I was a little worried on the drive down to Ashland on Friday afternoon when it was reading 106-108 degrees F near Grants Pass on I-5. Fortunately, climbing up to Mt Ashland Ski Resort the temperatures cooled off a bit and hovered in the mid-80's. I setup camp and strolled around to get used to the higher elevation compared to the lowlands of Albany Oregon.
The views were inspiring and couldn't ask for better pre-race weather. The clouds moving in made me think some sprinkles were in planned so I tossed the rainfly over the tent. Ultimately, didn't need it. A good night's sleep and at 0600am the first 50 milers came by, front row seat.
They were chip timing this race at the start and finish, a first from my experience. Something I usually only see at road races. So we funneled through the chute and I could see with this many runners how it might help stagger the groups of runners out before the trail portion of the run.
The course was amazing, lots of hills and descents and very little flat sections. I tried to push the downs, since my hill climbing speed it turtle like. The first aid station was manned by a pirate captain and crew which really got the spirits up. I wasn't feeling drained by the elevation, like Flagline 50K the first year I ran it and I was hopeful to get under 7 hours. Those first 15 miles went by fast. There would be small groups of people pulling a train to get up the steeper hills, but then we'd spread out. It didn't seem like 300+ runners were out here. I passed about 10 hikers on their way to Canada and even one with a solar panel and laptop for logging his experience.
I guess I took the first 15 miles a little too aggressively and got to the turn around in 3 hours and 15 minutes. I reveled in how good I felt and started back towards the finish line, following a slightly different road section than the out section. The wind had been blowing and I hadn't noticed the heat much. Once I hit the turn around it was more noticeable and on the hills I definitely noticed it. The views continued to provide visual relief even if the sun did not. I still had hopes of sub-7 hours until I got to the last two climbs and knew that it was going to be a challenge. I settled into a sustainable hiking pace and tried to stay hydrated. Maryann and a lady in pink kept me on an honest running and hiking pace, but in the end they both passed me leaving me to ponder what sources of energy remain for some people that get them to the finish line faster and with better poise than my own self efforts.
I had started to notice I'd fallen behind on my gels and had started eating bananas and coke at the aid stations, usually a sign my stomach was starting to get queasy and it would soon would rebel, if I wasn't tempered in my water consumption. I stayed hydrated as best I could, but finished with almost two full bottles from the last aid station. Those bananas and coke got me to the finish line in just under 7 hours and 10 minutes. Beating the cut off was sweet, I was feeling a little overheated for about 30 minutes, but doused my head in water, got some soda, watermelon, and taco's and was feeling much better.
I can't believe how close to my time at the Flagline 50K in 2012, also about 7 hr and 10 min. As I was looking at the 50K records for Ian Sharman's for Flagline and SOB and they are around 3:33.
The SOB 50K is a beautiful run and gave me a peek at the efforts I'd need at Waldo in a couple weeks. Need to dig deep for that one, if I want to finish Waldo and get under 18 hours for the hat.
I got a chance to meet some new running friends, Al and Nancy from Bend. Matt Nahorniak finished very well and I'm impressed by many of the 50 milers who passed me like I was standing still on the way back to the ski resort.
I now have some good memories from the run in the Siskiyou's. The sun was stained red behind the forest fire that was burning in Southern Oregon and the long drive afforded time to think how lucky we are to have such beautiful places to run.
Many thanks to the team SOB and all the volunteers for putting on a well organized Ultra along the southern most part of Oregon running territory.
Looking forward to doing this one again.