Peterson Ridge Rumble 20: 8th / 2:21 / +1800′

First, a disclaimer: I have a bit of a policy about excessive gastrointestinal detail in race reports, but sometimes that’s just how things go. I’ll be as brief as possible in that unfortunate realm.

Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 was my first ultra back in 2011. As I’m about to graduate (and possibly close out my chapter as an Oregonian), I thought the 20-miler would be a nice race to start off my season with, and a bit more forgiving of the low-volume training necessitated by thesis-writing than the 40.

We caught a ride with Willie and drove over Santiam Pass from Salem area, arriving at Suttle Lake (where Marta had arranged a cabin) around 6. It was a full-on blizzard on the pass, but this let up to gentle snowfall at the lake. Still, perhaps a bit cold for Chacos, but it’s hard not to be aspirational in your dressing when you’re headed to the dry side. The small cabin was wonderfully warm, and there was a big otter (!) rolling around on the dock at sunset. Grilled cheese and fries for dinner, after a similarly lardy lunch. This proved to be a poor choice.

The next morning we left at the civilized hour of 7:45 for the 20 minute drive to Sisters, grabbed some coffee at Sisters Coffee Co., and arrived at the school. Fast-race nerves kicking in, I unsuccessfully spent 20 minutes trying to clear my stomach before doing some strides and lining up for a 9AM start. Following the “gun,” I lead for the first mile or so, feeling a little goofy, but also not wanting to get caught up in the pack. After maybe 10 minutes, the eventual winner Mario Mendoza caught up, and we ran together for a stretch, but I soon realized I wasn’t going to be able to hang on, and he pulled away once we reached the first section of singletrack. It’s a mostly flat, fast course, with steep little rocky climbs and descents punctuating smooth trails looping around the Peterson Ridge area, and as I hit the first of these climbs I realized my stomach was going to be a huge liability. By 30 minutes, I was slowing way down, and in the throws of severe gastrointestinal distress.

I tried to grit it out and run at a reasonable pace, but eventually looked back and saw third place was rapidly closing in, my legs refusing to respond and my morale taking a hit. We ran together for maybe five minutes, and then I had to let him go as well.

Something had to give, and I bolted off the trail to hide behind a rocky buttress and attend to an urgent physiological need that could no longer be ignored. By the time I emerged, places 4 and 5 were running past, and so I fell in with them, feeling much better. We chatted for a bit and then, feeling cocky, I attempted to make a move and put some distance on them. But before the gap stuck, my tempestuous stomach returned with a vengeance, and they leapfrogged back as I bolted for more cover. Whilst indisposed, the first place woman and another male runner shot past, leaving me to my eventual finishing place. I spent the final ~10 miles trying to gain on them and passing assorted 40 mile runners before finally catching sight of them during the final road mile.

400 brutal meters on the track, and it was over. I crossed the line in 2:21:23 and 8th place (of 258 runners). Mario, the winner, finished in about 2:11, but places 2 – 8 were within 4 minutes of each other, in a very fast, competitive race. I will no longer be so complacent about pre-racing meals.

Thanks to Animal Athletics for the support, and Willie, Tim, Marta and Kate for rides, shelter and company.

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