Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pine to Palm 100

View at the top of the first climb shot by Masha.

Well she did it! A big sigh of relief in our tiny household and we've been riding the post race high the last two weeks. Well maybe except for cat, she was just glad we finally came home. Such a huge accomplishment and I'm still shaking my head about it. Pine to Palm is a tough first 100 and with the record breaking heat, I was genuinely worried for her safety. Mashas' nemesis, her weakness is heat. The climbs, the distance, her limited experience in ultras and the fact that her longest distance completed was 50 miles was also a source for anxiety. She had put in a lot of training however and had an experienced crew. In the end, with a lot of work and perseverance, she crossed the finish line at 31:51:26.

Showing off her schwag at the awards ceremony. The ladies got a silver necklace on top of their buckles. I may have passed out after this, having been awake for 36+ hours.

This all started last year when she shared her aspirations for attempting the 100-mile distance and honestly I was surprised. She seemed to have had her hands full at the 50-mile distance and I felt she needed more experience mastering that distance before jumping to the 100k and the 100 mile. I was not for the idea but I didn't voice that opinion too loudly having learned my lesson from the 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 mile. Long story short, she wanted to run the race as her first 50, I said she should target something easier, she trained hard, finished and I ended up with egg on my face. As part of her mental preparation she signed up for the Quad Dipsea and the Northface 50 mile at the end of that year. These hilly races, only a week apart, was an ambitious goal and quite a challenge. I told her, if you can't fathom running back to back tough but shorter ultra races, you shouldn't be thinking about hundreds. So she gone and signed up the crazy kook but unfortunately she never got the chance to start either events.

Masha suffers from hyperthyroidism. When it strikes she has the typical symptoms, fatigue, weight loss and rapid heartbeat. The latter is a scary one. She could be in bed at night, ready for sleep, and her heart rate will be in the 90's. It first struck in London while she was working towards her masters degree, then again shortly after arriving here in San Francisco. Both times it was treated with medication, beta blockers for her heart and each time she recovered nicely. However the doctors advised she should think about a permanent solution which involves taking the thyroid out either by surgery or radiation treatment if it returns for a third time. Not an attractive solution considering she would require medication for the rest of her life. When it flared up for a third time a month before the Quad Dipsea she adopted a wait and see approach and pulled out of both races. Backing off the running seemed to improve her condition and this year she signed up for the Lake Sonoma 50 miler in April. She struggled through training, ran the race an hour slower and was laid out again for the rest of April. Finally she went back to see the doctor, was able to get back on the pills and by June she was running again. The hundred was still on the table and the big question was whether she could be ready for a late summer or early fall race. It was down to either Rio del Lago here in Norther California or Pine to Palm in Ashland, Oregon. I've run both races and I advised her to go for Pine to Palm even though it was harder and earlier than Rio. I felt she would have a better experience; a more scenic course, great schwag including a buckle and it's in Ashland—we like Ashland.

So June opened up with a big run in… Ashland, okay not quite but close enough. Our good friend Dana Katz celebrated her birthday by running 40 miles of the Rogue River and we joined her despite Masha being under trained. It was a grand time. It was warm, mid-80s, and the heat bothered her as early as 12 miles in, but she plowed on and got as far as 28 miles before her running was done. We hiked the last 12 miles to beer and birthday cake and celebrated 40 miles. It was a victory for her and it set the tone for the summer and ultimately her race.

Pine to Palm was an uphill battle from the very start because of the hotter than normal temperatures in addition to all the usual difficulties at a race of this distance. It's usually hot, in the 90's but it was especially hot this year. I wouldn't know, I ran it in it's inaugural year during a storm. Yes much like this years edition of Cascade Crest. I'm 2-0 for rain in PNW hundreds. Anyway she got as close as 25 minutes to the cutoffs at mile 52 and mile 67. The latter was the big one, the highest point on the course at 7400 feet, capping a long uphill slog that they started at mile 45 and had to reach by 2 AM. She made it with 35 minutes to spare, haggard and hungry, but animated and relieved—so were we! From there she had more than 14 hours to complete the last 23 miles for the finish. 23 miles is not nothing especially with one last climb to go but the hardest parts were behind her and she would be close to the finish before the heat returned. I paced her from that point to the mile 74 aid station and Dana took her the rest of the way. No crew access from 74 miles onward but I was able to follow her progress on and through Dana's texts. I kept myself busy taking care of our hotel accommodations and following up on our friend Simon who was part of our group and was also in the race. He would PR the 100 mile distance with a 26 hour finish.

At the pre-race brief; Dana, Simon, Masha and me.

Simon and Masha at the start.

Coming in at Seattle Bar/Applegate River aid station, mile 28.

Squaw Lakes, miles 39-42.

Pep talk at Squaw Lakes.

Simon, eager to leave Squaw Lakes.

Caffeine high at mile 68:)

In step with pacer D at mile 98, getting close!


A picture with Hal after the awards ceremony.

What a journey and I was glad I got to be a part of it. Huge thanks to Dana for crewing and pacing Masha those last miles. Huge thanks to the Pine to Palm crew for hosting. Much like our visit in June, we bought a bunch of Oregon beer before returning to California. Even Simon picked up a couple of 6-packs. The day we left, the temps were down to the 60s with a light morning drizzle. At my race, the rain stopped and the sun came out right before the awards ceremony. Thank you Ashland! Hahaha! On the drive home both conceded that they would entertain possibility of running the race again in the future. After we got home Masha said something that really stuck with me, "I'm glad I finally have my own 100 mile schwag, I don't have to keep using yours." She was referring specifically to the duffle bags I got from running Bighorn and Javelina. Uh huh, well she still uses my stuff because she doesn't want to trash her new Northface Pine to Palm branded duffel. But more than material things, her comment just made me think about how she has succeeded in carving out her own space and identity in this sport. She's a strong runner in her own right, living her own adventures and writing her own stories.

Thank you Dana! With Jason Leman (Red Ranger) at Seattle Bar.

photo copy
And then there were two. One earned in a storm, one in a heat wave.

and Piggy is still unimpressed.

Uh-huh uh-huh, 100 miles…yaaaawwwnnn. Don't ever leave me again.

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