Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Waldo 105K

Forest fires caused a last minute course change for Waldo 100K.  The race is already tough enough with 10K of climb all on single track at just enough elevation to make a flatlander tug.  Just before we left our house I get an email, "Waldo is on".  A new course was approved by the forest service but would increase the mileage to over 66.  I have run Waldo 3 other times back in the early days when the course was long.  I was sort of looking forward to the shorter version.  It didn't really matter though.  I wasn't properly trained for either. 

In a last minute ditch to remind my body how run I turned my High Cascades 100 MTB/ PCT 50M week into a 100 miles of running in 6 days and 4 hours of mountain biking.  15 days, 130 miles of MTBing and 100 miles of running.  Not at all smart and a bit reckless.  Cramming!  I came away tired but not hurt or  sore.  Waldo 100K is not the kind of course you show up HOPING you can run it.  You actually have to train and spend time training your legs. 

 It's never good to start an ultra with a bad attitude.  It will most certainly get worse as the miles tick on or until it gets beat it out of you.  I think that sums up my day.  I started the race wondering how long this baby was going to take me and just how much it was going to beat me into the ground.  I finished with more appreciation of what my body will do for me. I came away with a deeper understanding that I, at times, need to be beaten down and rebuild myself mentally. There's no better way to do that then run a grueling ultra where you are stripped of all your walls and have nowhere to hide. I also learned that I refuse to be unhappy.  If I am unhappy then I am going to spend as much time as necessary to change it. If that means I need to dig and dig until I bleed then I am going to do just that. I am going to find out how, what, and why my mood is bleak.  I need to be authentically happy.  This isn't really a race report of how I endured a day or how tough I may be for gutting it out.  It's really more of a story about why I continued and the mental battles I and I'm sure many endurance athletes go through when things are going south. I am not tougher than any other runner I was just willing, on that day, to strip myself down enough physically to get a deeper glimpse of who I am.
For about 25 miles this was my theme song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROtBbOcdFxo
The temperatures in Oregon have been blistering (for us).  I was prepared for a day of baking sun but instead we woke to cloud cover and perfect temperatures.  The immediate climb out of the ski area is straight up.  General hiking ensured and lots of fine dust kicked up. After about 10 miles I knew my legs were empty.  They lacked any vigor. I wasn't surprised and shouldn't be shocked but that didn't seem to ease my frustration.  Great! I get to spend 56 miles dissecting myself worth...fabulous!  The course continued on with its first relentless climb while bits of rain began to drop.  I would have never guessed we would get rain? It was warm and the sprinkle felt good. It turned the trail into a perfect tacky mix. Once I climbed Mt. Fuji and descended back into the aid station I see the sweeps coming up the trail. Clem was covered with markings.  That was a brutally crushing sight.  I was near the back of the regular start  and the sweeps were not more than 2 miles back.  I began to take stock and check in.  I was already slightly sore at mile 15! My demeanor was lack luster.  Things were just not clicking. I felt dehydrated and probably was.  I began to put down as much water as I could coming into mile 20 where I would see Bill and Chris. I drank extra before leaving the aid station.  I left with the intent to find some peace with day.  My body was tired and my mind wasn't  able to rally another gear.  Why?  What was my biggest issue? Was it fatigue, lack of motivation to see it through, my ego or all of the above?  I tried to get positive and cut myself some slack.  Trying to give myself credit for what I have accomplished this year. The interesting part about this method is by the time I reached Charlton Lake, mile 30, I had decided I had done enough this year and traveling another 36 miles on this tired body was not necessary.  I came in and called it a day.  Bill just looked at me, speechless.  I told him I had nothing!  I was spent, my legs were wood and I was dehydrated.  Chris just stood there with a puzzled look on her face.  I noticed and I felt crushed.  I hadn't found a bit of peace so I guess I'm not done.

I put on my sunglasses, took my 2 water bottles and told Bill I would try to pull myself together, get re-hydrated and would see him again in 5.5 miles.  I left with tears running down my face.  I wasn't really crying but water was coming out of my eyes. They were silent tears. When you've done over 100 ultras you know what's in store.  There's nothing you can do to re-boot over cooked legs.  The only thing I could do was DECIDE to finish.  So I released my body and focused on my attitude. I didn't want to have to go here.  It's not an easy place to be sometimes.  So it began.  The questions of who you are, why you do this, should you do this, what are made of and most importantly who do you want to be.  Good Lord, I answered those questions 100 times and got different answers depending on the moment. Who's going to win the battle? The crazy journey of a beaten down endurance athlete.  Therapy on the go. Once you leave the aid station you can't just end your session and walk out. You have to make it to the next aid station.  All the while beating yourself up, building yourself up and pressing on.

The miles ticked away slowly and just before the aid station I see Bill walking down the trail.  I knew he would do that. I saw the worried look on his face when I left Charlton.  I also knew he was mostly worried I was going to quit, regret it and he has to live with me. When you're married for almost 20 years you don't even need words you just need expressions.  I saw his sweet mind grinding away as he walked me out of Charlton.  He sees me and  says, "Someone came all the way out here to see you so be sure you give him a hug".  I go to hug him and he laughs, "Not me, there's someone at the aid station".  I'm thinking... did he have Alex helicoptered in to ensure I don't bail? It might be a cost effective solution in his mind.  I arrive to see Don, (our new Bend neighbor) volunteering at the Road 4209. Hilarious!  I come up and he says, "Rooster, make the neighborhood proud".  I bow my head in my own mind, grab my stuff and again leave with hidden tears.  Still on a quest to live without regret.  Will I regret not completing this? Trying to talk myself into being okay with sadness and a bad day.  Every darn time I would get myself convinced that bad days happen and it's okay to quit I would relent.  This was my first insight that this is the game I must play with myself whether I want to or not. I am simply not okay with a bad day.  There must be a bright side and I must find it.

Things begin to look up.  I think it was a combination of few things.  I had gotten myself re-hydrated and the people around me gave me so much support how could I ignore it. I was almost done with my personal therapy. I just needed a few more miles.  My next stop was Twins 2, mile 42.  I knew the section from Road 4209 to Twins 2 was long and generally hard for me. Today it wasn't so bad!  Better than other times I've run the race.  Hey, there's a bright side. I marched along feeling more in control of my mind.  Maybe because I am closing in, getting it done and overall feeling like I can't turn back. Almost if there is no other choice.  Maybe I just ran out of reasons to be mad at myself.  After all,  the body I brought to this race was exactly the body I should have brought.  I made the racing schedule. Or.... maybe I had simply bled myself dry.  There was nothing left of me to beat up. Better yet I had determined that I need more than a bad day to quit.  It was time to rebuild.  You know when this time comes.  It's not only a mental but a physical shift.  Since there's such a correlation it's a double win. You can feel the resurrection with every mile. 

I arrived at Twins 2 and Tia's generous smile and warm welcome made me feel good.  I left there with tears but this time they were different.  Instead of being somber that were thankful tears filled with some strength.  I made my way down the twins trail to crew at the road.  I get to pick up my friend and pacer Chris here.  I was really looking forward to it.  At mile 35 Bill told me she was ready to run with me but declined at that time.  I wasn't ready to give up on my punishing ways then.  I still needed to work through this anger, disappointment and frankly just indulge this plain old pity party.  I needed more miles to get the monkey off my back.  By mile 44 I was done!  I had come full circle.
We left down the road and I was really happy to have someone.  Chris had some great observations.   I got to share my journey with her and she shared her observations.  It was fun and filling. Not often are we broken down enough to let all the guards, fears and judgments be seen. In these kinds of scary raw moments when others can see you at your worst are times of depth. Even better... when YOU see yourself at your worst! I am sort of sucker for these kinds of opportunities. It's where real foundation is built.  The kind that lasts. I am guarded, planned and thick skinned.  At mile 30 when it was really clear I had no body to work with I knew in order to finish I would have to dig deeper than usual mentally to finish.  That was not something I wanted to do because I know how I go about it.  It's a mental blood bath of exposing all my tucked away weakness, bringing up all my flaws and making me ponder my worthiness.  It's like a bad reality show where you're the star.  In the end it can become a priceless journey I can draw from.  But, you have to endure the process and have to have the guts to even take it on.

The climb up to Maiden Peak was hard but less hard now.  Thunder boomers and lightening greeted us at the top of the peak.  By this time my legs were jello and I was rebuilt from the inside out. It became fun.  It had become a valuable finish.  Are you ever happy you chose to finish the day after?  Not really.  It's easy to sit here today and roll my eyes at post.  But, when you're deep in, it's rough.  The daily guards come back, the general, "what's the big deal it's just a run" enter your head.  When it's in your face at that moment it's a big deal.  I want to recognize it and not brush it off today. I spent 15:29 minutes pushing myself so hard physically but even harder mentally.  I owe it to myself to make sure it meant something.  I also asked others to help me and I owe it to them.


  1. Beautifully written. Ronda, you have any idea how different your writing is comparing to your first blog? How deep emotionally you share with your following readers? It is so beautiful, indeed:)

  2. Great job! First, it's good to know you're human and on rare occassion have a bad race, but two, it's inspiring and sets a great example that you managed to finish and find something positive in it.

  3. Oh boy. What a day. Now you can do anything! Endurance sports bring out such raw emotion and you have expressed it so well here. There are certain things that I remember and call upon when I am really struggling during an event, asking myself these same questions and coming up with answers that don't move me to a better mood. This post will be one of them! Great post Ronda!

  4. What an incredible race report – So very honest with tons of raw emotion. Not all races are the same, and endurance racers know this on an in-depth personal level. My friends will say “This is a 50 miler – should be a walk in the park for you”. Sometimes the suffering is the same, or greater, regardless of distance. And to think you were having a bad day at mile 15, and you gutted yourself the remaining distance – Inspiring. Go get some rest, and let your body get a full recovery.

    BTW – Awesome crew you have.

    It’s the journey that brings us happiness, not the destination.

  5. This is a great report and super motivating for when it happens to me (again)! Thanks for posting this!

  6. You made running real for me Ronda. I have never realized the mental fortitude that goes into running. This is a great reminder that we shouldn't preconceive ideas. After running in your shoes, what emotion! Thank you! Hope you are getting a good rest now.

  7. You don't know me Ronda but I'm the LongRun photo guy out at Leap of Faith - that is quite a race report-a quite a smile that makes the revival and renewal real. Thank you for your great effort and beautiful words.