Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pine to Palm Recap (pretty long for author Hal)

Runners Advance! 

I got out of bed this morning, scratched my head and then thought about going back to bed, but not before I questioned the lingering ache on the side of my head.  It was until the last runner was accounted for, the awards were pronounced complete, runners were shuttled back to the start in Williams, Pioneer Hall had been cleaned and supplies put away that I finally made it home to find myself shutting my own front door on my face. One of the most exhausting yet rewarding weekends ever was finally put into the books and I hadn't slept but an hour since early, early Saturday morning.  It is no surprise to me that all of our runners and volunteers are probably still feeling the effect of last weekend as well.  Sure, not the conventional ache of running 100 miles or for hours and hours, depending on how the day went, but a sore noggin from just being plain spent.  Not too bad either way.

So some of you may be asking yourselves, did that blow to head help me to forget the tragic mishaps of the day, perhaps gray those glaring omissions a first year event seems to come complete with, we'll see.  Seriously, we needed this inaugural run to work out the kinks and yes there were a few but as I mentioned to a number of my participants, they might have not seemed so loud had the Siskiyous not been turned into an overnight rain forest.

Start of the gravy train

I want to thank everyone for making due with our accommodations in Williams.  I loved that we were able to camp (car camp for some) under clear skies the night before the event.   I was not happy to see 200 to 300 people try to fit into the grange kitchen and dining hall. Next year, we will usurp the Contra Dance night and have full availability of the upstairs hall and a lot more room.  It did bring us closer together didn't it, and at least we all didn't smell like we did after the race.  

As most of you know, the rain started shortly after the start at 6am.  That was the last I saw of you all fresh and dry.  It was the last time you knew what your feet were going to look like and I hope you have found a return to normalcy on that front.  I have to give a shout out to all my volunteers at the finish, Tonya Olsen and Darcy Kleiman and Med Director Kelly Lange for treating numerous cases of trench foot like real troopers.

Runners made their way to the first aid station via 6 miles of pavement and a lot more climbing.  I was happy to see the back of the packers moving very well on to the water only stop, I knew they were in for a treat on the single-track to 7000 feet but that was going to be a creep. A few fast fellas flew by the first turn and I think they may have been talking a little to much for even I saw the hanging ribbons from 100 yards away. They kept good spirits and tried to keep up with Timothy Olson and Neil Olsen who made their way to the Obrian AS in, well, record time.

Neil 0. and Lewis T. battled all day, looks like it eh. 

131 runners dealt with rain for a number of hours while temperatures remained moderate but as they traveled further, on through Carberry and Seattle Bar (unfortunately no liquor was on hand,  Craig???) distance and wind began to wear on everyone.  The Stemples and the Ruch CC teams dealt with a number of drops on this day despite having one of the best locations for an AS.  Runners began to doubt their RD's claims of milder weather in Southern Oregon and many were beaten back by the tragic elements of the day instead of the usual hardships of running 100 miles.  As I mentioned to many, the conditions they all faced could not have been worse and I have never seen so many tough competitors deal with so much for so long. You're on an edge in these types of events and to add a variable that no one could have prepared or trained for was certainly a tipping point.

Seattle Bar (mile 31)

Squaw Lakes loop, well worth it.

I made my way into Ruch to gather reinforcements for my Squaw Peak AS (mile 52.)  Chicken Soup was running as thin as a soggy 100 miler runners and waves of them were now strung out along the course, winding through ever less and less light.  By the time I checked in to Dutchman Peak AS (mile 65) Timothy Olson had already cruised through in 11ish hours.  Lewis Taylor had just made his way out along the Siskiyou Crest some 2 hours later and I had no idea of what was to transpire for just about everyone else.  Along the roads between the two pit stops I found myself shouting words of encouragement, assessing cut off times, talking with ambulance drivers and sheriffs ( a hunter had broken a hip ) as well as navigating around them on the muddy narrow road, picking up drops and dropping off donuts for at least 4 hours.

Walter Edwards makes his move.

I was glad I was there to witness so many of the feats it takes to pull one of these things off ( speaking of runners and volunteers ) but in hindsight I was also upset that the conditions forced me to be out there in a van allowing the remoteness of the course and what was left of pleasurable solitude to slip away, pun intended.  Many runners did not make it up the 2,000 foot climb to Dutchman that night but a number of them decided that they were going to trudge through, how could it get any worse.  I exclaimed to John Price (AS captain along with Rob Cain both of which are the S.O.B. RD's ) after the race that the surreal surroundings could only be characterized as Everest-esque.  25 -40 mph winds forced the numerous volunteers to move the AS during the afternoon to what was described as a better position.  The rain was sideways and turned to sleet numerous times during the evening.  The walls of the 7 Eazy-Up's lined back-to-back chattered through the night as folks warmed runners, cooked soup and hot chocolate, gave up their jackets and gloves to those in need and sent runners on their way to the comforts of lower ground in the coming miles.  When the clouds stopped rolling over the AS shelter it became clear I had the best possible people up there, I didn't think that many runners would've moved forward.  Many efforts went noticed, confirming my suspicion that runners are some of the most selfless compassionate people.

Carly Koerner atop Wagner Butte, she knew those flags were up there somewhere. She created the logo, website, worked all aspects of the race and even 2060 AS.  Bravo!

As the night and runners moved forward they found their oasis's at Lower Wrangle Spring and Wagner Gap.  The professionalism of the two outposts matched anything seen at Western States and were invaluable not only in experience but empathy.  Runners had worked so hard to get this stage of the race and somehow warm bellies and filled flasks were going to get them over Wagner Butte.

Timothy Olson arrives in fine fashion,  he pushed hard all day.

Wagner Butte is situated 5,000 feet above Ashland and only 10 or so miles by foot (yes or so.)  I imagine it seemed like another planet on race day and just as far away when the out and back single track turned into a scramble on the butte's precipice to gather participants pin flags ( proving their successful summit.)   As I sat at the finish for the 24 hour folks I couldn't find the words to express my emotions as the rain began to fall torrentialy, yet once again on the remaining survivors.  Was it too much to ask that they get at least one break, perhaps one vista on this lousy weekend, a peek at what will be next year?  All my thoughts were silenced though by the cheers and screams as finishers filed into Pioneer Hall some 100 miles from where they had begun.

Amy Sproston and Timothy Olson get the goods. 
Smiles were abundant at the awards ceremony and nary a drop of (insert 4 letter word.)

In the end, some 72 runners gathered in Ashland with buckles in hand. 18 to 34 hours is what it took them to complete an amazing feat that tested not only their training but their mettle.  59 others proved they were just as tough and will have an amazing adventure to remember for a lifetime.   I do wish that the weather was not what was remembered most about the event but rather what it took for runners and the rest to pull it off.  I ensure you that is what I will be talking about for years.

I still need to thank my sponsors; The North Face, GU, Black Diamond and Succeed.  All the volunteers another big thank you and to my medical director Kelly Lange as well as course marshal and volunteer/ham coordinator and all things in Williams, Ian Torrence.  To my folks for letting me run them ragged, I hope you come back next year.  INVALUABLE.

Win Goodbody's images.

Andy Atkinsons images.

The Mail Tribune article.

Melissa Williams photo of buckle, bib, and summit flags.  Nice work!



Danimal said...

Great post and pics. This is one of the bests posts yet for you guys for sure, kudos!

Koz said...

Great write-up Hal. I enjoyed reading it in the comfort of my 10% relative humidity digs in the Sierra Nevada rain shadow. Seriously though, congratulations on pulling off a successful event in trying if first year events don't have enough kinks to work out as it is, eh? The race was already on my list but a Conduct The Juices A.S. sealed the deal. What do you think, Goretex jackets in the goodie bags next year? Maybe a waterproof wingsuit to make the final 10 from Wagner Butte a bit easier? See ya on the trails - Koz

Scott Dunlap said...

I heard nothing but epic tales from this inaugural event. You and your team let some good people add a lot of adventure to their lives. Very cool!

Congratulations to all.


Rogue Valley Runners said...

Well, I do know we topped out at 86 degrees today. Not a drop of rain since the race and the two week forecast is nothing but sun. UGH!


chris mcpeake said...

Great write up. Awesome pics as well

Annie Taylor said...

Hello all you P2P participants,

My lime green tote bag was inadvertently mistaken for a drop bag at Dutchman Peak and taken to the finish line Sunday morning while I was busy pacing a runner into the finish. Unfortunately, I only found this out yesterday. I checked Hal's store, but it's not there, so someone must have accidentally mistaken my bag for his/hers.

I'm not sure what was written on the bag, but it's a bright lime green re-usable shopping bag. In it was a pair of women's size 8 Asics 3010 road shoes, Balega socks -- small -- women's small Sport Hill gloves, and I believe there was a pair of Road Runner compression shorts. There may also have been a shirt, but my mind's a blur at this point.

If you may have picked up my bag by mistake, or know someone else who may have, please contact me at so I can make arrangements to get my stuff back.



rustyboy said...

Great writeup, Hal. As I told you, you did everything that you could (and then some - seeing you around mile 58 driving by was a real pick-me-up. No joke!)to make this an epic and memorable race.

I'm looking forward to coming down to Ashland over next summer to check out the vistas I just KNEW were beyond my eyes' reach.

Thanks to you, Ian, Carly, and every single volunteer who stood out there in the deluge, making sure we were safe.

(I now have a new adjective that I like to place before the word "rain"...which is unsuitable for minors.)