2003 Swanson

2003 Where’s Waldo Report
Mark Swanson
Redding, CA


  1. Best course I’ve ever run on (about 20 different ultras). Mountain vistas (three peaks are summitted), alpine lakes, green meadows, giant firs shading pristine trails, lots of variety…
  2. I was very fearful approaching this race. Due to a number of reasons I only ran about 300 miles total in the 15 weeks leading up to this race. Only 40 in the previous four weeks. Last year only about a fourth of the starters finished (cutoff times were extended this year), I haven’t really had a good race since January, and…
  3. My legs felt very tired the day before the race as I had chosen to backpack the course between 5pm Monday and 5pm Thursday.
  4. I started out Saturday morning at 5AM (in the dark) with 53 other solo runners and 10 relay teams (some of these had taken the 3AM early start). I got to the starting line a mite late and followed about 30 seconds behind the pack. The race starts with a five mile uphill portion and I figured I’d catch the back of the pack when they started walking. After about a mile I wasn’t catching anyone and made the crucial decision to stick with my strategy and began walking. Until the first aid station at mile ten (Gold Lake), not only was I in dead last, I couldn’t even see or hear whoever was second to last. (I later discovered there were two people behind me who had started about 10 minutes late). Nevertheless I got to Gold Lake in 2 hours flat and I knew that most of the people ahead of me could not maintain this pace.
  5. I was the 60th runner to reach the top of Mt Fuji (16miles), having passed one runner (a guy with a BIG backpack) and still trailed by the two late starters. Yet, since I was ahead of my goal pace (3:39) I said to co-RD Craig Thornley (waiting for us at the top of Fuji), “Since you have a special award for the first runner up Fuji who finishes the race, can you have a special award for the last runner up Fuji who still finishes the race?” and he said “sure” and I was pretty confident it was as good as mine.
  6. I felt great all day. Power-walking uphill, running pretty fast downhill, taking lots of gu and s-caps and gatorade between aid stations and a conservative start and my body felt good all day, except for being really fatigued the last four miles. I passed people all day and finished 15th and enjoyed myself thoroughly the whole way (except those last 45 minutes)- no suffering except the unavoidable difficulty of climbing Maiden Peak, the last 1.5 miles of which averages a 20% grade. Nevertheless, at the blazing speed of about 2mph, I still passed three people in that section.
  7. Each of the three peaks (Fuji, Twin, Maiden) offer panoramic views of virtually all of Oregon, from Mt Hood to Mt Ashland, from coast range to eastern horizon. We passed about a dozen beautiful lakes, a half dozen gorgeous meadows, ran 90% of the time in the shade, ascended and descended about 15,000feet each way, had great weather (cool, but not cold start; warm, but not hot mid-day). About a third (?) of the course is somewhat technical, the rest is well-groomed, smooth, pine needle covered single-track. This is one great course! (You even get 2-3 bonus miles at no extra charge).
  8. The RDs and volunteers were fantastic! Craig came through with a prize for me (last one up Fuji to finish) even though he couldn’t remember why he had promised it (a nice drop bag). Curt was a great help and encouragement prior to the race. These guys (and their crews) really worked long and hard and it all came together great! (Only suggestion: include something with protein, like PB, at the aid stations).
  9. Knowing the course really helped; so did the fact that landmarks came up much faster during the race than they did while backpacking so that the course seemed to go faster than I expected. Listers are tired of hearing me preach about starting slow, and anyway, I prefer it when the rest of you start too fast, but the fact remains that even I went out at a pace over the first ten miles (five uphill and five down) that I was unable to maintain. EVERYone else started faster, and most of them either finished behind me or DNF’d. Those who did finish ahead of me always have and always will!
  10. If you want to hit the very best of west coast ultra-racing, Waldo has to be included on your list. See you there, I’ll be the guy trailing everyone else up that first hill.