Gorge Waterfalls 100km Recap by Lisa Large

A change up for my blog – A guest post by Lisa Large.

A few years ago I met Lisa at the Western Speedway GutBuster when she came up to me and told me that she followed my blog. I felt like a famous person at that time because I had never had someone tell me that before. That was the start of our friendship.

Lisa spends a lot of time on the trails with her family and friends. She is willing to run with anyone who wants to go. She has shown me a few new trails and I look forward to exploring more with her. I have never run anything near 100km or have an interest in doing so. I do though think it is amazing, with a bit of crazy mixed in, for those who are willing to take it on. I thought it might be nice for some of Lisa’s friends and my readers to hear about her race so I asked her to share. 

One year ago I started running ultras. My first was a race by Rainshadow Running called the Orcas 50km. Rainshadow is known for tough courses and Orcas 50km is one of the toughest, which is why I chose it. The idea of picking the easiest courses to get the fastest possible time holds no appeal for me. I want to be transformed by the process…humbled. Orcas 50km provided both.

The next logical step in the ultra world is to do a 50 miler (80km), but somehow I missed the logic and signed up for the Gorge Waterfalls 100km. This race runs along the Columbia Gorge in Oregon. It has about 12,000 ft of elevation gain, gorgeous waterfalls and a high do not finish (DNF) rate. It hit all of my criteria.

On April 2nd I toed the line with 340 racers, 219 finished. Here’s how it went down.

Start time was at 6am. We stood in the dark with our headlamps illuminating the clouds of pollen being gently blown from the maple trees. I found my friend Randy, a veteran 100 miler, and hoped to stick with him as long as possible. There was a brief countdown and we were off. A mass of little bobbing lights winding our way up the first climb of many. I tried to make note of the terrain as I knew we would be coming back this way and likely in the dark and tired.

The sun came up and there were plenty of people to chit chat with as we continued to climb. The trail community is a close-knit family and it was fun to see familiar faces and share encouraging words with each other as we passed. Randy and I passed quickly through the first aid station. We stopped for a pee break a little after that and another woman ducked into the bushes beside me and said she had to go too. I desperately wanted her to not be there as I was dealing with some very unsatisfactory gut problems. This had NEVER happened to me in a race. I was completely unprepared. I was basically carrying a full pharmacy in my hydration pack but have never needed anything more than Tums to help a nervous tummy. This was way beyond the scope of Tums.

I managed to hold it between aid stations where thankfully there were porta potties. I was so embarrassed I didn’t even say anything to my crew until the halfway point. I was pretty sure at the 50km mark that I was going to have to drop out. Lucky for me, my crew included my friend Erin who is a nurse and also no stranger to running with gastrointestinal distress.

Geoff, Erin and Laurie...Part of Lisa's crew.
Geoff, Erin and Laurie…Part of Lisa’s crew.

She said she thought she had some Imodium in the truck and I told her to bring it to the next aid station. I was afraid if I stood there any longer I wouldn’t continue. The next aid station was at 65km. I needed a distraction so I made Randy retell every detail of every 100-mile race he had done. It worked and soon we were flying into Cascade Locks aid station. Geoff pulled my pack off to refill it. I asked for the Imodium and clean shorts and headed for the potty. The new shorts were heaven to put on.

Lisa heading through Cascade Locks.
Lisa heading through Cascade Locks.

My sister was also on my crew and she piled food into my mouth while Geoff massaged my hip, it was quite a production. Their cheerfulness and efficiency fired me up to keep going.

Geoff giving Lisa a hip massage.
Geoff giving Lisa a hip massage.

The Imodium kicked in and I practically danced all the way to the next aid station at Yeon. Lori, Erin, and Geoff greeted us there and it was the last time we would see them until the end. We had a particularly nasty 4km road section that is false flat after Yeon. It was hot and there was a headwind, I was pretty happy when we got off the road and headed back up into the trail. We had done 80km at this point so I was pretty happy as my previous longest run had been 50km.

The sun started to set and I felt tired. I could feel my eyes closing briefly but just kept my eyes fixed on Randy and my new friend Lourdes. She is a climbing fiend and she quickly disappeared ahead. Soon we were at the last aid station and I picked up my poles and headlamps for the final climb. We headed up, and up and then up. The sun set and our headlamps lit up the trail. It was completely dark by the time we started our descent. There were many switchbacks and it was pretty rocky, I fell twice on my butt. I could see Randy’s headlamp on the switchback below me and hustled to get up. I did not want to be out there alone.

We passed Lourdes on the way down and as we reached the bottom of the descent a volunteer told us we had 1 mile to the finish. I remarked to Randy that I was kind of sad that it was over. He just shook his head at me and said “What?!” We headed for the finish and came in to see Paula, Lori, Erin and Geoff waiting for us.

Randy and Lisa half way done the race.
Randy and Lisa half way through the race.

15 hours and 25 minutes of time on the trail. Transforming and humbling.

Now to find a 100 miler.

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