Definitely not south on the PCT (at least not until after Twins 2 aid station)! Due to the craziness that unfolded, I thought I’d send out a race report from my perspective on this one.
First off, awesome race once again! Craig and Curt and all the hard-working, super helpful volunteers put on a stellar event, even in light of the course vandalism. Way to rise above. Hosting the USATF Master’s 100k Trail Championship is a cool addition to the race and brought out some fast masters. And, a big bonus for me — organic fruit at aid stations. Sweet!
So, race day was a weird day for sure. My plan was to go out easy, with Hardrock on my legs 5 weeks before, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel. I’d done one good long run in between and then just a run every other day.
At the start, Courtney Campbell, Eric Clifton, Neil Olsen, and Lewis Taylor went out fast. The new start was nice climb and a good warm-up. I was feeling pretty strong power hiking (muscle memory from Hardrock, I’m sure) and caught Campbell and Clifton before Fuji summit and was looking for the leaders to see how far ahead they were. Taylor was leading Olsen by less than a minute when they passed me coming off Fuji on the out and back. Lewis was around 6 minutes ahead of me, as I timed the location where we met and when I got back to that point.
Bruce Grant and I ran together into Mt. Ray, then he pulled slightly ahead on the way to the PCT as I had to mess with some gear and was feeling a bit squirrelly in my stomach after downing a new mix in a bottle at the aid station (that concoction is out!). John Ticer, Mark Lantz, and Bev caught me less than a mile before the PCT (they were right behind me going up Fuji).
Enter the detour and vandalism debacle…
I was running just behind Bev, Lantz, and Ticer. Bruce was out of sight by this time. Ticer and Lantz, maybe 50 yards ahead of Bev and I, arrived at the intersection of the PCT and went right. The vandals had put logs and stick across the PCT going left, pulled all the flags and put one flag going right (south) on the PCT. Of course, I just glanced, saw the logs, saw the flag going right and went behind everyone else. Split second decision. Stupid. My gut said we were going the wrong way. Enter the famous inner voice and let the head games begin. “You’re just not remembering it right,” and the list goes on. And so, I continued to run. Worst part — I’ve run this dang thing twice and trained it without flags too. I can’t believe I went right. But I did.
So, Bev and I ran about 11-12 minutes caught up with an early starter from Bend, John Gnass. I asked John as a confirmation, “are we on the PCT?” and he said “yeah.” Bev, John and I conversed shortly and decided we were definitely going the wrong way (as the sun was on our left, which meant we were heading south) and turned around. Upon our return trip north, we ran into Dan Harshburger, Eric Clifton and Phil Vaughn and had them turn around too. When Bev, Clifton and I got back to the intersection, someone (later found out it was Meghan) had corrected the single flag to go left and went the right way (way to keep your head on straight, Meghan).
I was so bummed. Bev and I did an extra 22+ minutes or so, Clifton maybe 7 minutes, Ticer and Lantz went further. Oslen (who was leading Taylor by then) went all the way to Maiden Summit trail (he ended up gutting out and finishing…wow! much respect). Lewis Taylor and Mark Lantz turned around and finished too. Since Lewis summited Fuji first, he had the Where’s Waldo Award on the line and had to finish to get the prize. Nice work Lewis. Ticer and Grant dropped due to the mishap. Bummer to all who went the wrong way. Not sure if anyone else went wrong, those are the ones I knew of.
This was around 25-26 mile mark and it took me until Charlton Lake to get my head back on straight, as I was beating myself up over the mess-up and should have know better. Finally, I kicked myself in the rear and decided I needed to salvage what I had and focus on the runners in front of me.
So, I just started looking forward. Back to the game plan. The race doesn’t start until Road 4290 at 37 miles. Due to the Hardrock factor on my legs, I didn’t know how I’d feel and was planning on making a call when I got to 4290 — whether to start pushing or just finish.
I felt good. So, I started pushing it a little from there. When I got to Twins 2, I was in 5th. I caught Bushwacker right before Maiden Lake Trail and then Bev at the aid station. The staff told me the 1st place male (Mark Murray), had just left a minute before. I left the aid station before Bev to go hunt him down before the summit. I got him about 1/3 of the way up.
Jeff Riley was stationed at Maiden summit and told me I was 11 minutes behind Meghan. Too far ahead to catch. So, I started the descent and to my surprise, just below the summit, I didn’t see Mark Murray on the out and back, but Mark Lantz! He’s a good climber and had made a huge push and was a minute behind me. Run, Bronco, run!
I knew Mark had good leg speed and knew I had to use Leap of Faith’s steep, technical descent to my advantage to put time on him. I flew off of Maiden like a crazed lunatic! Running completely scared. I put 3 more minutes on him by the aid station. Then another minute on the last section. I only hiked 3 short grunts from the last aid to the finish, and ran everything else. I figured if he was going to catch me, he’d have to run everything. I kept thinking “Jennifer and kids are at the finish for once, you can’t blow this lead. Plus, c’mon, Jeff, you get that cool shoe bench Ticer made for the 1st male and female finishers. Cadence, cadence, cadence!”
My split was around 62 minutes from the last aid station and Mark’s was 63. I’m glad I hauled off Maiden. I also, to my surprise, gained 9 minutes on Meghan from Maiden Summit to the finish. Dang, if I knew she was that close, I would have tried to make myself puke to catch her. 1:47 in front of me! So close.
All in all, a crazy, fun, but weird day for my 30th ultra. What would have happened if we’d all stayed on course? Who knows. What happened happened. You have to salvage and roll with it. I know I would not have guessed the outcome after our detour and I’m sure Mark Lantz would say the same. I’m sure neither of us dreamed we’d get back in it. Since he was 1st masters male runner, he took home some nice prize money and I got the killer Ticer-made shoe bench. Thanks John, I’ll make good use of that award.
What did I learn? Ultras can be mighty unpredictable and it’s good to stick around until the credits.