Holy Effin' Crap! My head is spinning from this weekend's race, The Pacific Crest 50 miler! (The video has nothing to do with running; it is just a special bonus!) Things have certainly been up and down for me over the last couple of months, but Saturday ended up on a very high note, with a victory in the women's race (7:42) and 4th place overall.
We headed out to Clackamas Lake campground very early on Friday because we had failed to secure a reservation and so we were vying for one of the first come first serve spots, which definitely added a layer of stress to the trip. Fortunately, we had no problems getting a site.
The kids took to camp activities readily, which meant they were filthy in about five minutes! We spent the day hanging out at Timothy Lake. Megan did some serious splashing/swimming, but I just put my big toe in and hoped that neither of my kids fell in because I did not want to jump into that icy water! We also walked around the campground a bit and did lots of snacking and eating of camp food. I did get a big plate of spaghetti for dinner, but my pre-race carbo loading also included a Pop-tart and two s'mores (Liam didn't like his and I couldn't let it go to waste!) Not exactly the best diet plan!
By bedtime we had about four days' worth of caked on dirt, sunscreen, bug spray and general filth, though we had only been there about ten hours! I did get to bed super early since the kids were exhausted. Good thing, too, because both kids woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to sleep with us; I sent them to cuddle with Daddy!
Saturday was race day and my plan was simple: Take the northbound 28 mile out-and-back as easy as possible and the 22 mile southbound out-and-back as hard as possible and hope they were about the same pace. So I started slow and didn't worry about who was in front of me, though I won't say I didn't notice that there were three ladies on the trail ahead of me. ;) Things were very dusty but otherwise pretty easy into the first AS at 6.1 miles, where the lead girls were two minutes out in front.
The next section I ran mostly with Mike from Portland. We talked quite a bit and I always enjoy that, especially early in the race. Mike is an Ironman triathlete, hoping to run a 2:50 marathon this fall and his goal for the day was 9-9:30. Hmmm...I am only a 3:10 marathoner and I was hoping to run sub 8:00 for the day. The math seemed so far off, I didn't even admit my goal for the day to Mike! He told me I should go get the ladies ahead of me because they were only a couple of minutes up. I made a big joke comparing the Oregon Trail Series to the Tour de France, saying that my main goal for the year was to win the OTS, and to do that I just need to have four solid races, I don't need to win any of the "stages" outright. So I stayed behind him easy up the hills, but when he stumbled, I took the lead and picked it up just a bit on the flat. We came upon the third place girl at the base of the steepest hill on the north section. She asked if I wanted to pass, but I said no. She slowed down a lot on the uphill to the point that I could keep up with her by walking. Either it got too steep or she noticed me walking, so she started to walk, too. Well at that point, I felt I needed to pass, but I think she was a little put off that I told her I wasn't going to pass and then sixty seconds later, I was asking to go by!
I was running pretty well at this point, but starting pretty early in the day my stomach just felt slosh-y and overly full. I was eating fine and I didn't fell nauseated, but it still just didn't feel right.
At the turn around (mile 14.2) the two lead ladies were right together and still just two minutes ahead. After the next AS (19.2 miles), I caught up with Denise and one other guy she was running with and I hung with them for the next 2+ miles or so till we got to the next AS (mile 22.4) . I filled my bottle, grabbed some cookies and then turned to Denise and said, "Are you ready? Let's go!" I took off running, but I guess she wasn't ready because almost immediately, I noticed that she wasn't behind me. That was the last time I ran with anybody all day.
During the next section, my stomach was so full, I just did not want to drink anymore. I still didn't really feel bad and I could run OK, but I just felt my stomach was stretched to its max. I ended up taking 4 S-caps! in this section over a span of 45 minutes. Egads! But with the heat I knew I was done if I couldn't keep hydrated. It was a gamble to take a salt O.D. but it seemed to work out and my stomach gradually got better.
With a mile or so of trail left till we got back to the start, I spied the first place girl. When I caught up to her, I hung back about 50 yards and just stuck to her pace, till we hit the road and then I finally passed her for the lead coming into AS6 right at the start/finish (28.4 miles = 4:11).
This AS threw me for a bit of a loop, because it was right on the road and I was expecting it to be up the driveway another 200 yards or so where the start finish was and where I had left my BAG! This was a bit of a problem because there were no gels on the course and I only had one left on me, but at that point I wasn't going out of my way to get the ones from my bag either!
I was in and out of there fast and then down the trail. When the trail crossed the campground road, so did I. I mean, this is a trail race, right? I head down the trail but after a couple of minutes I realize the trail is heading into the campground and away from where I think the PCT should be, so I asked some campers if they had seen any runners and they looked at me as if I had asked them if they had seen any dancing green leprechauns, so I quickly make a 180 and head back the other way. I later learned all of the top 8 or so runners made this little detour. By the time I got back to the road (where I was supposed to turn), it looks like people have started to figure out there is a problem and they are adding more course markings. So I head up the road and have to pass the same girl again, and I had already exhausted all my pleasantries! I asked her how she was doing, she said she was good except "her ass was a little sore." I told her I felt good except that my stomach was "a little wonky". WONKY?!? Who talks like that? Obviously, my brain was a little wonky!
The next 10.5 miles were pretty much equal thirds (or so it felt) of up, down, and up (with down, up, down on the way back). I was running kind of scared because I had just given up a four minute lead, so I pretty much kept running the whole first up until getting to Red Wolf AS (mile 32.5). Caroline Klug was manning the station, and I think she's got to be my favorite cheerleader. She gets all excited and tells me, "John Ticer just came through here a couple minutes ago! He's the course record holder! You could chick Ticer!!" I tell her I don't care about chicking Ticer, I am just trying to make sure nobody chicks me!
The next section is awesome, with lots of "groping" ferns and then the last part is a decent climb to the turn around. I get there and the ladies tell me I am in 4th. I am practically arguing with them telling them they are wrong, even though I have only seen 3 guys go back the other way. But there are two other guys I KNOW were ahead of me and I haven't seen them. I later learned they took a detour also, only it took them a bit longer to get turned around, so I got ahead of them without ever actually passing them. On the way back I see the second place woman and she is 13 minutes back and all the sudden it hits me: OH MY GOD! I am going to win this thing!
The way back was fun because I got to see all the people coming the other way. After a couple of miles somebody yells to me, "Go Chick Ticer. He's just up ahead." Apparently, people would really like to see Ticer get chicked! I caught a glimpse of him on the steep uphill section - the only real walking I did all day (Ticer was walking, too!), but once it leveled off, Ticer was out of there and I never saw him again, till the food line after the race, where he was once again just a little bit ahead of me!
Also, on the way back I saw Mike, who yells at me, "Hey Lance, it looks like you are going to get the stage win after all!" That was very sweet and it made me smile. When I crossed the line I got to celebrate with a big hug from Olga and then a few more hugs from the family. What a day!