I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico when I learned I’d made the lottery for Waldo 100k.
It was real. I was actually doing this.
Since that time, this race was constantly on my mind. I spent sleepless nights contemplating nutrition and wondering wtf one packs in a drop bag.
Not until 3 weeks before race day did I even fully believe I had what it took to finish.
But on August 19, 2017, I totally wowed the pants off myself.
Overall impression- I cannot wait to go back and do it again.
I’m happy to say I had a really great race and finished in 14 hours, 32 minutes, and 40 seconds. No injuries and no breakdowns (unless you count the doubled-over mess of tears and heavy sobs I became at the finish line.)
The weather was beautiful, but nearby wildfires made it so smokey that Waldo Lake couldn’t be seen from Fuji or Maiden peaks. In fact, the smoke got so heavy throughout the afternoon that I couldn’t see anything but gray by the time I summited Maiden.
Or maybe that was just my tired eyes? I’m pretty sure there was a penguin up there, too. And a wedding cake, maybe?
On the plus side, it wasn’t super hot.
Waldo was my first 100k and 7th ultra but instantly became my favorite race.
The 62.5 miles of soft single track takes you up mountains, through grassy meadows, and past gorgeous blue lakes. The whole experience just blew my mind.
What follows is a recap of the highs and lows I passed through during the longest run of my life (so far) set to the lyrics of one of the songs that got stuck in my head that day, Ship in a Bottle by The Bouncing Souls.
(thank god it wasn’t a children’s song this time.)
Oh my good friend, let’s start something, then throw it all out to the wind. How many mountains will we conquer? We’ll never know til we begin. Oh, begin
100k is about 62 miles. My previous distance record was about 48 miles.
So, basically, I ran as far as I ever have and then added a half-marathon to it.
But it wasn’t the miles that freaked me out. In fact, that was pretty exciting.
I was nervous about the 11,000+ feet of climbing, the stories of illness and injuries I heard from past runners, and the fact that the first few sentences on the Waldo 100k website describe how FREAKING HARD it is.
Still, miles and mountains are surmountable. The real terror came from the risk I took the moment I decided to take myself seriously as an ultrarunner.
I entered the lottery for Waldo 100k because I wasn’t sure I could do it. But, I also thought… maybe I could?
One fleeting moment of courage was all it took.
Oh my teacher, what should I believe in and how will I stay strong? How many misfortunes will we conquer, how will I carry on? Oh, carry on
It was… a lot.
But I felt savage AF afterward and that long training run offered much better views from the peaks than on race day.
Most of all, though, it was Jenn telling me that I could definitely finish the race in under 16 hours that made me feel good about it. She is a pro, after all, so I listen to her even though it seems crazy sometimes.
Quick side note- I really wish that I had listened to her more closely during my recovery. Since I finished Waldo feeling relatively solid, it’s been tough for me to allow my body to recover properly at the cellular level. I’ve been asking too much of my body and am just now feeling the repercussions of that exertion.
Lesson learned- if you’re going to pay for expert guidance, fucking heed that shit.
I was deeply honored to have Tina Ure of 3 Peaks fame offer to pace me a few days before the race.
Tina’s run Waldo multiple times, including back when it was a relay race. She boosted my confidence by agreeing that I would have no problem finishing the 100k in under 16 hours.
I felt good.
16 hours is a key number here because you have to finish the race by 9 p.m. (16 hours after the 5 a.m. regular start time) to get this sweet trucker hat. There’s also an early start option at 3 a.m., but I was just not feeling that.
That’s right- I trained for months to run 14 and a half hours for a hat.
Oh my captain where are we going? How many battles will we win?
How many brave souls will we lose to the deepest blue? Will we see our home again? Oh, home again
I met up with Tina and two other local ultrarunners, Clyde and Steve, (both of whom have braved Waldo multiple times) to camp out at Willamette Pass the night before the race. The weather was perfect and I knew I was going to kick ass.
That night, I kind of slept in the back of my car with the hatch open and my feet hanging out.
Somewhere in my dips in and out of consciousness, I dreamed of the Waldo awards ceremony, in which race co-director James Varner won ALL THE PATAGONIA PUFFIES and I was like, “WTF!”
Before joining the other 5 a.m. runners at the start, I totally locked my keys in my car to guarantee utter chaos after I was finished.
HUGE SHOUT OUT TO BLU-LINE TOWING in LA PINE, Y’ALL!
Immediately after the start, Waldo heads up a ski run. It’s runnable if you’re fit, but I chose to power hike it and didn’t start running until almost half an hour into the race.
Tina (repeatedly) warned me not to go out too hard. I definitely didn’t.
Very soon after I started running, I realized my headlamp battery was dying and the light was starting to dim.
Same thing happened during 3 Peaks.
Trail name: Notsobright?
Fortunately, this time I was running right into the sunrise :)
As I headed up Fuji, the first peak, I was met by a steady stream of runners already descending. I could tell I was at the back of the pack because only a small handful of runners were behind me after I turned around at the summit.
Here’s another Fuji photo from my training run. Tina took my phone at the Waldo start to save me some weight and the temptation of pausing for selfies.
After getting past the technical part of the descent, I decided I was not cool with staying in the rear.
The trail was luscious and soft, so I picked up the pace.
From that point on, I did nothing but pass people for the rest of the race, making my way from 101 at the first aid station to 50th place at the finish.
By the time I picked up Tina at Charlton Lake, mile 32, I was feeling strong and fucking unstoppable.
I was fucking unstoppable at every aid station, actually. Tina observed how quickly I passed through most of them. I even rushed her out of the AS before Maiden summit, backpedaling up the trail while shouting for my pacer to catch up.
My approach was to move as quickly as I could while I could still move. I anticipated reaching a point where I would not want to run anymore and wanted to get the most miles out of the energy I still had.
I’m not sure this was the right thing to do.
I tend to get confused and disoriented at aid stations, especially when volunteers approach me and start asking questions. I can easily get distracted and forget what I wanted in the first place.
For example, I really wanted to change my socks at Charlton Lake. I even said it out loud many times, but I was distracted by the volunteer who brought me a chair while I was rooting through my drop bag, settled into a deep squat.
“NO CHAIR!” was all I could say.
I never sat down once during the entire race. Maybe that was also a mistake?
I don’t know. I was afraid I wouldn’t get up again.
But I also never changed my socks and therefore got a blister on the toe where I had felt some sand rubbing so I suppose that’s what I get for having strong reactions to single-seat furniture.
Despite having minimal expectations for this race, I found myself setting time goals on my way up Fuji, early in the race. I decided that 14:30 was an achievable time I’d be really stoked about.
For some reason, the number 13 popped into my head, too. If I had known how far back I was at that point, I would have never thought I could possibly finish 13th female. Don’t ask me where the number even came from, I just went with it.
This is the second race in which the time I’ve focused on while running was the time I finished in, only encouraging the stubborn belief that I can do anything I set my mind to.
With every peak and valley, with every white knuckled fist, with everything I’ve lost and learned, I won’t let go of this grip.
Waldo gave me a 2-minute penalty for letting my inner Whineheimer out after coming off Maiden.
Maiden was the biggest, steepest climb of the race. We hit the summit at mile 52 and then had to go down this gnarly Leap of Faith trail that I’m convinced was designed to destroy people (at least their quads).
After Maiden, it was smooth sailing. And it sucked.
Go figure- the easiest, most gentle section of the race was where I decided I’d had enough. My state of mind took a sudden plunge.
I was walking.
I stopped eating because my stomach felt like it was about to explode in either direction. This was okay because I fueled so much early in the race. I had made a batch of energy balls using No Meat Athlete’s ultimate energy bar formula. They were full of slow-digesting things like fat and protein that gave me energy later.
After the first 35 miles, I couldn’t handle sweet things anymore. This may or may not have been related to the bottle of Hammer Perpetuem that exploded all over my upper body, face, glasses, and in my eyes, leaving me coated in sticky orange-vanilla liquid for at least 5 miles.
I LOVE AID STATIONS STOCKED WITH POWER-SPRAYERS!
I tried hard not to think of my stomach at all and instead focus on the only thing that mattered- finishing that race.
Around Maiden, another badass woman named Megan Bruce joined me and Tina and stayed with us all the way to the finish.
With every storm we weather, I would never miss. I won’t give up, I won’t let go, I’m going down with the ship
Huuuuuuuuuge thanks to Megan and Tina for getting me through that last section. As I was trudging along, they both kept trying to get me to pick up my pace.
But I was sunk. I kept telling myself I didn’t care about my finishing time anymore. I didn’t care about the amazing views of Rosary Lakes.
I didn’t care about Waldo.
All I wanted was to drink something that didn’t taste like plastic. I wanted that so badly I almost cried when a volunteer offered to fill my plastic soft bottle.
It was ridiculous.
Anyway, I eventually snapped out of it and called myself out on the baloney.
You don’t care? Is that true, Lauren?
Did you devote the last three months of your life to training for this race? Those 4:30 a.m. alarms. The grueling workouts. The financial investment. Because… you_don’t_care?
“No,” I said out loud. “Fuck that and fuck walking.”
I don’t think anyone heard me talking to myself, but Tina and Megan got rrrrrreally stoked when I started jogging again.
And that’s how the easiest section of the course became the most difficult part of my race.
It really is a head game.
My vision is terrible and my glasses were filthy, but as we approached the finish line I was able to make out the numbers on the clock. Once it registered that I was about to achieve the time goal I had randomly picked for myself 50 miles prior, I fucking lost it.
I ran across the finish, doubled over, and immediately started bawling my eyes out while shuffling through a sea of high-fives.
Let me tell you, I’ve never had so many people stoked to see me cry.
Tina cried, too. Somewhere, somehow, I lost Megan. Although I must say, I didn’t wander too far from the beer and pizza.
But she was amazing and I loved running with her.
Tina was incredible for the entire second half of the race. During the 7.5 hours we spent running together, I learned that pacing me at Waldo was Tina’s 100th ultra!
I just want to state one more time how truly honored I am to have shared that experience.
Extra thanks to Tina for going way above and beyond her pacer duties after the race, when I finally realized that I’d locked my keys in my car that morning.
And obviously, major thanks to Joe (I think his name was Joe) from Blu-line towing for coming to my rescue in such a timely manner during the eclipse craze. You are my hero.
Freelance writer. Trail runner. Relentless savage.