What started as a great idea became suddenly more complicated when my crew of my wife (who is 8.5 months pregnant) and my six year old son, got sick. We had planned on driving down to
for a checkup with the Dr. and a high school track meet and then driving back the scenic
way through Sisters, OR, the site of the Peterson Ridge Rumble. But when they came down with colds I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't want to leave
them home, but I also didn't want to get sick.
I also needed to be with my team at the meet. I felt conflicted and wasn't sure what to
do. It is at times like these that I am
keenly aware of how fortunate I am to have married someone who understands me and
is more intense about competition and coaching than I. She simply said, I needed to go to the meet
and I needed to race because 1. I already
signed up for it and 2. It’s not like me staying home would somehow make them
better. All she really wanted was time
to sleep, so by not having to make the long 10 hour trek to watch
the meet and crew for me she would be better off.
|Two of my many athletes who ran PRs at the Willamette Falls Invitational in Oregon City. Photo by Gary Lind.|
I didn't sleep well because I never sleep well when I’m away from home. I know some people look forward to a break from their families, but for someone who prides himself on being fiercely independent, I have become rather dependent and really do a lot better with my family. I was having a hard time getting excited about racing. Logistically, it is a lot easier and a lot more meaningful when I get my family involved. I felt guilty for being in such a beautiful place without them. When the snow started to fall I accepted the fact that perhaps it was best that they had stayed home. Now, it was up to me to run the race and try to win it on my own.
The first good sign was that when I awoke (or finally decided to crawl out of bed because it seems like I spent a lot of time just watching the clock during the night) there wasn't snow on the car to scrape off. The next good sign was that I had packed a pair of pants and a jacket at the last minute that I could run in. I had also packed a couple pairs or Swiftwick compression socks as well as plenty of PowerBar Energy Gels. My trusty Pearl Izumi E:Motion N1 Trails were ready to go, so all I needed to do was prepare my drop bags with handhelds filled with PowerBar Perform, gels, salts, and an Ultra Aspire Surge hydration vest in case the trails were technical enough that I would need it.
After signing up, I contacted the reigning champ and course record holder of the Rumble, Max King, and asked if he'd be doing it. He said that he would be running at Lake Sonoma with the rest of the who's who of ultra running, but reminded me of the target of 4:20 - the time he had run the year before. This shows how out of touch I am in terms of what is going on in the sport. Still a newbie.
I really had not planned on going after the record, but once my legs started feeling better after Badger and I had consumed enough Zinc lozenges to avoid getting sick I began thinking it might be a possibility. Then I read the following message on the course website a day or two before the start:
The past couple of years, I’ve been short-changing the 40 milers a bit in the mileage department. I feel bad about that, so this year there will be a minor course change at the beginning of the 40 miler. Racers will run up the trail for the first mile like normal, then upon reaching the dirt road (Brooks-Scanlon and Edgington), instead of turning left like normal, you will turn right on the road and loop back to the start line via Edgington (please run on the right). Going through the start area would be a good place to drop jackets, hats, gloves, etc. You will then run up the trail again, and when you reach the dirt road this time (Brooks-Scanlon and Edgington), you will then turn left like years past. So instead of 4.8 miles to the first aid station, it is now 7.1 miles.Thank you, Sean, for keeping us honorable. So I figured the record was out of the question, but thought the 40 mile distance itself would still prove a hearty challenge.
|Start of the race by Glenn Tachiyama|
|Start of the race by Paul Nelson.|
|Pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face after so many solitary miles. Thanks for being out there, Glenn!|
|Loving how protected & responsive my Pearl Izumi E:Motion N1 Trails have performed on technical terrain.|
|Doing a little plyometric workout through the rocks. Photo by Paul Nelson|
As we made our way out of the first big loop we got back on a dirt road and I wasn't sure where to go from there. Fortunately, Ian Sharman was sweeping the course and I recognized him and was able to ask for a bit of directional assistance. Only in Central Oregon do you randomly run into world class athletes volunteering along the course.
|Trying to keep my size 14s from getting caught on a rock. Photo by Paul Nelson.|
Admittedly, I don't have the best eye sight, and with the snow coming down I was squinting to keep it out of my eyes and inadvertently missed a turn from the fire road onto single track. I continued down the fire road for a couple of minutes. I went through one fire road intersection and then another and was surprised that they weren't marked. Eventually, I realized I must have missed a turn, but I wasn't sure how far off course I had gone. The snow was coming down. I was getting worried. It is at these points in a race (about 32 miles in) that you realize what you are made of.
|Rolling through the pine needle trails. Appreciative of Glenn Tachiyama and his ability to capture good times on film.|
I couldn't believe I was thinking of DNFing. DNFing sucks. I thought about facing may family and my team upon returning and having to say I quit. I gave up. Things got hard and I just threw in the towel. I think that would crush my son. He thinks I'm invincible.
Fortunately, I caught John a few minutes later. I asked him how he was doing and what place he was in. He said 2nd. So I asked if someone else had passed. Not to his knowledge, so he still thought I was leading. I told him he was in the lead, promptly passed him, and was on my way to the finish.
|Thanks to my Swiftwick Merino Wool Compression Socks and Pearl Izumi E:Motion N1 Trail shoes my feet still felt good after putting them through the ringer for nearly five hours.|
|Kicking toward the finish. Photo by Paul Nelson.|
|Finally meeting the legendary Sean Meissner. Was really happy to participate in this event that benefits youth running.|
It was nice meeting new friends and visiting with those I've run with before. I'm a simple guy from a small town and I wouldn't consider myself particularly social in most settings, but there are few places I'd rather be and fewer people with whom I would rather be than on the trails with trail runners from all walks of life. I really love the ultra community. This past week as I reflected upon the devastating tragedy at Boston and the reactions of so many about it, I thought of all the good people who have anonymously volunteered and cheered so that I could enjoy this sport. Long, grueling, draining runs have the ability to deplete us to the point where we truly appreciate the more essential elements in our lives like water, food, family, and friends.
The four hour drive home went surprisingly well. However, with track meets and work it might take me a while to recover from this one.
This will be my last race for a while. Now, it's time to buckle down and get ready to welcome a little baby girl into our home and into our lives. I'm scared to death, but I figure if I can still escape every once in a while and run through the woods, we'll be alright.