Aug 19, 2007 11:53 PM
Well, here it is, the latest race report from me about an event I'll not soon forget. Even if I wanted to.
It was a beautiful day for trail running. It was a beautiful place for trail running, too. Willamette Pass, 1 hour east of Eugene, is the Oregon Cascade mountains at their best. Picture high conifer forests and mountain peaks with fog shrouded valleys and glistening lakes. The run takes place in this environ and on some of the sweetest soft single track trail you can imagine. Running between 5000 and 7800 feet, this is an altitude course but the views from the peaks are spectacular!
I took the early start and found our Hippo right there in the dark with me at 3 am. We took off, ran about 50 yards then headed for a hike a mile or so straight up the mountain to the trail. It reminded me of the section from Rucky Chucky to Green Gate at WS.
It was dark for the first 3 hours, I fell once but didn't suffer more than a bruised and scratched knee cap. We climbed up and down in the prettiest forest (seen after it was lighter) and then climbed the first peak, Mt. Fuji, at daybreak. Waldo Lake was shrouded in fog but we could see around us for miles and miles. The weather stayed cool all day and I wore a long sleeved shirt over my short sleeved one most of time. I was feeling pretty strong and kept up well with my hydration and eating.
There were some trail vandals who messed up some of the directional signs but by the time I got to them they were already fixed so I didn't get in any "bonus miles" like many folks did. This includes most of the front runners and anyone else who had a chance for a good time. Poor Hippo says he got 5 bonus miles! One of the hardest sections for me was the trail going up between The Twins. This section is rolling but mostly up and never ending. Then it's out to Charlton lake and then back towards the Twins from a different direction but it's another hard section for me. I think I was already starting to drink less than I should have at this point.
When it came time to the last big climb at mile 50 up Maiden Peak to 7800 feet it was a real struggle. I knew it would be hard but was like climbing Mt. Everest: step, rest, gasp, step, rest, gasp most of the way up. The view was spectacular at the top and Waldo Lake was now visible. I didn't tarry too long because I was on pace to finish in just under 18 hours so I could get my finishers hat.
Coming down Maiden was steep but swift and I was excited to be at the last aid station well before the cut off. The last section was without any more climbing and an essentially downhill course for the last 7.5 miles to the finish. When I had the aid station workers take out my hydration bladder to refill it, it was only a little bit down. Oops. The difficulty of the climb up Maiden Peak contributed to my lack of focus on eating and drinking, and the lack of eating and drinking contributed to the difficulty of the climb. I didn't know it quite yet, but I was screwed.
I sat at that aid station and downed a couple of cups of chicken broth before I left. Not far out on the trail as I started run climb up a small rise I felt light-headed. I actually had to crouch down and put my head between my knees to make it pass. Eventually I had to just walk up the hills slowly but I could still run down them. Over the next four miles things deteriorated more. I got ringing in my ears. I got a burning ache in my stomach. At one point I actually laid down on the trail with my legs up the slope and my head down hoping I could recover enough to finish. Eventually I was reduced to walking even the downs and knew I wouldn't make the 18 hour time limit for the hat. But it got even worse and finally I couldn't even walk slowly on the flats without getting light-headed and nauseated. It was the very unsettling feeling of almost passing out.
I was 3 miles from the end and crouched over when a couple in a tent right off the trail saw me and asked if I was OK or needed help. I paused for a bit, knowing that if I said "yes" my race was over. But honestly I couldn't see being able to go another 3 steps let alone another 3 miles. These very nice people (Randy and Kathy) were PCT through-hikers and the wife was a trainer for wilderness first aid courses. Lucky me! They immediately went into rescue mode. They brought me into their tent and put me in their sleeping bag, on a thermarest pad, put my feet up and started assessing me for what might be wrong. Thinking I was likely suffering from low blood pressure we tried to orally rehydrate me by sips of my GU2O and salt tabs. By this time I was hardly able to keep things down and eventually threw up about a half-liter of the fluids I did get in. Even with my head pitched down a slope and my feet up I still felt like I was going to faint. It was really scary and I don't mind admitting there were times I really wasn't sure if I might be a goner before anyone with the right equipment could get to me.
They had a cell phone and we called my family who contacted search and rescue when they couldn't find any way to contact the race people directly. Meanwhile, Hippo was at the finish line waiting for me and alerted them that I should have been done by now. The trail sweeps had already passed us by at a time when Randy was too busy helping to take care of me to watch for them. Eventually the RD and the search and rescue folks on hand figured out that I was 3 miles down the trail and they hiked in to me with equipment.
After the first liter of IV fluids they put in me I wasn't feeling any better so they had to pack me into a rolling gurney/stretcher and half carry/half roll me back out on the trail. After close to 2 hours of this I tried walking again and after initially feeling faint and nauseous I seemed to stabilize. With the support of one of the EMTs I was able to walk the last 1/2 mile in. They took me to their mini triage station and put another liter of fluid in me. They encouraged me to spend the night there, rather than try to drive alone the 30 minutes back to my hotel, so I did. It was about 4 am by this time. I slept for a few hours, then drove back to the hotel and slept for about 4 more hours then drove home to the coast.
I just can't say enough about the nice people that helped me out last night. The RD came out with the EMTs and stayed by my side every single minute. Randy and Kathy were the best trail angels I could have run into. I was very lucky. And I'll pat myself on the back because I wasn't so stubborn that I caused myself any permanent damage. If I had pushed it until I collapsed on the trail I would have risked severe hypothermia before anyone with the right equipment found me and who knows what might have happened. And now I have learned another valuable lesson about the importance of mental concentration for fueling, even when weary. Especially when weary. I doubt I'll make the exact same mistake again.
So, it's heartbreaking to have come so close. I had really wanted to accomplish the entire Oregon trail series but, oh well. I'll live to run another day. I'm suppose to be doing this for fun so I refuse to feel too bad about it.
So once again - Hippo helped save my day and we had some fun again sharing trail experiences. He'll have to relate his specific adventures himself, as I know he will.