Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bear 100 - Crew Report

Shake n Bake!

The crew of every ultra runner needs an anthem. A rallying cry if you will. Words that have special insider meaning creating a camaraderie and bond that bring out the best performance in all.

For Darcie Gorman and crew at the Bear 100 – it was Shake n Bake!

But first some background. Several months ago I was invited by Darcie to help crew her on her first 100-mile attempt. “How lucky am I?” I thought, at the prospect of being a part of someone’s first 100. For those who have a run a 100 miler, there is always something magical, even mythical about the first time you go the distance. To be both a participant and voyeur in Darcie’s adventure, well let’s just say my answer to her invite was “count me in!”

Darcie is an Alabama girl, and as we planned for how we would best support her, it seemed fitting that our Team Gorman crewing efforts take on a NASCAR theme. Somewhere in the planning, perhaps influenced by testing a variety of energy based barley drinks, Team Gorman fell under the influence of one of our century’s greatest cinemagraphic accomplishments, Talladega Nights. Team Gorman soon consisted of our featured runner Darcie, crewed by Bobby Troy (her husband Troy) and Ricky Jay (myself), and paced the last 50 miles by Jeffry Buechler.

This crew report starts at Temple Fork Aid Station (mile 45) where Bobby Troy and I first caught up with Darcie. Darcie came into Temple Fork well ahead of our projected time. It was immediately clear that she had perhaps gone out a bit too fast, and had not been drinking adequately. We immediately determined that the focus of the next leg would be hydration and nutrition. While I was not planning on running with her, I thought it would be fun to run this leg and play the role of hydration taskmaster. The mostly uphill, 6.5 miles to Tony Grove flew by quickly as we chatted, drank and yes, finally peed!

At Tony Grove (mile 52), Jeffry assumed his pacing duties. Jeffry is one of those rare individuals who constitute the ideal pacer. An accomplished ultra-runner who with empathy and humility transfers his experience into foresight, prescriptive actions and encouragement. He flew out from Colorado at Darcie’s request to help her through the night. Wishing Darcie and Jeffry well, Bobby Troy and I raced off to Franklin Basin Aid Station (mile 61.5) to get ready to transition Darcie into night mode.

At Franklin Basin I witnessed a most inspirational nutritional experience. I was able to watch Dan Barnett consume almost 1000 calories in a single aid station stop. Simply amazing!! Pumpkin pie. Two cups of soup. Rice Crispy Treat. A Frapacino. And more… I have to believe Dan’s talent for putting down the calories contributed to his phenomenal sub 24-hour finish.

After being mentally fueled by watching Dan pack calories, I ran up the trail to watch runners come into the station. At about a mile out I was fortunate to run into Brian Kamm who let me run with him into to the Aid Station. I helped Brian get through the station and ran back out to meet Darcie. She looked great and was pleased to report that she had peed twice. Nice!

Next stop was Logan River Aid Station (69.5 miles). I’ve never experienced an aid station that had quite the energy as Logan River. It was a group of people from an LDS Ward and they were having fun! Singing songs written about the Bear 100. Serving Dutch oven rolls. And insisting that crew partake in some nourishment and fun. After scarfing a hot roll I ran up the trail to meet Brian. I had so enjoyed the run into the last aid station with him that I was hoping I could do it again. About a mile up the trail I met Brian and we ran into the aid station together. He looked strong and in good spirits. Another hot roll and I was out again, this time to meet Darcie. I met Darcie and Jeffry about a mile and half out. She was moving slowly on the downhill and indicated that her quads were a bit fried. I shared some encouraging words (Shake n Bake!), got instructions for what she wanted at the aid station and ran ahead, secretly concerned that the wheels might be starting to come off for her.

Bobby Troy and I got her turned, equipped her with the trekking poles she requested, and bid her and Jeffry off on the next leg. At Beaver Lodge Aid Station (76 miles) I thought it might be time for a little pick-me-upper, so I donned my Ricky Bobby costume and headed back out to meet Darcie and Jeffry. I think they enjoyed the diversion. Many thanks to the gentleman manning the radio at Beaver Lodge who had recently had rotator cuff surgery and had all sorts of useful tips and encouragement to aid in recovery.

Darcie was now pretty much walking. While her head was super strong – no lingering in aid stations, regular eating and drinking, positive outlook and confident about finishing – her legs were pretty much shot. I was concerned as I watched her navigate the stream crossing at Beaver Creek (85 miles) with some difficulty. Despite having not seen us for 10 miles and it being 26 degrees, she knew just what she wanted (glove warmers, Blocks with caffeine, an extra jacket) and was quickly on her way. I was impressed at how mentally alert and composed she was.

Darcie moved along well to Ranger Dip Aid Station (92 miles) where the transition was quick. You could tell she knew the finish was close and just wanted to get on with covering the final eight miles. Shortly after leaving Ranger Dip Jeffry excused himself for a pee and retuned wearing a tutu, which he would wear to the finish.

At the finish Troy went out to meet Darcie and Jeffry and run the final mile with them. Darcie ran across the finish having completed her first 100-miler in 26:45. She was the third place female. Shake n Bake! And, congratulations Brian and Dan for sub 24-hour finishes!

As Team Gorman drove back to SLC I reflected on what a great day I had just had. I had shared in Darcie’s accomplishment of completing her first 100. I had been able to spend time both on the trail and at aid stations with many of the runners, their families and friends for whom I have such respect. And, I had been able to be outside in beautiful country at a spectacular time of year. Thanks Darcie for inviting me to be a part of your adventure!

Photos courtesy of Troy Gorman

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two Wasatch Classics

After a long summer of running the usual training runs in the central Wasatch I decided this weekend to run/hike some of the more classic routes I tend to neglect. On Saturday my plan was to run up Cardiff Fork Canyon and then down Days fork. I ended up running up Cardiff Canyon from the Big Cottonwood Canyon side but when I reached the pass I decided to check out the trail up to Superior Peak. I have always wanted to hike Superior but honestly have always been a bit intimidated by the very steep exposed ridge to the summit. But I decided that today would be the day and after a hour of steep loose hiking I reached the summit. I was rewarded with probably the best view I ever had in the Wasatch. The trail was steep and loose but very safe as long as you moved slow and paid attention to all the loose rocks. It actually took me longer to get come down then it did to go up.

On Sunday Peter and I decided to run up to the Pfeifferhorn. We started fairly early to avoid any crowds and ran a short time in the dark sharing a single head lamp. The early start paid off as we only passed one person on the way up to Red Pine Lake. As we worked our way up a steep trail to Little Red Pine Lake the wind was gusting and blowing and added a sense of seriousness to the climbing. We were careful but efficient working our way across the long boulder field, Peter commented that the wind almost knocked him over a few times. Luckily the wind abated as we climbed the steep trail that would lead us to the thin exposed ridge to the final ascent gully. The sun was also shinning on us now and it was turning out to be a perfect morning.

As we got closer to the Pfeifferhorn, Peter said with a look of surprise “we're going to climb that!” it was exactly my thoughts when I first did the route 2 years prior. I assured Peter it wasn't that bad and that the route looked worse than it was, and that the narrow approach ridge would be more intimidating than the trail up to the summit. We picked a good route on the North side of the ridge and quickly made our way up to the summit. It was a little cold and windy so we only stayed a few minutes. The air was smokey so the view was somewhat limited but the smoke added its own beauty to the scenery. We had not seen a single person since the trail below Red Pine Lake and would not see anybody until we descended below the lake on the descent.

When we got back to Red Pine Lake we ran the single track trail all the way down to the parking lot, round trip time was 3.5 hours. The parking lot was full with cars and people. Peter and I both had smiles on our faces as a lady asked if we were finished already. Another great day in the Wasatch. Too see more photos go to Peter's Flickr link at the top of the blog page.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wasatch 2010 by Peter

This was my ninth start of the Wasatch 100. Over the last 5 years I have had the goal of finishing and beating my previous time.

2005: 29:28, 54th,

2006: 27:40, 29th,

2007: 26:09, 14th,

2008: 25:15, 13th,

2009: 23:36, 15th,

2010: 23:05, 9th,

Incidentally my first 3 races I ran in 31:32, 32:35, and 28:52.

There is an advantage to competing with your last year's self. It is easy to get in the mind of your competitor, and you know exactly what you need to do to beat him. This year I had my work cut out for me. In 2009, I was intent on a sub 24 hour finish, and had focus and urgency to complete that goal. This year was complicated by injury, travel, coaching soccer, and a very busy work schedule.

As is tradition Fred Riemer drove me to the start with Kevin Shilling, though breaking with tradition “The Rocket” (Errol Jones) was not along. The start was chilly and the trail was damp with precipitation from the night. Dave Hunt pointed out several large puddles after the starting line to avoid in the mad initial dash. A wet foot at the start would be unpleasant. While there were few clouds above us to obscure the stars the mountains were capped in clouds. There was guarded optimism for good weather in how the runners were dressed. This was the start of my ambivalence, just not knowing what the best strategy would be. I started with a wind shirt, but needed to shed it not long after the start.

I was relieved to finally start running after much preparation and anticipation. As we started the climb there were some white patches on the ground in spots. In the dark it took me a minute to realize that it was snow. While there was never much, parts of the trail were frosted in a layer of fresh snow. About half way to Chin Scraper, I settled in behind David Larsen. We had a nice conversation and caught a couple of runners including Glen Merrill and Darcy Africa, but by Grobben’s Corner I knew that his pace was a faster than I cared for. Darcy Africa caught us around this point as well. Dave and Darcy continued on as I eased back, thinking about the long day ahead. I didn’t expect to see either of them until the Homestead.

The views heading into Francis Peak were spectacular. The clouds were beginning to clear; the sun was shooting beams of light making small parts of the valleys glow. Glen Merrill caught up to me around Francis Peak. I expressed my concern and hope that the day would stay cool. Glen assured me that the temperatures would remain cool, and added he was a weather man. That statement of absolute confidence in the conditions buoyed my hopes of a good day. Glen and I would see each other off and on until Lambs Canyon, and then not again until late in the night. I was lucky to get to run behind Glen and watch his efficient gait. This was his first 100 miler, but he looked like someone who knew exactly what he was doing, and I knew he would have a very strong race.

Between Francis Peak and Big Mountain aid station I kept my times fairly close to last year's splits. My legs felt good, though I occasionally got a hint of pain in my right calf. The thought of a residual injury from last Spring interfering and possibly ending the run was unsettling. Fortunately, it was’t the tip of the iceberg, but the typical noise of discomfort that is bound to occur in an ultra. Nonetheless, I wasn’t confident about anything, even though the miles were passing by with few troubles.

At Big Mountain, my weight was even. Jessica, Astrid, and Mats were there to meet me. I turned off the music, saying goodbye to Mumford and Sons, K’naan, the Clash, Jose Gonzalez, and Gomez. In two minutes I changed from carrying two bottles to a Nathan hydration pack, ate a few ginger snaps, said goodbye to my stellar crew and hit the trail with Chuck Konopa. I was going to go without a pacer from Big Mountain to Brighton, but two days before the race Chuck called my office and asked if I needed a pacer. Chuck entertained me pointing out all of the backcountry skiing spots, and was invaluable doing the math along the way calculating differences in splits and times we needed to make. It is amazing how quickly simple math skills go while running, so having an engineer-math whiz running by my side was wonderful. The temperatures along Alexander Ridge were about as favorable on a race day as I have experienced. The 70 ounces in my Nathan Pack was more than I needed for the entire section, but I was happy be ahead on fluid intake.

Before coming into Lambs Canyon Rich McDonald caught up me. We ran into the aid station together, which was nice because we had twice the cheers from our combined families. Rich was in and out of the aid station in a flash. After weighing in and being efficiently taken care of by my wife and two kids, I sat down for the first time and had a leisurely (six minutes) meal of pita bread and baba ganooj from Mazza’s. This was my attempt to get away from the sweet crap that is consumed all day long. I have never eaten baba ganooj on a trail run let alone during a race, but a few days before I thought that it sounded good. It should also be known that I have a history of losing my stomach contents after Lambs Canyon. Last year while I didn’t throw-up, I had to sit on top of bare-ass pass for a ten minutes to regain my composure. This year as I headed up the road, feeling good, I was cautious to keep my pace slow enough to allow at least a little digestion. Phil Lowry ran past me up the road, and Aaron Spurlock “hiked” past me about half way up the Lamb’s climb. When Aaron and his pacer approached us, we asked if he wanted to pass. “No you are fine, “ was the response. I pulled off the trail and he was gone in no time (walking). My dinner was still settling and I wasn’t about to challenge the logic of the stomach.

At the peak Chuck and I decided to run. In not too much time we caught Rich. By the road at Elbow Fork we had closed the gap with Aaron. This would be the story of the remainder of the race, slower climbs and fast downhill running.

At the Millcreek aid station Alan Watson, Jessica, Astrid and Mats greeted us. The headlamp came out, I changed socks and put on a long sleeved shirt. Again I stocked up on gingersnaps, and took a few more gels and some gum drops. While we were not fast in this section, we kept a respectable pace and stayed well ahead of the 39 year-old from 2009 that I was racing against. Phil and his son caught us at the Desolation Lake aid station. He quickly transitioned out of the aid station. I was interested in drinking a little broth and wanted to contemplate the climb. We caught Phil shortly before Red Lover’s Ridge, which was just around the point that I needed to turn on my headlamp. The ridge to Scott’s Pass is mostly runnable, and we shuffled along. From Scott’s Pass to Brighton is almost entirely runnable. Fred was waiting in his car at the Guardsman road. Once we arrived he drove down to get things ready at the lodge.

As we came up the road, Jay, Marge and Greg met us. Jay had on a shoulder immobilizer from his surgery just days before but looked to be in decent spirits. I was happy to see Jay, but would have preferred that he was in his Armani shirt at the front of the pack. Jay gave me the encouraging words that stuck in my head the rest of the night, “You are a fast finisher on the last part of the course.” With that Greg and I headed into the Brighton Lodge and made a fast transition with the aid of Fred and Alan. We spent 6 minutes in the lodge and were off into the cold night air.

Greg and I climbed to Catherine’s Pass and then Sunset Peak without any drama. I was tired though, and I wasn’t feeling “fast”. I could tell that I was losing time to my pace last year, and wondered if I was going to keep fading. The long decent to Ant Knolls was as usual, difficult. Greg tried to encourage me that he was going to try to float down the hills like I do. I started to try to roll through the rocks and keep some speed. Sure enough with a little encouragement and some faster turn over the blood was flowing to muscles happy to get some use and I was floating. “The Grunt” burst my bubble. I was no longer floating, but struggling to climb up the steep rutted trail.

While I lost some time into Ant Knolls and then to Pole Line, I was fueling well on gum drops and was adequately hydrated. As Greg and I climbed toward Point of Contention we could see some headlamps in the distance. I ran this section last year alone without seeing a single soul until the finish. Still I didn’t think that I would catch anyone, but as we got to Rock Springs with plenty of water and food we skipped the aid station and started to run for the dive and the plunge. We first encountered Erik and his pacer Ken Jensen. Greg and I were shocked to see Erik, but we were moving well and a long conversation was not in order. We motored down the deep dust towards the next challenge. At the bottom of the “Dive” I started my count of the seven climbs in “Irv’s Torture Chamber”. We caught Glen somewhere in here as well as Darcy, and finally Dave Larsen. The downhill running was fun and I genuinely was enjoying myself.

We hit Pot Bottom just before Dave Larsen. He transitioned quickly, while I downed a few noodles and broth which were heavenly. Near the top of the climb from Pot Bottom we caught Dave and walked with him until the the downhill. Greg and I paused to once more empty our bladders before the downhill. We quickly closed the distance on Dave and added a few minutes of cushion to a top 10 finish. To our surprise there was one more runner to catch and add some darkness between us for a ninth place finish. The switch backs at the bottom of the decent were the last challenge, but by now I could smell the barn. Just as I was feeling invincible I caught my toe on a root and ate some dirt. Greg and I quickly finished the twisty trail and then cruised the road and ran into the finish. Our time from Brighton was a respectable 6 hours and 11 minutes. Jessica, Astrid and Mats were waiting for us in sleeping bags at 4:05 AM on a cold morning. John Grobben gave me a handshake and a huge hug at the finish line. After a warm shower at the Homestead, I settled back into a sleeping bag to rest and cheer and watch the finishers come in. Amazingly Grobben was there to meet the finishers over the next 12 hours. (That is endurance).

Wasatch is a great event because of the people associated with the race, and I have been lucky to get to know many of the folks who run and support the race. I am blessed to run with the best group of guys (Christian, Greg, Jay, Erik, Rich, and Kevin). My family continues to be an integral supportive team before, during, and after the race. I couldn’t run it without them. Alan and Fred were invaluable crew at Brighton (6 minutes of pure efficiency). Of course many thanks to the race committee and all the volunteers for making this the day that I look forward to all year long.

I have to mention the shoes. The Hokas kept my feet pretty happy all day. I posted my fastest time through Irv’s Torture Chamber--1 hour 17 minutes--5 minutes faster than Karl’s 2009 time. I was flying downhill, but I think it was more the gum drops that I was eating and having Greg pushing me than the shoes. The soft EVA foam of the Hokas did not survive the 100 mile race. The right shoe collapsed on the medial aspect. I hope Hoka takes returns, because I only got 130 miles out of this pair of shoes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wasatch 2010, by Erik

I've written quite a few race reports detailing how I did, what went good and bad for me, what my goals were, etc,. Maybe someone other than me likes reading about that, but today (after a very brief ME write up) I'm going to write about a few other people and what impressed me about their Wasatch 100.

Basically, this was the most enjoyable 100 mile run I've ever undertaken. Right from the start, the weather was perfect, there was good company to run with, the scenery was spectacular and I felt great.

Weather- Cool temps in the morning calling for a long sleeve shirt and light gloves, then sunny skies, a light breeze and perfect running temps the rest of the day-I didn't even get hot running the "oven" from Big Mtn to Lambs Canyon. Night time was cold, but not unbearably so.

Company-I had the pleasure of running with Dave Toone, Darcy Africa, Mick Jurynec, Neal Gorman, Matt Hart, Kevin Shilling, and Jared Campbell to name a few. Then I got to run with my pacers which were out of this world. My cousin Alex Matteson flew out from St Louis for his first exposure to the Ultra scene. He ran from Big Mtn to Millcreek with me and was just what I needed to run a steady pace and keep my head in it. Alex was having such a good time that he decided to continue on to Brighton on a pleasure run with us. I have a feeling he would have done just fine all the way to the end if he had wanted. My good friend Jesse Harding ran from Millcreek to Brighton with me. Jesse has paced me this section before and it is always a treat to run with him. During previous sessions he has seen me run quite a bit slower, get violently sick, and even had to had to accompany me as I DNF'd. I'm glad he was along for a good ride this time. Ken Jensen ran from Brighton to the finish and what an adventure we had. Ken has 11 finishes under his belt, and he could get up off the couch without training and run this section easily-which is essentially what he did. Ken was an anchor as I hit a rough patch and I'd still be in a sleeping bag at Pole Line Pass if he wasn't there to keep me moving. How can I not mention the company of my incredible wife Brooke and all the family and friends that were at each aid station to cheer me on. What an inspiration they were and they need to be recognized for all their hard work!!

Scenery-Man, I wish I had a camera with me on this run. There was a blanket of snow covering Chinscraper, there was fog with 20 feet of visibility, then it would open up to reveal a whole canyon in misty early morning sunlight, there were crimson red maples, quakies with a hint of gold, bluebird skies and the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen while running the Crest between Red Lovers Ridge and Scotts Pass. I'll never forget the images from this race.

Feeling Great- I really did. For 75 miles my stomach was solid, my legs felt fresh, and my head was clear. I never felt like I was really pushing it too hard, yet at every aid station I was ahead of last year's splits. Talk about a perfect day.

Feeling Not So Great-Then, of course, I left Brighton, passed Lake Mary and the wheels came off. A total and complete blow up (and blow out). The one bright spot during this section was seeing my good friend Preston having a beach party just before Sunset Peak. I should have sat down and had a Corona or three with him. After that, I spent a lot of time walking, some time sitting in aid stations, and with Ken's support and encouragement, things finally turned around and I still managed to squeak out a sub 24 finish. I got passed by 10 people in that section, and I was psyched for every one of them to be running so well. Which brings me to what I really want to write about-the other runners.

I wish that at the finish line, as every runner crossed under that banner, there was some way to flash on a screen-for all to see- everything that individual had overcome to finish the race. I'm sure there are some stories out there that are movie quality that not many people will ever know about. Here are a few things that stuck out to me.

Nick Clark finishing in an amazing 20:20, despite missing the turn to start down to Alexander's Ridge, running 40 minutes out of his way and adding an estimated 4 miles. Talk about keeping your head in the game. Psychologically, I'd be done.
Neal Gorman taking 2nd place in 21:19. An incredible time to be sure, but did you know that with this time, he broke the record for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning? He was 8th at Western States, 2nd at Vermont, 4th at Leadville and 2nd at Wasatch. Amazing!
Luke Nelson was ready to drop at Brighton. I passed him coming off of Scott's Pass and he could barely even walk, let alone run. His knee was shot. At Brighton, he scrounged up some trekking poles, and continued on, walking backwards down the Dive and other steep sections, to finish in 23:30.
Luke Jensen persevered with an unofficial finish time of 37:01, to the cheers of his family, and everyone at the awards ceremony. He will never be recognized officially, so I thought I'd better do it here.
Mick Jurynec in his first Wasatch and first 100 miler ran a smoking 22:21.
Phil Lowery, after 14 finishes, gets a Crimson Cheetah!
Lex Curtis broke his finger just before Big Mountain, but kept going. He said it never really hurt, I think he's lying. He finished in 27:44
Troy Robertson managed to beat his goal of 30 hours by 5 minutes, and he did it without knocking any braces off. A dentist's dream patient!
Martin Fritzhand finished in 34:19 and James McGregor finished in 35:44. They are both 67!!
Brent Palmer and Karsten Solheim both dropped, but they are 70 and 73 years old, respectively. True inspirations to everyone!!

There are so many other amazing runners with unique and one of a kind stories, and I wish I knew more of them. If you are reading this and know of anything similar-whether it be comical, inspirational or just a downright "Spirit of the Wasatch", then please share! I, for one, would love to read about it. See you at next year's Wasatch, (Lottery Gods willing, of course).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cascade Crest 100 Race Report 2010

The Cascade Crest 100 has been on my list since I started doing Ultra’s a few years ago.  Even though it is fairly new (started in 1999), I consider it one of the classics.  There are a few main ingredients that make a race stand out from the rest to be considered a classic and for me those are; a quality course, good organization and adequate trail marking, all of which I had heard Cascade possessed.  So when Greg and I were both snubbed by the Wasatch lottery we immediately signed up.

Race day arrived with cool temperatures and a sunny sky.  Right before we started I got a chance to say hi to Matt Hart who would be pacing Bill Huggins and I was able to meet Kathleen (a last minute fill-in for pacing).  Greg and I took our spot near the front and broke off into a gentle jog once the gun sounded.  We stayed back from the lead pack a good 30 yards or so and formed a small second group.  After a mile or two we started the first significant climb of the day up to Goat Peak.  Roughly 3000’ vertical in 3 to 4 miles.  We were almost immediately swarmed by faster runners as we slowed down to power hike the uphill road grade.  Many folks ran by us and I just watched them all go by as I thought about the plan.

The climb finally gave way to some excellent ridge running with short ups and downs as we tried in vain to stay ahead of some motorcycles.  We paused a few times to take in the views to the north that included some stunning mountain ranges as well as the views to the south that included Mt. Rainier covered in a cloud.  I glanced at my watch a few times and as we drew closer to the 2 hour mark I told Greg we must be close.  Sure enough we hit the Cole Butte aid station at mile 11 with a group that was placed 11th through 20th in 2:02.  The aid station crew had us quickly on our way with fresh bottles for a long dirt road descent followed by an equally long climb to the Blowout Mtn aid station at mile 15.  It was now a little past noon and the temperature was still hovering in the mid 60’s with very few clouds in sight.  We passed a few folks through this section and moved up to 11th and 12th.  Again we hit the aid station right on schedule in 2:52.

I was really looking forward to this section following Blowout Mountain because we would spend the next 30 miles or so on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I was growing tired of the dirt road and I was anxious to get rolling on some proper singletrack.  I was told to expect the PCT to be overgrown and a bit on the technical side, but I have to say it was really quite tame compared to some of the trails we frequent in the Wasatch.  It was still a mental boost to get on the trail and our pace increased on the long gradual descent to the next aid station at mile 23, Tacoma Pass, where we would see Jay and Marge (Greg’s wife) for the first time.  About midway through it started to feel like we were holding back but when we arrived we were right on time in 4:18.  It really felt much shorter than that and while I paused to clean out my shoes we were passed by Kim Gimenez and Jon Robinson.  Jay and Marge had us out of there in a flash and told us they would see us again in 11 miles.

Not to far out of the aid station we passed Kim and traded places a few times with Jon, mostly when we were climbing.  I figured if we were getting passed this early on the descents that was fine, I knew there would plenty of descending to do later in the race so long as we didn’t trash our quads to gain a minute or two here and there.  If there was anywhere I felt the heat it was through this 6 mile section to Snowshoe Butte.  I believe we were going through some old clear cut and the trail was quite exposed, so Greg and I adjusted our pace and just eased off the throttle a bit to keep everything in check.  Despite this we passed another couple of runners including Devon Crosby-Helms (she would sadly stop at Stampede Pass) and Arthur Martineau.  I was still staying faithful to the eating schedule and drinking as much as I could handle but I noticed I hadn’t peed in a while.  I wasn’t deeply troubled but I did make a mental note to take a sip a little more often.

The Snowshoe Butte aid station at mile 29 is nearly a mile trek from the nearest road, so I was kind surprised when I could hear it before I could see it.  Then as we crested a hill and it came into view it became clear why there was so much noise; a bunch of very enthusiastic teenagers.  High school cross-country runners to be exact and they we are all running around barefoot, anxious to fill our bottles and send us on our way.  Their energy was infectious and my stride felt a little quicker as we left in 9th and 10th place following the trail back into some old growth forest.  It was almost 4pm and I let Greg know we were nearly done with the hottest part of the day.  So far so good, the plan was working.  I was starting to feel some of the general aches and pains associated with running 30 miles, mostly in my hips and knees, but otherwise I was feeling solid, especially my stomach.  Greg reported the same

It seemed like no time at all when we emerged from the forest and came to the big power line clearing.  This was the indication that we were within a mile or two of Stampede Pass aid station at mile 34.  Stampede Pass is one of the major aid stations on course, much like Big Mountain at the Wasatch 100, so I was preparing myself for the melee associated with such stops.  Something about all the noise and attention always seems to give me a little shot of adrenaline which would normally be okay, but during a 100 miler it’s usually enough to send my stomach south.

Sure enough we could hear the station well before it came into view and once we rolled in Greg went with Marge and I went with Jay.  Kathleen was there and immediately jumped in to help.  She also introduced me to Justin, a friend of hers who she had found to run the last 32 miles with me.  I asked him if he felt like staying up all night and I received an enthusiastic yes.  Next, Jay was urging me out of the chair and I started walking toward the trail when Matt Hart asked me how I felt, while he was recording me on his iphone.  Then Jay stuck his phone to my ear where I heard Betsy, my wife, on the other end.  That was it.  The emotional wave was taking hold and about to engulf me.  I quickly told Betsy I was feeling great and not to worry, then she wished me well before I handed the phone back to Jay.  I was keeping the emotional wave at bay but I needed to get out of there in a hurry.  As soon as I heard Greg right behind me I took off up the steep grade leaving the aid station.  

Once the noise had faded behind us I settled down and got back into a familiar climbing rhythm.  Only then did I remember to look at the pace chart where I discovered we had come in 6 minutes ahead of schedule in 6:23.  On the opposite side of the pace chart I had printed a profile so I would know what to expect between aid stations.  I informed Greg that we had an initial climb followed by a “meat grinder”(a series of short rollers) to the next aid station.  The trail was really incredible through here as it wound it’s way along the PCT and after a couple of miles I spotted another runner in front of us, Stuart Johnson.  I’m not sure if he increased his pace or not when he heard us but it certainly felt like it took a little while to reel him in.  We eventually caught him and he stepped aside as we exchanged pleasantries.  Then a strange thing happened, instead of just letting us go he tucked in behind Greg and started matching our pace.

It wasn’t a big deal to have a third guy along in our group but it did kind of mess with the vibe we had going.  I turned the screw ever so slightly on the climbs but he wouldn’t let go.  Eventually we saw Jay running up the trail to greet us and I figured we must have been close to the Mountain Meadow aid station but in fact Jay had run about a mile out to escort us in and figure out what we would need for the next section.  We hit the aid station in 7:41, taking another 10 minutes off our scheduled pace and Jay had us back out without missing a beat.  Stuart was still along for the ride but I could tell he was laboring just a bit in his first 100 miler.  I could also feel the effects of the pace and we backed off just a little bit on our way to Olallie Meadows at mile 48.

Again Jay ran out to meet us and get an idea of what we needed.  I decided to take a seat for a minute and enjoy one of the perogies offered up by the aid station.  Despite my stomach being a little off I was able to get one down and it really tasted good.  Greg and I left after a minute or two while Stuart decided he needed a little more time.  Sadly, he would end up dropping at the next aid station.  We followed the PCT to for another couple of miles before turning right onto a dirt road that would take us up to the top of the ski hill we would descend to the Hyak aid station.  In the pre-race meeting we had been warned to mentally prepare for this tough section going down the ski hill.  I don’t know if it was because it was still light or what but it just wasn’t that hard and Greg and I rolled into Hyak nearly 25 minutes ahead of schedule.  Between Jay, Jamie (Tom Remkes’ wife), Marge and Kathleen we in and out of Hyak in a hurry.

Kathleen was full of energy and ready to run but Greg and I decided to walk for a few minutes up the paved road and get everything in order for the 7.5 mile climb in front of us.  Before the race we had both read how runnable this section was if you were feeling well and as Kathleen reminded us of that as we broke into a jog.  The time actually seemed to pass a little faster with Kathleen along as she was able to talk while Greg and I grunted our replies back.  At the top of the ridge the my watch confirmed what I already knew, we had taken even more time out of our pace schedule and we had caught Adam Lint.  We were now sitting in 7th and 8th as we began the long dirt road descent to the Kachess Lake aid station.  Greg’s knee started protesting a bit on the descent but I knew the next section would give it plenty of rest as there isn’t much running to do.  Turns out that was theme throughout the race, as soon as we grew tired of descending there was a climb and vice versa.

We seemed to take almost everyone by surprise when we rolled into Kachess Lake at mile 68 as we were now 40 minutes ahead of schedule and sitting in 6th and 7th.  Jay let me know my pace schedule was bulls**t and I just smiled back.  Greg and I said goodbye to Kathleen as I picked up my new pacer Justin and Greg had his friend Ryan joining us for the final 32 miles.

Next up was a 6 mile section known as the “trail from hell”, scheduled to take us a little over two hours.  I was actually kind of looking forward to it, mostly to see if it was going to live up to the myth.  Almost as soon as we left the dirt road the fun started.  Downed trees, steep ups followed by steep downs with no chance to get in a rhythm.  Greg fell and hit his forearm pretty hard and little later on I pounded my knee on a tree I was attempting to cross.  Despite the small setbacks we cleared this section faster than we had planned and arrived at Mineral Creek nearly an hour ahead of our plan.  Mile 74, time to rally.  At least that’s what I thought before we started the climb up No Name Ridge.  I won’t lie, this long dirt road flat out sucked.  The only redeeming quality about it was that it was dark and we couldn’t see how far we had to go, which was nearly 8 miles to the next aid station.  Even Justin and Ryan remarked how long it seemed.

I was straining to see anything through the darkness when I noticed a light up ahead.  Greg didn’t believe me at first but as we continued our power hike we were reeling in the runner ahead.  As we came up next to him we asked if everything was okay or if he needed anything before I asked his name.  It was Lon Freeman.  I remarked that I’ve been impressed with his fast times and to keep plugging away, you’re bound to come around I said.  Once we were out of earshot I turned to Greg, “That was Lon Freeman, we’re not just having a good race, we’re having a great race!”.  Admittedly, I’m sure Lon was not on one of his best days, but passing someone of his caliber at mile 80 is a good sign in my book.  Finally that God forsaken road came to an end and right as we were leaving the aid station Lon pulled in.  The aid station told us the next guy was about 30 minutes in front of us.  Looks like we have a race on our hands I remarked to Greg as we set off toward the Cardiac Needles, a series of short 500’ to 1000’ climbs, about 5 in all.

Back on to the single track and I was feeling good.  This was another section we had heard was really hard and to be prepared for some tough climbing.  We were heading up the second climb when I stopped to take a leak.  Justin and I had pulled ahead of Greg by a couple of minutes and as he caught up he told me it was time for me to go on without him.  I protested immediately.  We were 83 miles into this thing and the thought of finishing separately hadn’t even entered my mind.  It was really a hard thing to get my head around, we were a team and I really wanted to finish together.  I gave in and turned my focus back to the race and the runner 30 minutes ahead of me.

Not long after parting ways with Greg a cloud moved in on the mountain and visibility was reduced to 5 feet or so making the descents a little slower than I would have preferred.  The Thorpe Mountain aid station was our next objective at mile 85.  But just before the aid station the we had to climb a short out and back to the top of the mountain, retrieving a little card to prove we made it.  As Justin and I picked our way down the descent we found Greg starting up, only 10 minutes or so back.  I was still hopeful of Greg joining me but he encouraged me to press on.  We hit the aid station somewhere around 4am, topped off bottles and found out the next runner was about 20 minutes in front of us.

I ran as fast as I could manage through the thick fog, anxious to catch the guy in front of me.  French Cabin was the next aid station, only 4 miles away.  It seemed like no time at all when I heard a loud cheer through the fog.  I looked at my watch to note the time.  The runner in front had just gone through the aid station and if I could hear them I knew I was close.  5 minutes was the gap as I came into view and the aid station cheered.  I appreciated the enthusiasm but I knew the runner in front would also realize I was close with the noise.  To my surprise Jay was there to greet me.  I let him know what happened with Greg and he told me the guy in front of me was only a few minutes up but he was looking good.

There were only 11 miles left so I didn’t bother holding back.  As we descended out of the cloud I was sure I would spot a light in front of us but there was nothing.  I picked up the pace even more and skipped my eating schedule, but still there was no one in sight.  The 3000’+ descent over 6 miles was starting to take it’s toll on my worn out body and I relented.  I slowed my pace and just concentrated on picking a clean line down the rock infested descent.  Justin did a good job of encouraging me but I only had one gear left.

The Silver Creek aid station finally appeared and I saw Marge waiting there for Greg.  We barely stopped as I wanted to just be done at this point.  I walked a good half mile over some torn up dirt road that would have required more energy than I had to run.  Once we hit the smooth stuff I started jogging, realizing I would be close to breaking 21 hours.  I’m usually a pretty fast finisher, but not on this day, I had left it all out there.  I glanced at my watch as it passed the 21 hour mark and almost that same moment the finish line came into view.  I crossed the line in 21:03.33, good enough for 5th place and my PR for 100 miles.  Jay and Matt were there to congratulate me as well as RD Charlie Crissman.  Jeff Browning was also there, kicked back in a chair after cruising to 1st place and a new course record in 18:31.

Marge arrived a short time later and let us know Greg had come through the last aid station.  Not long after I spotted Greg and Ryan approaching the finish.  Then I noticed another runner behind him by only 30 seconds or so, it was Lon Freeman chasing down Greg.  We all started yelling for Greg as they both pushed to finish line.  Greg ended up holding off Lon by 32 seconds to finish in 6th at 21:43!

For once I exceeded my expectations in a 100 miler and it feels really good.  If you’ve never done Cascade you should definitely consider it, Charlie does an incredible job organizing a great group of volunteers.  Thanks to the Easton Fire Fighters and all the other volunteers who did an great job marking the course and fueling us along the way.  Our pacers, all untested, performed flawlessly and made the journey much more pleasant.  Thank you Kathleen, Justin and Ryan, it was fun to have you along for the ride.  Jay and Marge did an excellent job keeping us from getting to comfortable at the aid stations and always having everything we needed.  Thank you.  And thanks to my wonderful family who not only allow me to pursue these adventures, but encourage me along the way.  Happy trails :)