We did something cool this weekend. We headed up to Oregon to try and conquer the Pine to Palm 100 miler. Continuing our transformation to dirtbag trail runners, we tossed a tent, comforter, couple of pillows and a cooler in the back of my car (and our running stuff of course), and headed up North. The whole trip was going to cost us the entry fee and gas. Not a bad gig.
To be honest, I was nervous, but mainly because Facebook and previous race reports lamented running out of water, misplaced aid stations, and treacherous driving. There was so much crew chatter on Facebook that I worried more for Scott than for me.
Gotta say, all the worry was for not. There were a couple aid stations farther than I thought, but it wasn’t a big deal. Hal made it clear in advance that he had to move some stations due to fire hazard, seems reasonable. Scott made every planned crew point and managed to take a “nice” 3 hour nap before pacing. I did run out of water once but only for 1/4 mile or so. No sweat.
The race itself was pretty perfect. We picked the course after my second failed attempt to master the incredibly technical ES100 of Pennsylvania. The rocks just pummel me every time. With P2P, I was able to find a race with my beloved climbing (20,000′) but very little technical trail. The climbs were big and long and took hours in some cases, just like I like ’em. At the top of each, you had several more hours of runnable trail to enjoy.
Hal throws in some fun distractions too. Around mile 40 you circle Squaw Lake for 2 miles. Nice, flat, beautiful break. At Hanley Gap (mile 50), you run up a steep mile to Squaw Peak, grab Hal’s newborn baby diaper (clean), run back down and hand the diaper to a volunteer. And at Wagner Butte (mile 80) you climb up and over for 5 miles, cross a boulder field, grab a flag, and then run the flag down for 5 miles to aid station 90. Super fun.
For P2P first timers, my key takeaways are… Take the big long climbs slowly. Most people hike. Carry enough water. It hit 100 degrees and a couple aid stations are 10 miles apart. Don’t freak out if the aid stations aren’t exactly where they are supposed to be. Just go with the flow.
At the end of the day, the race came down to the people. The people I ran with. The volunteers. The race director. And of course, my main person, Scott.
I had the pleasure of running off and on with a gent named Aaron. Couldn’t have been more positive. Started off with him for that first 10 mile climb and then saw him again at Dutchman’s Peak (mile 66-ish). Dude totally killed it after that, coming in three and a half hours before me!
Spent some time chatting with Andy from San Diego. What a lovely man. It was his first 100 and he was cruising along nicely. I lost him before nightfall and don’t recall seeing him again. However, I checked and looks like he finished about 45 minutes before me. Way to bring it home Andy!
And then there was Todd. He is my age and this was his second attempt. He was my inspiration. Every time I saw him he was hunched over ready to or just having puked. I totally would have bailed but he hung on. We finally ran together (at what mileage I can’t remember) and he told me about the first time he ran P2P and had to drop at Dutchman’s Peak. Great guy and I was thrilled to see him stand up at the award ceremony when Hal called for all the sub-30 finishers. Congratulations, Todd!
The aid stations and volunteers were amazing. The big ones — Seattle Bar, Squaw Lake, Hanley Gap, Dutchman’s Peak and Long John — were all top notch. Plenty of water, ice, food. The volunteers took great care of us. Medical checked you in as needed. There was even Mr. Blister at Long John who took a solid 15-20 minutes to work on my seven+ blisters. The smaller aid stations were also fabulous. In particular, the couple running Squaw Creek Gap who gave us hot coffee have my undying love. The super relaxed guys at mile 90 who gave us pancakes with syrup will forever be in my heart.
Hal Koerner, the race director (and obviously super famous amazing elite ultra runner) seems like about as nice as they come. He was at the finish line (with new baby strapped to his chest) checking on everything. Greeting runners. Walking through the cot area where a bunch of us were lying around chatting / sleeping / chatting / resting. But the thing he did that I loved the most was the awards ceremony. He had every finisher say who they were, where they were from, and the pivotal moment for them in the race. My immediate thought was, “This is going to take forever.” But it ended up being really touching. People kept it brief and to hear where and when other runners knew they were going to finish was an amazing way to end the day.
And then of course there is Scott, my person. I am blessed beyond words to have this man as my partner in life. He set up and tore down camp, drove something like 130 miles in the wilds of Oregon to crew me. He made sure I ate, drank, my legs and shoulders were rubbed. He took pictures, updated social media, shared all the words of encouragement. At almost every stop he would have to pack a wagon with all our stuff, hike it up some distance, set up our station, wait for me for hours, take total care of me for 10-12 minutes, and get me back out on the course. I was pretty low at mile 50-ish and he looked at me and said, “Everyone has come into this aid station looking dead. But everyone gets calories, recovers, and heads out smiling. That’s what we are going to do.” And that’s exactly what we did.
When he picked me up to pace at mile 74, I was tired. Not in a bad spot or anything, just tired. His energy and positive supportive spirit picked me up immediately. As we started to run, he looked at me with a little hop and said, “I am so happy to see you! I have missed you all day.” And then he broke into stories of aid stations and coffee and a crazy meth addict roaming the roads. He also got me running immediately, and kept me running.
The last 26 had some of my best times, the last 10 in particular. I attribute all of that to Scott. Wagner’s Butte was slow going, but we didn’t have a bad bit the entire time he was with me.
As we began to run our last 10 together, I definitely got emotional. Scott once asked me, “What do you think that moment is when you know you will finish?” For me at P2P it was leaving the mile 90 aid station with like 6 hours before the cut off. To realize we were going to not only finish, but finish with 4 hours to spare. To know that buckle was coming home with us. And to somehow comprehend that we were still running. Half mile run. Half mile walk. Quarter mile walk. Quarter mile run. Whatever it took. We kept running.
And at 12:25:25PM cross the finish we did. 55th place. 9th female. A total of 75 runners crossed the line, 13 of whom were women. 46 had to call it a day before they reached the finish line for a number of reasons. I hope they are all feeling better and come back to try again.