Sunday, April 10, 2016

Gorge Waterfalls 100k Take Two

My eyes are closed.
I tilt my head back to face the sky.
I can feel drops of rain gently kissing my face, and the bone chattering ocld taking ove rmy body.
This is Pacific North Western weather and I embrace every moment of it!
I'm Standing. No. I'm jumping on the summit ridge of Munra Point, when I suddenly ask myself,
"How did I get here?"
A mere two days ago I was running Gorge Waterfalls 100k, and now I'm way up here with a face that's more sore than my legs from all the hours of laughter and smiles had througout the weekend.
This is runcation!

The days leading up to this race were filled with anxiety because of the year I'd had.
My training had not gone to plan, and my confidence was low.
The Gorge Waterfalls 100k (GW100k) was my goal race for the year, yet nothing had gone right.
I never felt healthy enough to train consistently due to various sicknesses taking me out one after another.
If it's not one excuse it's the other- right?
Thankfully my side job running Dollie (the cutest little dog ever) kept me accountable, and added enough base training to hopefully keep the wheels from falling off.
I wasn't necessarily nervous about the race, or distance.
My big worry was if I could obtain my A goal of getting the 12 hour finish that I'd set for myself many months ago.
I knew I'd have to push myself the entire time.
Being severely undertrained made that idea unfathomable.
With a history of injury I decided that I wouldn't willingly put my body through that intensity at this point of the year.
Sawna, take a seat on the passenger side.
Roll the windows down, lean the seat back and enjoy the ride that makes up the Gorge Waterfalls 100k.
New goal: just go out and have fun.

The day had finally arrived.
It was 3:45 am.
I was preparing my coffee when the alarm sounded.
It was a relaxing morning, and I had already set out my race kit the night before to make sure I had everything I'd be needing for the day:
my favorite Runners of the Wild tank, complimenting ROTW hat, my new Boa bright parrot shorts, Stance socks and my amazing Brooks PureGrit 3s.
I checked my drop bags to make sure I had everything I needed:
a handful of dates, avocado halves, trail butter and a couple Picky Bars in each bag for good measure.
I've learned from past races that I need to always be prepared with fuel that I not only love, but that also works well for me.
Normally on trail runs back home I run with a whole avocado and a jar of pecan butter but in light of being, well, light- I left those at home.
With all the essentials packed up, I was now ready to race!

Joel came down from Seattle to be my crew chief extraordinaire.
We left the farm heading towards what we thought was the start line, but soon realized that our destination was wrong. We ended up at Multnomah Falls. Thank you iphone maps!
We parked there along with a few other runners who had made the same mistake.
Funny thing though, I could not stop thinking about how I forgot my new California Bear Buff back at the farm.
The idea of not having any buff(for the excess nose drip) was more frightening to me than not being at the actual start time.
We pulled around and found James, the head honcho of this race, getting set up.
He said he would show us a short cut to the starting line. Woo!
Back on track. Or should it be Trail?
The way James showed us was, and there is absolutely no exaggeration here folks, just crazy!
He had us go down some sketchy road, over a few logs, across a stream, through a tree, make a quick stop at grandmothers, and lastly over a few mountains for good measure.
A quick - nonchalant - shortcut to the starting line.
Again, not exaggerating one bit. Thanks, James! ;)

We arrived at the start line area with about 10 minutes left before race start.
I put my drop bags down, threw my Race bib on, took a quick bathroom break, said hello to a few friends and, before I knew it, there was only a minute left before the scheduled start of the race.
Nailed it!
Vince and Tim joined me, and we listened quietly as James gave us a short speech.
We all looked like deer caught in headlights of a semi truck, but sadly, we were only runners, and this was an ultra trail course, not a semi truck.
"Go!" The energy from every runner was nothing short of a locomotive beginning it's first turns of a long haul cross country - slow and steady, building with time.
I started the run with my long sleeve on because COLD.
I figured it's Portland, and it's always cold.
Am I right?
Good weather one, Sawna zero.
I could still feel the terrible decisions of yesterday rumbling in my belly insulated by the warmth of my long sleeve. Nightmares of French fries and tater tots haunted my footsteps as I began to dance with distance.

The race started with about 30 minutes of darkness before the sun broke the skyline.
We'd begun to ascend our first climb when I recognized Lisa and her unforgettable blond pony tail.
We had run together during Orcas Island 50k a few months prior.
I said hello, and realized how much I love the community RainShadow Races creates.
I had spent the first few miles tagging along with Tim before he broke free.
He went flying down the one of many tricky descents served cold courtesy of the GW100K course.
As I went down into the cold and damp canyon, so did my stomach.

The beginning of an all too familiar problem I sometimes face in ultra running.
I did what I could do to manage my stomach and hoped it would get better as the miles clicked by.
I fell into a solid and reliable groove with a girl from Canada.
Sadly, I can't remember her name.
We chatted about our home trails, running communities, and yes, even the weather. We hit the two mile road section that leads to the mile 13 aid station.
"13 down, 50 to go." Easy.

I saw Joel as I approached the aid station, and asked for an avocado.
I told myself to use the restroom, but quickly left the aid area without even realizing the mistake.
For the next three miles, I found myself looking for the ladies room.
Flashbacks of this same situation from last year fill my memory.
The struggle is real trying to find privacy during a race with 300 participants.

With a much needed stop out of the way(or a few), I could finally turn my focus back to the race.
I gasped loudly.
The immense beauty held in this landscape is nothing short of GORGEous.

Everything looked different since my run here exactly one year ago.
The course hadn't seen rain like it did the year before, and the change was welcomed as the footing on trail was in my favor.
"Oh Avocados, how I love you."
I exclaimed to myself as I scarfed down my pulverized avocado that I had wisely stored in my handheld.
A nice gentleman whom I'd been leap frogging with for the last mile or so commented on the messy situation I was in (if only he knew).
I didn't mind at all and kept on keeping on with my delicious avocado.

Before I knew it, I was coming into the Cascade Locks GRATEFUL DEAD aid station at mile 22.
Let me tell you, there was an energy emanating from it that even my beloved avocado couldn't rival.
The smiling faces and loaded table were more than enough to make me forget about the pounds of potatoes that were attempting to slaughter my race.
Yassine and Willie from Wy'east Wolfpack were manning the aid station along with Territory Run CO and Trail butter.
They're ALL AMAZING PEOPLE, and super talented both on the trails and in the office.
I may have spent too much time saying hello to all my friends and hugging people.
I didn't care.
Time stood still, and I rejoiced in the splendor of that moment.
I'm so grateful for Joel being there to pull me back into reality, and for kicking me out of there before I could ask for a beer and just volunteer for the rest of the race.
As I ran out, I heard my name, "SAWNA!!" It was Jen with whom I'd bonded during Javelina Jundred late last year.
She was volunteering, and I left there with my heart filled with love as I recalled the amazing memories we created with each other out there under the hot Arizona sun.

I continued forward along the course feeling happy and strong as I whisked through shrubs and over rocks with hands lightly grazing the moss covered trees.
I was approaching the turn around point when I spotted Vince who was happy as can be.
We hugged before we both went on in our separate ways.
I could tell that we were both enjoying the stunning trails of Cascade Locks.
I remember being at this point last year, and really being able to pick up some speed as I headed towards the halfway point.
This year was no different.
I caught up to Tim at that aid station.
He was already tired and worn from the day.
Understandably, who wouldn't be tired with the minimal training we'd both put in?
I mean, it was the half way point of the race, and we'd already put 50k in the bank.
I, however, felt as though I was just getting started.
I quickly left that aid station with a shot of coke down the hatch, and a fresh avocado to match.
Leaving this aid station is my favorite.
The climbs are moderate, and you get the added bonus of adrenaline from the aid station.
It really sets the tone for a fun pace.
I embraced it - welcoming the featherlight footing that comes along with a controlled, runnable ascent.

The miles were clicking by, and soon I was heading back towards the Cascade Locks aid station.
This part is awesome because you are now running towards all the runners who are heading to Wyeth for their own turn around.
I enjoyed greeting each runner and seeing their (most) happy faces as I cruise by each other.
Running into a few Los Angelino friends made my smile go from happy to grand!

Everything looks different after the turnaround.
The moss covered trees have now changed tint as the sun illuminates their natural lime green beauty in subtle yet noticeable ways.
Tree branches point in every direction from these tall and abundant trees.
Moss hangs long from the many branches like drapes in an old hotel.
They seem to be stuck in a permanent dance pose as if only to pause for the brief moment while we ran by.
The trails were soft and dry delicately commanding my attention as the technicality rewards those with short attention spans a hefty mouthful of rich, life giving soil.
I took a moment to thank my body for this amazing gift of endurance.
My body felt fresh and my mind was sharp.
I was able to come into the aid station strong and confident in my ability to finish the race - unlike last year.
This particular section of trail which came after the aid station was so tough for me last year.
I had mentally struggled for so long, and walked so much of it.
I didn't want that to repeated.
I was happy to find myself having a much better experience this time around.
Keeping a conservative pace, I happily greet the local hikers as I passed by.
I remember walking this section last year with a girl and her pacer. I recall feeling so sorry for myself.
I gave myself a pat on the back for staying positive, and for being consistent with my race throughout the day.
As I quickly remind myself the mantra from Javelina.

From head to toe, every molecule of my being is working toward this greater whole to move forward almost effortlessly.
A fu***** machine!

The Yeon aid station came and went .
I grabbing nothing more than some water.
The encouraging cheer gave me so much energy for this next section.
I flew down the two mile paved road section that I'd walked last year.
What a relief it was to let my legs stretch out from all the jarring technical terrain.
After the road section there's only a handful of climbs left.

I romanticizing about this moment for months, maybe longer.
These trails had left a mark on me I couldn't shake off and I found myself with a deep hunger to be get back to them.
Last year I was able to make friends with a local trail runner, Josh and we had ran this very section with ease.
The last few months I would think of this moment and how I would mentally and physically feel.
Then suddenly boom, here I was, at the point were I visualized myself being countless times before.
I continued through this section, and came into No name aid station with great energy.
I said to myself, "you're almost done."
I was greeted by such happy and eager faces who quickly got me what I needed, and then got me back out on the trail.

I truly can't be more appreciative for the AMAZING volunteers at all the aid stations.
They took time out of their day to make sure I could have the best day possible, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. From the bottom of my heart to anyone that helped me out there, thank you so much!

I left No Name aid feeling amazing!
With only six miles left, I could nearly smell the fresh pizza(s) with my name on them.

The climb following No Name Aid is long and arduous.
I found a comfortable rhythm during the climbing portion to save the legs for the finish.
Before I knew it, the sun was sinking with it's light poking through the trees providing a few last moments of warmth and comfort.
There was a deep longing to stay in that moment forever.
I slowed my speed down and hike the final climb, enjoying what was the last of this beautiful course.
The hard work was almost over, and I could feel the ground changing degrees hinting at the beginning of the last descent leading to the finish.
My shoes were soaked at this point.
My feet slid forward in them as I ran downhill giving my toes one last thrashing to cap off the day.
The final miles flew by as I made my way towards the last part of the course - the train tracks leading to the finish. You can hear the crowd roaring with cheer at the finish line.
It's so inspiring.
I crossed the finish line, and before I knew it, the day was over.
I was happy to find myself in 12th place - again. Ha!
I crossed the line in 13 hours and 12 minutes for a solid 4 minute PR from last year.
The remainder of this Portland trip did not go to waste.
No, no, no!
I spent Sunday doing a brew and donut tour with friends that either ran, volunteered or just came up to visit.
It was just the recovery I needed after 13 hours on the trails the day before.
Joel, Vince and I spent the rest of the evening on the farm (yes! Our AirBnB was a farm) drinking wine and relaxing in the spa.
Such a perfect ending to a great day with friends.

On Monday we went up to Munra point to explore, and get in some recovery movements before heading back home.
You would've never known that both Vince and I had run 100k just two days prior from the way we were running.
It felt great to be moving again, and this trail was stunning!
Warning: perhaps not the safest when went due to several steep rock climbs.
May cause shakingness and thoughts that you may possibly fall off a mountain during your vacation.

After the hike/run, we finished off the day with some cold beers, donuts, burgers, pizza (for Vince) and some fries!

Portland, you are incredible, and I look forward to returning in June for the Beacon Rock 50k(For the second year!).
A huge thank you to RAINSHADOW RUNNING for another epic race filled race journey through beautiful trails.
Your incredible volunteers and aid stations created such an overwhelmingly positive experience for me, and I gotta say, you guys know how to put on a race! Thank you for all your hard work!

'Till next time,
Peace, love and happiness!

Thank you Vince for editing this post and filling my phone up with selfies ;)
Also, for getting onto an airplane for an adventure after 20+ years of staying firmly on ground and entering an airport. BOOM! I'm going to be nice and not post those selfies ;)

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