Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gorge Waterfalls 50k - Columbia River Gorge - March 30, 2013

"Damn it, I have to pee again" - 30 seconds before the Start

Moments before the start, everyone catching up with each other.
Photo by 
Glenn Tachiyama.
It's amazing how competitive this race has become. With elites like Yassine Diboun, Hal Koerner, Jeff Browning, Mario Mendoza, Christopher Koller, and's no wonder my body was full of anxiety leading up to the race. Perhaps my anxiety was just a form of excitement, an eagerness to prove to myself that my role models from the past two years were slowly becoming my peers.

Course Profile

3...2...1...Holy shit their sprinting! Gah, wake up legs!

Ambitious Bastards. Photo by well revered Glenn Tachiyama.
This race started at a way faster pace than in 2012, and my legs needed to wake up quick. After the pack squeezed across the narrow pedestrian bridge, the course turned into a rutted overgrown truck path. The runners stayed inside the ruts and formed two single file lines, with the front pack beginning to pull away as we neared Multnomah Falls. I jumped into the thick grass and accelerated to the back of the front runners as we began to make our way to the ascent of Wahkeena Falls. I dumped most my water out before the first climb to save some weight. The trail ascends ~1,600' in about 2 miles.

Many runners charged up the trail ambitiously, and some of them lost gas about halfway up. Mario Mendoza, Zach Violett, and Yassine just blasted up the switchbacks like their asses were on fire. I tracked behind Jeff Browning, one of the most efficient runners I know, and ran a satisfyingly hard pace in ~12th place. Some of us leap frogged our way up, but a group of 4 of us stayed together. A GU found my mouth, and then we crested and began our downhill descent towards Multnomah Falls via the Larch Mountain Trail. On the way, I filled my water bottle in a trustworthy steam. The next mile had some of my favorite technical downhill sections, and it totally rocks (photo). The trail descends ~1,400' in about 2 miles.

On the way down the Larch Mountain and Multnomah Falls trails, the rocks turned into a nicely paved asphalt for the final mile of descent. As I ran, my stomach began to feel tight, my mouth all of a sudden had a funny taste, and I'm sure my face was Edward white (without the chick-magnet sparkles). After having the Flu/Norovirus only 2 weeks prior, my stomach was well familiar with the sensation of yakking. Nausea hit me hard, and for half a mile I fought the urge to throw up in front of all the hikers. All I could think about was Wayne's World, which didn't help. After slowing down and some careful breathing, things began to settle. I have never had nausea like this during a run, and it had me worried that my race would suffer from a weak stomach. The legs soon found their push, I pulled ahead of Jeff and some other guy. Feeling strong, riding the roller coaster of rocks and waterfalls.

Running with the Sharmanian at Horsetail Falls.
Photo by the magnificent 
Glenn Tachiyama.
Coming into the first aid station, I grabbed some magical ginger ale (to help my stomach) before bounding back up the trail. The course soon passed Oneonta Falls, followed closely by Horsetail Falls. Ian Sharman caught up to me and we ran together for a bit while leap-frogging with Hal Koerner (Hal was nursing some kind of foot injury). The course then turned pretty rocky and weaved everywhere with a slight downhill, and this was easily my favorite part of the course. Rock dancing, grabbing trees to swing around a tight turn, and always on the verge of eating shit...I was having a blast. I even scoped out a great place to take a crap if the need should arrive (foreshadowing). Then the trail turned to road, and my weakness was exposed. Ian Sharman left me in the dust, and I worked to keep a respectable flat road pace. Running on flat roads has never been my strength, except for this one time when I ran SUPER fast to catch up to a girl at the Seattle Marathon and asked her for her bib number. The road section is 2.5 miles long before reaching the 2nd aid station. After the 2nd aid station is a short 1-mile out, 1-mile back before repeating the first half of the course back to the start/finish.

The road section wasn't much fun, but it gave the mind a break from counting rocks. Not before too long the 2nd Aid Station came into view, and Todd and Renee were there as my crew (<3). Todd confiscated my water bottle and I ran the out-n-back empty handed. The turn-around spot was at the foot of the beautiful Elowah Falls, where everyone had to grab a pokerchip to prove that they went all the way to the halfway point. My position was approximately 7th place and 1.5 miles behind the leaders, and the fart I just took had greatly relieved some internal pressure. Everything was feeling great, legs and stomach included. Coming back into the aid station, Todd had my two bottles ready, but I only grabbed one. Back to the road. THANKS TODD AND RENEE!!! <3!

Todd Crewing. Me trying to find the Poker Chip Box.
Photo by Renee Seker.
My road pace was definitely lacking, and I was soon passed by both Hal Koerner and Jeff Browning. Their strides were solid, and my legs weren't feeling courageous enough to keep up with them. Would I ever see them again? Probably not, but who knows what could happen. Instead of freaking out, I busied myself by high-fiving, smiling, and encouraging my friends and runners who were still headed the opposite direction. By the time I reached the trail, I had to take a crap. There was nice partially hidden (not really) spot off the trail that was tangled with prickly vines and high grass. Only my ankles suffered from the evil prickly things, thank God. My short break didn't cause me to lose position, but Jonathan the Canadian caught up to me just after I pulled my pants up. We ran close together for a while, but eventually I pulled away while charging up the gradual twisty roller coaster. The runners who were headed the opposite direction were super kind and stepped off the trail so I could run by. To those, I say thank you. Vaya con Dios.

Photo by Takao Suzuki. Thanks Takao, and congrats on your finish!
Throughout the last half of the course, runners and non-race hikers were telling me what position I was in. Most of them said 11th place, but I was hoping for a top 10 finish. As I entered the last aid station, the volunteers were telling me that Hal wasn't moving very fast. Interesting. Further down the trail, a hiker said that one of the runners ahead of me was cramping real bad. Very interesting. Soon enough, I found myself catching up to Hal. He was taking his sweet-ass time on the technical scree-covered trail, and I wondered what pains he was dealing with. After passing him, I immediately caught up with another runner who was dealing with severe calf cramping. After dishing him a salt pill, I pressed on. The whole race I dreaded the final climb back up Multnomah Falls, and the trail was getting close. I really hope the last climb doesn't destroy me.

Beginning the climb up the Multnomah Falls switchbacks, the body felt capable, but drained. Alternating between running and hiking switchbacks, I soon looked down the trail and found that Jonathan the Canadian was catching up to me. Shit! Priding myself on my ability to endure a sustained climb, I was disappointed in my decision to hike. Maybe the fear of blowing up kept me from pushing myself, or maybe my comfort in 9th place had made it acceptable for me to let someone catch up to me. Whatever it was, I erred on the side of conservative and alternated the running and hiking. With 1 mile left to climb, I passed another runner. With 3/4 left to climb, Jonathan passed me. My calves were borderline cramping, but the climb was soon over. At the top of the climb, I felt sluggish and unambitious. The beginning of the 2 mile descent was uncomfortable, but my body fell into a groove and pounded a strong downhill while trying not to wipe out on the hairpin switchback turns. Passing Mario Mendoza, he was walking down the mountain with a dejected look on his face after he "ate shit" earlier. No doubt he was contending for 1st place before his crash, and I hope he didn't injure himself. That guy is fast as shit. (He would later go on to win the Peterson Ridge 20 miler 2 weeks later).

Wahkeena Falls, 8th place with ~2 miles to go.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.
Photo by Master Glenn Tachiyama.
The last mile of the course is exposed and straight, making it possible to see Jonathan running a 1/2 mile ahead of me. Too far for me to catch. No one was anywhere close to behind me, and all I had to do was keep a strong pace and not cramp. When the finish line came into view, I made a B-line for James Varner for a super hug.

RESULTS: 3:46:19, 8th out of 281 Finishers
PACE: Somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00 min/mile
PR by 10 minutes
Holy Crap, I'll take it!

SUPER HUG! Photo by Renee Seker.
Thank you James Varner and Candice Burt for organizing another awesome event! Your Rainshadow Running races are some of the most beautiful (and difficult) races in the Northwest, and I'm excited to do more of them. I'm particularly eager to running Angel's Staircase and Yakima Skyline Rim...maybe next year! My 2013 schedule is pretty booked as it is. Thanks again for everything!!!

Thank you Todd and Renee for driving out to the Gorge to support me, I'm grateful to have you as friends. And thanks Renee for taking my breath away, as usual. Go Team NSPiRE! You're a big reason for turning my 2012 into a smiley face, and for believing in my potential as both a runner and hugging advocate. Love you!

Thanks Trailbutter for the breakfast! You are becoming a constant in both my training and racing nutrition, and I'm okay with that. You'll come in handy at the Zane Grey 50 miler, for sure (though, I better pull a Hafid and store the butta' in my checked luggage. It's totally worth checking your luggage for).

Thank you Float Shoppe for helping relieve my pre-race anxiety! I've never been so worked up about a race before (maybe the elite field had me excited), but floating the night before the race helped calm my nerves and settle my heart rate a bit. As usual, it was Lovey-dovey.

And finally, Thank you Glenn Tachiyama and Takao Suzuki for the photos! It's always great to see you two!


Congrats Kyle Chaffin on your 20-minute PR at the Peterson Ridge Rumble 20-mile race! It was great to share laughs with you and Nicole afterwards. Kyle and Nicole, I Love you both unconditionally, despite the sass.

Yeah buddy! Photo by Master Glenn Tachiyama.
Hot stuff coming through! Photo by Master Glenn Tachiyama.



Colbert couldn't have said it any better. Boston, you have my thoughts and prayers. The way that Boston, and the rest of the country, responded to the tragedy has truly given me hope. There's hope that despite the evil that exists in this world, people are inherently good and are willing to help one another with complete selflessness, concern, and compassion. If you haven't told your friends/family how much you Love them, now would be a good time. And don't ever stop reminding them.

Boston Marathon 2011

I Love you all!