I'm writing this more as a reminder to myself than anything else. I want to record that I'm proud of myself for what I accomplished in even starting this race. So without further ado here is the tale:
Wy'East was to be my final distance push in training for this summer's 70 miler at FatDog in August. I did expect to be able to finish it was it profiled as an "easy" 50 mile course with buttery trail and a net elevation loss. And as expected the trail was beautiful and buttery, the climbs not too steep and the downhills all runnable and not too steep. What I didn't expect was to get the flu or something like it on the drive down to Hood River and be put in the position to ask my wife (who was already supporting both myself logistics wise and our toddler) to support me in my newfound illness. The last 60 miles from Vancouver, WA to Hood River OR felt like 200.
This was the most unsatisfying of flu/food poisoning experiences I've ever had. Having evacuated via #2 hole on the side of the road I felt no better, I only felt worse. But I didn't even feel the need really to vomit or pass diarrhea and 3 days in to this illness I'm still not sure what is wrong. I have not vomited. Nor have I felt nauseous. There has been some loose #2 but no "big events". What I have felt is this ocean of heavy shiftiness in my head, like my head weighs a million pounds. Like even talking might make me puke...even though I don't feel like puking. Like noises or movement just feels terrible...but without dizziness or vertigo. It was like all those things but not any of those things. It has been a like post flu recovery in that eating and drinking has usually helped me feel better for a time.
So here we were Friday night, my wife battling a happy toddler and a not happy toddler checking into a hotel to get a key to a "rustic" cabin outside of Hood River. After a quick stop for groceries (I was left on the porch said hotel trying my best fetal position on the couch on the front porch), my wife picked me up to drive to what ended up being more shithole than "quaint" cabin in the woods AirBnB style. With a profound lack of disclosure by our hosts we pulled into a yard full of weeds overlooking the Gorge yes, but also 4 lanes of freeway and a railroad not 200 feet from the backdoor. When my wife opened the front door the carcasses of 245 dead bug-beetles-thingys fell out of the door frame onto my wife's head. The 3 or 4 plump daddy long-legs we found in our bedroom corners were surely to blame. Attractive-ish on the inside all of the windows were foggy with external spider webs and wind-blown detritus. Also it was a good thing we'd brought some water along...the sulfur odor of the spring water at this "rustic" cabin was undrinkable and certainly nothing you'd want to cook or make coffee with. Still in the end my sulfur shower in a nice old claw-foot tub and poorly executed plastic shower curtains reminded me fondly of my time touring the smelly mud-pots and geysers in Yellowstone Park.
Still I was feeling a little better even after my toddler puked up some pizza all over my wife. So we all set to get some sleep. But between the trains, cars, a clunky AC unit, and an Ikea foam pad as hard as rocks there was no sleep to be had. Morning coffee ala 3.30am style brought back the not-nausea but like nausea feelings with a dash of not-vertigo we drove to the start and I decided to try my body out at the starting line.
Wy'East Wonder out of courtesy to hikers and bikers and horseback riders didn't want participant vehicles at the start or finish of this ride. This meant that the staging area in Parkland was running shuttle buses to and from the start and finish of this point to point race. Adding to the logistical difficulty that morning one of the kiddy school buses had broke down. I say "kiddy" because though I'm not a tall adult male walking up right in one of these buses was not without dangers. Because one had broke down there was probably only seats for half and being crowded into a packed, slightly moist, foggy with morning dew, kiddy bus with no seats and a walkway not wide enough to sit in elicited a rather immediate flight or fight instinct in me. Prone to some anxiety with a healthy dose of claustrophobia all-symptoms-go I GOT THE FUCK OFF THAT BUS. Fuck that shit. Not a chance in fucking hell. I got off.
I didn't make a big scene or anything but went and talked to the director after milling about and thinking on my options. The buses gone I had thought it was optional for people to be dropped off at the start even though parking was not allowed. The director said this was not the case. Not feeling amazing I didn't argue my case too much beyond stating that I really could not have ridden in those packed buses. While historically prone to risk taking all of my experience in extreme sports has been of the wide open spaces variety. So I called my wife for a pickup and a promise to myself to come back next year.
After my call a nice gentleman named "Chris" I think, from Nebraska tapped my shoulder and told me the director and granted my request for a ride to the start. Not admitting to my illness I gratefully accepted the ride to the start knowing I could grab a shuttle down to the staging area if towing the starting line wasn't in the cards for me.
Again, being in a car going any speed brought back my symptoms in a terrible way. But it was weird, I was able to chat a bit with my ride and offer my gratitude as well as eat. Eating seemed to help. I did not want to eat. So I ate some more. And it helped a little. And so did the cold at the start. It was quite cold. So I started. And then I felt better. I met and ran off and on with a gal named Jessica who was getting ready to move to S. Carolina. We traded in our enthusiasm for running and watching Ginger Runner videos. She'd trained up with several 50ks and was nervous about making cutoffs. I was going a mile at a time grateful for the amazing views, my amazing body and the chance to run at least 10 miles to an aid station where I could drop if I needed to. And Mt Hood with much of her lower slopes showing off her majestic lower elevation show fields. I could see the upper lifts of both Timberline and Mt Hood Meadows and noted that some of the steep upper bowls of the Meadows were still looking very fun and skiable.
And so it went. I felt good all day. But without sleep and running in a psychologically drained state I didn't push it. As far as race reviews go this is pretty much it. Lots of ridgeline running with trails overlooking Mt. Hood made this already butter trail a feast for the running addict. It was all joy. It was a trail runner's drug of choice. 20 miles in however I missed a cut off by 5-10 minutes. I'd been surprised to be able to run at all therefore I wasn't too disappointed when I missed the cutoff. I wanted to focus on just be grateful for getting to be out here on this course. So I sat down and changed my shoes after asking the aid-station captains if I would be permitted to run the final 10 miles of the course to the finish. I wanted to see the best parts of the course, get some more training miles in, and I still felt pretty fresh. Slow yes, but plenty of gas in the tank even though I'd started the day on empty.
The last 10 did not disappoint. There were wildflowers, green grasses, cliffed out views of Hood, and a not-so-steep downhill to the finish. As I sat in the staging area again after the race I enjoyed my wife and son and runners congratulating each other on a good day out. On the way back to our awesome cabin I stopped by McDonald's for a large celebratory chocolate shake. Still later after the toddler had passed out I enjoyed a nice sulfer shower. Lastly the tale would not be complete if I neglected to mention my strange illness came back with a vengeance on the drive home. Traffic even cooperated generating rolling slowdowns from PDX to Centralia to Olympia to Tacoma. And now I sit here finishing my love letter to the trail on my smart phone (because the family laptop litterally just kicked the bucket) still sick as a dog. Wy'east, I'm coming back sometime soon.