Snapshot from Maiden Peak – A Volunteer’s Perspective
Where’s Waldo 100K
August 16, 2003
By Rachel Landon
When I heard that John Robinson was skipping Nolan’s to run Waldo and that Steve Smucker would be back for another go, I knew I would have to find Waldo myself. Not by running, mind you, but by working aid stations. I read the race application – this is no entry level ultra.
Where’s Waldo is a well-organized race with more volunteers than runners. It benefits the Willamette Pass ski patrol whose members numbered among the volunteers. Given the tough conditions and the remoteness of parts of the race, all of these volunteers are needed. This 100 km race has 11,000 feet of climb including three peaks above 7000 feet with the highest, Maiden Peak, at 7800 feet.
On race day, I shuttled between Barbara Ringstad’s Maiden Lake “last stop” aid station and Maiden Peak, the last long climb of the race. I was on top of Maiden Peak when the first arrival, relay runner Juan Martinez, ran up the trail looking remarkably fresh. He took a quick look around at the views before speeding off. He would complete his half of the relay in 4:41! He and Markus Dennis won the relay race with Markus being the first to find Waldo. When solo runner Yueh-Han Lin arrived, he was running so fast that I thought he was a relay runner. He won the solo race and set a course record of 11:35 cutting almost an hour off the previous record.
The Leap of Faith trail is a rumor of a trail between Maiden Peak and the Maiden Lake aid station. It is terrifically steep and covered in loose rock. I was on the Leap of Faith when Steve Smucker came flying by with a huge grin on his face. He was first masters runner and second solo runner. I also saw Kelly and Tracy Bahr gracefully negotiating this section. Tracy was ultimately the women’s solo winner. It was a close race for third place. Tim Turk put in a great effort overtaking both Kelly Woodke and John Robinson late in the race to take third place. Coming through Maiden Lake, Kelly said that this year’s race was tougher than last year’s. Perhaps it was the heat?
Key to completing this ultra is the ability to stay hydrated and fed. I saw this first hand as two runners who had made it all the way to Maiden Peak had to drop out due to dehydration. I now understand why ultrarunners carry two water bottles – one for water and the other for their favorite sports drink. One of the runners dropping out had a camelback with Gatorade and no bottle for plain water. As the race wore on, this runner’s stomach could no longer tolerate the Gatorade and that meant fluid intake ceased. Dehydration and a DNF were inevitable. I felt fortunate to be working with veteran ultrarunner and paramedic John Ticer. He was the one to tell both of the runners that he could not let them to continue due to their medical condition. Having come so far, both runners wanted to try to complete the race. John was able to convince them that they had to quit. John and Kevin Myers tended to these runners with great care, giving them sips of water and Gu until their condition improved. Dropping out at Maiden Peak means a walk of a few miles to get to the road. A litter was available to carry out runners unable to walk. Fortunately, both runners were able to recover and walk out under their own power. As Kevin said, you have to protect your health now to be able to return to Waldo next year.
My hat is off to all of the runners who took on Where’s Waldo. Next year, I will have to bring a camera and post some real snapshots from Maiden Peak!