When a friend asked me if I would pace him for a portion of his Gorge Waterfalls 100k race, a number of thoughts came to mind:
- WTF 100k??
- Are you crazy??
- I’ve never paced anyone before!
- I don’t know what I’m doing!
- I can’t even run very far!
- And I’m slow!
But of course I agreed … with the caveat that if he found someone more qualified I would happily step aside. I was told that it would be more of a “death march” by the time I started running so speed wouldn’t be an issue.
Two other friends were doing the 100k race as well which worked out perfectly for a road trip. The four of us left bright and early Friday morning and drove down to Cascade Locks, Oregon, making many stops along the way including coffee, brunch, lunch, and REI.
We checked into our cute little cabin with “his” and “hers” rooms. The adorable old lady that ran the place made sure to give the guys the room with the more masculine decor and us girls the one with floral patterns. I spared her a feminist rant.
It was getting late but a few of us hit up a nearby pub for dinner, Thunder Island Brewing, where in a surprise twist I ordered a salad (I never do that). They had the option of added black beans to it, so of course, I went for it! It also came with blue cheese (one of my favourite cheese) which I don’t normally eat but what the heck! I was on holiday after all!
After dinner, we went back to the motel where I watched the three of them, delirious from the early morning and long drive, pack their dropbags. Then it was straight to bed.
I woke up at 2am to a “Good morning, friend!” and a GoPro in my face. I managed to get up long enough to throw a jacket in the car for after the race and take a picture of the three racers before they drove off to the start line. I went back to bed for another solid four hours of sleep before heading to the nearby 36k aid station.
On the way there, I realized that I had focused too much on running gear when packing and not enough on standing around clothes. I had a warm, but not waterproof jacket and as it started to drizzle I figured I should stop on the way to find a crappy, disposable rain poncho.
I went to the town’s “everything store” and asked the guy at the cash register if they had a poncho. He grabbed one and it rang in at $1.79. I fumbled around in my pocket and managed to scrape together $1.70 and asked if he would prefer that or debit. He happily took my change and wished me a good day.
It wasn’t until three hours later that I realized I had not only short changed him, but I had given him Canadian money … which he had to have known since there was a freaking Loonie involved. I figure he was either really nice, thought I was crazy, or felt sorry for me. But I haven’t ruled out all three as a possibility!
I got to the aid station in time to watch the elites come through. It was pretty exciting and interesting to see the runners’ and crews’ techniques for getting their water and fuel replenished.
My friends came through within a few minutes of each other. I refilled their water and helped one of them take off his gross, sweaty compression sock and then taped up his blisters. Then off they went again!
I headed back to the motel and relaxed for a bit. I wasn’t sure what to eat all day since I don’t usually do long runs in the evening. I kept it light and snacked on peanut butter sandwiches and running food.
Around 12:30pm, I headed back to the same aid station of the out and back course which would now mark the 68 km point of the race. I had originally been hoping to run the last 36 km as a pacer which would be the longest run I’ve done next to last year’s marathon. Due to some unexpected issues with my feet and not wanting to be the one complaining, we decided that 22 km would be the smarter thing to do. After cheering on some of the faster runners, I hitched a ride to the next aid station and waited for my runner to arrive.
I began to get excited and nervous … for my runner and for me. I hadn’t seem him since the 36k aid station. Although he was doing well then, I had no idea what sort of shape he would be in now, 88k into the race. I was also selfishly worrying about whether my feet would hold up and hoping that I wouldn’t set back my training for my upcoming marathon.
He showed up looking like the 88k had been nothing. We headed off down the short road portion and back into the trails. It was such a beautiful route and we saw many waterfalls including one that you run behind!! I’m a terrible person and made him stop twice for photos.
I’m sure he would have made it himself but I like to think my company made the experience slightly less terrible. He informed me that the halfway point had been a little bit further than 50k and that he would actually be running about 105k in total (what an awesome surprise that must have been). Sure enough his GPS watch (actually mine – we switched before the race since mine has a longer battery life) hit 100k with the finish line nowhere in sight.
The last portion of the race included a steep uphill and then a steep downhill, especially for someone who is borderline delirious with exhaustion as evidenced by a 5 minute monologue on how amazing the M&Ms were at the aid stations.
In another cruel twist, the end of the route went right by the finish line, around a small lake / large pond, and then back again. The runner in front of us and his pacer who was bouncing all over the place, ran right by a giant arrow sign pointing to the left. Lucky for them we were paying attention and got them back on track.
We crossed the finish line, where our friends were waiting after they unfortunately had missed a time cut off at the 80k station. It took almost 16 hours but he had made it! We helped ourselves to the finish line beer and pizza said hi to a few people and headed back to the motel to get cleaned up.
It took us a couple tries to find somewhere open for dinner at 9pm in the small town of Cascade Locks but we finally found a lounge at the nearby Skamania Lodge on the Washington Side of the Columbia River. By this time we were more tired than hungry, but we ate anyway. The next morning we packed up the car and headed to a couple aid stations to cheer on the 50k racers before making the drive home.
This has been one of the toughest blog posts to write because I know I can’t even begin to do it justice. It was truly inspirational to watch my three friends tackle this race. They are all incredible runners, awesome people, and of course, totally crazy! I’m so happy and thankful for being involved even just for the small part I played.