Sunday, July 29, 2007

PCT Sweep

This weekend Steve, Lorri, Michelle, and I spent our time volunteering for the PCT 50K/50M Ultras held on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon. Our friend Olga Varlamova and her friend Monika were co-race directors for this event. It was an adventure that included car pooling and camping in Steve an Lori's camp trailer.

Our trip started Friday afternoon as we met Steve and Lorri at their house and loaded up our gear into the YETI. We towed their trailer to a campsite near Timberline / Mt. Hood and set up for the evening. We had power, water, and restrooms. We ate dinner at a local restaurant with some local flavor and after a couple of games of doubles cribbage we retired early for our Aid Station and Sweep duties.

The PCT course goes straight out and back. Both distances follow the same course which is north on the Pacific Crest Trail from Timothy Lake Area to Mt Hood Timberline Lodge for the 50 Milers or 1.5 miles past Wapinitia Pass for the 50K race. It is 99% on the PCT, very shaded, a few road crossings and about half the distance has roots and rocks. The other half is fast with good footing. 5200 ft climb for 50 mile and 2000+ft climb for 50K.

Our first tour of duty was to help set up the Barlow Pass Aid Station. This AS was at Hwy 35 and was 19.1 miles from the start and served as AS #4 and #6 on the out and back. The AS theme was Hawaiian with the males wearing Hawaiian shirts Leis and hats and some of the woman wearing coconut bras and grass skirts (See Lori's blog for pics). Thanks to Craig Thornly for loaning the shirts! Our goal was to never let a runner fill their own bottle and be a full service aid station. We also had Hawaiian music playing in the background which prompted many runners and aid station volunteers to break out with some crazy "tell the story with your hands" Hula dancing.

About noon Steve and I pulled on our running clothes and started the 5.9 mile run up to the Timberline AS. Surprisingly there was a lot of runnable trail along the way before we started the climb to the ski lodge. The run offered some great views of Mt. Hood as we climbed to the AS. Along the way up the Mt. we met many 50 milers returning from the turnaround at Timberline. When we arrived at the AS we contacted the radio volunteers at Barlow and we were told that three other runners had started up to timberline since we had left. We decided to wait about 15 min. past the 2:00 cutoff time before leaving for Barlow Pass AS just in case these three mystery runners showed up. As it turned out the volunteers had reported runners leaving from Barlow and heading toward the finish line, not Timberline. Steve and I ran hard down to Barlow Pass through a lot of deep sandy trail above the tree line then down into the soft pine needle trails as we descended to Barlow.

At Barlow the volunteers including celebrity Megan Arbogast (2nd place AG Western States 2007), Michelle, and Lori were there to tell us we had missed the cutoff and then tended to our water and nutrition needs. Steve and I then left for the next AS 4.6 miles to the South at Frog Lake.

The Frog Lake aid station had a Cowboy & Cowgirl western theme. The run included a surprising about of climbing which we had not anticipated. The volunteers were happy to learn that we were the sweeps and that we were about 30 min ahead of the cutoff with no runners behind us so they could shut down the station. They told us we had runners about 20 min. ahead. While we were getting water and some food one of the volunteers at the station came running in. He had run South from this station to the next station at Hwy 58. A woman at that AS had reported having to whack at a curious cougar with a stick to get it to go away up on the Rhododendron lined hillsides along the trail. We also heard about a bear sighting which turned out to be reported by Karen Wiggens. Apparently she saw two bear along this section of the course.

Steve and I ran the critter rich section to at a good pace. I kept looking back over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't about to become cougar meat. This 5.2 mile section seemed to go on forever but it offered some great views of Mt. Hood and many rhododendron lined hillsides along the way. We didn't see any animals other than a squirrel of two. When we made the Hwy 58 AS we were half an hour ahead of cutoff. They reported runners about 10 min. ahead of us and then happily broke down the AS after we got what we needed.

It wasn't too far down the trail (9 miles from the finish) that we met Curt King from Minnesota. Steve and I had met him on his way down from Timberline and he was suffering from hamstring cramps. We offered up some S-Caps for him up on the Mt. and suggested that he increase his sodium intake. He even had the big puffy fingers from not having enough sodium. His finger swelling had gone down but the cramps had decided to hang on to inject some misery into his first 50 miler. His legs continued to cramp on him at his hamstrings and then to his calves. It was evident that Curt was going to finish this first 50 mile attempt. His body was saying no but his perseverance and determination said finisher. Curt was able to run for about 2 miles out of the 9 we covered. Steve and I would take turns leading and chatting to Curt to help the final brutal miles melt away. At the Little Crater Lake AS we all fueled up and got ready for the last 6.1 miles of the course. Apparently this AS had a full sized bull (cattle version) wander through during the race. The next four miles involved a lot of talking but it seemed like Curt was getting a little stronger as we encouraged him to eat, hydrate, and hit the electrolytes. We pumped Curt full of Hammer Gels over the last two miles to give him his last energy burst for the finish and it worked. As soon as we hit Hwy 42 Curt caught wind of the finish and ran the last half mile to his DFL finish. Olga and Monika were there to welcome Curt in and awarded him with a medal for finishing and and additional medal for his DFL. It was fun to help Curt and to get to know him as we headed toward the finish line. Nice Job Curt! Steve and I were able to get in 50K with some real good time on our feet.

Michelle and Lorri had been at the finish line swilling beer, coolers, and chowing down on vegi and hamburgers while Steve and I were working our tails off. They saw many of our ultra running friends including Marathon Maniac "Hippo".

We drove back to Government Camp and had dinner at the Huckleberry Inn. Steve and I had ultra runners tans with dirt from our ankles to the tops of our running shorts. We cleaned up as best we could in the restroom and then enjoyed a big plate of spaghetti with meat sauce. Michelle and Lori shared onion rings and fries.

It was dark and getting late when we arrived at camp so Steve and I got showers and everyone got to bed for some well deserved rest. We had a rather uneventful drive back this morning and now we can relax and unwind this evening at home.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Here's a few pictures I took along the course. I've got one picture of Tom Riley in the blue shirt as he ran through the Barlow Pass AS on his way to the finish.












22 comments:

Backofpack said...

We were NOT swilling beer and coolers. That wouldn't be lady-like, and above all, we are lady-lke. We sipped them ever so delicately. That's what we did.

After seeing the pictures, I might have to sign up for the 50K next year. I don't know though - I'm sure all my fans will be wanting to see the coconut bra again...

robtherunner said...

Sounds and looks like a great place for a run. The cougars must have known that the Rattler was out of town.

scott keeps running said...

Ho-hum - a nice easy 50k day. :)

Sounds like it was a fun day. Nice photos.

maniac hippo said...

So awesome to see you again Eric! I'm sorry to talk about you behind you back but I was telling everyone art the finish that I couldn't think of anyone better to have as a trail sweep than you. Bombproof endurance, and a gentle support to runners slower than you.

You're one of the big reasons we all keep coming back to these things, buddy. Thank you.

Thomas said...

I'm sure Curt will never forget your help. You get a karma bonus point for that.

olga said...

Eric and Steve, thanks for coming over and so happy you had fun doing it, and thanks for bringing our last runner in in great spirits!!! Was glad to see you funky faces at the finish:)

shawn said...

At first I was going to make fun of you for "camping" with power, water & restrooms ;) - but now all I can think about is all you runners out there with a cougar tracking y'all! Spooky! Sounds like you and Steve didn't sweat it though.

Sarah said...

Great to see you again! Your aid station was supreme. I'm not sure who had more fun, you or the runners! : )

Steve said...

Your pics turned out great, especially the one looking back up the valley to the mountain. Another great training run and adventure. Yeehaw.

wendy said...

great report, eric!

That is so awesome you guys got to help someone finish, I'm sure it meant a lot to him. Sometimes you need that extra person to keep your mind off the pain!

Great job on the 50K, too. A nice little jog, and you didn't become cougar meat. =)

craig said...

Sounds like a great way to spend the weekend. The scenery is awesome.

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Ahhh...home sweet home. I miss having Mt. Hood in my backyard,though Mt Rainier is a sweet substitute. Glad you had fun.
Jenny

King Arthur said...

Well it looks like you're recovered from 24. That's great. You running it again this weekend?

Annette said...

How great of you guys to volunteer! Sounds like you had fun, too. All the creature encounters sound a little scary. I don't know what I'd do if I came across a cougar.

Great pictures! They make me want to go hiking. :)

Travis said...

Thanks for the kind words. I had a great time! I talked to Curt afterward and he had nothing but great things to say about you guys!

Ryan said...

Enjoyed the pictures….what a great place to volunteer, you guy’s are such good doobies, every race could use more folks like you!

Cheers

Meghan said...

Eric,

I was believing everything you wrote until the part about the woman hitting the mountain lion on the head with a stick!? What the?! I don't believe that for a minute...

So glad to hear you had a fun weekend!

Meghan
www.running-blogs.com/meghan

Ben, aka BadBen said...

Hey...Thanks to you and Michelle for being there. It's nice to see familiar faces at an aid station.

Happy trails,
Bad Ben

Joe said...

What a cool story on what a "sweep" does. Way to offer the encouragement to the last guy in. I'm sure he remains so very grateful!!

Anonymous said...
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Amy said...

Great story and pictures! You are a good model to other race volunteers.

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