The observation that I returned to all day was the variety of mushrooms that I found along the trail in the Tillamook Forest on Saturday. Color, form, size. I’m not sure I saw the same type of mushroom twice.
If I had to qualify the difficulty of the race… it was more difficult than Mt. Hood 50 miler. Not as hard as Leadville 100 (bike). It was a very difficult day. When I realized what I was signed up for, at about 8 miles in, I adjusted my goals to 1. Not get hurt, 2. Finish, 3. Time. It’s difficult not to go into analysis when the race doesn’t go according to planned – so I’ll just stick to my experience.
I was up at 3:45am on Saturday making coffee and toast. I grabbed my bags and set off West toward the coast in my rental car. Once I turned off Rte 26 toward Tillamook, the rain began. It rained off and on all day with a couple of hours of mist and breaking clouds/sunshine in the early afternoon. We started at 7am in rain and darkness – the sun came up about 25 minutes later. I stashed my headlamp at the first aid station – around mile 2.5. The trail was … I would posit about 95% singletrack with a few road crossings. The footing was extremely technical for the first 20 miles. The course consisted of 2 out and back loops. 20 miles for one loop, back to the start, 12 miles out and back in the other direction. The second loop was actually 14 miles and had the biggest elevation gain of the course.
As I neared the start/finish at the end of the first section I had an interesting exchange… with myself I went through the DNF / bail scenario. I could have easily bailed and gone and taken a nap in the car before driving home. That idea was churning in the forefront mentally as I approached 20 miles. But there was something else…something deeper, not an explicit thought, more of another observer listening to the self-doubt and whining (whinging?). And that part of me never paused, never glanced over to the Forest Center where people were waiting. That was the hammer watching; and I was the nail.
The climb up from this point was crushing (or so I thought). It was 15% grade in places. I was pushing on my knees with my hands and power-hiking up. I ran where I could, the surface a very nice runnable bed of spruce and fir needles. When I reached the top of this climb, I descended for about 20 minutes of steep downhill running; a very fast, pounding descent. I reached the aid station and checked my mileage. 26.2. I just ran a marathon, I thought – and now I have a 10k remaining.
I occasionally take a caffeinated gel on long runs if my energy levels are low (I mostly try to stick with a timed eating schedule), I don’t ever drink caffeinated soda (yes coffee). Most ultra aid stations late in the race are stocked with Coke (Cola). Given that I was turning around immediately and ascending the 2 mile hill I just came down, I opted for Coke. I chugged 3 cups, ate a caffeinated Espresso Clif shot, took a piece of peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some Pringles – had my bottle filled and started walking up.
I hadn’t listened to music all day but carried my shuffle in a plastic baggy in my run pack. I was so mentally consumed with my footing, not rolling my ankle and trying to move quickly over moss and leaf-covered rocks. At 26 miles though – I knew I needed to get up this climb fast and make some time on the descent back to the finish. I put my earbuds in and started powering up the climb. Very steep. Very difficult. Very caffeinated. This music was perfect and got me through.
From the top of this climb the next few miles were very runnable and I made good time to the finish. I ate a cheeseburger from the grill back at the forest center and then walked back to the car to change and drove back to Portland.
7 Clif Shots
1 Package Clif Blocks
Pieces of peanut butter/jelly sandwich
Nuun / Water / Coke
I have a time to beat for next year.
Elk-King’s Mountain Traverse 50k from Chris Rivard on Vimeo.