Ferris: Cameron, what have you seen today?
Cameron: Nothing good.
Ferris: Nothing – wha – what do you mean nothing good? We’ve seen everything good. We’ve seen the whole city! We went to a museum, we saw priceless works of art! We ate pancreas!
The summer always ends, and when it does I never feel like I got enough done.. There are 1000 things I wish I could have done. Looking at the summer as a whole paints a better picture; and here are some of them in no order. Luckily there is still a little summer left. I’m gonna use it.
Over the past year the dirt road up to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area and I have become quite well acquainted. This route, has seen me at my best and my worst. I’ve ran hard, easy, powerhiked, limped, and flew up and down just about every section of the road, as well as the trails that weave in and out of this major artery. Just for clarification, by major artery I mean, you might see one person on any given morning. Needless to say its often just you, the mountain and a few stray vultures.
The Mount Ashland Hill Climb is a 13.3 mile footrace from Lithia Park to the summit of our 7,532 foot peak, for a total of 5,600 feet of climbing. The idea is pretty simple, start in the heart of Ashland and go up to the top of the highest mountain that you can see from town. As an employee of Rogue Valley Runners for the past two years, and a resident of Ashland since 2007, I feel a certain sense of pride for our trails and local mountains. The hills and trails you train on really define you, as a person and a runner. I’ve watched the seasons change in the Ashland watershed, and I think I’ve taken a lot more than stronger heart and tougher legs away from those hours and days on the trails… or maybe not…
Usually I want to win races because of a goal I have set, my competitive spirit, or the fact that I hate to lose. Surprisingly none of these reasons really played a part in Saturdays race. I wanted to win because Mt. Ashland is our local ski hill, its our place of freedom, its the highest peak in the Siskiyou’s. I thought somebody who lives at the bottom of the mountain, who eats at Ruby’s, shops at the ShopN’Cart, and ice baths in Ashland Creek ought to be the first to the top.
The race is special because on any clear day finishers can look upward and see those chair lifts and that weather station, and know they got to the top on foot. The race may have taken all morning and runners may have decided to never do it again, but a lot of folks got there, and fast or slow that is a pretty cool accomplishment.
Thanks to all the amazing volunteers! HUGE thanks to first year race director Joseph Chick, he organized and executed like a veteran. The event has been, was and continue to be a challenge and a success in every aspect.
I’d also be interested in opinions on how far this ball at the top of the mountain would roll if a particularly large gust of wind were to blow off the top of the mountain… In case you were wondering what I think about on my way up.
June 30, 2014
48 hours ago I was hobbling onto the track at Placer High School in Auburn California. It seems like a lifetime ago. 3 days ago I was laying in bed, in Squaw Valley, resting my legs for the next days running of the Western States Trail. That seems like an eternity ago.
I always thought finishing the Western States 100 would curb some desire or maybe satisfy some need that I had. Maybe punishing my body and mind for 100 miles would satisfy my appetite and allow me to check this experience off my list. I really thought it would be a valuable experience, that I would do once. But when I woke up this morning, and put my blistered foot on the ground I didn’t think, “that hurts” unfortunately my mind thought, “Next time I do this, I’m gonna be more careful with my socks and keep my feet dry, then maybe I will be able to really move the last 10 miles”.
The race went pretty well the first 30 miles, GU was easy to digest, I felt relaxed and was drinking plenty of water. Coming up out of El Dorado Creek things started to get hard, it was finally getting hot and I powerhiked the entire 3 miles up to Michigan Bluff. I knew once I got cooled off and got food from my crew at 55 my legs would be able to rock and roll to Foresthill and hopefully all the way down to Rucky Chucky; possibly beyond. My crew forced me to regroup coming out of Foresthill, changed my socks, ate a snickers bar, got cooled off, picked up my pacer. Considering we were 100k in I was feeling pretty good, except for one thing. It felt like there was gravel in my right shoe, but when I changed my socks at Foresthill there was nothing there. At Peachstone I stopped again because I was sure there was gravel in my right shoe. Every step felt like something was biting into the ball of my foot. We were rolling and I was feeling good, but I knew if I didn’t get the rocks out I would regret it later. When my socks came off I saw what felt like rocks were not rocks. Because my feet had been wet for 10 hours from the creek crossings, they had begun to, lets just say….get gross. And the ball of my foot had 2 major creases in the skin, changing socks was useless, the damage was done. The last 30 miles were going to be painful. Ryan Matz, my pacer encouraged me to get rolling, as there were runners 2 minutes back. I had been in 10th or so since Michigan Bluff. Needless to say, getting passed didn’t sound good. The last, 3 miles into Rucky Chucky were rough. My body temperature was going between burning up and shivering. When we finally got there the medical staff asked me how things were going. Words were not going to be too convincing so I just tried to grin and gave a thumbs up, somehow that passed the test. Coming down from Foresthill getting in the cold water of the American River sounded great, but when I got there I was too cold to enjoy it, and got out as quickly as possible. This is where things started getting real bad. My head was good, breathing was good, nausea was setting in but wasn’t going to throw up, my quads were still tolerable, calves were blown, and my right foot was bad. Every step felt like the folded blistered skin was going to slide off. I over heard a kid walking on gravel today say, “It feels like I’m walking on Godzillas back!” That seems like a pretty good description. Somehow I decided eating and drinking were useless, and every 2 minutes I looked at my watch, thinking we should have gone a mile. As the sun set, and darkness set in, I crawled into the pain cave. I walked through the last two aid stations, because there was really no reason to stop. My mind was absorbed with getting to that finish line. I was done learning, I was done being free, this was the time to suffer.
Why would I want to do this again? 48 hours after the race and I still feel terrible, why would any person want to throttle their body in every way imaginable? I keep opening up the map, looking at the rugged, majestic Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California, and can’t help but want to go back. I can’t wait to again see 100 miles of beautiful alpine, rivers and canyons, cover my average weekly mileage in a day, and try to do it a little better and a little faster than the year before.
Big thanks to my parents for their 25 years of support. Thanks to the Nike Trail crew for everything from sewing custom pockets in shorts to cheering us on, and my crew, Hayden Teachout, Ryan Ghelfi and Ryan Matz.
I also want to thank the Western States Board for their year round efforts, Race Director Craig Thornley for his flawless organization and execution of a massive event, Amazing volunteers, inspiring spectators and all the folks who do tasks big and small to make this event possible. Special Thanks to the awesome Ashland contingent groovin at mile 90!
Congrats to Nike teammates Alex Varner and Sally McRae for inspiring performances and top ten finishes!!
Finally congrats to all the starters and finishers who swear they are never doing that again. I bet you will.
Every year when I get the phone call to work at Steens Mountain Running Camp I am overwhelmed with excitement and hope for another year in a life changing place. Not only do I get to work with inspirational people, but I get to visit a remote area of southeast Oregon; A remote area, inhabited rarely, by few, where I feel most at home.
As a young runner Steens Mountain Running Camp was a must. The first time I went to The Mountain was a few weeks after I finished 8th grade. My Dad taught me that to be a great runner I had to train with great runners. I figured Steens would allow me to do that. What I didn’t foresee was the impact that a running camp, the love of the staff, and a rugged mountain landscape would have on my future. The training load put on the campers is difficult for seasoned runners, unfathomable for most. The time I spent that summer strengthened my legs and lungs for the upcoming season, but changed my perception of the world forever. The mountain quickly taught me through rolled ankles and scraped legs, the value of effort, selflessness and suffering. The landscape of this mountain and the sport of long distance running complement each other and reflect life, in all its beauty, trials, failures and joy.
When you are on The Mountain, Flatland America, and the values it holds, becomes a distant memory. The smell of juniper and sage in the thin morning air is a spirit shaping aroma. In the words of Harland Yriarte Camp Founder, “Its not just a physical venture, its so much more than that. But you use the physical, you use the running in order to get at somebody’s heart and head and allow them to breathe in this place…”. This unique landscape is far from the only reason that special things happen on The Mountain. The founders and directors of the camp create an environment that encourages kids, to be better runners, but far more importantly to be better people. To again use Harland’s words, “One thing that Steens Mountain has taught me is that people are chameleons: you become what you surround yourself with. If you want to be a good person, you surround yourself with good people. If you want to espouse good values and internal beauty and strength you surround yourself with an externally beautiful and rugged world”.
I can’t wait to make the long drive out to Burns Oregon this July. Take the right hand turn on to HWY 205 and speed out to Frenchglen. I’ll roll down my windows, turn onto a dusty, washboard road and smile. I’ll run the canyons, swim the lakes, watch the sunrises and sunsets, have one sided conversations with the antelope, race a jackrabbit; lose. I’ll get dusty, sweaty, dirty, sunburned and tired. I’ll clean porta-potties, do dishes, set up camp, chop wood, build campfires, listen to coaches, chat with kids, make lasting friendships.
I’v spent many summers enjoying creation on the Steens, and I hope to spend many more. But when the light fades, and my joggin shoes get dusty send me to the realest place I know. Let the autumn wind spread my ashes over the Kiger, for then and there I will truly be free.