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Pine 2 Palm is about endurance

The Siskiyou Mountain region is a biological hotspot, and if you're willing — and in shape — to run 100 miles this weekend, you can experience it up close and personal.

The "Pine 2 Palm" endurance run begins Saturday morning at 6 o'clock at the Williams Grange and ends at Pioneer Hall in Ashland's Lithia Park. In between these end points are several species found in no other bioregion. The expected 150 competitors will have to see much of it by flashlight, however, as many runners are expected to finish some time between 24 hours and the cutoff time of 34 hours later.

"I wanted people to have access to the remote Siskiyous and all that running a 100-miler through them would encompass. Lots of great views, biodiversity, isolation and solitude, enormous climbs and miles of great single-track," says Hal Koerner, race codirector and owner of the Rogue Valley Runners store in Ashland.

The name "Pine 2 Palm" recalls an era more than a century ago when Ashland's leaders planted palm trees downtown, hoping to market the town as a mineral-spring resort destination.

There are many ways to get from Williams to Ashland, but Koerner and his race codirector, Ian Torrence, chose a route for Southern Oregon's first 100-mile race more than 20,000 feet of climbing — and an equal amount of descents. En route, the course summits Grayback Mountain, Dutchman's Peak and Wagner Butte. On these climbs, even the fittest runners will become walkers.

"The course is a good cross-section: 65 percent road surface, though most is unpaved, and 35 miles of single track ... We put this course together doing fun runs. Recently, we've done log clearing, saw work and brushing to prepare the trails. They just needed a little help," says Torrence, former store manager at Rogue Valley Runners.

Torrence and Koerner are more dialed-in to race details than most runners. Torrence has completed 24 100-milers, Koerner has completed 20 century runs.

"What's most important is runner safety and not getting lost. We want to get all the runners from point A to point B safely and happy," Torrence adds.

Many course markings will placed on the route to prevent runners from getting lost, an all-too-common occurrence, especially at night. Ham radio operators will transmit splits at several of the 20 aid stations along the route, and stand ready to report medical information should that be an issue.

To ensure runner health and safety, Koerner and Torrence have enlisted the support of Ashland chiropractor Kelly Lange as race medical director.

"Anyone who's ever had anything to do with a hundred-miler knows you have to expect anything," says Lange, whose patients include several 100-mile finishers.

"The things that come up in a hundred-miler usually have to do with the stomach and the feet."

Lange expects that her volunteer medical staff — spread across several aid stations — will spend significant time treating blisters, helping runners keep food down and preventing dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

As a safeguard, all runners will wear a bracelet on which their pre-race weight, blood pressure and pulse will be inscribed. At two aid stations and at the finish, runners will be weighed to help prevent dehydration and hyponatremia, a condition where water is retained because of electrolyte imbalance.

"In an ultramarathon, you don't finish on the energy and fluids you start with, so then it becomes not just a challenge of what your heart and lungs and muscles can do, but what your intestinal tract can do," says Neil Olsen of Central Point, one of the pre-race favorites.

Olsen has a won several ultramarathons, but his career as a family-practice doctor gives him a unique knowledge of race physiology.

"People who go these long distances are, by their nature, able to suppress the signal that the body's sending them to stop. So they're fighting the signal to quit with the internal drive to keep going," says Olsen. "An animal would stop."

For more information, visit www.roguevalleyrunners.com/P2P100/raceinfo.html

Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at dnewberry@jeffnet.org.