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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where's Waldo 2010

I wasn't planning on running Waldo this year, as I had committed to co-RDs Craig Thornley and Curt Ringstad that I would be learning the RD ropes, shadowing Curt and helping him mark the course, with the plan of me taking his place the following year.  I had just finished White River 50 mile and was telling Craig what races I would enter that were in the Montrail Ultra Cup next year, when he asked if I would be interested in racing Waldo after all.  I squealed on the inside, but calmly reminded him that I said I would be helping with the race, and I am a woman of my word.  He pushed it a little more, and I said if he wanted me to, I would in a heart beat, and after he consulted with Curt, it was a done deal.  Thus it was that I toed the line for my sixth and potentially final Where's Waldo.

The evening before the race was rich with friends offering support, love, and condolences over the recent loss of my husband Brian.  I felt such gratitude, and there was no better place for me to be at that time. 

Race morning was clear and cool and dark. I felt pretty good, energetic, positive.  I enjoyed the camaraderie and pre-race energy.  Sunsweet teammates Jeff Riley, Dan Olmstead, and Lewis Taylor were all donning  numbers as well.  John Ticer, my pacer and crew for the day, was there for instruction.  I have him my bag with bottles and gels.  We got started at 5:00 am sharp, and I ran the entire first climb, for the first time ever.  I was stoked to feel that good, and had Joelle's CR splits on my brain.  I cruised along the Skyline trail to the Maiden Peak trail all the way down to Gold Lake aid station.  I was relaxed, feeling fine, and at 1:08.  That wasn't particularly grand, but the day had just begun.  Maybe I was being a little too relaxed?

I handed my lights to John, traded my empty bottle for a full one, and hit the trail for Fuji.  I was again running sections I don't normally run, but not feeling like I was working too hard.  Finally arriving at Fuji aid station up, I left my bottle with a volunteer to pick up on the way back down from summitting Fuji.  My split here was also less than remarkable - 2:03 to Joelle's 1:57.  But I was having fun!  I got  to the top, to the encouragement of Craig and Greyson,  posed for a quick picture, then headed back down.  Before I had gone 50 yards, here came Amy Sproston, looking very good.  We encouraged each other in passing, and I focused on getting back to the Fuji aid station as quickly as possible.  I met many other friends on my way down, which is one of my favorite things about this section of the race.  I grabbed my waiting bottle, and hoped for a fast flight down to Mt Ray aid station.  Behind me was Aaron - a friend of Amy's from the east coast, and we ran close to each other through the thick woods, steep down hills, through pothole meadow, until finally I had to take a bathroom break.  I emerged from the bushes and surged the last bit to the aid station , just as Amy caught up to me.  We got there at 3:22 - a far cry from Joelle's 3:12, and I realized I needed to let go of any CR obsessions and just stay focused and positive.

John was there with my bottles and offering anything else I might want.  As quickly as possible, Amy and I left the aid station together, and took a couple of miles to get to know each other a bit.  After reaching the Bobby Lakes trail, Amy pulled away, running ups and downs equally impressively.  I, however, felt a bit sucky.  I starting analyzing, and yes, I had a full plate the past few months, but the real problem for me was altitude and not training on the course.  I knew it was early still and to just keep my wits about me.  Turning north onto the PCT, I continued ambling on, looking for the Twins aid station signs, usually WAY too soon before the actual aid station.  Thankfully this year there were no signs and suddenly it appeared around a bend in the trail.  The volunteers were all over me, filling bottles, handing me gels, and reporting that Amy left 3 minutes ago.  That didn't sound insurmountable, but I had no idea how she was feeling.  I forged on, passing more early starters (go Erin and Annie!) eyes straining for Charleton Lake.  I was pushing pretty hard, thinking it must be around the next corner.  I finally arrived to one of the most electrifying aid stations of all.  Craig was there again, asking how I felt.  "A little tired, but not too bad."  I 'posed' for a quick picture, then met with John.  He had my bottles ready to go.  Word on the street was that Amy was only 30 seconds ahead.

Charleton Lake - photo by Craig Thornley

I told John I was a little tired, but somehow he got my wheels turning.  Shortly after, he spotted Amy ahead.  We didn't speed up, just kept the good clip going.  We soon caught and passed her.  "John, just so you know, I am pretty sure I have never run this section this hard."  I guessed we were at a low enough altitude in this section that I wasn't suffering from lack of oxygen, so definitely took advantage.  We pushed the pace all the way to the aid station at 4290 - at 8:39 pace - the fastest I had ever run this section.  Having a pacer was proving to be a good move.  We made it out of the aid station of couple of minutes ahead of Amy.

John continued to remind me to take gels every 30 minutes, made sure I was drinking and taking salt.  He would pull ahead and never let me relax.  This is a long, seemingly unending section.  Not so steep that it's all a hike, so many times John would break into a run, while I groaned inwardly but tried to follow suit.  Occasionally I would look back, as would John, but there was no one in sight.  Finally cresting to the Twin's saddle, we picked up downhill momentum all the way down to the aid station.  Again,  we were all business, filling bottles, bellies, and then flew out.  The downhill felt good going south on the PCT, and soon I saw Victor Ballesteros ahead.  He heard me coming and picked up a faster gear,  dropping John and I for good.  

The Pacific Crest Trail was slightly uphill now until we reached the Maiden Peak aid station.  Finally we were greeted by voluteers, one of which was KMTR's weather man Joseph Galbraith (fun seeing famous people!) who ran ahead with my bottles to fill them and get us ready to get out of the aid station and on our way on the final, long climb up to Maiden Peak.

John led me out, and pulled me and pulled me all the way.  It was quite a struggle, one of the slowest ascents I'd ever had.  Still, I didn't hear anyone from behind.  Finally getting near the summit, we were greeted by Hannah Shallice, who cheered and pointed us in the direction to the top.  Nearly there, Aaron was on his way down.  We exchanged encouraging words, and soon afterwords I heard him encourage another runner.  Crap!  It must be Amy gaining on me!  I made it up to the top, checked in with Kelly Woodke, turned around and in about 1 minute ran into Amy on her way up!  Yikes!

I carefully danced my way down through the loose big gravel.  We passed by Hannah and onto Leap of Faith trail.  Incredibly focused, I made it through the technical sections onto the scree hill and went as fast as possible.  I was barreling downhill like a woman possessed, and just above the Maiden Lake aid station was greeted by Ed and Julie, the blowing of the warning horn that we were coming.  Barb Ringstad and other lovely ladies greeted us.  I was so concerned about being caught by Amy that I wouldn't even let Barb hug me.  I grabbed at gels, frappacinos and Gu Brew, and as we were leaving, heard the warning horn, letting me know that Amy was nearing.

The slight uphill out of there about blew my wad.  John said "My coach once asked me 'how bad do you want it?'" and my inside little voice said "not very bad" but as soon we hit the downhill section, my legs started to roll.  I gained momentum and was able to push hard all the way to the PCT one more time.  John continued to pull me along, only glancing back occasionally.  I was afraid to look and asked John if he could see anyone, but he never did.  Just like the 4290 section, I ran harder than I ever had in this section.  I felt such relief when we reached the sign for the trail head, and turning toward the finish, cursed the head wind that always seem to be there at the end of this race.  I crossed the finish line in 10:52, only 4 minutes slower than my fastest time, and a whole 29 minutes slower than Joelle's CR. 

As I caught my breath and enjoyed being done, Amy finished just a few minutes behind.  We had had quite a day and had given the spectators and volunteers a little excitement.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brian Lance Arbogast

April 10, 1945 — Aug. 9, 2010
Brian Lance Arbogast died Monday, Aug. 9, after a four-year battle with brain tumors. He was 65.  Brian was born on April 10, 1945, in Vancouver, Wash., to Levi Arbogast and Bonnie Smothers. He grew up in Northern California with his brother, Keith, and his sisters, Cynthia and Ronda. In 1965, he married Christine Elmendorf, with whom he had two sons, Ezra Jason and Zachary Orion. Brian and Christine later divorced.

From 1965 to 1968, Brian served as a Russian translator in the U.S. Air Force.  In 1974, he graduated cum laude from Southern Oregon College with a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry. Brian married Meghan Loree Canfield in 1985, with whom he had a daughter, Ruby Marie.

Brian was in the field of mass spectrometry at Oregon State University for 36 years, and was a highly respected expert at the regional and national level. Brian had a true leadership position in the Agricultural Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry facility, and was the pillar of its operation.  Never shy of developing analytical approaches, Brian pushed the technical boundaries, and put in extra time to tackle and solve challenges. He made significant contributions to the successes of many research programs and the careers of former students and postdoctoral researchers in the mass spectrometry facility. Brian’s dedication to providing exceptional services, in association with his outstanding knowledge of chemistry and analytical sciences, was invaluable to the facility, and resulted in many publications and millions of grant dollars awarded to the university. Taken together, Brian Arbogast demonstrated an exceptional level of competence and accomplishments in all three areas relevant to the mission of the mass spectrometry facility: research, service and education.  In 2009, he was awarded the OSU Outstanding Faculty Research Assistant Award.

Brian was an avid and talented trumpet player from a young age. He loved to “noodle” with jazz radio, and was the trumpet soloist for the Hilltop Big Band for many years. An enthusiastic mountain biker and runner, Brian completed several triathlons. At the age of 61, six months after his first brain surgery, he won his division in the Beaver Freezer Triathlon.  He shared his interest in athletics with Meghan, and was her key support provider during her many ultramarathon races. Brian is survived by his mother and father, sisters and brother, nieces and nephews, wife and three children. He will be dearly missed by his family, colleagues and the musical and distance-running communities.

Donations in his name can be made to the University of California San Francisco Brain Tumor Center.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

White River 50 Mile

Theresa was asking me about the upcoming 50 mile race - and after she realized it was not that crewable, and no pacers were allowed, asked "should I run it?"  Thus began a very fun weekend for two girls on a bit of an adventure.  I had run White River 50 Mile race twice, and had not been even a little satisfied with my performances.  But this year would be different.  I had been ultra running now long enough to feel like I was 'getting it', and had been running strong all year.  My goals were to break 8 hours (my previous times had been in the 8:30s), feel strong throughout, and especially finish running hard. 

The evening was spent discussing various strategies for Theresa, who had last run 50k nearly a year ago, and whose longest run this calendar was the Boston Marathon in April.  But she is strong, steady, and knows how to pace herself.  For my strategy, I studied splits from the fastest times for women (hey, why not, right?) and inked them on my hand, hoping to be somewhere in the vicinity.

Race morning we were up eating oatmeal and getting ourselves ready.  It was crisp outside, but not too cold.  At the start, it was the usual fun connecting with the ultra community, especially sometimes training partner and friend, John "Hot Newman" Ticer who's goal was to not get chicked my me.  On the men's side, Tony Krupicka showed up to deflate a few other top male runners, and the women's side, Amy Sproston and Pam Smith were the folks I knew the most about.  Finally shedding the warm-ups and standing at the start, RD Scott McCoubrey described the course.  "The race is pretty simple.  See that mountain over there (pointing high at the range to our left)? You're going to run up to the top of that and then come back. Then you'll run to the top of that mountain (pointing high at the range on our right)?  Pretty straight forward."  He then sent the chuckling runners off.

I fell in behind Amy, not wanting to get too excited, keep in control.  This first section is flat and twisty, and continued on through the beautiful thick woods to the first aid station.  I grabbed a gel and a big drink of water, letting Amy and another woman, Ashley from Colorado, slip away.  I was soon at the back of a train as we began the very long ascent.  The train eventually became more and more condensed, and conversations flowed.  I could see John in front of me, pulling ahead.  I followed my urge to pass the train I was in, putting me in front for the women.  I wasn't confident I would last, but I felt very good here, and felt myself gliding along, gapping one train and closing in on another and passing it as well.  Pretty much alone for awhile, Ashley eventually caught me and we chatted and ran together for many more of the miles up. It was her second 50 miler, and I thought she might be in trouble when she asked if we were on the second climb yet and had not even finished the first.

The lead men started to appear on their way back from the turn-around, with Tony in 2nd place.  Thinking he was being followed closely, I started to say "Good job guys!" but upon seeing only Tony, stopped at "Good job Guy" at the same time he said "Good job Meghan".  I was a bit embarrassed that he knew my name and I called him "Guy".   I finally arrived at the turnaround, filled my bottle, grabbed a gel, and seeing John, started back down behind him.  Amy was not far behind Ashley and I.  I saw more and more folks I knew on the out and back, and was very excited to see that Theresa was looking good and having fun.

We hit the water only aid station, I grabbed a gel and John and I scooted out.  Ashley had fallen off the pace, so I was in the lead with no one challenging me at the moment.  We hit the long switch back downhill section and I was enjoying the pace.  I kept checking my time compared to Susannah Beck's record pace splits.  I thought I must be getting close to the half way mark as I her split came and went, but it was not to be.  It was an 'aha' moment for me.  Fast is fast.  Susannah Beck is fast.  Very fast.  Ah, genetics.  I felt like I wouldn't even be in the same zip code if she were in the race by the time we reached the start/finish area for the beginning of the second part of the race.

But it was a race, and I was keen on keeping my position, regardless of the time.  The first climb after the flat section was a burner.  "That was special" I yelled back to Ticer, to which he mumbled "uh-huh".  I felt strong and steady, ran when it seemed faster than hiking, and made it to the next aid station with less effort than in the past.  I grabbed a bit of food, filled my bottle, and got out quickly, Ticer right behind.  We picked up one more in our train, Matt Simms, and continued strongly all the way to Suntop.

John Ticer and I near the summit of Suntop - photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Excited to be at the final summit, I grabbed beverage and gel and hit the road.  The long downhill ahead was beckoning, and I hoped to put some distance on John here.  It was not to be.  He caught me, and encouraged me to keep up.  I was running fast, but soreness in my feet was starting to build.  Not that it would have mattered as I watched John gently glide away.  Dang - he was running well!

My stomach was urging me to jump in the bushes but somehow I convinced it to stay together.  I made it to the bottom of the 7 mile downhill, and John was no where in sight.  I had glanced over my shoulder and didn't see anyone in pursuit.  I filled bottles at the final aid station and set about to put my plan in place - run hard for the last 6.6 miles.  I was already out for over 7 hours, so my sub 8 goal was looking bleak. But my legs did feel strong and I pushed hard.  Twisting in and out, over roots, eyes stretching ahead, I tried not looking at my watch more than every 5 minutes.  This proved to be more difficult that I thought, and the final miles seemed to go on FOREVER.  I was pleasantly surprised to catch a glimpse of John just ahead and when I finally caught him, he was thinking the same thing - will this ever end?  I went ahead of him and kept pushing with him on my heels.  Each  bridge we crossed seemed just like the last bridge we had crossed, like some cruel joke.  At last we reached the road that would take us to the finish.  "Go ahead John!  Don't wait for me."  But he would not leave, and continued to egg me on to the finish.  As I finally picked it up, he muttered "now that's what I'm talkin' about".  We crossed the finish line in 8:10.  Pretty far off from my goal, but a good 20+ minutes ahead of my best time here.

John and I finishing - photo by John Wallace III
Scott was there with warm congratulations, and I spent the next few whiles recovering and waiting for Theresa to finish.   I thought she would be in under 10 hours, and at about 9:30 I heard John yell "It's Theresa!"  We hooted and hollered her in, and I was pleased to see her Sunsweet Jersey covered in dirt and felt like I had handed her the torch for keeper of the dirty jersey.  She had tumbled at least 6 times, but managed to be 7th woman and rake in $400.  Pretty good for racing on a whim and somewhat "off of the couch". 

Theresa Ridgway finishing 7th!  Photo by John Wallace III

I was satisfied in many ways, but came away still wanting to break 8 hours on this course.  Time to hit the gym.