Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Oregon Cascades 100M (Race Recap)

Bend to Sisters, OR
Saturday, August 26
100 mile attempt #18
Weather - warm, smoky

After a somewhat heartbreaking DNF at High Lonesome I waited a few days before deciding that I had worked my ass off all summer/spring and I really wanted to get a 100 mile buckle before summer ended and I started my slow/flat training. I found the Oregon Cascades 100 and saw there weren't a lot of spaces left, priced out travel and went ahead and signed up.

Race morning
Thanks to taking Advil PM, I got WAY more sleep than I usually do the night before a race. I have never used a sleep aid before a race, so thankfully I didn't wake up groggy. I did wake up a few minutes before my alarm went off, took a quick shower and heated up my breakfast burrito. Thankfully I done a great job of having everything laid out and it didn't take me too long to get ready. Kerry's mom was supposed to pick me up at 5:10 and I had the hotel room door open a few minutes early while I watched for her. 

(Insert weird race logistics here - race is a point to point and NO shuttle of any kind is offered between the start/finish. For ME, coming solo from out of state, this was VERY stressful.  Thankfully, there is a FB group and I messaged quite a few people who had been volunteering to drive people between the two. Kerry had driven me from packet pickup in Sisters to my hotel in Bend the night before. And thankfully, there was a grocery store a few blocks from where I was staying so a car wasn't really necessary anyway. Still though, I really hope the race invests in a shuttle going forward - perhaps have people buy tickets like Aravaipa does, that way they aren't "out" the money.)

Anyway, Kerry's mom found me with no issues, and we continued on to pick up fellow racer, Dean. It didn't take long to get to the start line, and I immediately was on the hunt to find the race director so I could drop off my finish line bag.

(Again - I ended up messaging the race director the week of the race to ask about this. With having my car at the finish line - since no cars could be left at the start line - I wasn't sure what I was going to do with all the stuff I would need the night before the race that I didn't want to run with. Thankfully, they said that I could leave a small finish line bag at the start and they would hold onto it. Especially with the lack of a shuttle, this should just be offered at the very least? Again, for a solo runner it was a bit of a logistical headache). 

I wasn't able to find Janessa, but I found her husband and he said he would handle it for me. I cycled through the bathroom line a few times before heading closer to the start line.

Per the norm, I was near-ish the back, and I could hear that someone was saying SOMETHING, and I hoped it wasn't important because I couldn't make out any words at all. There was no gun, just all of a sudden people were surging forward.

Photo cred: James Holk/Alpine Running
I had done just enough research that I knew the first few miles of the course were on road. I actually like when courses start on the road because it gives me enough time to get "warmed up" before heading onto trails. The temperature was PERFECT when we started, and thankfully, all the smoke I had been fearing was not to be found. I kept the pace very easy to start. I chatted with Ed "the Jester" for a few minutes before he pulled away. I found myself running alone in the early miles, which was fine. After about two miles, we turned off onto a dirt road. Pretty sure this was the only time I was concerned about course markings as I didn't see any flagging directing me to turn. I did have the route loaded on my watch and got a notification, so I wasn't worried. 
We kept at the flat, dirt road for another few miles until we finally turned on to some single track. I was glad to have some runnable miles to start. 

This was one of the three section that were 10 miles between aid. I was fine with this one since it was still so early in the race. Having the areas where I could run didn't make it seem as far as it actually was.
Arrived at the first aid station and was immediately told to make sure that we had the route handy as they had been informed that people were changing course markings! Apparently they were ALSO other runners?? Wtf, that was annoying to hear. (With that said, I never had any issues with any marking on this course. There wasn't a ton of confidence markings, but I never felt like I was lost or had to wonder where to go). 

The next couple sections were a gradual climb, but I was still able to run a lot more than I expected to, which was a fun surprise. Volunteer groups had gone over the course and done a ton of maintenance, which was appreciated. I think there were only a handful of trees we had to climb over.

It was definitely starting to heat up. Got to the second aid station, Rock Creek, that we would hit later in the night. Even though I had looked at the map numerous times, I was already confused as to where we were. Thankfully I did still have my cheat sheet of aid station distances (although I forgot to include the elevation gain between segments!) and the elevation profile. 
For a bit I ran with another lady - I wish I could remember her name, she was really nice to talk to, and really, the only person I spent any amount of time with on the trail. 

Photo cred: James Holk/Alpine Running
Photo cred: James Holk/Alpine Running
She ended up pulling away at some point, so I was solo for a bit. I don't remember much of this section, including the Tumalo aid station, which would also hit later in the race. I though I had remembered that "most" of the climbing was in the first part of the course, and yet it really didn't seem like we had done that much climbing. After Tumalo, we had the longest stretch without aid - 10.6 miles. I don't remember much, but it definitely seemed to go on for a long time. We had a shorter stretch before a long, nearly 9 mile section to get to the first drop bag. 

The drop bag placement was a bit odd for me. The first drop bag would be at mile 36.7, with an 11.5 hour cutoff. I didn't want to have my Kogalla in there that early as there was no way that I would need it that soon and I didn't want to have to carry it the whole time, since my pack was pretty full. It had been so hot midday that it seemed ridiculous I would need the pants I tossed in there or my rain jacket. I ended up just taking my bag of nutrition and my pants. Just in case!

Onward. I figured I would give Ben a call since I actually seemed to have service when I left Skyliners. We talked for a few minutes, until I lost coverage. Right before I hung up, I had been enjoying a nice, runnable downhill, and commented that I was really curious where all this "front end" climbing was going to be.

Well, I found out around mile 40. I had gone from feeling pretty fantastic all race to completely feeling like shit. My legs were like jello going up the climb. I had barely been using my poles and in this section they definitely saved my race. Looking at the stats, it wasn't as steep as it felt, but I really felt like I lost my mojo after this section. The trail would level out for a bit and I would catch my breath, and then even some downhill sections. I leapfrogged here with some other runners. Some people had their climbing legs and would blast past me, and others - like me - had their downhill legs and would charge the descents. Came into the Swampy Lakes aid station - a fun crew aid station where I took a pic of this sign:
It was also about here that I started to get annoyed by the aid station food. Let me preface by saying that I completely recognize I am probably picky, but EVERY SINGLE AID STATION WAS THE SAME. Peanut butter and grape jelly on stale white bread. Fruit snacks and rice krispie treats. One type of wavy chips. Orange slices. There was supposed to be Spring Energy at all aid stations, but 2-3 had none, and most were out of the Awesome Sauce - although supposedly that was the one they were to have the most of. Two aid stations were also out of coke. Later in the race there were quesadillas (one aid station actually said - we have everything to make quesadillas except cheese??) and broth and maybe 1-2 aid stations also had ramen in the broth. Noticeably missing? Watermelon (only at I think two aid stations) and ZERO had potatoes?! I think Swampy Lakes was the ONLY aid station that had something different - I was able to get some bacon and sausage. In the past I have DNF'd races because of a refusal to eat the same disgusting food, but that wasn't going to happen here. A slice of pizza or mashed potatoes or rice would have been amazing to have here - probably the only benefit to having a crew at this race that I can think of. Anyway.

I did not want to get behind on my nighttime caffeine plan, and took my first dose around 8:30 when it was still somewhat light out. I had to use headlamp between Swampy and Dutchman aid stations. I had all my night stuff (Kogalla) and warm weather clothes (apparently it had gotten down to the 30's a few nights earlier). I also decided I would go ahead and charge my watch in this section since I would have my pack off anyway.

It was not cool enough for me to put on any of my layers, and at this point, my pack was STUFFED. The one REALLY irritating thing about this aid station was the sheer number of crew people that were there made it VERY crowded and people were not paying attention when cutting in front of people and it was a zoo. I kept trying to find a SINGLE volunteer to tell me where to go to leave the aid station and everyone was just a crew person. Finally I actually stood there and yelled - I AM TRYING TO LEAVE THE AID STATION WHERE DOES THE COURSE GO???! And finally someone pointed to where I needed to go - through a sea of oblivious crew people. Truly, it was like none of these people had ever been at an aid station. Frustrating.

I was really excited to be well over halfway, and I believe I left Dutchman with an hour and forty minutes under cutoff. A bit dismayed that it had taken me just over 15 minutes to get in and out of there, but it was my only "excessively long" aid station stop of the race.
The moon was much closer to being full than I expected, although with the clouds and smoke that rolled in, there was no light benefit from it. These next few sections were kind of a blur. I thought when I had been looking at the elevation profile that there would be climbing for 8-10 miles until we hit about mile 70. Thankfully, there was nothing even remotely as bad as the mile 40 climb for me, although my quads were trashed and it took me much longer to hike than I would have liked. I got back to Tumalo Creek aid station, and took my watch off the charger, grabbed food and headed out pretty quickly to start the trip to Sisters. 

I got a few minutes down the trail thinking that I had left my small battery pack and charging cable on the table at the aid station. Checked all my pockets and chalked it up to a lost. A few minutes later I looked down and saw it was still in my top pocket, cable and all...

I had forgotten to fill up the extra bottle with water for the next caffeine dose, so I ended up not taking it until closer to 1:30 am, although I wasn't feeling tired, I wanted to stay on top of it. Hit the Rock Creek aid station and shortly after that I think I was done using the poles the rest of the race? I had asked them if the upcoming section was the "rocky" section we had been warned about and the volunteer told me no. Thankfully I didn't really believe him, because it WAS the rocky section. I was still doing running in this part, but it was much more of a narrow single track, and I am more cautious at night on technical downhills anyway. Once I was "alone" I had to put on a glove and reapply Buttr, as I was getting some fairly painful chafing. 

Park Meadows was the last aid station before the final drop bag, and the third of the 10 mile sections. This really went on for a LONG time. I didn't get cold enough to put on any layers until 3 in the morning, and even then, all I needed was my Patagonia R1. I did not need the beanie, gloves, pants or other top layers. 
Photo cred: James Holk/Alpine Running
Photo cred: James Holk/Alpine Running
We finally seemed to exit out of the protection of the trees, and soon, the sky was starting to get light with the hint of sunrise. I had made it!!


Photo cred: James Holk/Alpine Running
I turned on my phone for the first time around sunrise and talked on the phone with Ben for a bit. It was a really pretty sunrise!


Photo cred: James Holk/Alpine Running
I lost service and decided I would turn off my phone until the race was over. I was coming into the last drop bag and was PUMPED. Many people thought mile 85ish was a weird place to have a drop bag, but I REALLY appreciated it. I was already too warm in my top layer, plus I was still carrying all the other stuff I never even used. I hadn't even put anything other than a change of shorts and some nutrition in my drop bag, but I was able to get rid of about 90% of my pack contents for the last 15 miles. We were on a downhill dirt road for a bit, which was nice to get some running in. I think I took my last caffeine dose somewhere around here (?) and honestly my timing worked out great because I legitimately did not get tired AT ALL. 

This was a 7 mile section that was really pretty runnable. Once we turned off the dirt road, we were back on more buffed trails that seemed like a mountain bike trail. I did more running here than expected, and may have even passed a few people here, to my surprise.

Then it was on to the second to last aid station. This was also the second most irritated I was at an aid station. I was almost done so didn't care about the lack of different food, but the volunteer was like "NINE MILES TO GO!" Which made NO sense to me because I had my printout of aid stations distances and after this it was 4.5 miles to the last aid station that was 2.6 to the finish. 4.5 plus 2.6 was just over 7. NOT NINE. And then (I assume he thought he was being funny) he said, so you aren't even running 100 miles?

WTF.

I didn't stay long and headed out eating I'm sure another disgusting and stale pb&j. I did some running here, and passed a few more people. The closest I had to any hallucination on this course was seeing the below rock from a distance and thinking it was a legit elephant statue. (Fun fact, the info button in the photo app actually says "look up dog" haha).
Out of the blue, we are done with single track and are on a dirt road. WOOOO!! So close to being done. I am basically done running at this point. I am hot and am done with this race. Even though the aid station is so close to the finish, I stop and get ice in my bandana, which was totally worth using the extra few minutes. 
I probably got passed by at least 8-10 people in this section since I was mostly walking, but I didn't care. Ultrasignup thought I would only finish with about 6 minutes to spare (of the 32:01:18 cutoff) and I was guaranteed to be finishing under 30 hours. I did pass 1-2 people in the last mile as I just wanted to get off the course, knowing I would still have to do a lap on the track at Sisters Middle School to finish. 

Suddenly, race over. 



Official Time - 29:46:33
Overall Place - 124/184
Gender Place - 34/55
Garmin Time - 29:46:01
Garmin Distance - 100.06 miles
Elevation Gain - 11,233'
Miles 1-10 - 12:44, 13:24, 12:42, 12:43, 14:42, 13:02, 13:40, 13:56, 14:39, 14:46
Miles 11-20 - 16:42, 17:14, 15:50, 14:52, 15:30, 15:16, 15:45, 1646, 15:42, 18:46
Miles 21-30 - 15:57, 19:50, 15:42, 14:35, 16:52, 18:08, 15:37, 14:37, 14:29, 13:33
Miles 31-40 - 15:46, 14:56, 20:09, 15:33, 14:53, 14:35, 13:38, 20:57, 16:23, 15:55
Miles 41-50 - 17:18, 20:22, 21:55, 16:29, 16:23, 17:31, 21:56, 20:14, 16:53, 18:56
Miles 51-60 - 14:16, 23:10, 18:03, 19:46, 16:16, 19:46, 19:30, 16:59, 31:26, 21:45
Miles 61-70 - 19:43, 22:22, 19:51, 23:59, 1649, 16:04, 17:05, 25:07, 23:10, 21:30
Miles 71-80 - 18:01, 18:10, 20:02, 19:28, 17:28, 29:29, 18:42, 20:46, 19:06, 18:52
Miles 81-90 - 21:28, 18:57, 19:24, 20:14, 18:03, 27:21, 16:37, 17:31, 16:03, 16:33
Miles 90-100 - 17:34, 16:53, 19:05, 17:32, 17:26, 17:41, 17:45, 19:54, 16:50, 16:26

Time to get some real food and beer! Turns out all the rumors of beer were a lie (sad) but the food was amazing and a million percent better than anything on course. There were pulled pork sandwiches, macaroni and potato salad, plus all sorts of other goodies. I wasn't super hungry, but I did force myself to eat a few things. Found my drop bags, but had to walk back over to the finish to get my finish line bag - which thankfully they had since it had the rental car keys and my wallet in there.

Thoughts:
  • I actually really liked this race. The trails were really runnable, even for me. There were sections in the middle where we encountered mountain bikes and about 50% of them yielded, which is in line with how bikes normally are. Thankfully probably only saw about 2 dozen of them all race.
  • The swag is nice. The shirt is an Adidas tech top. I picked black, but there was an option for a light sage green color as well. Buckle is nice, simple.
  • Course was marked well, especially at turns and intersections.
  • 99% of the volunteers were great. I just wish aid stations would have more variety. And I was mid-pack most of the race, so for them to be out of so much stuff at so many aid stations was disheartening. (Not to mention, a shocking 17% - 56 runners - didn't even start. Imagine if everyone who was registered had showed up? Could've been an issue for slower folks).
  • Free race pictures, which I always like. The photographer was really friendly both times I saw him. 
  • Again, logistically it was a bit more of a headache than I like, but everything worked out and the trail running community out in Bend/Sisters is very supportive and friendly. (Thanks again Kerry and your mom for the help with my car and getting to the stat line!!)
  • Of note - I really think this was overall one of my best executed 100 milers. I did not have any issues with sleep, which I have historically had so many issues with. Obviously I wish I would have been faster/run more at the end, but to finish mid pack on a course with over 10,000' of climbing is a huge mental boost for me. I'm really happy with how everything went here.
Gear:
  • Salomon Adv Skin 12. This pack is 90% perfect. I just wish the pockets on the front of the vest at the top were more secure so I could put things like chapstick in there without worrying about things falling out. I was fine with two bottles most of the race, but the second 10 mile section I ran out of water. That was dumb on my part because I did have a third bottle in the pack of my pack but I hadn't filled it.
  • New for this race - Salomon Quiver. What a fucking awesome piece of equipment! I have been looking for this for nearly a year. For something that makes so much sense and is SO useful, it is shockingly ALWAYS out of stock. I really lucked out and was able to trade for it in a resale group and was able to test it out the week before on a hike. Really made all the difference for stashing poles. (Of note - I think with it being 5% more challenging to get out of the quiver vs. just pulling out of the front of my pack, I think I used the poles MUCH less than I would have historically).
  • Leki Ultratrail FX One Superlite poles. I expected to use much more than I did. I maybe only used for 30ish miles? OR sun gloves.  
  • Garmin Fenix 7s. Charged once at about halfway.
  • Kogalla and Batpak 3, plus a Petzl headlamp. I had to change headlamp batteries once.
  • Clothes - Rabbit EZ tee (Runners Roost team shirt), CVG 5" shorts (TONS of compliments on these!), Zensah mini crew socks, Topo Ultraventure 2 & gaiters, Zensah high neck sports bra, buff (had to use a lot on the road to/from the last aid station as crews were flying by and kicking up a lot of dust), ice bandana, my new Tahoe 200 Runnr hat (thanks, Melody!), Goodr sunglasses
Lastly - ZERO blisters. My feet are in the best condition ever. Not even a hot spot this time. Crazy. I did not change socks, did not change shoes.

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