Monday, August 20, 2012

"It's Always a Good Time!" - Waldo 100K Pacer Report

[Revised 8/21/12 -0745 - see italicized]

Over the course of our short friendship, Jake and I have been there for each other in some pretty important and memorable experiences:
So when it came time for Waldo, it was clear that the priority was getting Jake a spot in the Big Juan.  As AJW put it last spring, Jake's been engaging in a "two-year devotional" to the greatest trail hundred in the world.  It was time to get a spot.

As for me: I've wanted to run Waldo since I'd heard about it.  But post-WS, my body - or perhaps more accurately, my mind - has rejected it.  I rested for several weeks, post-WS, then put in a solid weekend of training with Jake and Connor at the end of July, but neither body nor mind responded in kind.  I thought, "Maybe it's as honorable to not start a race you shouldn't run, as it is to finish a race you can run."  And when it occurred to me that I could be of greater help to Jake as pacer, that cemented the decision.  I'd do my best to return his grand favor at WS with what we both hoped would be his own berth into the '13 offering.

I awoke on Saturday morning with just enough time to escort Jake to the ski lodge and watch the start...then went back to sleep.  A couple more luxurious hours of z's, then Sara and I rolled out of our tents, around the time that Jake and the fellas were descending Fuji.

We rolled up to Charleton Lake (mile 30) shortly after 9AM.  No one at the aid station had any firm data.  One person arrived and said, "Tim Olson and Jesse Haynes were up front...".  No mention of Jake, though few probably knew who he was in the Beaver State.  I thought for a bit, then turned to Sara and said, "You know, Jesse and Jake look very similar - it could be him!" 

We didn't have to wait long to find out.  Within minutes, shortly before 9:20AM, Jake flew into the AS, solo.  Leading!  Awesome.  I doffed my jacket, donned the jet pack, and I sprinted to catch up to Jake, who'd bolted from the AS.

After a minute or two of catching up, and catching wind, Jake filled me in on the mornings's events:  No Hal, leading hard up the ski hill, getting reeled in by EEN ( "Ian?" "No, EEN!" ), the being first to summit Fuji.  No one knew for sure, but he'd heard he was several minutes up on Tim, and Ian had fallen back.  No word on Yassine or the real Jesse Haynes. 

We made quick work of the gently rolling but mostly downhill 5+mi section to 4290 AS.  Though he didn't need them, I peppered Jake with form cues - "staying forward" in his trunk, quick turnover, using the elbows, ad nauseum. 

Near as I can tell, a pacer has two primary tasks: timely and course-specific dispensation of:

1.) mechanical cueing
2.) 1980s-to-present Pop Songs

Besides the form cues, I asked Jake about the "Brain iPod".  He said he'd started with one brutal song, then a pretty good one we were singing the night before - a nifty duet with Owl City and Carley Rae

I offered up a new one, a whistle-while-you-work tune appropo of the benign terrain we covered to 4290, then back south toward The Twins.  The latter section represented the first real work of the second half - a lot of grinding up mild, but relentless uphills: no sooner would you finish a minute-long climb, then you'd hit another. 

We rolled along, but for the first time all day, I felt our pace weaken.  Not that I could do a whole lot about it - I was hurting!  For reasons unknown, I had some significant gut rot, so I pulled off trail for the first of three stops in the second half, then quickly caught back up.

Past Charleton Trail, we began the real climbing to the shoulder of The Twins.  Jake did terrific work of keeping his feet moving - I feigned great energy and encouragment, though I continued to struggle.  We moved, but not too quickly.  

Like us all (OK, maybe not Jimothy right now), Jake's got his weak spots.  One of them was eating and drinking while running uphill!  On the first ocassion up to Twins, I advised against it - given that we were running at altitude, and losing but a single breath on a tough uphill is brutally tough to regain.  But he kept doing it!  "C'MON!"

As we trudged along, I reckoned it was time for us both to have a bit of fun, to get a bit of pick-me-up: between gulps of breath, I did my best La Bouche impression to keep the beat moving uphill...  He liked it.  Momentum was gained.  We rolled on.

Just at the summit of the shoulder of the Twins, Jake said, "I'm bonking".  He'd been fueling (uphill) liberally, so I recommended a salt tab and implored him to make the most of the prolonged downhill to the Twins AS.  There, I pushed soda, grabbed some gels, and we continued downhill on the detour that took us to Waldo Lake Rd.

For the first time all day, I led the downhill, running ahead, hoping to pull him along.  He wasn't descending too great (I later learned that his quads were pre-cramping), but before long the trail ceded to the mercifully gentle downhill road section to the Bobby Trail.

A kilo later, we were back on the trail.  There, Keira Henniger told us that we had ten minutes on Jimothy.  However, that must've been old data, as she was last at Charlton.  I reckoned we might've gained 2-3 minutes to 4290, then lost at least 5-6 minutes of that on our Twins up and down, so we pushed it as best as we could down the Gold Lake Trail, in hopes of having some comfort before the last big climb up Maiden Peak. 

After a day filled with clouds and rain, the skies opened up and sun streaked through the Doug Firs as we descended the gentle downgrade to Gold.  Another deuce stop for the pacer, and we were in at Gold.

And there it was: the Long, Lonely Climb of Loneliness. 

The original Waldo course proceeds due south on the PCT from the Twins Trail junction to Maiden Peak Trail.  It is very gentle downhill and one mild uphill to the AS.  The detour, besides taking us an extra three miles around the trail closure, would also carry us nearly a thousand feet lower.  From Gold (4900'), we had six+ miles and nearly 3000' to go to get to the top of Maiden (7800'). 

I fell back at the AS and had to haul to catch back up to Jake along Gold Lake Road to Maiden Peak Trail.  That's a nice problem to have as a pacer, but it didn't make my job easier.

The 2.6 miles to the PCT and Maiden AS were just plain tough.  For me!  I was low on sugar, warming up, and feeling flat.  I didn't say much.  Jake didn't need it; he machined his way up the grinder climbs, and only when we reached the steep switchbacks up to the Maiden AS did he walk - for the first time all day. 

For me, something also switched on those 'backs: competitiveness.  We were at mile 53, only one climb and a bunch of downs 'til Jake has this race in the bag.  We made quick work out of the AS plugged our way uphill.

The climb up Maiden Peak is - brutal.  At first, it resembles Fuji and the Twins: short cilmbs with tiny but well-appreciated flats interspersed.  Then it gets beastly: relentless climbing for at least a mile before leaving the tree line...then more tough uphill.

We ran, then shuffled, then hiked.  The going was honest but admittedly slower than I knew Tim was capable of.  He was gaining, it was just a matter of how quickly.  Finally, we reached Kelly-Roy at the Maiden/Leap of Faith junction and pushed our way to the top of Maiden, to the cheers of T-Bag and Bili.

Near the top of Maiden - Courtesy Kelly Woodke

We weren't more than a switchback down the peak when we nearly ran into Tim, chugging fiercely up the grade like a steam engine. 


I cursed.  A lot.  "I guess it's ON!" I didn't need to say much to Jake, but I did: a few comments about finishing what he started, interspersed with language resembling this.

We descended the volcanic scree of Maiden and onto Leap of Faith, frantically picking our way past Michael Lebowitz, eager to get on the more runnable singletrack, when Jake hit the dirt, yelling and grabbing his calf. 

He was cramping.  I really didn't care.  Actually, I did - which is why I yelled for him to get up and keep moving.  The worst thing for a cramp is to stop, so we rolled.  Remarkably, he did. And equally remarkably, Tim hadn't yet caught up. 

It was extremely "on".  Tim was coming.  This is why we race. 

I ran up front again, trying to magnetically pull Jake down the hill, but there wasn't much stopping Tim.  He rolled up on Tim while I was about 20 meters ahead.  The consummate nice guy and sportsman, I heard him chat with Jake, giving both information - EEN had dropped out - and encouragement, that he had a firm hold on a top three/Western States qual spot. 

I seized upon this as an opportunity to both motivate Jake and stave off complacency:

"Don't you be talking my runner into not wanting to win this race!", I said...half-kidding.  Less than half.

We wished Tim well (no kidding) as he rolled past.  Jake put on a nice push to stay close as we rolled into Maiden Lake AS just as Tim was leaving.  More quick soda shots, more gels, a refreshing sponge, and we were off. 

The first mile out of Maiden Lake AS was fairly lackluster, but when I stopped to "TCB" for the third (and mercifully last) time, it took forever to catch back up to Jake.  He was flying!  We made quick work of the rollers and downs along Maiden Lake to the PCT.  I, too, was feeling strong, and ready for a big-time push from the Rosary Lakes to the finish, only four miles to the end.  I knew both Jake and I were stronger flat-landers than Tim, and I felt like we had a shot at reeling him in.

I painted the scene: "OK, we're not running an ultra - we're back in Rocklin, doing a road tempo - four miles in, four to go".  We pushed a strong pace along Upper and Middle before coming across a photographer, so told Jake he was but three minutes behind Tim. 

"Should we try to get him?"
"Let's go for it!  I'll lead".

We pushed away from Lower Rosary, down the flowing ribbon of singletrack.  I spat form exhortations to Jake.  The pace was strong but it wasn't going to reel in Tim. 

No matter.  We passed "The Root Wad" - signalling about 2.5K to go - and it was, indeed, in the bag. 

I'd been holding onto one last song for the moment.  So, with no one's ears but Jake's and the trees, I did a solid Grandpa Joe impression and crooned my best "Golden Ticket" rendition.  It was an awesome moment. 

We popped out of the woods to the clearing.  I let loose a few "B-G-DEEEEEEE"s as Jake rolled to the finish line in 9:56 for 2nd overall. 

LB administers Last Rites to a spent BGD, Waldo Finish - Courtesy Long Run Pictures.
A hell of a run by BGD: a rare sub-10 performance on a course that was 3.5 miles longer than usual, and finishing a scant four minutes behind Tim. (For comparison's sake, I've been beaten by Tim by an average of an hour in our last two match-ups).

...and the only rest Jimothy's had since Tristan's birthday...
Post-race: lounging about the finish line, taking in the afternoon sun, some suds, a warm washing-machine shower, catching up with a lot of great folks, and some - but not nearly enough - thank yous to all who made Waldo happen - and kept it happening. 

Congrats to "The BGD" - can't wait to start training together for WS '13!

Sara and BGD show off the spoils of the Waldo 100K: a Golden Ticket, not to mention a sweet demin shirt! 
 Might we see this in the WS '13 swag?