Where’s Waldo 100K
August 20, 2005 Chris Thornley
I arrived in Eugene the Wednesday night before the Saturday race. Craig and Laurie were extremely busy organizing and preparing for the race and their house looked like they were going to the Saturday Market to sell Cliff Shots, pretzels, GU2O, potatoes, organic melons and even organic root beer! I woke up the next morning with a sore low back so Craig hooked me up with LMT Kelly Woodke (who was one of last year’s sweeps and got to experience 28 min/mile with DFL) and after ice and careful massage decided that an adjustment was necessary. I could barely stand up on Thursday and certainly couldn’t even walk around the block! I was beginning to doubt even being able to start the race. I figured 62 miles is hard enough even when I’m healthy. Dr. Scott Vaughn adjusted me on Friday just before noon and I was immediately able to stand up straight walking out of his office. I used Ice and Advil until the 3 am start and I was good to go! Thanks Kelly and Scott.
I trained really hard December through April for my Denali trip with my wife Alanna. I do most of my training in Grand Canyon and 95% of my training alone. That big hole can be extreme. It demands being attentive to your body. You simply can’t ignore your needs and each time it continues to teach me to rely only on myself. We were on the mountain for 27 days and I returned feeling fit. My mind was in a place different than ever before and I was determined, positive and extremely psyched to continue pushing through my mental boundaries. After all, that’s what running ultras is all about.
I paced Craig at States again from Foresthill to the river and believe me, keeping up with M10 as a pacer is like a race for me. My brother has taught me a lot about determination, staying focused and taking care of your body. This year I watched him go from 9th back to 11th place at 49 crossing after a bad 7 mile section and I was really hoping for him to rally and not lose focus on that magical top 10 spot that everybody and their brother (sorry) are gunning for. I knew I had to go to No Hands and give him a split on how far ahead 10th place was. (Normally I just go to the finish from 49 crossing) Standing there on the bridge I saw the next set of lights, which was the 10th, hauling down the trail to the bridge and I was ready to start my stopwatch to give Craig an accurate split of how far back he was. When I realized it was Craig back in 10th I just about jumped off the bridge with excitement. I knew my brother was back in the race for top 10 and it wasn’t going to be easy for anybody to pass him! I hope I never forget that emotion I had on the bridge and on the track as he finished M10…inspiring.
I didn’t get to do that much running after States as my tree business demanded my full attention and time. Often times 2 weeks would go by between runs and I knew that I could only do what I could do. During my last really long run in Grand Canyon I slept 4 times! I started at 6 pm to try to train my mind to run all through the night to the sunrise and I just couldn’t do it. I like to sleep.
My goal for Waldo was extremely simple…get a hat! All I had to do was get to that finish line before 9 pm and pick a color.
The early start began promptly at 3 am and we were off. I wanted to start easy and simply not die off at the end of the race like last year. I ran with Marilyn and Barbara and it really felt good to be running. The reflection of the moon on the Rosaries was amazing! I walked early and often and I knew that this was going to be a fun day in the woods. I rolled into Gold Lake with Barbara the same time as last year. Perfect, I thought to myself as it took much less effort this year. Curt gave me a high five on the pavement and the uphill began. I love going up hill and this course has a few. The light was amazing with the moon and the huge timber and single track winding uphill. Bill passed me in the opposite direction after having already climbed to the top of Fuji and he looked like he was having a fun day as well. Eventually I reached the top and gave my brother a hug. Laurie took a picture of us and I was off. I was running for a hat and wasn’t sure how close it was going to be to finish before 9.
This next downhill section to Mt. Ray station I ran too fast last year. This year I walked the steep downs and was very careful to not hammer my knees. Mariela caught up to me a couple of miles before the station and we chatted about Rocky Raccoon and Javelina Jundred. We crossed the road and entered the station. There were a lot off folks there and Curt asked me what I needed. The Portland boys told me that pickles were good for endurance so I tried one. Mariela was headed off so I decided to follow suit. She walked fast up the gentle hills toward the Twins but she was able to run sections that I continued to walk. I tried like hell to keep in touch with her but eventually I lost sight. Barbara came up from behind and we talked a bit and then Jeff Riley came smoking past us. He looked so strong and was running very effortlessly. I told Barb how awesome it was for us early starters to see the fast folks who started two hours after us. I tried to draw some energy from each person who passed us. Kami and Beverley passed about where Ann Trason passed me last year. Andy came by next and told me I was doing great. I was impressed he remembered my first name. I finally reached the Twins and Bob and Renee both gave me a big hug. Bob pulled up a chair for me and Renee pointed over to a cot that I could use if I needed to take a nap! I grabbed some food and was off to Charlton Lake. This section is really fun. Meghan quietly came up from behind with that huge smile and told me that I wasn’t going to be DFL this year. She looked extremely relaxed and was definitely having fun on the trail.
As I entered Charlton station I debated changing my socks. John pointed me to the yummy cookies that Jan had made and I began devouring some. Teresa emerged from the crowd and asked me if I still wanted a pacer. I said please and gave her a big hug. I grabbed some more food and began to leave the station. I looked at Teresa and told her my simple goal. Get to that finish line before 9 and get me a hat. I told her I was very positive today. I was happy and mentally strong. I asked her to remind me when the terrain was runnable and to let me do my own thing on the downhills because of my knees. The uphills were my thing and wouldn’t need much encouragement from her. She introduced me quickly to her oldest son playing in the water and we made our way towards the flat open section of the course. I decided to take an S-cap since my face felt salty and I slowly ran the flats. Teresa told different stories and the time passed quickly to 4290. I saw Michelle at the aid station and she looked great. Michelle and I ran together some last year into Mt. Ray as well as the section from the Twins to the top of Maiden. She finished an hour ahead of me last year and also missed getting a hat.
I told Teresa that I was looking forward to this next section because it was a long climb up to the top of The Twins. She offered me some ice cold tea and continued to make me laugh and not think to much about the pain in my knees. We passed Michelle and I told her “let’s go get a hat!” That little downhill before the final climb to the top of The Twins really hurt my knees. Teresa kept telling me to float down the trail. I told her I felt like a penguin waddling down the trail. My bottles had just run dry by the time we got to the bottom of The Lost Ribbon Trail where water was stashed all the runners. Thank you to those responsible for hiking all that water up there. The steep uphill to the top felt good and we were rewarded by yet another amazing view. Kevin was at the top recording times and Laurie was at the top taking photos. As we headed back down that steep trail I could only focus on my knees. Teresa kept reminding me to float…so I tried. We finally reached The Twins and I knew I had to belly up to the taquito bar that Melissa had put together. I think I ate about 8 taquitos with heaping avocado. Bob sat me down in a chair and I slammed a few cups of Pepsi. I arrived at this station at 2:44 pm. Last year I came through at 4:03. Bob’s mom asked me why I was still here and I was off. My belly was full and I knew I should just walk for a while. It wasn’t until the next aid station 4 miles later that I felt that all the food was settled. Teresa kept telling me that not only was I going to get a hat, but that we weren’t going to even need flashlights. I kept thinking back to last year how long the downhill is to the finish and how bad my knees hurt. I was happy she believed in me but I just didn’t know how my knees were going to be this year. On the uphill climb to the top of Maiden I told her that I wanted to try to finish before 8 pm. I asked her to bear with me from the top down to Barb’s station and then she could drill me from there to the finish. One Day came up from behind and we chatted for a while. He looked really good despite hearing rumors that he was having a rough race. I climbed up that hill I think in 65 minutes and saw Kelly at the top recording times. I knew this next section to Barb’s station was going to be tough on my knees … and it was. Last year I had to walk down Leap of Faith backwards because of the pain. As I passed John at the top of Leap of Faith I saw that this section was a much better trail than last year (good trail work!) After grunting with each step down the hill I finally reached the last aid station. Wow. I was treated to a frap, a wet wipe (on my face!) and a shoulder rub. Barb had run her relay half and then worked her remote station. Very impressive. I felt like I was at a pit stop in the Indy 500. In and out quickly and totally rejuvenated. I looked at Teresa and told her “let’s do it … cowboy up!” The downhills still hurt but only the steeper ones. I had some crap in my shoes so I stopped quickly and took a shoe off. Back to running. I was walking the little uphills as quickly as I could and I think Teresa could sense my determination. She believed in me and now I was going to show her she was right. We finally hit the PCT and I new I only had 3 or 4 miles left of gentle downhill. My knees just kind of went numb as I kept reaching for that next gear faster. I always wanted to have a day like today where I could finish strong and feel like I did everything right. I took good care of myself today and now it was time to rock! I felt light and fast and for the first time in 16 years I actually felt like a runner. Before I knew it we could hear the Highway and I reached even deeper. I thought I might have a chance at going under 16:30 so I gave it everything I had. Teresa kept telling me positive things and I was wondering if she was able to tap into some of my energy. We passed Jon and when we reached that wooden sign just before the PCT trail head I knew that not only was I going to get that hat, finish in daylight with the sun still shining on the ski slopes, but that I was also going to go under 16:30. The finish line came into sight and I held Teresa’s hand and thanked her for helping me get that hat. She did an amazing job pacing. As the last fifty feet of the finish line closed, I felt like a volcano erupting with emotion. I DID IT! I GOT THAT HAT! I hugged my brother and a couple dozen others. Everybody seemed excited for me. Laurie came up and hugged me and asked me what color hat I wanted. I said “BLUEBERRY PLEASE!!”
I wear that hat all the time now. I went from DFL last year 19:50 to 21st 16:28 this year. Craig and Meghan remind me that I’m now a mid packer!
Summiting Denali was an amazing feeling but this Where’s Waldo will forever stick in my mind as my best single day mental and physical effort in my life.
Curt and Craig put on an amazing race and they couldn’t do it without the 100 plus top notch volunteers. Their enthusiasm can be felt and it is appreciated by the runners. Congratulations to everybody who ran and to Michelle for getting her hat as well this year. I’ll be back next year … and maybe I’ll start at 5 am!
“Why tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at your death.” unknown