- Introduction: According to the Waldo 100K website: “The Waldo 100K Ultramarathon is a challenging 100K loop-type course starting at Willamette Pass Ski Area (70 miles east of Eugene, Oregon) at elevation 5120′, climbing up several mountains including Fuji, The Twins, and Maiden Peak before returning to the ski area. The route is mostly single-track trails with some fairly remote sections and has many incredible views of pristine Waldo Lake. It is not a beginner-level ultra and participation in the race should not be taken lightly.“ The following was copied (with permission) from an email sent by Abe to a couple of his friends (Nick and Dave) in response to them requesting a race recap. So, with that context in mind…
The race itself is rad and I would highly recommend it to both of you. For the most part, the trails are super clean and fast with just enough technical, rocky sections to mix it up. Most of the course was in tall groves of trees which kept the sun off your back and the temps down. It was very well organized with a ton of volunteers, but without too many bells and whistles.As far as my race went, the week leading up to it I had a sore lower back (maybe I shouldn’t have pulled dandelions out of the yard for 2 hours the week before a race) and just felt tired, achy, and off. I don’t know if I was fighting a bug or something, but it definitely threw off my confidence and I wasn’t sure how things were going to play out. The drive up to Oregon on Friday was really smokey, and with the Eclipse traffic, took me a lot longer than expected. I didn’t sleep much that night so at the start I still had some concern that I might have a tough day.
The climb to Mt. Fuji felt good and as I kept passing people, they kept asking how ‘a fast guy’ got behind them. After Fuji and around mile 18 I hit a low point. My legs were already feeling tired, my feet had hot spots, and mentally I thought I should be feeling better and stronger this early in the race. I struggled for a bit on a flatter portion of the course and was even walking some of the very gradual climbs. This lasted four about an hour at which point I had a ‘come to Jesus’ talk with myself and reminded myself that I was out there to enjoy it. I decided to start going at a ‘fun’ pace and not push it to the point where I was going to suffer all day. This helped, and along with the course changing to a nice downhill, improved my mood.
At mile 32 we reached the first lake (and to take a step back, the race has a ‘Wet Waldo’ award for the person who swims in all 6 of the main lakes on the course in the fastest time. This is actually what got me stoked on the race a few years ago. Most of the past Wet Waldo winners finished in a time that I felt like I would be competitive with, but that was achievable for me, so I thought it was a realistic but still challenging goal). You also don’t really know who is going for the Wet Waldo during the race which makes it even more interesting. Long story short, I hit the Charlton Lake Aid station, jumped in the water, and the aid station crew informed me that I was the first person to swim there. The Wet Waldo is on the honesty system so it is possible that someone else could have jumped in ahead of me farther down the course, but I assumed most people would chose to do it at the aid station, so in all likelihood I was the first person through that was going for it. I knew there was another guy, not too far behind me who was also going for it, which was a huge boost for my mental state and ego; and along with a Coke and a gel, I left there feeling good and running faster again.
I had a pretty good stretch after that, running well, but not too hard until mile 37 where my calf started to feel like it was on the brink of cramping. I started to walk more knowing that pushing it and having my calf actually cramp would be much worse than slowing down. This lasted for a while so I took an S cap, drank a bunch of water, and it seemed to get better.
Now 4 of the 6 lakes are right on the side of the course, but I was coming up on Found Lake (also known as Lost Lake), which required taking a side trail from the course that turned out to be about a 1/2 mile long, un-maintained and entailed climbing over lots of downed trees. I also got some beta the night before that after swimming in the lake, it was shorter to scramble up the embankment to the trail instead of back tracking on the side trail I came in on. This was probably true, but turned out to be super steep with scree, cliffs and rocks – it was probably the only time that day I cursed the race directors. This was followed by the 4th of the 5 major climbs of the race which I hiked at a pretty aggressive pace.
After getting over the Twins, I felt good and let it rip for the next 5 miles of downhill. At some point I caught Lee Mckinley (the very accomplished, 55 year old guy that blew by me at Canyons 50k two years ago on the last climb to take 5th place). As I passed him, he made a comment that I was moving, but then also latched on and started running with me. We had played leap frog up to this point, but after this we stayed together, running the next 15ish miles together which was awesome. It helped provide a distraction but we also pushed each other.
The last climb up Maiden Peak starts around mile 45 and is the biggest and steepest of the day (~2,800′). Lee and I pushed up the climb with a purpose and we were able to catch a few more dudes. After hitting the summit I knew that it was all downhill and I had assumed would all be smooth and fast like the very end of the course that Nick and I ran a month ago as part of a road trip. This first mile though was straight down, rocky, loose and not much of a trail, but eventually things started to smooth out. Coming into the mile 55 aid station, Lee and I had picked off a few more people and were still hustling. Right after that I had to swim in Maiden Lake, which required dropping a couple hundred feet down from the trail again, but I was still able to do it pretty quickly. Coming out of the lake, Lee caught up to me again, after bs’ing with some friends at the last aid station. With about 4 miles of easy downhill to go, my calf started to feel like it was on the verge of cramping again and again I knew it would be smarter to back off a bit than push it too hard and risk fully cramping. I let Lee by, also knowing that I still had the last 3 lakes to swim in as well, where I would lose him anyway. He tore off at a sub 7:00min/mile pace. I jumped in the last of the lakes, took another S cap, and was ready for the last 3 mile downhill cruise to the finish.
Overall I was super happy with the day. Even with the ups and downs, I was really close to 4:00 hr / 21 mile splits, and in hindsight I ran a pretty smart, consistent race. I ended up in 20th place, which after starting in DFL meant I passed almost 100 other racers. Even at the finish line I didn’t know if I ended up getting the ‘Wet Waldo’ but informed the race officials that I did swim in all 6 required lakes. Later I found out that not only had I won this year’s Wet Waldo, I had the 2nd fastest Wet Waldo time ever.