Saturday, July 7, 2012

There's Something About Mary's Peak...

I don't remember exactly when the seed was planted, but I'm guessing it was on a run with the Corvallis trail runners when I became infatuated with the idea of running multiple loops on Mary's Peak.

It's right in my own backyard

According to Clem LaCava, the loop was designed by Larry Halford in the late 90's to be used in training for 100 milers. It is approximately 14.5 miles and has about 3600 feet of elevation gain. The start is at the North Ridge trailhead at the end of Woods Creek Road. It goes up North Ridge Trail to the bench, turns left onto Tie Trail, goes up East Ridge Trail, turns left up the stairs before the parking lot, crosses the gravel road and completes the Meadowedge Trail loop counterclockwise, takes a sharp right up Summit Trail to the top, then goes down the gravel road, turns right back onto East Ridge Trail, goes back down the same way onto Tie Trail to the bench, and goes back down North Ridge Trail to the bottom.

As the story goes, only a handful of runners have ever completed 3 loops and no one had ever completed 4 loops...though Nate McDowell had started a 4th loop and turned back.

In July of 2009 The Pain Train (on 7/3) and I (on 7/12) both completed a triple Mary. For me, that day and ever since I've thought about doing a quadruple Mary...I've just been looking for the right time to do it.

Father's Day weekend of 2012 turned out to be the right time. The triple Mary in 2009 took just under 10 hours, so I figured the quad Mary could take as long as 14 hours...this was doable with over 15 hours of daylight. I was lucky enough to get to share all this time on the peak with Roger McKay...he was looking to add his name to the short list of triple Mary finishers. Although we weren't planning to run together, we would be passing by each other multiple times and just knowing that someone else was out there putting themselves through it too was comforting. I was planning to start at 6:00 AM, but I was running late. By the time I got there and was ready to go it was 6:30 AM...Roger had already headed up. As I started up my legs felt a little lethargic, like they weren't quite awake yet. I was doing a lot of hiking early, but the pace was looking good...almost too good...with all the hiking it felt easy. I was surprised that my time to the bench was similar to the double Mary I had done 3 weeks to slow myself down. There were still a few trees in particular with no good way around it. On the second loop I started crawling under it. I caught up to Roger going up the East Ridge Trail...he said he started about 15 minutes before me. We talked briefly...I told him I was inspired by the Niagara Falls tightrope walker who had just achieved his dream the night before...others were inspired as well.

Roger one switchback below

Near the top, the East Ridge Trail pops out of the trees and you get an amazing panoramic was an absolutely beautiful day. I could see all the snow-capped mountains in the distance. I made my first summit in about 1:50...not the first one to the top, though...there was already someone up there. I took my picture and headed down. Roger was already on the Meadowedge loop, so I didn't see him again until the second loop.

First summit...

I did run into The Old Gunslinger on my way down. He was just back on track after some bush whacking. By all accounts, he ran a hell of a single Mary that day. Thanks for coming out and supporting us with the Subway sandwiches and half cans of time I'll know it's safe to drink.

Going up

I finished the first loop in 2:55, refueled, and was headed up again at 3:02. I felt good going up on the second loop. My time to the bench was about the same as the first loop and my time to the top was just a couple minutes slower. This time there was quite a crowd at the top.

Second summit...

Coming down on the second loop, I could start to feel the effort. I stopped and took a phone call from Tonya...she was planning to meet up with Roger to run with him for a bit. The plan was to have her park at the top, walk up the gravel road, and wait at the bench near the East Ridge and Meadowedge Trails. Depending on the timing, she'd either see Roger coming up the East Ridge Trail or down the gravel road from the top.

Roger on the Tie Trail

After getting that figured out, I finished the second loop in 6:06, refueled, and was headed up again at 6:14 after talking to The Old Gunslinger who had waited for me at the bottom. Unfortunately I forgot to address some chaffing of the undercarriage.

My pace headed up on the third loop had noticeably degraded. I reached the bench about 5 minutes slower than the first two loops. Then I ran into Roger on the Tie Trail, but not Tonya. Turns out she was running ahead of Roger, got to a junction, and decided she knew which way to go! We figured that she must have gone down the East Ridge Trail toward Connor's Camp...actually, there was no other way for her to go. I could tell Roger felt bad, but he didn't do anything wrong. I was a little worried about Tonya myself...what would she do when she got to Connor's Camp? I made my way down to the junction and yelled her name even though she was probably over halfway down the trail at that point. Turns out there was a mountain biker practically right in front of me that I didn't see...I think I scared him to death. I asked him if he had seen Tonya and in so many words he said he hadn't. This surprised me, although I think he was in serious oxygen debt and may not have remembered seeing her or even understood what I was saying. As it turns out, he had seen her, because Tonya remembered talking to him. When he told me he hadn't seen her I wasn't sure what to do...should I run down to Connor's Camp myself or continue on up to the top? In the end, I believed Tonya had to have gone down that trail and that she would be smart enough to turn around and come back the way she came when she got to Connor's Camp. So I went up and made my third summit in just over 2 hours. I also thought there was a good chance I might run into her on my way down.

Third summit...

I didn't see Tonya on my way down, so I stopped a couple miles from the bottom where I was getting better cell phone reception to try to get ahold of her. Turns out she was safe and sound, already back in Corvallis...whew. She was smart...she got to the end of the trail, waited for Roger, he didn't show up, so she headed back the way she came. I was also a little worried that I hadn't seen Roger coming up on his third loop yet. I started to have visions of him finishing his second loop, getting in his car, and going to look for Tonya. But thankfully right after I got ahold of her I saw him coming up the trail...whew, again. With all the drama settled, I began to really notice the chaffing and it was killing me.

Roger heading up on his third loop

I finished my third loop in 9:41...this was about 14 minutes faster than my triple Mary in 2009. At this point I did think how nice it would be to stop now, but other than the chaffing, there was nothing stopping me from doing a fourth loop. So I lubed up, changed my shorts (as you can see in the fourth summit picture), refueled, and was headed up again at 9:55.

All the uphill on the fourth loop felt time for my fourth summit was 2:15. At the top I sat at the picnic table for a few minutes not really too excited about heading down...I looked at my watch...I had about 1:45 to complete the run in under 14 hours. At that point I was thinking it might be close! Well, I sat too long and was very stiff headed down the gravel road, but I gradually loosened up.

Fourth summit!

I have to admit one thing that drove me on the fourth loop was the possibility of catching up to Roger. Although, by the time I hit the bench and was headed down North Ridge Trail, I wasn't sure if it would happen. But I did end up catching him with a couple miles to go. It was actually right as we hit the downed tree that was easiest to crawl I got a nice picture.

The easiest way was under

I was hurting pretty bad on that last stretch down North Ridge Trail, so I told Roger I was just going to go ahead and get this over with. I finished the four loops in 13:36:24. I was in a world of hurt...the kind of hurt that doesn't go away when you stop running. I climbed into the back of my truck and just laid there until Roger finished. My legs were aching really bad and my stomach was pretty upset...enough so that the thought of trying to eat was repulsive. It was funny...I had all these thoughts in my head of trying to recover properly after this run, but in the end I could barely function.

Official time...13:36:24


Congratulations again to you Roger for finishing a very difficult run that very few have completed and that most are afraid to even try. I hope it gives you the mental edge to run well at the PCT 50 miler and Waldo 100K this summer.

After hanging out for a bit after the run, I suddenly felt the need to get home right away...I needed to see Tonya and the kids before they went to bed. They had tried to meet me at the top of the peak on my fourth loop with a picnic dinner, but unfortunately they were waiting for me in the parking lot, and the loop never goes through the parking lot, so I missed them. I was pretty upset about it and I was feeling really bad about being gone all day. When I got home I was physically and emotionally a wreck...thanks so much guys for letting me do this...I love it and I love you too...I think you understand.

With that said, I have another Mary's Peak run planned this was inspired by the Old Gunslinger. He suggested that I run up and down Mary's Peak Road from the parking lot off of Highway 34. I liked that idea, but felt like running from my house to the top of Mary's Peak and back on the road would be even cooler. We shall see....


Kristin Rosling said...

Incredible! I might need to strive for a Double Mary!

Eric Jensen said...

Kristin... I had a Double Mary, followed by a trio of beers and it was great. On the running down low though, you and I need to plan a date and double the damn thing. Although... from what has been shared around the Togo's water cooler... Two trips is chump change. Just sayin! Word to Roger Rabbit and Badlands Mike. Both you guys are Chuck Norris bad ass, minus the homo, show me the ball sack jeans, tough. Sorry William, Chuckles is a turd burgler... Complete burgler!

Roger "Gimpy" McKay said...

That was an awesome run and I was most appreciative to have you running laps around me, literally. Quadruple in 2013 is a possibility. Can't wait, hope it's a shade faster pace than my triple. Great write up!!! Sorry Tonya, I really did feel bad we got separated, you were definitely hauling down hill. I'll try to keep up next time.