Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where's Waldo?

Pre Waldo
About a week before our departure date I tripped over a string of barbwire and went down hard.  I remember being on all fours just feeling like I was going to throw up.  I felt horrible and walked for a few minutes before I could even pretend to run a stride.  Covered in mud and debris I knew my body wasn’t happy.

For the remainder of the week I tried to follow my running schedule, although the next day made it less than an eighth of a mile before turning around and walking home.  I assured myself that a day off was the key and that was all I needed.  My running continued to hurt and be sub par so more days off and very few miles. 

With fights, accommodations and a rental car already booked I felt that Geo and I should still go to Oregon even if I couldn’t race.  When we boarded the plane on Tuesday I had very little faith in my ability to finish Waldo since my ribs and chest hurt even when I wasn’t running. 

Skyline Trail
After arriving in Oregon and making the trek to Willamette Pass we settled in and I struck out to attempt an out and back on the first section of the course.  I ran for just a few minutes and then wanted to walk, but quickly learned that the mosquitoes would suck me dry if I didn’t keep moving.  I felt tired, sore and just all out horrible, although did my best to make a bad run into a good time.   After twelve plus miles of running which was interrupted by numerous photo breaks I eventually made it back to the base lodge and connect with Geo who had been out mountain biking. 

Thursday morning I was fortunate that Geo agreed to join me in running/hiking the second leg of the course.  I wanted to see a little more of the course so to have a better idea of what was truly in store for me.  We walked the steeper sections and ran the rest and both of us certainly were feeling the altitude given that we live and train at sea level.  It was great to see Meghan Arbogast and John out marking this section of course as we were headed back down.   After our whopping six-mile run Geo went for a bike ride and I opted for a four-hour “nap”. 

I knew Friday I should be low key.  We drove forty minutes so I could have decaf Americano and then ventured to see the second highest waterfall in OR.  We also spent some time at Waldo Lake where I eventually did a short run before we headed to prerace check in.  I knew I only wanted to run easy for 15-20 minutes, but couldn’t help looking at my pace.  I felt like I was moving slower than a snail, but was amazed as I moved from a lush green area to a burn section in a matter of seconds.  
Area Around Lake Waldo

Despite not having what I would deem good runs I was happy that I was making the best of our time out West.  I felt that I should at least start the race and then run based on how my mind and body felt.  

Start to Fuji Summit
Go time was 5AM so headlamps were a necessity, everyone lined up and we started right on the button.  I had tucked behind the lead men’s pack and settled into a comfortable and maintainable pace for the first climb, which is just under two miles.  I turned out my ipod and focused on the illuminated path in front of me.  I knew what to expect, I knew it wasn’t an easy climb right from the gun, I knew I just needed to do my thing and let myself settle as I waited to see if my body was up for the task at hand. 

After surviving the initial climb I had three males right in front of me and the rest of the front pack was no where to be seen.  The males insisted that I lead as we headed into the dark single-track downhill.  Knowing that several of the other females on course were strong downhill runners I wanted to push the pace but keep myself in check so not to fall early on.  I felt a since of exhilaration as I made my way down the buffed out single track, I felt like a little kid on a roller coaster ride.  The way I was feeling gave me the hope that if I was smart that I might be able to survive the day.

At the first aid station I did a quick handoff of my headlamp and buff in return for a visor and sunglasses with Geo before starting up the climb towards Fuji. I was eager to get going on this section so eventually I could get a glimpse at how the men’s race was playing out and so I could see where my competitors were.  It was about a 2500’ climb from the road crossing till the summit of Fuji and ever step was runnable for me. 

As I worked my way up on the steeper more technical section towards the summit Dave Mackey came flying down towards me and his nearest competitor was over five minutes back.  It was great fun cheering the guys on as the chased one another so early on. Once I arrived at the top of Fuji I wanted nothing more than to really stop and soak in the breath taking views, but it was a quick glimpse and then I worked my way back down.

Fuji Summit to The Charlton Lake

The next female back was Darla Askew followed by Denise Bourassa. I had about 5 minutes plus on them, but still wasn't completely feeling comfortable with that amount.  I know that I really cannot worry about them and should just focus on achieving what I can on this course on this given day.  

Photo By: Long Run Picture Co.
I blow through the aid stations since I have a fresh pack and focus on getting to aid station five so to see Geo again and where my pacer Pam Smith will be waiting to join me.  I was feeling so lucky to have Pam agree to join me for 30 plus miles and was eager to have company.  Unfortunately my pacer Theresa got injured and was unable to join me for the trip out to Oregon and on course.  She is always a spark plug for me whenever I have the pleasure of her company.

When I arrived at the next aid station it was a bit overwhelming.  I was now at the Charlton Lake aid station and it was hopping!  A young boy darts in across the trail in front of me and I almost clip him as I am trying not to slow down much through the station.  As I keep my speed up I have a hard time setting my eyes on Geo, although he found me as we again swapped packs.  A few more strides later and I found Pam smiling and ready to roll.  Her smile was a great first greeting and I knew I was in good hands.  Together we pull out of the aid station and are off and running.  

Charlton Lake to The Twins
Pam and I heading towards Geo
My Crewman Geo

I lead as Pam and I get to know each other and I fill her in on how my race has been going.  Without thought I just say something like “I am not very good, I’ve just run 32 miles scared!”  For some reason I now feel a little more settled and at ease with the race.  As we tick off the miles we come to a few snowy sections on course and I immediately have flash backs to Western States despite the amount of snow being trivial in comparison to Western States.  For the first time in the race I walk and grab some snowballs in the process to shove down my shirt and shorts.  The temperature is rising and OR is certainly dryer than I am use to.  I run out of water, which then means I stop taking in salt and calories.  In my mind I know we will be seeing Geo again shortly so I set my mind on getting to mile 44 where I can get a fresh pack from him.

The Twins to Maiden Peak
Prior to the race Meghan had warned me about this section of the course and I was very fortunate that Pam knew the course very well.  Meghan had said to check my watch and plan on about an hour from the bottom to the top of Maiden Peak.  Pam and I stopped at the aid station because I didn’t want to risk running out of water on this section.  I still had plenty of fluid so filled my pack with ice and then we both grabbed popsicles for the journey up.  To be honest I was so happy to have the icy treat, but it didn’t taste as refreshing as the one at the top of Devil’s Thumb at WS.  Then the unthinkable happened as a majority of my popsicle fell off the stick and onto the ground.  Pam offered me hers, but I didn’t want to take her nice treat for my misfortune.  Even though I just had a small portion of popsicle my stomach went from unhappy to pissed off.  Everything from my chest to my stomach was tight and sore. 

As we made our way uphill, I learned that in these parts they must not believe in switchbacks because despite the steepness of the pitch we just kept going straight up.  There is no doubt I was going to “walk,” but I felt so slow.  My legs completely tightened up and I felt like I was peg legging it up the hill.  I wanted to throw myself of the ground and call it a day, although Pam was great in reminding me that this was the toughest part of the course and we were still making great progress.  I had a hard time buying it, although knew the pity party I was having for myself wasn’t helping.  I recall at one point saying to Pam “Let’s just call it a 50” meaning I would be okay with calling it a day at the 50 mile mark rather than 100k mile mark.  Every now and then when we could come across snow Pam would collect snowballs for me so to keep my temperature down.  

We finally made it to the out and back section on Maiden where we were to head to the summit.  The volunteer at the intersection said “5 minutes and you will be there” so of course I looked at my watch, put my head down and headed up the rocky section.  This section was particularly exposed and dry, but just knowing that once we hit the top we would be heading back towards the finish kept me going.  The view at the top was priceless and the nature of it really cannot be put into words.  There aren’t really many climbs that I have encountered that have kicked my butt like that one did so I was proud of Pam and I for surviving that section.

Maiden Peak to The Finish
The first section back to the intersection was more technical than anything else on course so I kept my speed in check.  Once the trail became more buffed out we opened up our strides and dropped the pace.  I was feeling very ready for a shower and to be done.  The lakes that we came across were amazing; I have never seen such clear blue water and tried to convince Pam that I should go swimming.  At one point we came to a small stream crossing and in my mind I thought, oh well we have to get wet.  I plunged into the pool and then looked to my left where Pam easily crossed on the rocks.  I splashed water on my arms and face since I was already wet and then we were off and running again. 

Photo By: Long Run Picture Co.
Photo By: Long Run Picture Co.
About six miles to the finish I glanced at my watch and realized that I could technically be in striking distance of the course record.  In my mind I calculated what it would take to contend for it and decided that even though it was still possible it wasn’t in my heart to gun for it today.  Pam and I enjoyed the long downhill single track and as we rounded the final corner and could see the finish she instructed me to follow the pink flags as my runway.  She said okay “Sprint it in” and I replied, “Is there anyone right behind me?” To which she responded “No."   Then with a little giggle I said, “You just don’t know it, but I am sprinting!” 
Photo By: Long Run Picture Co.

Meghan & I Prior to Awards
I crossed the line in 10:33 and was very pleased with the day and was treated to a nice hug from Co Race Director Craig Thornley.  It was a true pleasure and honor to be a part of Waldo 100k.  I have never run a race that was so well marked and organized.    I was very pleased with my choices of what to use for the race which included:.  Salomon Crossmax Guidance Shoes, Drymax Trail socks, Slab Hydration Pack and my Julbo Dust Sunglasses.  I had a great time getting to know Pam and was honored to meet so many new and friendly faces during and after the race.  Good luck to Pam, Amy and Meghan as they soon head to the Netherlands to represent the USA in the 100k championship.  It also always amazes me how supportive my friends and family are while I am away racing.  Your words and messages are always inspiring and keep me going when times are hard on the trail.   

After a long trip back to Vermont and some catching up on sleep it is now time to refocus and determine what is next.  Knowing that I typically don't recover extremely fast I will have an easy week of running and a big week of eating and go from there.  I feel very lucky that my body and mind held up as well as they did during the race.  It always feels like such a fine line on being on the edge of the cliff and falling off the cliff.  

For now I will keep busy with the lawn, gardens and this thing called "school" which starts on Friday!  


  1. This is wonderful Aliza - I love reading your blog but you shouldn't be shy about saying YOU WON the friggin' race! Super congrats to you.

  2. Awesome race, Aliza!!! Unbelievable what you went through the week leading into it. Major confidence buster, but you nailed it regardless. Enjoyed your honesty as always.

  3. It is a pity that you got injured. I hope that you can get back to routine fast and heal fast.