Notes from events in 2021, H2

A quick post to save some memories from the second half of 2021

Oregon Cascades 100 (~30hrs)

  • Arrived in Sisters, OR late. Slept ~2.5hrs. Insomnia for ~2hrs. Got up catch the Lyft I’d scheduled. No show. Had to drive to the start anyways. Wasn’t sure how I’d get back to my car after running 100 miles.
  • In the first few miles met a fellow who was running the Oregon Cascades 100 just 11 days after having run the BigFoot 200!
  • Tried no poles. There were only supposed to be 10.5kft gain over the course. I wanted to free hands to make it as easy as possible to feed so I’d always be eating enough and not have stomach issues.
  • Dual goals: no stomach issues & 20-24hr finish time became dueling goals. I gave up on my A time goal ~25mi in and B time goal ~40mi in. The big dinner and breakfast (this worked at the Plain 100k in 2019) meant that I didn’t eat almost until I was weak just because I had no desire. Hydrated chia wasn’t enough calories and tastes neutral but with the consistency of tapioca it had an odd feeling going down. Maybe a hard-sided bottle would have helped there?
  • I tried to make myself eat at every aid station and put something down but never enough. Fell in with a misfit group coming in to the 50mi. The lead was young woman with mannerisms and speech patterns I associate with down syndrome but she was consistent. Behind her was a middle-aged woman with zero fat, huge calves who seemed to be unable to not run on the balls of her feet. The ladies kept up idle chatter. Behind me was a guy who also didn’t have enough energy to participate in the conversation. The zero-fat lady didn’t want to eat so that she wouldn’t drink so that her stomach wouldn’t slosh and have issues. Maybe that’s my problem? Unfortunately I’m feeling the weakness I associate sustained exercise while under-feeding.
  • I spent many miles fantasizing about withdrawing from Plain (happening in 3 weeks).
  • I stopped being able to tolerate food and was >20min/mi on uphills after mile 60.
  • I dry heaved just out of the first aid station I reached after dark despite only halving had broth there, chicken noodle soup at the previous aid station.
  • At the coldest aid station on the course, I was slow to repack my vest because my fingers were cold. An aid station volunteer told me that the best thing for my stomach was to keep moving but another fellow offered bacon on my way out. It took many, many chews to liquify each bite of bacon but it went down!
  • The mile 71 aid station had move >1mi further away without the course manual being updated. At least it had a heater. I came in behind a fellow who tried to drop due to foot pain and a headache. The aid station volunteers asked, “how do you plan to drop?”. There was no cell service or race-provided support until the station closed. A young man had dropped and their face was covered in blood from a bloody nose. A young woman had dropped and was sitting catatonic in a chair while friend wrapped more coats and blankets around her and whispered supportive things. A fellow in a space blanket ambled around with a blank expression. I made friends with the fellow who’d attempted to drop (his name was Mike) and we decided to do the next 10 miles to the mile 81 aid station together at a walk – probably just walk the whole way. I managed 2 fig newtons đŸ™‚
  • The walk was great. I could sip the butternut squash soup I’d packed in refillable squeeze packets. Mike was great company. We met the fellow who overtook me in the last miles of the Badger Mountain Challenge. He was pacing a friend and planned to walk the rest of the course. I started to have energy again. The sky started to warm as we descended to the next aid station. This section had a lot of rocks positioned just so that you tended to kick them at inopportune moments.
  • I was able to eat a real breakfast at the mile 89 aid station. Spirits were high. Mike and I decided to finish the race out together at a walk but trying to jog as much as possible. Things were pretty easy from here. The entire course had been through dry pine forest and that didn’t change.
  • There’s a 2.3mi loop that you have to just to make it a 100miler. When I finished, my watch was over 110 miles. Mikes was ~106. This is a microcosm of the course which is really a 50mi course with a 50mi loop-de-loop. It was a lot of the same with some nice but not spectacular views. If I hadn’t walked it in with Mike for 30 miles, it would have irredeemably miserable but oddly, I only have good memories. Misery loves company?

Plain Endurance Run (DNF @ mi 47)

  • I’d gotten some hard news the night before and so didn’t sleep. Felt hung over and legs like jelly at the start. The race director, Tim Stroh, is one of the world most empathetic and supportive people and had talked me out of withdrawing so I felt obligated to make a go of it. Hadn’t really trained since Oregon Cascades 100 but I have a special attachment to Plain. There are no aid stations, just safety checkpoints, and you can leave a drop bag and BBQ at mile 62.
  • Kept running form for the first ~7mi and 1800kft. Not a bad start. Light growing over the thick forest with a few lights in the valley on the climb to Mad Pass was quite nice.
  • I began falling off pace and wasn’t strong on the climb to Hi Yu ridge. Last time I’d run this, people were yelling, “bees” on the ridge but none really stung me. This time I got swarmed with significant number of stings on my hamstrings and calves despite wearing bike tights. The stings weren’t deep though and didn’t swell.
  • Got to talking with a fellow about work on Hi Yu and into the dip before Klone peak. A little chit-chat with some others. It was kinda cool knowing where the best places to stop for water would be but eventually I fell off into a walk which was frustrating because I would have liked to have kept up an easy jog to hang out.
  • There was a little drizzle and heavy overcast but it let up about half way up to Klone Peak. The ground cover had turned red but the trees were still green and with dry, yellow grass, it made for an inspiring color palette.
  • My head was a little off, as though there was an almost imperceptibly light buzz behind my eyes on the ridge before and after Klone peak. Not something I’d really experienced before but a little head issue isn’t what takes you out of an ultra.
  • I was mentally prepared for how long the bazillion switchbacks were going to take to get to the road. They were still really long. I was mentally prepared for how long the road would feel. It was a little shorter than normal but still felt really long. I passed a fellow who said the hardness of the road was wrecking his body. I was feeling relatively comfortable though I could tell my shoes were well used and so this was perhaps the first time that I seemed to be doing better than someone. I’d fallen towards the back of the pack at the start and had been passed by several people and groups so admittedly it felt good to pass someone.
  • Resupplied and reset my vest under the bridge. I’d eating 2/3 of the food I’d intended which was good. I’d managed to keep of the stomach issues, though just barely. Saw most of the people I’d run near earlier, though they left before me as did some people who arrived after. I intended to use this like an aid station but still didn’t feel like I was able to rotate the contents of my vest as quickly as I’d have liked.
  • The next 4-5mi were ~1kft/mi. I’d mentally given myself the freedom to go as slow as I felt necessary with the idea that getting to the top with energy and good spirits would be worth whatever the time cost. Instead, I got winded despite moving slowly. Eventually a fellow named Mike overtook me and decided to match pace and breaks because I was in such bad shape. After a stop, my respiratory rate would spike if I took three hard steps in a row. The last mile took ~43min. The only mile I’ve ever done more slowly in an endurance event had 2kft of gain. Something wasn’t right with my head either. My balance was slightly off. My vision was clear but it didn’t feel like was processing things quite right.
  • I took two breaks at the start of the ridge that followed that climb. I wasn’t recovering deeply despite eating and draining enough. I put on my raincoat to keep off the wind chill which I’ve only done in one other race and that was at night. Mike tried to keep up a conversation and eventually had to talk for the both of us. A fellow overtook us but fell in instead of passing. Mike would tell that guy dirty jokes to keep him motivated and give me coaching when he saw me stumbling or encouragement if I tried to jog for five steps. I was definitely having reduced balance and some very subtle visual lag. I mistook a number of dead stumps for bears or people. At some point, I committed to dropping at the next safety checkpoint.
  • Mike started having stomach issue and once we’d started the descent to the safety checkpoint and he saw I was clearly going to make it, took off since he said jogging made them easier. The fellow behind followed suit.
  • I arrived at the mile 47 safety checkpoint and gave them the passphrase, “I’m an overcomer”, then told them I wasn’t an overcomer because I was going to drop. I described my symptoms and explained that I thought they were due to lack of sleep. Having run a 3 day race before, I new that a nap, even of an hour, wouldn’t cure sleep deprivation on par with the second day of a race. I’d promised myself I’d never do a 200mi race again solely because of how that had felt. The intense weakness might have been helped by some rest and lower elevation so despite the fact that I was just barely beating 3mph on the flats and downhills, the pace math said I should have attempted to continue and dropped at the safety checkpoint early in the final climb. I couldn’t see how it would be fun or safe to attempt that but I did see that if I dropped at at mile 47, I’d be able to get a full night’s sleep. They handed me a hot cocoa.
  • About half an hour later, they woke me up, gave me another hot cocoa and an electrolyte drink, then the photographer gave me the >2hr ride back. His name is Takao and he made interesting conversation for the few minutes before I fell asleep again. The last thing they told me before I left the safety station was that Mike had told them to look out for me because I was in such bad shape. I cried. This support, care, and camaraderie among competitors is so dear to me.
Taken by Takao just below the crest of of Hi Yu ridge while I was still moving OK. In 2019 he was yelling “Bees”. This year I actually go stung.

Ironman Florida

  • The day dawned a cool and breezy (Florida can’t be a paradise all the time, can it?) and I was concerned about being warm enough on the bike since I hadn’t brought a windbreaker or gloves. Shivering in our wetsuits before the start didn’t help.
  • Swim was about 10 minutes slower than expected.
    • My friend Michael tells me the consensus on social media is that the buoys shifted during the night. My GPS track looks that way.
    • I had a lot of trouble following the buoys. Along the top of the course, I think I (and several others) tried to turn too early.
    • The pack compressed on the turns. Normally, when I bump into someone (a constant occurrence on the first lap), I’d let the limb I hit them with got limp for a second. On that second turn however, I the pack got too dense and I just kicked and threw my hands and elbows to break out of the teaming mass of sardines we’d become.
    • Michael had gotten ahead of me and I saw him on the beach between laps one and two. I jogged the beach and all other transitions which let me lots of people. I was thinking that I’d try to apply a uniform effort throughout the event but at my level that seemed less common. Also, Michael is faster than I am on transitions so I was feeling a little competitive about them.
  • The bike was 1.5hrs faster than expected.
    • I forgot to put sunscreen on during the transition, noticed almost immediately after leaving the transition area, and had that hanging over me the rest of the day. Also, while changing, I’d bumped a button on my watch and so had to start a new track for the bike instead of getting the entire event in a single recording. This was frustrating as I’d practiced using the triathlon mode specifically so I could get that single recording. Oh well.
    • My bike had been stolen and I did most of my training on a heavy road bike with paddle shifters. I did a 100mi training ride and it took about 8hrs. To make logistics easy and avoid buying a bike during the ongoing supply-chain issues, I rented a bike from a company which partners with Ironman to make bike rentals easy. I rented their cheapest bike and it was so fancy, it didn’t come with pedals. Me on the other hand, I didn’t even wear bike shoes.
    • The bike course had a number of out-and backs. Michael and I must have passed each other at some point but neither of us saw the other. Things were going well enough until a north-bound leg went directly into the wind. The into-the wind portion had easy rollers (the most difficult terrain on the bike course) and was about six miles longer than I expected. Lots of people were drafting despite that being against the rules. I’m not sure why Ironman tries to prevent drafting since it seems to be built into the tactics of cycling. When the turnaround finally came, there were about 25 miles where I barely had to pedal to maintain 20-22mph. At that speed I couldn’t feel the wind which means that it had been blowing at that pace on the way outbound.
    • The last aid station was at mile 95 (of 112) on the bike. I really needed to pee but blowing through aid stations at full speed while grabbing a water bottles from the volunteers was too much fun to stop. I was convinced I was going to pee myself and somehow it didn’t happen.
  • The run was 45min faster than expected.
    • Expected was 5hrs which seems reasonable at the end of a long day. Actual was a little less than 4:15. This is actually kinda funny since I’ve rarely turned in a marathon time much different form 4hrs, whether it was run for training or a race.
    • The run course is a double out-and-back on a road from which you would be able to see the beach if there weren’t hotels in the way. As with most of the rest of the course it was flat and not particularly scenic.
    • The start of the run felt great and my tracks shows my opening miles were slightly under 8:30min/mi. Things fell off, of course particularly on the second lap, and keeping an eye out of Michael was a game I played to keep my head from focusing too much on my stomach. I spotted Michael on his way outbound during my first return leg. It was still light then and he spotted me in the dark on next leg.
    • With the double out-and-back course, when you start, everyone finishing is moving much faster than you. When you’re finishing, you’re moving faster than everyone else. It’s a nice effect. Combined with managing to keep my stomach in line (lots of practice walking that line this year – sometimes no so successfully – very frequent aid stations were clutch here), I closed the last several miles at about the same pace I’d gone out at and managed to reel in several runners who I’d had to let go of previously.
  • I was pretty well wrecked at the finish, largely on account of my stomach. Having rented all my gear, it had been picked up for me so after nibbling at the underwhelming buffet you get to pass through once on your way out of the finisher shoot (the cheapo local marathon with a few tens of runners I did on New Years day 2019 had better buffet and unlimited refills), I hobbled back to the hotel room. In the past, Michael has waited for me at the finish line. In my defense, that was a half-ironman (not a full), it was still a warm day (not a cool night), and the buffet was unlimited and varied (I’ve covered that already).

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