Race Reports

Pine to Palm 100 – Sodium Enriched DNF

Pine to Palm 100 – Sodium Enriched DNF

We flew into Medford late Thursday night and when we woke up Friday morning and started to drive around Ashland we were treated to one of the coolest little towns I have ever visited. Having never been to Oregon I wasn’t sure what to expect but what we found was a beautiful countryside with fall colors in full bloom and miles upon miles of wineries. If only I drank wine, but Traci’s eyes lit up when she saw vineyard but not as much as when she saw Hal Koerner. We picked up my pacer Van Patterson at the airport Friday morning and since we had never met or even spoke before we game planned a little for the race but mostly got to know each other so the run Saturday would be more enjoyable for both of us. Van is relatively new to running ultras but has the passion, knowledge and talent that will make him a force in the ultra scene for years to come.

After grabbing Van and race planning we headed right over to Rogue Valley Runners to see if we could buy some of that magic potion they must all drink at that running store. One of the first things you notice when walking under the purple and green sign is the trophy collection of store owner Hal Koerner. That is likely as close as I will ever get to the Western States cougar. We picked up a few last minute items and lots of stuff we didn’t need but we love to support the trail running community.

Scott Jurek with Jay and Traci Danek

Hanging out with ultra legend Scott Jurek

I’m always a little nervous the day before a race and last Friday was no different but the nerves went away quickly when we had the chance to meet ultra running legends Scott Jurek and Hal Koerner at the pre race meeting.

We hung around and talked for a little bit before my nerves got the best of me and I was ready to make the hour drive back to Medford to get some sleep before the big race. I took a few last long glances at the course profile and talked with Traci and Van about last minute race plans and I was off to a medically induced sleep (Tylenol PM).

When we arrived at the race start I stepped out of the car to try and shake the nerves but walking around on a dark road out in the middle of nowhere did nothing for calming me down. About two minutes to 6:00 we walked towards the front of the pack to get a good starting spot for the race but what I found when I got up there was Hal counting down from 10 for the start. I ripped off my sweatshirt, threw it at Traci and we were off heading up the 5 mile climb to Rock Creek. The first 5 miles of the race are straight uphill on an asphalt road but running this hill in the dark felt pretty easy. I ran with the lead group through this section until we all ran by the trail entrance. I know, big shocker that I got lost. There is usually an aid station at this spot to direct traffic but was not needed Saturday because of the low temperature and we just missed the turn. It was actually kind of nice because we got to head ¼ mile back down the hill to gain momentum before we hit the trails. I was able to collect my breath from the climb and we took off through the leaf covered forest. The first hour of the race was a little dark but no headlight was needed in my opinion. I carried that damn light on my wrist for the first 42 miles of the race (more to come on that later). Running through the deep fallen leaves was great and even though I couldn’t look up to see the surroundings I loved what we were running through.

The first 9 miles of uphill seemed to fly by rather quickly and I knew once we got to that point it was straight downhill to the mile 15 aid station. I was feeling really good at this point but decided it was best to hike the final little climb and let a couple people go by me before I took off down the hill. It was at this point that Jenn Shelton passed me and I started to run with her the rest of the way up the hill. When we got to the peak I assumed I would pass her on the way down but what I found was Jenn Shelton was an amazing downhill runner and we weaved in and out of rock cropping, through puddles and out the forest to the mile 15 aid station. This was one of my best sections of the race and it was good to have someone to talk to while we ran down the slopes at a fast pace.

About .1 miles before the aid station I took a glance at my watch only to find my face buried in the dirt and leaves on the ground. I brushed myself off with no damage and jogged into the aid station smiling about my misfortune. Leaving mile 15 you get your first taste of forest roads. I am not a fan of running on forest roads but I did find them helpful in this race because it allowed runners to make up time due to the amount of climbing on the course. We ran a pretty quick pace from miles 15-22 where we were greeted by the Scott Jurek aid station which seemed to give all the runners an extra boost. It is always nice to hear how good you look from a guy that has won the coveted Western States trophy seven times. I started to hear some rumblings after mile 22 from other runners about the forest roads but again we were all on cruise control so why stress over something that will save you time.

Hal Appreciation Station

Hal appreciation station, classic!!

Mile 28 is the first crew stop and this is the Seattle Bar aid station also known as the Hal Appreciation Station. All of the volunteers were dressed in full Hal Koerner gear, beards, and the patented Rogue Valley Runners hat tilted to the side. I cooled off in the ice bucket, grabbed a Red Bull and some chips and headed out. The problem was that I exchanged bottles with Traci just seconds before and I had no Gu’s because I left them in my other bottles. It really didn’t matter to me at this point except that the next 5 miles was going to be a pretty big climb and I was clearly low on calories but nothing I couldn’t deal with at this point in the race.

This race felt like brutal climb after brutal climb but I was hiking pretty fast so everything appeared to be in order but it was starting to get warm. It was not warm by Arizona standards but being 30+ miles into a race I was starting to feel a little worn down. The heat slowly began taking its toll on me and slowing down my pace a little but no one seemed to be passing me so I figured they were all in the same boat as me. After 4-5 miles of climbing we hit another long downhill and all of a sudden I felt like life was back in my legs and I was approaching others runners quickly.

Pine to Pine Squaw Lake

Heading around Squaw Lake

I had made up several minutes I lost while climbing and felt great running into the Squaw Lake aid station. Squaw Lake has a two mile loop around the lake before you see your crew again and head up the road towards Squaw Peak. The first half of the loop felt great and I was running around 9 minute/mile pace on the flat ground but the second mile I started to feel a little cramping in my legs and was slowed to 14 minute pace while I walk/ran to the aid station. It wasn’t bad but just enough to be annoying so I took down some potato chips, fruit, and headed out. I wasn’t one mile into the next section before I started to feel the cramps becoming more intense. I stopped momentarily to drink some extra Gu Brew and make sure I was properly hydrated but stopping only seemed to aggravate the problem. I complained a little and started running again but within a half mile I was brought to my knees by the intense cramping in my calves and hips. I had softball sized bulges appearing in my calves and I was immobile for a few minutes. Most cramps are caused by dehydration but I didn’t feel dehydrated. I was drinking plenty of fluids and carrying 3 bottles so I was pretty confused by my condition. After sitting for a few minutes I had a few runners pass me and I finally asked one for some salt tablets. I bit into the tablets and poured the salt in my mouth in hopes of alleviating the problem.

Momentarily I felt better but it wasn’t 100 yards later that I was bent over the side of the trail throwing up. I wasn’t quite sure what had made me sick but now I was feeling dizzy, dehydrated from throwing up, and slow. I took a couple more salt tablets to try and balance out all the water I was drinking but as has happened to me so many times I over did it with the sodium. Instead of waiting for the sodium to get into my system and help with the cramps I was looking for an immediate solution and I failed. I threw up off and on all the way into mile 50 and the pain in my stomach was getting worse by the minute.

The mile 50 aid station is just a brief stop where runners make a one mile climb to get a flag at the top of the peak and head back down to give it to the aid volunteers. I had arrived at mile 50 in 10:18 and left mile 52 in 12:30. I just took over two hours to make a one mile climb up and a one mile run down. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t run and during this stretch over 20 runners passed me while I lay in the middle of the road. I tried to hide in the tall weeds so runners wouldn’t notice I was rather ill but it was no hope. Runners kept asking if I wanted help and I was still confident that I was going to gather myself and finish under 22 hours so I declined. I was ahead of schedule, had already ran 50 miles and climbed 15,000 feet so I knew there would be no more than 7000 feet of climb left over the last 50 miles. When I finally composed myself and left the aid station I headed out behind Jenn Shelton who had suffered the same fate about 8 miles back but appeared to be rebounding. I was hoping to stay with her but right out of the aid station she ran hard up the long 8 mile climb to the next aid station chasing after Jennifer Benna who had taken over the lead. This section is all gravel roads and while I was getting tired of seeing it, I sure did find it comforting to lie on.

Pine to Palm

Beautiful Oregon

Cars were passing me kicking dust up and every time one was coming I would stand up long enough to let them go by so I would not be medically pulled from the race. I was still throwing up, wasn’t able to keep anything down and at this point my body was on empty. I faced another problem that I had not anticipated and that was darkness coming before I got to mile 65. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t reach this point by 8:15 pm especially after getting to mile 50 in 10:18. It just took me almost 5 hours to get through this stretch of the race. I carried that damn headlight on my wrist for the first 42 miles and now I needed it and I didn’t have one. I was struggling at mile 60 but my spirits were raised when I saw my friend Chuck at the aid station and he gave me his headlight to get up to mile 65. I slogged the next 5 miles up the hill and finally reached Dutchman aid station in 15 hours. As I came up the dark slope I could hear Green Day “Holiday” blaring at the aid station and I was feeling better about my position. I had 19 hours to finish the next 35 miles, pretty easy huh? The music pumped me up and I got excited about finishing the last 35 miles of the race. I sat for a minute and put on some warm clothes and was sick almost immediately. Traci and Van tried to get me up and moving but I was dizzy, broth tasted horrible, Ginger Ale was worse and my body was cramping terribly. Volunteers were squeezing the bulging cramps in my legs as I sat in the chair until finally I decided to get going.

Traci and I had another one mile uphill to get a flag at the top of Dutchman Peak and then one mile down back to the aid station. We made it no more than 300 yards and I was on my knees projectile vomiting (sorry for the visual). I told Traci I was done and she could go ahead and get out of the cold and walk back to the aid station. After she made her way back down the hill I gathered myself and started to make the long climb up the hill sitting every .25 miles to try and calm my stomach. It was no hope; it took me 40 minutes to climb to the peak. When I got to the top I looked back to see Traci right there. I said I needed to keep trying and wasn’t ready to quit yet but the downhill did me in. I couldn’t walk without cramping or throwing up but thought if I made it back to the aid I could take down a few calories and finish the race. I sat and the pain was so intense and I was so sick that I finally asked the volunteers to cut off my P2P bracelet.

Hal Koerner with Jay and Traci Danek

Someone’s excited about this ultra runner sighting

I was done, my first DNF and while I knew the disappointment would ultimately consume me I had made the right decision. I may still be out there crawling if I hadn’t pulled myself. What started off as such a great day ended in sodium drenched failure. I really need to dial in my nutrition and sodium intake but episodes like this are so hard to emulate. Huge thank you to Hal and Carly Koerner for the hospitality and a great race and also to Van Patterson for flying to Oregon to pace. Even though he didn’t get to pace me, he stepped up and brought Jody Chase in the final 26 miles for a sub 27 hour finish. I will be back next year to finish this one but I will need to find someone to drive Traci between aid stations. Those of you who made the white knuckle drive down from Dutchman Peak know what I’m talking about.

* Note from Trail Running Club:
There are many excellent resources for ultra runners to learn hydration and electrolyte replenishment. One of our favorite resources is from Succeed! Sports Nutrition, here are two links to their website that contain valuable information in this area.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 22 posts on Trail Running Club.

Started running for the first time in my life three year's ago after losing my Dad to a pulmonary embolism at the age of 58 and since he began running he has lost close to 100 pounds. On 9/23/2012 Jay finished a running streak of 923 Consecutive days with at least 4 miles while compiling over 9,400 miles with 975,000+ feet of elevation gain and completed 15 Ultra's in honor of his Dad who passed away on 9/23/2008. Jay holds a Bachelor's Degree from Michigan State University in Crop and Soil Sciences.

Jay's recent trail ultra running results:

• 13th OA at San Diego 100M in 22:01:26
• 10 Top Ten Ultra Finishes in 14 races
• 4th overall at Lean Horse 100 in 19:01:12
• 9th overall at Javelina Jundred in 2011 in 18:28:26
• 100K Javelina Night Run Champion in 2011
• Cave Creek Thriller 50K Champion in 2010
• Runner up in 2011 DRT Ultra Series

2013 Race Schedule includes:
• Castle Hot Springs 22M
• Phoenix Marathon
• 3 Days of Syllamo
• Miwok 100K
• Speedgoat 50K
• Pike's Peak Marathon
* Mogollon Monster 100

Jay Danek is sponsored by iRun Honey Stinger

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