Monday, August 25, 2008

First, one can't ever do an event like this without alot of help. I would like to thank my crew extrodinaire Harvey Hall who kept me fueled and on track, John Pearch for his help and enthusiasm on the course, James and Alison for your support and aid station,Kris for training with me, and Glen for running with me through the night section.

Cascade Crest is ranked as one of the harder 100 milers with 20,000 ft of climb and every type of running surface you can imagine including a 2 mile tunnel. As it was my first 100 miler, the goal was to finish under the 32 hour time limit and to have fun.

Kris and I showed up at 7:30 for the breakfast before the 10:00 start. It was hard to hold back on all the great food, but I had a blueberry pancake and a spot of scrambled eggs. After getting organized with Harvey, the pre-race meeting and the traditional singing of the national athem, it was time for the start. John led us out on a mountain bike and I settled in to a comfortable pace. My plan was to start slow, take the first long climb easy and drink a lot. The Goat Peak climb was long but the view was worth it. By the time I reached Tacoma Pass at mile 23, I was running with Glen and Kris had just caught us.

It was here I made my first mistake, Anna Bates suggested I split a bologna and avocado sandwich with Kris. I probably haven't eaten bologna for 30 years and it hit my stomach like a rock. Shortly after the aid station I wasn't feeling too good and Kris took off. I now just stuck to gels and no solid food except for an occasional fruit. Stampede Pass at mile 33 and now an hour behind Kris, I grabbed my pack and light and Glen and I slogged through a tough section of the PCT trail and the dark until we finally reached Olallie Meadows at mile47. We left the aid station ready to take on the ropes section but after running for about 10 minutes, Glen discovered that he had left without his water bottles! He was going to go back when I offered him one of mine since this was a short section and we could get by with one bottle and we would sort this all out at the next aid station. Then we ran into John, he was heading back after checking the marking at the rope section and he offered to grab Glen's water bottles and meet us at the next aid station at Hyak. The rope section was fun except that I wear my light on my waist so if I rappelled, my light went out, so I did most of it facing down. Then we entered the two mile tunnel. I was still wearing a short sleeve shirt and the tunnel was cold so I picked up the pace to stay warm and then it got a little scary so I picked up the pace more and hauled out of there, passing everyone in the tunnel! I was feeling great so I continued the pace for the next mile to the Hyak aid station at mile 53, met Harvey and John and sat down and had pizza and chicken soup.

Glen and I had a good 7 mile hike up to Kachess ridge on the road and a comfortable 7 mile back down to Kachess Lake aid station at mile 68. I was excited for the grilled cheese sandwich and to start the infamous "Trail from Hell" section which is only five miles along the lake but with lots of little ups and downs and logs to crawl over. What I didn't expect was the horrible bushwack trail that we had to crawl through brush and over downed trees just to get to the trail head. Glen lead the way as we agreed to take it slow and worked our way methodically towards Mineral Creek and daylight.

I was planning on changing my shoes after fording the calf deep creek, but when we got there, there was a log bridge and we entered the aid station at mile 73 with dry feet. My feet felt great but I decided to change my shoes anyway, I checked and no blisters or hot spots and it felt good to have new socks on. I was feeling strong and needed to meet Harvey up the gravel climb 2 miles to change back into short sleeves and ditch my light so I started powering up the road while Glen who was feeling low on energy lagged behind. After meeting Harvey for the last time till mile 95, I was ready to race. Glen was still lagging behind so I decided it was time for me to go and finish this thing. I was also super excited to see James and Alison at the next aid station so I powered up the gravel road for the next 5 miles passing everyone I saw. James grilled up a most excellent ham and cheese sandwich for me at No Name Ridge mile 80 and I left the aid station ready to attack the Cardiac Needles with 4 hard climbs in the next 9 miles. I had thought I would be walking this whole section, but here I was, full of energy, running this section like our training run. It was great fun, still passing runners, had a great up and back on Thorp Mt at mile 84, saw Glen who took this great picture.

I suddenly realized that I could have a great finish time, possibly in the 28 hr range if I kept the gas on. Right after the French Cabin aid station at mile 88 is the last steep climb and right at the top were two mountain bikers getting ready to head down. The first couple of miles are technical downhill so we kept passing each other to their amazement until the trail flattened out and they were gone. The next couple of miles were flat and runable but I was starting to slow and feel like the party was over. I was hoping to get to the Silver Creek aid station before 2:00 to give me time to finish before 3, but it wasn't looking good. I struggled through the trail reroute around the big avalanche as my legs started to stiffen up so I knew I needed more electrolytes, so after popping a couple of e-caps, I started to loosen up just as a runner and her pacer were catching up to me. It was game on again as I charged down the steep downhill to Silver Creek aid station at mile 95. I bombed into the aid station an hour before I told Harvey I would be there. I was afraid he wouldn't be there, but there he was, ready to get me going. I dropped my pack, grabbed a water bottle and took off at 2:10. Five miles in less than 50 minutes was a definite possibility. I followed a kid down the dirt road, running as hard as I could. After about a mile, the kid pointed to a red flag on a dirt road to the left and I followed him down the road for a couple tenths of a mile when I noticed there were no shoe tracks in the dirt and I hadn't seen anymore flagging. I yelled at the kid and we turned around and ran back to the turn and sure nough, there were more flags straight ahead. I was so pissed and disappointed, I stopped and drank some water knowing I had blown my chance for a sub 29 hr finish. I started up again and Harvey drove by encouraging me and I slowly got back up to speed once I hit the pavement with about 3 miles to go. It felt like the end of a successful marathon, I was chugging along the pavement at a good clip but after crossing the freeway overpass, it looked like I had 14 minutes to cover 2 miles, not good. But as I popped up to the final section along the tracks, I could see the finish and I had 8 minutes to go. I put my head down and started to sprint because you never know how far your watch is off the official clock. As I rounded the last turn, I saw the clock at 28.55 and blasted across the finish line in pure joy!

This was by far my hardest and best ultra yet. I had no idea I would feel so good the second half. Next year I'm doing Waldo, but I'll be doing another hundred for sure!