Honestly I'm not exactly sure where to start. This was a burly race. 100 miles on it's own seems a daunting enough task, but throw in mountains, a little heat, some crazy dude shooting his firearm 50 yards off the PCT and sleep deprivation and you end up with something that is a little less of a run and a little more epic. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot. There were probably instantaneous moments where I hated it and there were definitely other points where I wanted to quit. My sub 24 hour goal will have to wait for another day as I missed it by a significant amount, finishing 40th out of 90 some odd finishers and 140 starters in 27:19:41.
Twenty Seven Hours, Nineteen Minutes and Forty-one seconds. Maybe that should have been the title of this post...
My training up to the race went well. Four weeks prior I PR'ed at the White River 50 Mile out near Mt. Rainier. A week after that I ran 62 miles of the cascade crest 100 course split across two days in near 100 degree heat. At that point I felt like somebody had shoved me in an industrial strength drier and set the timer to infinity. I was hot, beat up, tired and just wanted to rest. So rest I did....at least for a few days. Then I felt like I wanted to get out into the mountains again. For some reason I also felt like I needed to do more heat training. (Apparently the weekend double fried my brain) Work also decided to send me to boulder at the worst possible time...a week and a half before my big race. In any event...I still took it a little easy, but not in terms of elevation gain. I had planned on doing some very limited hill running in the two weeks prior to cascade. Instead I ran up granite mountain with Josh, took part in a group run in Boulder, ran solo up green mountain and did a little urban peak bagging back in Seattle for a weekly elevation total of around 10K. I'm still not sure if that helped or hurt my performance at Cascade Crest...but I don't really care. It was fun.
Fast forward to the day before the race. I was surrounded by about 8,000 calories of sugar in the forms of Gu, Cliff Shots, Shot Blocks, Honey Stingers, and other forms of Maltodextrin. The child in me thought the 24 hours of gorging myself on nothing but sugar would be great...but the adult just wanted some whole grain un-frosted mini-wheats. Packing ensued, a pre-race dinner of taco time (Probably a mistake) was had, and my wife and crew unpacked camp and settled in for the evening up at Lake Easton state park. I didn't sleep all that well. Nerves coupled with the constant drone of semis on I90 had me awake well into the night. Pippa also got a little cold so Brandi and I took turns letting her sleep with us in our sleeping bags. That dog is a little ball of heat. It felt like I was being cuddled to death by a bundle of firewood.
A fellow runner that I met up during my Alaska Running Vacation was also set to run the CCC. He and his family actually shared a camp site with us the night before and we chatted about what we thought of the upcoming endeavor along with a handful of other non running things. One could call this the calm before the storm I suppose...if you could go so far as to describe a 12 minute mile as a "Storm".
|T Minus 5 Minutes|
Most of the early parts of the race went by without too much of a hitch. I moved forward at a consistent clip, hiking most of the steeper hill sections, breaking into a jog on some of the more gradual grades and flats and took the downhills at a conservative run. I could tell during that first big climb and descent that this wasn't going to be my best day. My legs didn't have much pop and surprisingly the downhills didn't feel all that great. I say that surprised me because I consider myself a halfway decent downhill runner. Not super fast by any means but I can usually move at a nice clip without feeling any discomfort or fatigue. Not so on this day, which got in my head a bit as I kept focusing on how much further I had to go. This was not a good state to be in...100 miles is a long way and I needed to concentrate on getting to the next aid station. Lesson learned I suppose.
|Still feeling decent at Tacoma Pass|
|Already tired at Stampede|
|Pippa was trying to get me to keep going|
The section of the course that follows Stampede pass is gorgeous. I had ran it a few weeks prior and was really looking forward to traveling over it again during the race. You start by meandering your way up through a pretty dense forest, but eventually pop up into a more open area that grants some pretty awesome views into a lake basin. At this point you descend to the basin and then work your way up to Mirror Lake. I was doing okay through all of this, but was still rapidly alternating between wanting to quit and wanting to push on. I was still focused on the enormity of what was to come. To feel bad at mile 35 of a 100 mile race is a pretty daunting thing. Couple that with the fact that I hadn't really seen anybody in an hour and some crazy dude was firing off rounds 50 yards off the trail and you can perhaps see why I wasn't in the greatest state of mind. The sun started to set so I dug through my hydration pack and found my Petzl Nao headlamp. This thing worked like a champ, lighting up the trail like it was midday. (If midday looked like light thrown by some powerful LED's) I finally ran into another runner...or rather they ran into me, coming up and passing me as I relieved myself on the side of the trail. He asked me how I was doing and I explained that I was not doing well and was thinking of dropping. He gave me a pretty nice pep talk and told me to try to keep up with him, to hop on the train so to speak and see if I could perk myself up by running with a fellow racer. I tried, but he was moving better than I was at that point so I resigned myself to falling off the back and slowly made myself through the Meadow Mountain aid to the Ollalie meadows station. Thankfully it was here that my spirits started to perk up.
I think I owe a big part of my finish to Scott McCoubrey's aid station. This was the first station where the volunteers really seemed like they knew what was going on in the racers minds. I was encouraged to sit, eat some awesome peirogi's and was able to vent a little bit about how my body didn't seem to be behaving. The food was great and the conversation helped focus me on the task at hand, get to Hyak and worry about the rest of the race once I got there.
Revitalized and reinvigorated I cranked my headlamp to high and bounded down the rocky trail to the Snoqualmie tunnel. I passed a lot of people on this section as most of the racers seemed to be cautiously picking their way down the technical trail. I just trusted in my Mountain Masochists and bombed down, tracking down the reflective strips of light that appeared down the trail whenever I saw another runner. Eventually I reached the rope section that leads down to the Snoqualmie Tunnel. This was a fun section, but there was a bit of a traffic jam as it requires some careful navigation down a steep (probably 40+ degree) slope. I wish I had gotten onto the front of our train as I'm pretty sure I could've descended a good 2-3 minutes faster.
|Fueling up at Hyak - Photo by Joram Cosning|
Josh hopped in and paced me for the 15 miles between Hyak and Lake Kachess. Along the way we climbed to Kechelus ridge, descended to the lake and had a pretty good time doing it. Josh pushed me to run when it made sense (on the flats and downhills) and even managed to get me to run some of the short gradual uphills. We even managed to pass a few people on the long up and long down. Though not the most interesting section in terms of terrain as we were on fire roads pretty much the entire time, the moon was out and the stars were bright. At one point we turned off our headlamps and were shocked at the fact that we were immediately plunged into darkness. The stars immediately leaped out as our view of the road receded. We couldn't keep the lamps off for long, as navigation on the road was impossible without them, but it definitely put things in perspective. Almost 60 miles into a race I was able to forget about how tired I was because I was pretty much right where I wanted to be. Out in a semi-remote area of the wilderness with a running buddy helping me a long, taking in the sites while slowly marching towards the end game.
We actually popped out of the fire road and ran into the Lake Kachess aid station quite unexpectedly. I was anticipating arriving at 2:30 AM and instead we popped in around 2:00. Danny, my second pacer, had not yet awakened from his catnap. I rudely called him on my phone and woke him up and told him it was time to pace and then sat down and ate a bowl of ramen noodles. Danny showed up jokingly mentioning how it was rude to call a guy up at 2:00 in the morning to go for a run. Well that is what we did...taking off for what would be an exceptionally slow 6 miles to the Mineral Creek aid station.
Trail from Hell
Yeah...this next section was actually called the Trail from Hell. I had navigated it during the daylight on a training run and noted that even with the sun out it took us around an hour and twenty minutes to navigate the 4-5 mile section of the trail. (There is a 1 mile section prior to the official trail from hell that is a bit of a bushwhack...so in some ways it's worse) I figured if we got through it in two hours we would be flying. I won't do a play by play on this but suffice it to say I had some more low points though Danny managed to keep me from flying off the handle. We also ran into a pacer who was watching over his runner while she caught a nap on the side of the trail under a space blanket. After what was an eternity we got to the mineral creek crossing, rock hopped our was across and I sat down at the aid in good spirits but secretly dreading what was to come...a 7 mile climb up to no name ridge followed by the nasty cardiac needles.
|Climbing up Thorp - Photo Glen Tachiyama|
|Photo by Glen Tachiyama|
|Descending Thorp - Photo by Glen Tachiyama|
I really wish I had been able to run this section at a decent clip. Prior to the race I had visualized completing the last 13 miles in somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. Unfortunately it ended up taking me somewhere between 3 and 4 hours to finish. The uphills were abysmally slow, the flats weren't much better, and the downhills hurt. I did run...slowly...during sections though Danny my pacer probably has a better idea of how slowly we were moving over this last section. That being said, I did enjoy it. Getting to the top of the last needle, which in this case was the saddle after the french cabin on the Kachess ridge trail was awesome. Even the downhill into the Cabin was nice, especially since we could see the aid station from about a mile out and could track our progress. Another cup of coffee at the cabin, a climb up the saddle, a momentary lapse of reason up top where I didn't think i could finish it out and an excruciatingly awesome downhill on the Kachess ridge trail and we rolled into the silver creek aid station.
|Holy Crap it's the finish line|
|Is it over?|
|Happy Pippa...and look at that belt buckle!|
|Much needed Soak|
I think there were quite a few lessons learned in this endeavor that I will be sure to apply to my next 100 mile adventure. So in true interwebs fashion I've created this handy dandy list...because there just aren't enough lists out there.
- Run the race that you are capable of on that day. I went out a little too fast thinking that my body would start behaving later on in the race. That was dumb.
- If your stomach is okay keep forcing yourself to eat. I became apathetic towards eating later in the race. My stomach was fine...I was just sick of eating. I didn't think it was possible...but apparently 6,000 calories of Maltodextrin, Potato Chips, Fruit, GuBrew, Quesadillas, Pierogis, Coffee and various other foods can make you a little sick of eating.
- Ratchet back on the training a bit in the week or two prior to the race. I had a bit too much fun the weeks prior.
- Hike more during training. I just couldn't hike as fast as a lot of the other folks out there. I'm pretty sure I could shave a couple hours on my time by just becoming a bit better at efficiently moving up mountains.
- Don't underestimate how much is left in the tank late in the race. I was pretty paranoid that I would blow up before I reached the finish...and as such I think I held back a little to much. Towards the end I should have just let it rip...especially in the last 13 miles. Mentally I just wasn't there this time...next time though I think I'll be able to push it a lot harder.
- Last but not least...keep a hold of a positive attitude. My low points coincided with a slow decline in my mental state. By that I mean that my mood took a nose dive before my body did. I think I can manage these lows a lot better in the future.
A big thanks again to everybody that helped get me to the finish. My friends that helped crew and pace and my wife for not only helping while out on the course, but also encouraging me at home during the last 8 months of training. (First for the 50k season, then Miwok, and then this) I'm already looking forward to next years Hundred mile adventure! Now it's time to go for a run.
|People eat and drink a lot over 100 miles|
|Pippa and a new friend|
|My B taking pictures of Bee's|
|This picture does not do the sunrise justice|