Jamie, Jenny and I were all taking the regular start at 5:00 A.M., and we lined up in the dark with a hundred or so other runners. (There were 123 in the race, but I don’t know how many took the 3:00 A.M. start.) We took off and immediately started climbing up the ski hill. I’m perfectly happy to start a long race with a climb, and in this case, it was a good way to stay warm. It was chilly out!
The climb up Fuji encompasses a few miles of out-and-back, so we had the fun of getting to see the leaders heading back down. Eventual winner Tim Olson was already out front, and in the women’s race Megan Arbogast came by first, with Amy Sprotson hot on her heels. Those two were in close competition all day, with Megan pulling ahead in the final miles for the win.
Heading down Fuji and then up a section of the PCT, I did my best to stay in contact with Jamie. I knew she would be the perfect person to pace off of, if only I could keep her in sight without killing myself. My general race strategy was to run conservatively until about mile 40. If I still felt good at that point, I would give myself permission to pick it up and run hard. My training since TRT had been lackluster, to say the least, and that scared me into sticking with this fairly conservative plan. Thus it was that I found myself arriving at A4 expecting to see Jamie, and she was nowhere in sight. Clearly she was feeling good, and I mentally wished her well and stuck to my plan.
The section from Charlton Lake (A5) to Rd. 4290 (A6) is pretty flat and extremely runnable. It was a bit frustrating then, to feel like I wasn’t making very good time here. This area was sort of a mental low, and after hearing from a number of other runners, that seemed to be a common theme. It was just kind of the doldrums. It seems counter-intuitive, but I always have a hard time staying focused on the flats even though I should be using the terrain to my advantage.
Coming into the Twins aid station for the second time, I got my camera out preparing to take a picture. On my first visit to this station, they had a “Pearly Gates” theme and I appreciated the enthusiasm that led most volunteers to don white gowns, wings and halos. I’d been too lazy to take a picture at the time, knowing I’d be back here and could do it then. To my surprise though, the theme had changed. Now everyone was wearing devil horns and black cloaks. Clearly it was late in the race and things were getting ugly! I also noticed that, despite my efforts, Claire and Scott were still right behind me. Time to go!
I started the final climb, up Maiden Peak, with Claire. Due to my excessive study of the map and elevation profile, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect out of this climb. Long story short: It was going to be a bitch.
I let Claire lead the downhill since my legs were completely rubbery from the climb, and she was soon far out of my sight. This trail was labeled “Leap of Faith” on the map, and I’ll tell you what - that was the perfect name! Steep, loose and technical, it took more than a little confidence to negotiate. I worried less about moving fast than I did about staying upright.
The last 7.5 miles to the finish is fairly moderate downhill, and I felt like I was keeping a good pace on it. I wasn’t too discouraged about getting passed by Scott and Claire, since no one else had passed me in the last 40 miles. I was, however, picturing a large number of women somewhere shortly behind me, and I didn’t want to get passed again. That was my motivation. When I look at my last split though compared to those of the runners near me, I can see that I still have a lot of work to do on my downhill technique. Even runners who finished behind me had a much faster split from the last aid station to the finish. I hate being faced with that kind of knowledge, but sometimes it’s good to have a forced reality check: My downhill pace wasn’t as solid as it had felt.
I crossed the finish line gratefully, to the cheers of Jamie, Jenny and a handful of enthusiastic spectators and runners. In many ways, the 100K distance was more or less what I had expected: a little harder than a 50-miler, but not nearly as hard as a 100-miler. The Waldo course is no joke, but it’s hard in a really good way. I was fairly happy with my finishing time of 13:30, and my place of 8th woman/39th overall. (Complete Results)