I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to run. Cool California was a delightful spot for a solid morning run. I was anticipating a fast start with a line up of talented speedsters from around the running circuit. They didn’t disappoint and at the starting gun, off we flew.
I tried to not push too hard, but enough to keep the leaders in eye site. I felt I was in a good spot as Hal Koerner and Rod Bien were chumming it up behind me and we were still moving under 6min/mile pace. The start was a fast down grade on pavement, on which we flew by the 700 or so cars lined up along the side of the road. It was a huge event and the biggest Ultra I’ve ever seen. An overall fun start, but it mellowed quickly as we entered the 7mile single track loop around and back to the first aid station and basically where we started. It was a fast loop that wasn’t very technical besides a few river crossings and mud piles that multiplied throughout the course. My feet were soaked from about 2 miles in and never really had a chance to dry. Fortunately, my new Peak shoes drained well and were light enough even with the extra baggage of precipitation and muddiness. It was the beginning of a fun filled fast day around Cool with the added bonus of spending a good portion of it with Oregonian Ultra gods Hal and Rod. We busted through the first section in good spirits with a 8ish mile split of 52.22, around a 6.30 pace. We were moving well, but soon realized that we let the leaders Mike Wolf, Todd Braje and Gary Gellin out of sight just a hair too soon.
As we puttered up a little climb and jumped on to the Western States part of the course we picked up the pace even a little more in sections. I didn’t force anything to save a strong push up the few climbs of the day and hopefully reel in the folks ahead. As we started the climbing section of the course I separated from the pack I was in bit-by-bit till I was alone in the woods. I was hoping to gain some ground and catch a glimpse of the leaders as I feel climbing is where I have some strength in this ultra world. I run a pretty good-sized climb every morning in Ashland cuz that’s what I love to do, and it’s important in races to know one’s strengths.
Cruising up and around the single track my body noticeably switched from the jolly “this is fun” stage of Ultra’s to the “damn, now I have to work hard” phase. It’s a sobering experience and one that grows on you as the season progresses. I enjoy being alone in the woods, trying to take in the natural beauty as I digest a not-so-natural gooish substance…mmm mmm good. As the day unfolds and the goo collects on my face, hands, hair and sometimes behind my ears, I enter the state of being where having goo and mud splattered all over doesn’t really matter, I am just an animal pouncing through the wildness. Running is a freedom I am so grateful to have and to share my passion with others as we connect through this infatuation. As I bounce over a banana slug It reminds me I’m not the only one to use this trail and also a good reminder to watch each and every step as I lay my prints on this earth.
My family from L to R-Maxeeen (mom), Mark (Dad), Frog (no relation), Hannah (sis), myself and Grace (sis) Olson. They came to visit all the way from Wisconsin! Thanks for coming to watch, love y’all lots.
The race and exhaustion build as I bear on. The climb up to Goat hill was a brutal one and I gave a hard push through miles 20-26 to hopefully bump into someone in front of me rather than behind. I felt I had a solid go on that stretch with the reward of eying a blue shirted man up ahead. I was eager to go get him, but my legs had an agenda all their own. As I started my descent down I took a little leap off a rock edge and the jarring was just a little too much for my hammys. They locked up and my right one spasmed for a minute. I stopped to stretch and massage for a second to get it to settle down. I was worried this would be my scenario to the end, but after a slow mile it gave me a break and forged on.
I passed Karl Meltzer, who stopped by to watch some action on his way through. He gave me some encouragement and told me I was only 20-30 seconds back. I tried to give a push, but just didn’t have much speed left. I could see the blue man (Gary Gellin; Solid race and battle, bro!) ahead, but we were just to close to the finish to put forth any crazy kick, so I skipped on in to 3:36:40 PR and a solid forth place finish…Cool!
The race was excellent and a beautiful way to check out some of the Western States course I’ll be going for in June. Thank you to the RD Julie Fingar and everyone who helped put this on and organized so many people and vehicles for the new and improved Way Too Cool 50K.