Gorge Waterfalls 100k - 11:10:57
I wasn't sure how the race would go coming off the Georgia Death Race only two weeks prior. Obviously, I expected things to go well because I started the race, but you never know what the day will give you.
The 4am start came early, and we headed around the lake and started up the paved trail. After a mile, the short switchbacks turned to rocky trail as I watched the lights ahead of me slowly pull farther away. The start felt a bit fast, but thats how most competitive races go so I wasn't too worried to be a little behind. On top the first hill, I flicked on my handheld light to complement my headlamp and started ripping down the rocky trial catching quite a few runners. Shortly I hit the first aid station and started up the rolling trail that would accompany us for the majority of the race. The Gorge trail is usually fairly smooth, but frequently goes through rocky sections which can slow you down, especially if they're wet.
At this point, mile 7, the short uphill pitches felt like I was working too hard, but the pace didn't seem all that fast so I didn't bother to slow down. I hit the next aid station not too excited but doing okay and was able to see my crew for the first time. I was cranky coming into the aid station but my friend Cary told me I was only 3 minutes back as I ran through so I felt a little better about that.
The next section I fell into a rhythm with Gary Robbins and Jeff Browning which was some pleasant company to pass the early miles. Both guys were really nice so we got to talking and somehow the conversation came to beards. Both guys have beards, so that was funny as they made predictions as to when I too could grow a beard. As we continued up one of the few long climbs on the course, I realized I was wanting to walk. Usually, I have to tell myself to walk early on in a race so this wasn't a good sign. Soon we came to a junction that seemed a little light on marking and we headed up the hill. A few switchbacks later, Gary says "There's Mario up ahead." One more switchback and we ran into all the guys who were ahead of us coming back down saying the trail dead-ended just up at that rock.
A few guys thought we should head up again but I talked them into heading down back to the last, under-marked junction just below. We started down, but there was a change on faith and all the other guys wanted to go back up so headed down alone. I had run this section before scouting the course and had taken the lower trail on the junction instead of the upper trial that we took. Still, I wasn't that confident that down was the right way because the marking clearly pointed up and I had missed no end of turns on my previous run so I may have lucked into getting on the right route that day.
I headed down and I knew it would take me on course, I just didn't want to see marking coming in off another trial or else I would be heading back up and running it the right way. The main factor for my decision was that I wasn't going to go back up to a dead-end.
Fortunately I was on course and made my way along glad to be following pink flags and yellow sign again. I was thinking that with the guys getting lost, and me being the first one back on the route that maybe this was my day. I was also realizing that I would need a break like that for to make it happen today.
I reached the next aid station and told James Varner about the vandalism to the marking and he said he would go out and fix it. I left the aid station secretly hoping the other guys messed around for a while and I picked up 10-15 minutes. Instead, I was passed shortly after the aid station and realized that I had gained maybe 2-3 minutes which is what I honestly figured. I was hoping for a Western States spot, top 2, so 22 miles in things weren't adding up for that kind of run. I had no energy for the ups so the climbs were slow. I hit the top of the climb leaving the aid station and thought that I would just try to fly on the downs to hang on with the frontrunners. Unfortunately my downhillers must have been on vacation because I just could get going.
I got passed again by Bob Shebest and found myself in sixth looking over my shoulder ever time the trail turned back on itself. I was still trying to stay positive, hoping for some problems up front and a strong second half to carry me through the race. The rest of the way to the turnaround was filled with slow climbs and lazy descents but was highlighted by seeing my friends Chris and Darla who were hanging out cheering on runners a couple miles front the aid station.
I reached the aid station and headed out 5 minutes back, but feeling like crap. Gary Robbins caught up to me and pulled away a couple miles after the turnaround but there was a fast downhill that I hoped to catch him on. I was hoping I could hang with him and run the last down hard to pull away because I knew the ups weren't going to be good. I hit the down and had nothing. I was so tired I could barely run the down any better than a shuffle. At that point, I would have been stoked if I could just lay down on the trail curl up in a ball and fall asleep.
At this point I started to become honest with myself. Today, it was going to be good to finish. No matter what those guys did up front, they were moving too fast and there was too many of them for them all to blow up for me to have any chance of catching up. So I switched to the survival shuffle. Just keep moving. The faster I go, the sooner it will be done.
I rolled into the aid station at mile 40, only 22 to go. I don't think my crew realized the death march had begun so I filled them in with some cranky complaints and headed out. A good aid station though; definitely under a minute getting in and out.
Somewhere along the way my survival shuffle lacked the horsepower for the climbs so it became an uphill walk and downhill shuffle. Obviously this is trending in the wrong direction if you want to get the race done in a timely manner. At this point, I was getting passed fairly frequently. Yassine Diboun caught up with me and I stayed with him as we hiked up for about 5 minutes. It was a pleasure to talk with him and got me going a little bit but when we headed down, Yassine had too much left and I had to let him go.
As I shuffled along I started thinking of all the place I had to go past to get to the finish. This is the worst thing you can do, so I figured out which places I would have to pass next, and checked them off one by one. After one of my mental checkpoints, the first woman, Joelle Vaught and her pacer Denise Bourassa caught up so I gave them some encouragement, then let them go by. But Denise asked me if I wanted to hang with them and I figured I should try if I wanted to get this thing done.
I shuffled along following the two and mostly just watched Denise's shoes move along in front of me. That's pretty much how the rest of the race went, I watched Denise's shoes unless she stopped to take a picture and then I watched Joelle's shoes for a while. The was some conversation but I was pretty much zoned out so I didn't say to much. A few things I do remember, other than shuffling along, were going past one falls with the mist blowing down on us like rain. The next section was finally coming into mile 49 and eating some food at the aid station. Chips and grapes were good but all I really wanted was some of that finishing pizza. Also, I remember the 2 mile road section to seem to drag on forever. I was glad it was over because I don't think I could have run much farther without walking.
After the road was where my run turned around. My mom gave me a package of shot bloks, and I would suck on them one at a time. I could make them last about a mile and a half so that how I was keeping track of progress. The finish finally seemed within reach and the shot bloks and the aid station food gave me a little more energy but that faded out shortly enough.
We hit the last aid station then up the paved switchbacks, onto rocky trails, then a long smooth section and we started to descend. I always enjoy watching the Columbia River slowly move closer on the descent so I kept track of it as we headed down.
We reached the bottom ran past the Multnomah lodge then around the lake and crossed the finish line. Finally there. I talked to the James Varner, the race director, for a little bit then sat down and ate some food.
A huge thank you to Denise Bourassa and Joelle Vaught for helping me along during a rough day and a big congratulations to Joelle who's second place finish earned her a spot for this year's Western States 100.
Also thanks to my family who crewed for me and my buddy Cary who came out to the race and helped crew. It was probably a crappy day to crew but you all put up with me and helped me along.
Finally thanks to all the volunteers out on the course for making the race possible and encouraging me along. A special thanks to all the volunteers who I knew because its always an extra boost to see someone you know cheering you along.
Thanks to Glenn Tachiyama for some great race day pictures: http://www.tachifoto.net