When I first found out my wife was pregnant I was sitting in the same chair in the same spot I am sitting right now; alone. I hung up the phone with her after hearing the news, my whole world that I’d created suddenly crashed in upon me. She doesn’t really know this, even now, but I was devastated that first 10 minutes after hearing the news. All my grand plans, dreams, ambitions, all that bull shit, I saw it evaporating right before my eyes.
In my relatively short history of running 100 mile races I have had some success, but more defeat. Prior to starting Pine to Palm I had finished one and DNF’d two 100s. Not a good ratio. Of course there are always reasons to drop out, My knee was totally jacked, actually probably in both DNFs, I was reduced to a hobbled walk, unable to run at all. I exited both races at about the 75 mile mark, unwilling to regroup and walk in the remaining miles. Before lining up for P2P this year I had my share of doubts about whether I could finish. Both feet had been having various problems during and after Transrockies. I did everything I could to convince myself beforehand that I would finish no matter what came my way on race day. I did not want to drop out of 3 of 4 100 mile attempts.
Beginning the long descent from the top of Grayback Mountain
Steamboat Aid station Mile 22
Photo Credit: Brett Hornig
Rolling down the road towards Applegate Lake and the Seattle Bar aid station
Photo Credit: Brett Hornig
I had one thing I kept trying to tell myself during the first 30 miles of the race. Just go slower. I think I only sort of succeeded. I came through the early miles feeling well, hitting Seattle Bar aid at mile 28 in 4:15. Of course it’s easy to have energy and good spirits at this point in the race. The temps had been cool and a lot of the running, aside from the initial 4500ft climb up Grayback, had been easy. The race would start here.
Natalie holding Laiken, my mom looking on
By Squaw Lakes Aid Station I had already gone through my first low of the race. The relentless climb and exposed nature of the grind up Stein Butte had taken it’s toll. I came though only somewhat phased, stomach still working marginally, legs feeling adequate. I ate some solid food here and tried to cool off as much as possible for the full sun roaster I knew I was about to head into going up towards Hanley Gap (Mile 50)
Ice Bucket Respite
I have recently said that I think every runner should attempt a 100 miler in their life. While physically this might not be the best idea, in no other race do you have so many opportunities for this level of personal growth. For me at Pine to Palm my time of the rubber hitting the road came right before the half way point. My feet, which I’d mentioned earlier, blew up on me full force. I was reduced to a hobble, reminiscent of past 100 mile experiences. The pain in my plantar was nearly unbearable, and what was worse was my stomach was done, and the heat was at it’s highest level of the race. All things came to a head at once. Mile 50 was a crewed aid station, my parents were there waiting. I could have very easily decided to drop here. It would have made some sense. But my mindset this time was a bit different than in races past. I decided I didn’t care what place I got, I only wanted to cross the damn line. So I changed shoes, added a compression wrap to the really bad foot, and trudged out and up towards Dutchman. I figured I could walk all night and make the finish if I had to.
Rob Cain: Hanley Gap Aid Captain, escorting me into the checkpoint (mile 50)
By mile 60 I was quickly caught on the climb to Dutchman. Riccardo from Vancouver, BC seemed like he would roll right by and easily take the win. Instead we stayed together for the next miles, talking a bit, me struggling to keep the pace up. But, evening was falling, we were climbing up the mountain, and the temps were coming down. Maybe, I was starting to feel a bit better.
Dutchman aid (mile 67) getting a quick kick in the ass from DL, just the boost I needed to get rolling again.
As the I hopped on the PCT rolling East towards Grouse Gap (mile 80) my mind began to regain the focus that had been lost in the death march of the middle miles. I put a little bit of time on Riccardo and was climbing much stronger. Going towards 80 I knew I’d see my wife and son again as they had planned on making the trek up from town if I was doing well. I was excited to see them.
I can’t say for sure, but I think that even though my son doesn’t know much of anything, I still didn’t want to let him down. When the thought of dropping out came into my head 30 miles back at Hanley Gap it didn’t last long, I knew that I was going to finish this race in first or in last. I thought that’s what Laiken would want if he knew what was going on.
The last 20 miles were actually really fun. I got to run with my buddy Cole and let him put the hammer down on me, just trying to keep up. The ten seconds we stood on top of Wagner Butte were pretty amazing. For that brief moment I could forget that I had run 87 miles to get there. We were free, soaking in the night air in the high Siskiyou mountain range, as alive as you can feel.
Photo Credit: Paul Nelson
The man with the plan, Thanks Hal for this race and allowing me to be a part of it and all that is Rogue Valley Runners. And thanks to everyone who gave their blood, sweat, and tears to this race and helped me make it from Williams to Ashland through this great mountain range.
Photo Credit: Paul Nelson
If you would have told me before hand that I would run 18:28 and win the race I certainly would have been happy. In 100 miles so many things have to go right, and when they don’t you have to accept that and keep moving. I owe this race to my wife and my baby boy. Without them as a guiding light I don’t think I’d have had the right resolve in the darkest moments of this race. Now, with a bit of time to reflect I realize that my grandest plans and dreams are still out there, not dead at all. And if anything, Laiken is going to help me find the power to achieve more than I ever could have without him.