. Point taken – buy all the water next time (that will be a haul!).
We need more people at crucial aid stations, like Olallie Meadow camp and Pinhead. Not only the are busiest AS’s (especially 55/75M one, since it’s a drop bag/crew/close exchange point with an extra person manning parking and walk-in, and an extra person manning trail turn-in-to-AS), they have had to haul water to the trail for the Lemiti drop.
Pinhead AS has horrible road access the last 3 miles or so, and without 4WD nobody can get there. Our Ham radio person got stuck for 5 hrs, blocking the way for the rest of AS crew (luckily, most of their cars and gear made it before).
Mike and I need to read every line of the Forest Service Permit, and even more importantly – between the lines. We had no clue our cars are not allowed to park at Horse camp, and I had to be a rude police with threatening to DQ runners who’s crew cars are parked next to AS. It was not a pleasant experience, not to mention it deterred my attention from aiding to the runners.
We need to have a full committee with at least 2 more people to help us prepare for this race. It was way too much to oversee for the two of us, and neither is good at delegating, preferring to “do it yourself”. This way the “little” yet important details won’t slip between the fingers. I think we got those "2" already:)
I managed to under-order the shirts for the runners. I was getting so many left-over t-shirts from PCT50, and since we didn’t expect many runners the first year of the race, I was about 10 less in count than I would have liked. 3 runners and 7 volunteers left shirt-less...
At the beginning stages Mike and I decided to give buckles only to sub-24 hr finishers. There was a lot of questions prior the race and after about it. At the time we felt we are providing an “easy” course (common, we still had half the field run sub-24!), and wanted people to try their best. Yes, we do realize for many and many “best” is a finish, and we appreciate them just as much – if not more. We’ve been on both ends. However, I guess we took it after Vermont 100 rule (not to mention so many 100 mile races in the country still award no buckles at all). The rule on that was stated on the website since it’s induction, and changing it the day of the race felt unfair to those who did haul minutes under for the buckle. All this said, we plan on getting bronze buckles for sub-30 hr finishers for next year.
We didn’t plan to have food at the finish line until morning hours! This is where personal preferences interfere with conducting the race. Neither Mike nor I never stay and mingle if we finish in the dark, it’s sleep time! Does WS100 has food for night finishers? I don't think so. But – our runners wanted to eat and socialize! We should probably take it as a good sign, but we had to scribble food from early AS’s left over and our own cabin to keep them afloat until Michelle came with amazing home-made soup and pork, prepared from scratch right on the spot. Lesson learned.
No matter how many times I announced that drop bags need to be picked up before noon, obviously, quite a few were forgotten. We waited till 1:30pm and did what promised – donated them to Goodwill on the way to Portland. We apologize for the inconvenience, but we have no capacity to store them or ship them. Next time plan accordingly.
What went right:
I really would love to post the whole list, but am afraid it will take 3 pages. I do intend to link them all to our website. We truly are blessed with people in the community, and they came through and above for us this weekend big time. Thank YOU!
Ham radio volunteers. They’ve been helping us with PCT50 for a few years now, and their presence is absolutely invaluable! This year, at the Hood 100, not only they provided the reliable info between AS’s and headquarters, they helped to haul supplies to AS’s and even served some of the runners while our AS crews were making their way to set up! Woo-hoo for Hobie and Team!
The race was really boosted up by the tremendous help of our sponsors! Oregon Road Runner Club had provided all the supplies and the “roof” for our run. T-shirts design was done as a present for my birthday by Rick Gaston, a friend and an ultrarunner himslef, and the buckle design, as it popped in my head, was fulfilled in life by Tim Lawson. Hammergel Nutrition is the supplier of HEED and the gels. NUUN is an electrolyte sponsor. Inov-8 had 2 gift certificates for the winners and some random prizes. SportHill always the company we turn to for the shirt order and random prizes as well. Moeben sleeves and Dirty Girl gaiters support the race with their product. Drymax stepped in with providing socks for every single runner in the race – free of charge to us! Maxwell made the buckles. Road Runner Sports and Zirk personally help with supply and fully man the AS. Zombie Runner and Sunsweet had their share in for the runner’s goodie bags. Dr. Drake helped runners to get back to the task at mile 55/75. Nathan gave us packs for the prizes. Michelle Busset (the director of Forest Park conservancy) single-handedly cooked meals for the finish line. I am sure I am forgetting somebody, but we owe all these wonderful people a round of applause!
The teamwork of Mike and I. We were running partners for 5 years not for nothing. We trained together, ran together, slogged together, walked together, we laughed, we cried, shared last of food, pooped on trails, planned on races, carpooled, we even ran races together and paced each other numerous times. All that equaled in a complete understanding in half-nod of a head. We had divided our responsibilities for the race to the best of our personal abilities, never argued about a thing (although may be held a couple of grudges, but who doesn't? it was over before we had time to mule over them!), and either tackled adversities together, or took turns to attend to those as they arose.
The final words:
As the clock ticks off the days after the race, there is one thing certain – Mike and I are ready to do it again, and to do it BETTER! It was lamost a blessing we ran into problems, because we can tackle them all at once and, hopefully, not have any major disasters ever again! So, please, spread the word, come over, we’d love to have you in Da ‘Hood and share our trails!
On personal notes:
I arrived in Tuesday and was picked up by my Russian girlfriends. We had a great dinner and a chit-chat, and I was trying to see if I feel at home again. You see, I am kind of a little “homeless”, when Austin is not quite home yet, and Portland is already not. I even managed to “dump” (a.k.a. sell with paying due to housing market out of pocket enough to cover a downpayment on a new house) my condo during the visit, taking about 10 minutes to sign closing papers. One person, though, made a valid point – how long did it take me to feel “part of” in PNW? Probably about a year. So, what am I whining about? Anyhow, as I got into the car and drove around, my heart ached. I knew every corner of the neighborhood, every niche, every store. I knew every runner, and it was especially obvious at the race sign-up. It felt great! I was somebody to these people, not just the name, I was a character they came to know, may be not always like, but accept as is. And it was very tender to feel...And as I stepped on PCT, on Thursday night, as Mike, Larry and I did our own run on one section, my legs stretched out, my step got springy, and I ran...did I run. It was like I was born to run here, only here, not anywhere else. And I broke down and cried...not to hurt anybody’s feelings out there, and not to make locals feel superior, but PNW trails are my home, my heart and my soul. I will forever be in love with them...
On a not so sobby note, I had become quite a truck driver. I was the one driving a 16-footer U-Haul to and from the star, filled up to capacity of not an air pocket left. We did a grand time of loading, hauling, back-jarring stuff that I still ache. Larry was a huge help, and so was Mike's brother-in-law Pat.
Speaking of Larry, my boy had an awesome race. It was his 3rd 100M attempt with first one at Rocky raccoon in 2008 (in 19:36) and second DNF at Headlands last year. It was his present for me – and mine to him – for our weeding. His agenda was to buckle – yes, just like everyone who whine of not getting a buckle had they run over 24 hrs, larry was in the same boat, and had to work his ass off to make it there in time. His training (coached by yours truly) was solid, if only by my standards low mileage. I was worried about that part, but tried not to let it be seeing. His pace chart, designed, yet again, by yours truly, said 21:30. We knew, long time ago, he will go into this race with no pacer, no crew, no support. In fact, the only time I even saw him briefly was at Horse camp AS, and even then I was occupied yelling about car parking situation. So, that was a test on “real ultrarunning”. And he passed it with flying colors! Larry finished 103M of Hood 100 in 21:52, good for 20th place, and got his buckle! I am extremely proud of him, and think that this was a turning point in his ultra career. Now he knows what he can – and only will have to decide if he wants to:)
And that would be all, my friends, for today!