|Me and my Pacer, Matt Carrell|
This is a long blog post...but then again, it's a 100 mile race.
CASCADE CREST 100 (CCC)
Tapered. Chiropractored. Watched Predator. I was ready. As the seconds counted down to the start, my emotions were locked tight. There was some hooping and hollering, but my adrenaline was being saved for later. I was running for one goal only...to break 24 hours. My confidence was solid, but all it takes is one mistake to completely destroy your state of body, mind, or digestion. My biggest concern was making sure I didn't start out too fast and burn out late in the race (leading to a death march). But, since this was my first 100 mile race, my inexperience made everything a question mark.
3, 2, 1, SEE YOU TOMORROW...
|Here we go!|
|Randy (green) and me (blue)|
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Steady as she goes. The group of about 140 people spread out along the flat stretch of open road. Randy and I were running together for a bit, going at an easy pace with short effortless strides. When the first uphill started, the running turned into mostly hiking up to the Goats Peak Trailhead. Beyond the trailhead introduced the first single track trail to the course, but with some steeper climbing. Throughout the switchbacks, I found myself instinctively hiking hard to catch the person in front of me. Everyone was taking it easy at this point, so it's not like I'm going to gain anything by getting in front...but I did gain some ground and found myself hiking with the likes of Shawna Tompkins (this year's female winner) and other experienced ultra veterans. Women tend to run smart races, so I figured I was doing well if Shawna was nearby.
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
|Partial view from Goats Peak,|
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
Between the Cole Butte and Blowout Mt aid stations were purely exposed dirt roads. The downhill was nice and gradual, but there was no shade and hardly a breeze. It was early afternoon at this point, so the heat of the day was upon us (temperatures got up to mid 90s, so I hear). My bottles were emptying completely, between drinking water and keeping my head wet. It was extremely hard for me to stay cool in the sun, but I wasn't quite overheating...just at that uncomfortable in-between. The exposed road ended shortly after the Blowout Mountain aid station, transitioning to shaded single track.
Enter Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). A mile after Blowout Mt, the course turns onto the PCT for the next ~30 miles. This trail is phenomenal for running, as it's mostly shaded with soft trails and lovely smelling air. The first 6 miles were mostly downhill and easy to fall into a running groove. My legs were feeling solid, and running was easy. Again, it was hot and I would take off my shirt from time to time, but every now and then exposed sections forced my shirt back on. Jason was only sunscreened on the neck and moneymaker, and having a burnt back/shoulders before wearing a backpack for the last 65 miles didn't sound appealing.
|Hot and Bothered, bottles empty,|
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
Arriving at Tacoma Pass was almost overwhelming with all the people that were there! I've never seen an aid station so full of cheering, clapping people. This was the first aid station that allowed crews to wait for their runner, so there was lots of commotion when runners came in. My pacer Matt Carrell was there, as he was hitching a ride with Gary Redwine (Cheri's crew for the race). Both were incredibly helpful, asking me how I felt, what I needed, and telling me I looked good (but I already knew that).
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As I left Tacoma Pass, Matt ran with me a bit and we talked about how the race was going. I told him it was hot, I was feeling good, and I'm going to slow down and preserve my legs. It felt great to hike the uphills, as it slowed my breathing and gave my legs some rest between the running.
Eventually I found myself running with this guy Mark who was a veteran on the course. It was easy to tell he’s a seasoned 100 mile runner because earlier I looked up on one of the switchbacks and noticed him peeing ‘on the run’. Well done, sir! I was still struggling to stay hydrated, so to pee would have been a miracle for me even standing still. Anyways, as we hiked together he briefly mentioned that we were on a sub-20 hour pace. Holy S***! That was disappointing news, because that was faster than I wanted to start out. Maybe I should have worn a watch to keep track better…regardless, I was at least happy with my progress at that point.
Mark continued on at his own pace, and eventually I lost sight of him. Key word, “LOST”. The PCT crossed a dirt road, and I followed the road downhill for a ways. There were orange ribbons tied to a couple of trees, so I figured the road was part of the course. Then, I reached a fork in the road with no markers, and my gut dropped. *F-BOMB*. I yelled, hoping someone would yell back and direct me to the right road. A couple of the trees had the remnants of a orange ribbon that had been torn off, so then I thought some vandals had ripped the course markers off the trees. F! I went in circles for a bit, and because of the orange ribbons that were on the trees, I felt this was MAYBE the right way….I was totally freaking out. I then contemplated one of the Ultrarunning Commandments: “When unsure of the trail, go back from whence you came”. After 15 minutes of lost-ness, and to my frustration, I backtracked and somehow completely missed the obvious PCT sign and trail markers. Now I know how Yassine feels most races.
Everywhere a Sign
Stampede Pass aid station was bursting with energy from all the support crews and spectators that were there. Matt and Gary were present, and that definitely lifted my spirits. From here on out, I would be wearing a backpack with some GUs, energy bars, and my headlamp. Basically, the backpack served as my aid between the aid stations, if I should need an extra something something. After grabbing my pack and fueling on m&m’s, pretzels, and PB&J…I was on my way.
There’s not much to say for the next few sections of trail, except for steady PCT running. My pace was careful and conservative, the weather was beginning to cool down, and I finally had to pee…mellow yellow…ALLELUIA! A friend was pissing blood only 40 miles into the San Diego 100 miler, so I was a little paranoid about my urine color. Something like that would be cause for dropping out of the race, and it's hard to understand why such things can happen...but they do. Luckily, everything was functioning perfectly so far...thank you stomach, kidneys, and other contributing systems!
The Ollalie Meadow aid station featured Perogies! Yum yum yum...as I left the aid station, all the food and fluid I had just consumed was trying to make room in my gut. This led to some farting, much like Robin Williams after a colonoscopy. This became the norm after every aid station, but things always settled after a good fart session and no inner pressures were affecting my running. Classy, I know...
SUN DOWN, HEAD LAMP ON, NIGHT RUNNING BEGINS
This next section features the 'Ropes' and 'Tunnel’. The ropes portion was simply a steep hillside with climbing ropes harnessed to the trees to help you down the steep grade. It wasn't TOO steep, but the ropes did help speed the downhill bushwhacking process. After dropping a few hundred feet, the flat entry to the ~2.7 mile long abandoned railroad tunnel begins. The tunnel at night was a bit freaky and monotonous, and the excitement of getting to the next aid station (Hyak) to meet my pacer was slowly drained by the long flat stretch of tunnel vision that never seemed to end. My headlamp lit the ground and my breath as I again took inventory. Hmm...the bottom of my right foot feels squishy whenever my forefoot steps on a rock...Blister? Meh, keep going until it's absolutely necessary to stop. Ugh, this is tough. Maybe after this race, I can find me a girl, you know? Time to settle down and have some kids, with a nice little home in the countryside…Yeah, sounds nice…I’m at 50 miles right about meow…Halfway there, livin’ on a prayer!
FINALLY! Hyak aid station, Mile 53. My goal was to get here around 8:00 pm, but it was already 9:15 pm. Shit! Matt helped me change shirts, get my bottles filled, directed me to the food, and we were OFF! With over half the race done, my mind started doing some fuzzy math. It took about 11.5 hours to get to Hyak, and I'll need to complete the 2nd half in about 12.5 hours to finish under my goal of 24 hours. There wasn't as much buffer as I hoped, especially since the 2nd half of the race is rumored to be harder than the first half. Ok Matt, Let's do this!
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There were a couple miles of paved road before hitting the gradual uphill dirt road to Keechelus Ridge, but it was vaguely marked. To this point, the course was consistently marked with orange ribbons, arrows on the ground, and glowsticks...but without seeing any of these course markers for about a mile, I was freaking out (Matt thought we were going the right way, but I made him stop). We waited for another runner to come meet us, and luckily the next guy ran this race 5 times before and confirmed we were on the right road. We still didn't see a course marker for a while, and after the race I found out we weren't the only ones who were thrown off by the lack of confidence arrows.
AH! No time to lose! GET TO THE CHOPPA!!! Matt and I were alternating running/hiking up the gradual uphill dirt road until we reached the Keechelus Ridge aid station. Snickers bar in hand, we ran the gradual downhill at a good pace until we reached the Kachess Lake aid station. Two kids greeted us just before the aid station, and they immediately grabbed our bottles and ran them to get filled. God bless those kids, the volunteers once again amazed me. Amy Sproston was even there with her light-up pom-poms! After a quick bowl of soup, Mattie and I swiftly made our way to the ‘Trail from Hell’.
|Kachess Lake Aid|
"Tonight we dine in the Trail from Hell!"
|Kachess Lake Aid|
Me and Matt (AKA Captain America)
The ‘Trail From Hell’ (I prefer ‘Enchanted Forest’) is a 6 mile section of trail that follows along Kachess Lake, littered with fallen trees, barely a trail, and a mostly uphill ascent. From what most people say, I expected us to cover this 6 miles in 2 hours. As we entered the trail, for some reason, I came alive! It started with a downhill descent over countless downed trees with a path that twisted in all directions. My instincts were on fire as I jumped up and down logs, eyeing the next glowstick and running as much of the trail I could between the technical mess, yelling ‘Parkour’ after every stunt. When the trail turned uphill, that slowed us down to a hike, but we were still doing well. When we reached the Mineral Creek Aid Station, it only took us 1 hour and 41 minutes to go through the Enchanted Forest! We smoked it, despite having to stop for a battery change in my headlamp. That was a huge boost as we began our long climb to No Name Ridge (Mile 81).
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The climb from Mineral Creek to No Name Ridge was nice and gradual. Matt and I mostly hiked but ran what we could, whatever I could muster at the time. Everything was hurting at this point, but my muscles were still functioning well. My feet were beat and my quads were screaming at me with every downhill step. This was expected, and it was just a relief that those were the only things really bothering me. When we arrived at No Name, the temptations chose to make it a Spa themed aid station. Free massages?! Must…resist…need to…get to the choppa… immediately…After countless wonderful offers to lie down and get a massage, I declined as gracefully as I could “NO!!! Nonononono…I can’t. Thank you for the offer, but I can’t.” The ladies at No Name were wonderful, but the show must go on. Can I take a rain check on that massage?
Dawn in the background
The next section contains some steep climbs that some call…the Cardiac Needles. They are steep, but not impossibly steep. At this point in the race, though, this was not what I needed. Needles to say, it was a bitch (pun intended). My pace suffered greatly with these ups and downs, and the out-n-back climb to the top of Thorp Mountain didn’t help any. After getting my Thorpe Mountain ticket, I returned to the aid station to learn that I was the 9tthe male (10th overall). That was the first time someone told me my position in the race, and I was ecstatic to find out I was in top 10! This was another huge mental boost as we rode the ups and downs to the French Cabin aid station. The downs were hurting badly, and I chose to walk some of the steep descents. The ups were bearable, but I had to rest on a couple steep ascents. If I were to keep my top 10 spot, I would have to be a little more consistent with my pace…
|View from Thorpe Mt just after I was there,|
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
Past French Cabin (with bacon in my engine), we hiked over the last pass before a 7 mile all-downhill section of trail. Alright! 7 miles to the last aid station! I sucked it up and ran slowly, but consistently. Matt led the way, trying to pull me along. We passed by a woman who cheered us on, “You guys are looking strong!” I flexed my muscles and thanked her for the compliment. After the longest 7 miles of my life, we got to the aid station. Almost there! Nothing can stop me now! Well…almost. For the first time in 95 miles I had to pull over and take a crap. How I went 95 miles comfortably, I will never know.
After doing my thing, we jogged on. Only 5 flat miles to go! I was in pain, tired, and barely moving at a 9:00 min/mile pace. With 4 miles to go, I looked behind me…SHIT! There was a runner only 50 yards back! Ugh, to go 96 miles and have to race somebody to the end? F. Shit. Matt picked up on it, and he immediately jumped in front and got me below a 7:30 min/mile pace. “Keep up Jason, just look at my feet. Don’t look back. Keep it up!” Without looking behind me, we ran at least a couple miles before figuring out that we burned the guy. There’s no way he’s catching us at this rate, and I was still wondering how the hell I was running sub 7:30 pace comfortably…Adrenaline is a crazy bitch, I tell you what. Running hard with the fire station in sight, it dawned on me that I would break 23 hours! We crossed the train tracks, rounded the corner and sprinted home.
Results: 22 hr 55 min 12 sec – 10th out of 106 Finishers (140 started)
Pace: 13:45 min/mile
|Matt, how did we forget a final photo together?|
Oh yeah, we were tired.
As soon as I stopped running, I could barely walk. Race Director Charlie Crissman (Rockstar) walked over and handed me a beautiful finisher’s belt buckle, something I’d dreamt about for more than a year. And to do it under 23 hours with a top 10 finish? I was ecstatic. Ah, time to sit down and soak my bruised feet in some water. Randy, who finished only 15 minutes behind me for 12th place, sat next to me and almost immediately started drinking a Black Butte Porter. Well done, sir.
The course was tough. It was hot. There were no small streams until after Stampede Pass. The course was extremely well marked (difficult to do over 100 miles). The Volunteers were the best I had ever experienced (Fire Station volunteers included). The views were beyond beautiful. Charlie Crissman is the man. Gary Redwine is a rockstar. Glenn Tachiyama is also a Rockstar (along with other unnamed photographers).
· Shoes: Saucony Peregrine
· Socks: Drymax Trail Socks
· No chafeage except for some on my left nipple (not bad)
· Didn’t change socks or shoes.
· No Blisters or Black Toenails
· Went 95 miles without taking a crap (miracle)
· Never threw up
· Since Mile 53, no one gained a position on me (although there was some leap-frogging)
The Aid Stations were stocked with every type of food you could ask for. My consistent foods of choice were m&m’s, gummi bears, bananas, watermelon, PB&J Sandwiches, and pretzels. At night, the chicken noodle soup was SO GOOD and hit the spot every time. In between the aid stations, I had some CLIF Mojo Bars, CLIF Shot Rocks (for some protein), caffeine-free GU during the day, GU Roctane during the night, and some chocolate covered espresso beans (didn’t need many). For electrolytes, I mainly used Endurolytes (E-Caps) and drank pure water.
My stomach had no real issues, but there were times of discomfort during the day where my stomach was just sloshing things around. It went away eventually after I coincidentally stopped drinking electrolyte mixed water (that sugary stuff was too much). Maybe the heat was a factor, too…
Matt Carrell was the perfect pacer for my first 100. We ran the last ~50 miles not really being too serious about anything, just two guys going for a nighttime run. Having a pacer was a huge boost, and the company was much appreciated. We basically just shot the shit, sang whatever song came to mind, and heavily quoted Predator for 11.5 hours. Oh, and he got me to run the last 4 miles of the race faster than I had finished most of my marathons, that was unbelievable. Thanks Matt, for leading most of the way and tripping over rocks, rolling ankles, and getting your feet wet so I didn’t have to. I owe you one.