Monday, November 30, 2009

Doppler Fat Ass 50K

November 22, 2009


The night before this run, I called Karen Wiggins, who lives in Bremerton, WA, where the run was to be held, about the weather and recent damage from high winds. She told me there was a lot of water on the trails and some downed trees. She was planning on running about 10 miles with her husband George, who also happens to rock climb with my husband Ken before leaving to attend a funeral. I then looked up the weather forecast and it called for heavy rain and wind. I tried to call around and ask if anyone was planning on a long run on Sunday, but everyone was tapering for the Seattle Marathon the following weekend, which I was also running. I had run few miles earlier in the week anticipating the 50K. After looking on the Marathon Maniacs site and seeing a few familiar names (Eric Barns, Nic Plemel, and Rick Haase), I decided to make the hour and a half trip to Bremerton the next morning.

It rained pretty hard on the drive there, but by the time I arrived at Wildcat trailhead, it had stopped. John Straub, the RD, had marked the course the night before with it pouring, blowing, and snowing so he had the worse of it. The weather during the run was perfect. Cool with occasional light wind. No rain!

There was a crowd of about 20 runners at least. Different distances were offered. Mostly, people ran 20 miles or the 50K. The course was tortuous with many intersections, with some that we were to arrive at a couple times. We got a map with directions, which worried me. But it was very well marked and a few times we needed to check the map, which was reassuring. This was a fat ass style run-no fees, no awards, no whining. Eric Barnes asked his trademark question before every race, "Is this course Boston certified?" It is always good for a few chuckles!

We started at 8am on the Wildcat trail that climbed to the Vista Trail for 4 miles. I started out pretty slow, nursing a sore back from the day before. I ran 9 miles with my running buddies in Maple Valley on the Cedar River Trail Saturday morning then headed over to Cougar Mountain for 4 hours of trail work. We were wheel-barreling gravel to low spots on the Lost Beagle trail, which was 1/4 mile of slightly downhill trail with roots and rocks, which was so very difficult, especially since we filled the barrels too full the first time around. Then up we went for another load. I was only able to do this twice before I was glad to be relegated gravel shoveling duties. I'm glad there were strong, young men there to stress out their backs. But the damage had been done and I was sore for the rest of the day and tender still Sunday morning. So I started out slow and let Nic and Eric take off. I didn't want to follow Eric anyway. He has led me astray before on well marked trails.

It wasn't long before we hit major puddles that we could not run around. So we ran through them, but OMG! The water in the puddles was so cold! I can't imagine doing one of those ultras up in the frozen tundra! After running through a few puddles, your feet got numb enough that it became more tolerable. But then you would run through some dry trails and get re-shocked again after your feet had warmed up a little. And also, after 2 miles of climbing, we encountered snow. Just enough to cover the trail and make going uphill a slippery mess. A significant part of the single track was simply a flowing creek. I was worried that this was going to be a very long day. I ran with Karen and George until they had to turn around and head back for the funeral. It was good to have them around since they knew the trails well and were able to point us in the right direction at some confusing spots. I also met Melissa, who recently moved to Portland from Arizona. She was dressed very warm in my view, but she was comfortable having come from Arizona. She just finished her first 100 miler at Hundred in the Hood. She loved it! I also met Julie Cassatta, who lives in Seattle and came with her friend Sarah Lynch, who planned on running the 20 mile version. Julie, Melissa, and I ran together until about 12.5 miles and I ran the entire run with Julie.

After arriving at the summit of the Vista trail and not seeing any views, we connected up with the power line trail that took us down a steep trail where you had to remind yourself not to grab those thick power lines. It was very slippery and rocky but was a short section. We then ran down some very nice trails including Gold Creek trail and the Beaver Pond trail then Plummer trail-single track, fun and twisty, and of course with many puddles. There were plenty of puddles in the morning that still were cold enough that snow or ice still floated in them! We were just getting our icing while running. We arrived at the one aid station at 7 miles that we would return to at 23 miles. We ran another 2 miles before a steep climb up to mile 10 where there was a volunteer there to point us in the right direction since this was an intersection we would come back to and also where if you were running the 20 miles, you took a left turn instead of right. This took us to the service road part of the run which was 10 miles. It did help us catch up on the time lost in the wet, snowy, and technical trails. It was a mix of about 5 miles of up and 5 miles of down. This part included going up to the KCPQ Doppler tower (thus the name of the run).

Then it was back to the previous intersection that we came to at 10 miles. We headed down a trail that was covered with leaves and was basically a slightly downhill creek for about 2 miles. Then we hit a really nice double wide runnable and totally beautiful trail. Other than a few ankle deep spots, it was a very pleasant break from the really techinical and wet single track. After going through the aid station at 23 miles, we had to climb back up the power line trail. Most of the snow had melted and it was not as slippery. We came back on the Vista Trail viewpoint and there was some views now. The rest of the run was on nice single tracks, some on previous trails that we had run, some different, with the last 2 miles on the Wildcat trail. Julie and I finished together. We passed the girl ahead of us with 1.5 miles to go. Melissa either turned back too early off the service roads or decided to cut it short. She had finished a little less than 40 minutes ahead of us. Eric did take a wrong turn with 2 miles to go and he and Nic finished a little after us.

It was a fun day, the sun even came out. At one point, Julie and I could see the Seattle skyline from Green Mountain. I did get to know Julie better. She is 28 and a landscape architect. She has hiked the Appalachian trail and this past summer, hiked 2/3 of the PCT trail in Oregon. She led the first female marathon runner at Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon and had been dealing with an Achilles injury for about 9 months. She was finally getting back to running and was thrilled. She was planning on doing her first double with the Ghost of Seattle and the Seattle Marathon.

Came back to the finish, changed into dry clothes under my robe (my trademark pre and post race look), and enjoyed hot chocolate from my thermos. One other runner looked at me in my robe and drinking my hot chocolate, pointed at me "veteran", and pointed at himself "newbie." I thanked RD John and the volunteers and headed home happy that I decided to come out and run!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chilly Willy 100

November 7, 2009


Vernon, BC

I thought I was done with 100 mile races for the year. I had done Pac Rim 24 hr (108 miles), McNaughton 150 miles, Bighorn 100, Cascade 100, and Hundred in the Hood. I had planned on 6 but downgraded to 50 miles at Stormy after reports of 3 cougar attacks and didn't want to be out there alone at night in an unfamiliar place. But at Baker Lake 50K this year, Lorie Alexander told me about the 100 mile run she was putting on in her hometown of Vernon, BC. I told her that it was not likely. I had planned on running at Ron Herzog 50K, which I have done many times.

But then Jess Mullen emailed me and told me that she was planning on doing Chimera 100 down in CA in December. This got me craving for another 100 miler and I looked up Lorie's race on Club Fat Ass, a great group of Canadian runners who put together official events as well as what they call "Flash" events. Flash events can be put together by any member and posted on their web site. I am a Club Fat Ass member, and these events are free for members and non-members. They was usually minimally aided and no whining is permitted. I told Ken I wanted to do another long run. He rolled his eyes as usual. He said I was not allowed to hang out with Jess anymore. I emailed Jess and told her about my plans. I thought she could still run Chimera even if she did Chilly Willy, since they were over a month apart. It turned out that going to Chimera was not possible for her and she was interested in going with me. The only thing she needed to figure out was for someone to watch her dog Katie, since her husband Mike was going to be gone scuba diving for a week at the same time. When she was able to commit, I was excited. I love road trips, especially ones that involve exploring new running trails. Ken was worried that Jess and I would be too tired to make the 7 hr drive back home after being awake all night running. I told him we would take turns and stop to rest if needed. I did have to work the following Monday.

Two and a half weeks before the run, Jess called me all frantic. She had just rolled her foot doing of all things, jumping up and down to stay warm. She said she caught one foot on the other and rolled on to top of her right foot. Ken said that she really needed to work on her story and should say something like, "I was screaming down a steep techinical trail on the mountain and came around this corner where there was a big root and I went flying!" She had immediate pain and was hardly able to bear weight. She wanted to know what she should do. She had already called her doctor and was waiting to hear back. She had already elevated it and iced. I suggested getting an x-ray, taking anti-inflammatories, and not putting weight on it until she had gotten an x-ray. She thanked me and had to get on the other line, her doctor was calling her back. Fortunately, she didn't have a fracture but was just about to leave for Washington, DC for vacation and to run the Marine Corps Marathon. She had to give that up, but had a good time being a tourist with Mike and his family. She did have some painful days there but she was able to run at Carkeek 12 hour upon returning a few laps without it hurting her more. She felt she would be okay for Chilly Willy.

I picked up Jess on Friday at noon at her home, since she was on the way up to Canada. I had packed all my food for the race and gotten some Pagliacci pizza (a very common staple when I went to school at UW) and some sushi. I ate the sushi for lunch and had a piece of pizza for dinner. I had two pieces of pizza left to eat for the race in addition to Quaker chocolate chip granola bars, GU, bacon, Pringles, and other foods. It was pouring when we left Jess' place and even hailed very hard. But by the time we got to Everett, the weather improved. We stopped at a Haggen store in Bellingham and I got some Chinese Sesame Noodles, which was heavenly and wished I had gotten more. We went through the border at Sumas and got a strange look from our guard when we told her our plan was to run 100 miles.

Jess took over the driving after I had been at it for 3 hours. That was just about when we went over the Coquihalla pass at 4000ft with compact snow and temps down to 34. Trucks were pulled over for chaining up. Jess drove well over this section and my husband's Pathfinder performed well. It even has heated seats! We filled up on gas in Merritt and went over another pass, this one in the dark but bare and dry. There had been snow earlier and it was on the trees and the median, but none on the road. The temps dropped to 26 degrees on this pass. Jess continued to drive well. We reached Kelowna, where Karl Jensen, another Club Fat Ass member who lives in North Vancouver, BC, was staying with his brother. We stopped to buy some water for the run, since there was going to be minimal aid. Finally we got to Lorie's after 7pm. Barry Hopkins was crashing there too. He planned on running 50K because he had been injured for a while now. I had brought cots and thick Thermarests, but Lorie had a twin bed, which Jess slept on, and I slept on an inflatable mattress. Lorie showed us the route for the run on a map. It consisted of a 14K big loop and a 10K small loop. There was going to be about 16,000+ elevation gain. We anticipated 7 big loops and 6 small loops. Jess and I knew we had to get done as soon as possible so that we could hit the road or get some sleep before leaving. We asked Lorie if it would be okay for us to do one big loop before the 8am start. She said okay as long as we got back by 8 to start with everyone else. She had already marked the trail. We planned to start at 5:45am just in case we got lost and needed a cushion. Lorie said she'd join us if she is up by then, but she was pretty tired. Content, Jess and I headed for bed. That's when I realized that I brought my hydration pack but not the bladder. I did bring hand held water bottles as back up but didn't want to carry anything in my hands, especially at night. Jess almost brought a spare bladder but didn't and neither Lorie nor Barry had an extra. I was really bummed and kinda was stressing a little about it over what my plan would be. I didn't want to carry two bottles. I decided that I would wear my hydration pack, carry one bottle, and have the other in my pack to switch. That way, I also had front pockets to carry food and other gear. I planned on two water bottles for the big loop and one on the small loop.

Both Jess and I had fairly good night's sleep. We awoke at 5am and were outa there by 5:35. We got to the trailhead, only 2K from Lorie's house and found Daniel Probst of Bellingham sleeping in his car. He had driven most of the night after working. He stepped out to say hi to us but was not prepared to join us on the first loop. The temp was 36. Jess and I were both wearing shorts, hers was a little longer and came to above her knees. I had a beanie, short sleeve with arm warmers, gloves, and a shell jacket. I was comfortable wearing my shell for two loops. At first I thought I left my Suunto watch that went with my foot pod at home but it was already in my pack. I thought, oh no, not another thing forgotten! We started on the High Rim trail on single track right away. After about 50 yards, we encountered tumbleweed on the trail. I picked one up and tossed it aside. Then there was another and another! Soon, I was not even able to see the trail because there were clumps so thick it was crazy. We both freaked out that this was going to last forever. We found that it only lasted for about a 1/4 mile, but we didn't know that while we were running in it. It slashed up our legs pretty good though. Nice way to start. We ran along the fence that bordered someone's farm and we got to run past some really healthy and strong looking cows on later loops. Jess' hand held light was not working well. She scolded herself for packing in a rush and not putting in fresh batteries. It gave her enough light until the sun came up.

Soon, we encountered our first very steep but short hill. I could see that if this was wet, it would be a slipping and sliding mess. After reaching the top, it continued to climb gradually. I was running this because I felt we got behind in time at the tumbleweeds, but Jess reminded me that this was a hill and I slowed to a power hike. We had planned on running the entire 100 miles together and walking all the hills, no matter how slight. Next thing we knew, we were running downhill. It was a little techinical but not too severe. We ran along this for another quarter mile until we took a turn onto the Bear Valley trail. This was double track with a comfortable grade downhill for about 1/2 a mile. Then we crossed a gravel road and continued running downhill at a similar grade for another 1/2 mile on the Cosens Bay Trail. In later loops, these two combined trails took it's toll on me because I had to force myself to run it even in my tired state. I felt I had to take advantage of the downhill. When we reached the Cosens Bay trail, it was starting to get light out and Jess and I marveled at the view we were heading towards to Cosens Bay. At times, the wind was blowing pretty hard in this section. That trail ended down at the beach, where there we two nice outhouses. We took a right turn, ran on a trail next to the beach for about 100 yards then started climbing. It was not techinical and a small portion did level out and was runnable. But there were about 4 switchbacks and it climbed about 1000ft over 3/4 mile. We took our time, ate and drank. We were still getting spectacular views of the bay. We topped out and ran along easy footing double track for about another mile away from the bay before making a sharp left turn down some single track. We crossed a paved road and picked up the trail again for a short jaunt through a little more technical trail down to the beach again.

We ran a short section of beach, got back on a double track, easy footing trail that ran next to the water and runnable. A short section later, we made another turn up to a short section of road next to more nice outhouses, down to the beach again, then back on double track next to the water. We hit the end of the trail and scrambled up a steep but short technical rocky trail. This was more often than not a very windy spot because of its exposure, but very beautiful here with the water below and mountains across the water. After topping out, we ran down some technical rocky trail before getting back on easy double track that included rolling, down, and up (again next to the lake and gorgeous) before me made a turn back onto the trail that we switchbacked up before. The section before the switchbacks was the hardest for me later in the run for this part of the loop. We ran down the switchbacks and turned onto Sidewinder trail that was a rolling single track with some slight uphills that took its toll as well. We crossed a couple roads, a bridge, and the final road before heading back to the start on another section of Cosens Bay Trail. This trail was out in a big prairie area and was a different environment, but also very beautiful. It got very cold here at night. It climbed gradually for about half a mile, topped out, and descended to th parking lot for about another 1/2 mile. It took us 1hr55 minutes to finish that first 14K (8.6mi) loop.

There was a crowd of about 12 people, which included relay runners, when we got back. I immediately put on my robe (many of you have seen me come to training runs in my robe-it looks funny but is the best!). Everyone thought it was a great idea, especially Jess as she shivered waiting for the run to start in another 15 minutes at 8am. We took a group picture. Jess and I loaded up for another long loop so that we could run with everyone else. We told Lorie we loved the trail and views. But we warned them of the tumbleweeds in the first part. Lorie said it was clear a couple days ago when she marked it, but it had been windy during the night. Lorie wanted to join us for the long loop but started after us and ran a short loop instead. After everyone signed in, we started, me, Jess, Karl, Dan, Lorie, Barry, and a couple of relay runners? We did a little trail work at the tumbleweed section. Jess and I had to pee and lost the group. We caught them much later in the loop.

We got back to the finish and the relay runners group cheered us on. Their group was getting larger as more runners showed up. They looked cheerful and warm in their down jackets. They had set up a couple of nice tents with food, lights at night, hot soup, hot dogs, and all kinds of treats! The smaller loop started with the last 3/4 mile of the first loop, so up for about 1/2 mile then down for about 1/4 mile before turning onto a trail that was rocky and took us up 1000ft in in about 1/2 a mile. This was a lung buster. It took us up to the ridge where it was often windy before it wound down the Comin Round the Mountain Trail. This was single track for a little over a mile, slightly technical before we hit a gravel road, where we climbed to more single track, which was runnable, back briefly on the road, back on single track then the rest of the way back on the road up and down (mostly down) back to the parking area. This turned out to be 9K instead of 10K and necessitated us to do 7 loops each of the big and small to give us 100.1 miles for the run. This loops was one of the few times that all of us solo runners would be together.

We loaded up again and headed out for big loop #3. A couple times because I had my hydration pack on, I forgot to grab my water bottles. Fortunately, I would realize that not far from the car. It was on this loop that my back started hurting. This has become pretty routine for me no matter what pace I go out, fast or slow. It does hurt more if I go out fast. But I felt we were not pushing the pace and I still was hurting. I do know that up and down is more of a factor than the pace. We ran with Lorie some of this loop and she told us about her Javelina 100 run. She kicked a cactus plant with one foot into the ankle of the other. It logded into her and caused terrible pain, especially when she tried to walk on it as the barbs on the cactus thorns dug and twisted. Another runner and her tried to pull it off with sticks or whatever they could get to grab it without their hands. But nothing worked. Fortunately, a hiker who frequented the trails happened on them and had a pair of pliers. He said the only thing that can remove those thorns were pliers. He removed 28 of them Lorie said. I think she said she went on to finish 100K but Barry's family had health issues and she stopped to be with him. Lorie is shooting for 52 Fifty milers in a year. She is on track and plans on completing her quest.

Jess and I started small loop #2 with my back killing me. She was having problems of her own too. Her right foot that she rolled was talking to her but in addition, she was having plantar fasciitis problems in that same foot. We hiked up the steep hill, which made my back worse. For some reason, we decide to do another short loop after this one to even out our count of 3 loops each of big and small. The consecutive short loops did us both in. My back was on the verge of spasming and Jess's IT band at the knee was starting to flare up, something she had not dealt with for over 2 years, the last time being at Where's Waldo where it flared up early in the race at 30 miles. It took her two weeks to get over it. Here it was flaring up not long after the 50K mark and we had so far to go. I finally decided to take one ibuprofen pill, something I avoid at all costs. But I was peeing a lot and just had some solid food. We both agreed that doing two short loops made our problems worse. There is quite a bit of downhill in that small loop and that usually will aggravate IT band and back problems.

So we got back to the parking lot and had 3 long and short loops each under our belts. It was time to grab a flashlight for the next long loop. I put on capris. This was one of our longer stops. We headed out and I started to notice that my back was not killing me. Was it the long stop or the ibuprofen or slowing down as the sun was setting? Who knows. I was just glad I was feeling better. Jess' IT band continued to get worse, however, where every step on a down was jabbing pain. I briefly had the same problem about mile 20, but thankfully, it went away. I also had some shin pain that came and went. The route is overall pretty runnable, with lots of downhill running mixed in with short, steep ups. This is a recipe for disaster if you have IT band pain. We were about 1/3 through our loop when we needed to turn on our lights. Jess had put in new batteries, but her light was very faint. She did not understand why. Were her replacement batteries old? I thought maybe the bulbs in her flashlight were wearing out. She had that light for over 2 years. There were parts of the trail where it was smooth double track and I could shine my light for both of us to run. But there were enough areas with single track that it was impossible. Running behind Jess didn't work because the shadow that my light casted was annoying for her. So she tried to stay close behind me but still stumbled along. She was pretty mad at herself. I noticed that her breathing was getting more labored too. We finally made it to the end, now over half done.

Jess had already made up her mind before we finished that loop that she wanted me to hook up with the other runners even if it meant that I ran another long loop again. She was planning on doing two short loops to give her over 100K. I asked her if she was sure, and she was. She knew that she would be moving too slow for me. I didn't have to wait too long for the others to come back from their short loop and joined them for a long one. Jess headed out on her own for a short loop, bundled up in case she was moving very slowly. I got more food and caught up with Karl, Lorie, Dan, and Barry, who was I don't know where in his mileage. He ran some in the morning but didn't finish his 50K then. Perhaps he was finishing it off now. I asked Dan how he was feeling, and he said pretty good. So we hooked up and ran ahead. I was still feeling okay and my back didn't protest at our pace, which I felt was faster than I wanted to go but I didn't want to lose Dan and run by myself. He was always a few steps ahead of me. I was content to just let him lead and keep him in my sites. We ran all the down, flats, and some of the gradual inclines.

I noticed that on the steep upill techinical climbs, he was swaying back and forth. I asked him if he had trouble with night vision. He said no. It was all the caffeine he had taken to stay awake for the drive up and for running in the night. Caffeine affects his balance. Did it ever! I was worried he was going to fall of the trail or cliff or back onto me! But somehow, he was able to get to the top of these climbs without toppling over. We talked about how his shoes froze at Arrowhead 135mile run when the temps dipped to 27 below. He is a pretty strong runner, finishing well before me at Cascade. I knew I would have to work hard to stay with him and was worried that my slower pace would make him get cold. But we were moving along well. It was only when we stopped at the end of each loop that I really got cold.

We got to the parking lot and I saw Jess. She was done. Her breathing was really difficult and she didn't think she could make another climb up the steep section in the short loop. She said it took her forever to finish that loop.She ended up with 57+ miles, a huge disappointment for her. I felt bad for leaving her. I just imagined her mind going back and forth on that last short loop of whether to continue for one more, but when you can't breath, there is not much you can do. I've been there before. My first DNF was at Where's Waldo in 2006 because I couldn't breathe, and I had to be hauled off the mountain on horseback. Actually, I could have made it down on foot, as long as I was going downhill instead of up higher. That was quite an experience. Jess kept consoling herself by saying she had a great year of running and was bound to have a difficult one, but that doesn't always make things better.

I was getting really cold and decided to put on my windproof pants over my capris. Jess cheered me on as we started our short loop. Again Dan swayed around on the climb but moved strongly on the rest. I overheated on the climb and was almost regretting the wind pants but was thankful to have them for the rest of the run. I was comfortable in them for the remainder of the night when it got very cool, especially in the valleys. We made it back in decent time. Each time I got to the parking lot, I would put on my robe and eat something substantial, which was often a hearty soup by the relay runners. Jess was there and told me that they were going to pack up soon and not to expect them at the end of my next loop. I was so bummed. Seeing a tent with lights and people really kept me motivated. Jess was going to catch a ride back to the house with Barry, shower, and try to get some sleep. She planned on being back before I finished.

Now I had finished 5 big loops and 4 small loops. Dan and I headed out on the big loop, but I slowed down some more. Still, we kept moving. He told me about the Bear 100. He seems to like the challenging one. Bear 100 scares me. It's the altitude (and bears). I've done Bighorn 100 twice and struggled in both because of the altitude. We talked some, but mostly just ran in silence, which was okay with me. I didn't have much energy to talk and my breathing was starting to get more labored as my asthma got worse with the cold air I was breathing. My IT bands on both sides started to ache but did not prevent me from running the downhills. I had some hot spots but my feet have been worse. The bottoms of my feet were really starting to get fatigued. My back was still cooperating but started to feel our urgent pace. We both wanted to get this run done as soon as possible.

Another loop done, except this time, the parking lot was empty. This was discouraging. I grabbed some food and went to sit in the car to eat, thinking that Dan was going to take some time again to get ready to go back out. Next thing I know, he is standing outside my door. He wanted to get going because if he didn't, he was tempted to just crawl into the back of his truck and go to sleep. So I quickly stuffed the food into my pack pockets, took off my robe, and started up the trail with him. After the end of this short loop, I only had one long loop and two short loops to go. I spent about 14 hours of the run in the dark. The night seemed to last forever.

I started the last long loop optimistic, checking off for the last time each section of the trail. But I hit a low spot about halfway through and started to have negative thoughts like, so what if I didn't finish? I was tired, cold, unable to keep my eating up enough to create heat, and just wanted to stop. I told Dan that I was thinking of stopping after this loop and call it a day at about 89 miles. He would not have any of it. He was going to get me through the last 2 short loops, end of story. He said I would feel better when the sun came up.

We finished my last long loop and I didn't dilly-daddle at the car. I needed to just keep moving. Dan offered me his halogen head lamp, that literally lit up the entire parking area, but I told him that I didn't want to wear anything on my head anymore and prefered to just use my hand held for the next half hour before the sun came up. I felt bad. It look like he spent some time getting it ready for me and I declined it. As we were finishing this loop, Dan wanted to know if I wanted him to come with me in the last loop. I knew I wanted his company, since he kept me motivated to keep moving and made me feel safer, but that would mean that he would have to run by himself one last final loop rather than hook up with Karl. He wanted to help me finish.

We came into the parking lot and Jess was there. It took us 1hr38min to do that loop so I told her I'd be back about then. I dropped my hydration pack finally, took off my wind pants, ditched my I-pod, grabbed a bottle and 4 GUs. We booked along and I was running much more of the trail after the climb. Dan ran ahead realizing that I was running more now. I looked at my watch and realized that I could come under 27 hours and decided to push it. We were finishing our last 1.5 miles when a couple of women ran past me on one of the longer inclines with me walking. They reached the top and stopped to stretch. Dan casually dropped the fact that I was finishing 100 miles. I could hear them say OMG! So when I reached the top, I said to Dan, "Let's finish this!" and we took off downhill. I was sprinting now, but there were some little hills still to go. I started coughing from my asthma, realizing I was a little premature in my sprint. But I kept looking at my watch and knew I had to keep going. Dan had really taken off. I saw him kicking up his heels before he disappeared out of my sight. Finally, I saw the final turn and ran in to give Dan a hug. Jess was nowhere to be seen. We finished that loop in 1:21, so a lot earlier than I told Jess. Dan was right. I was glad to finish the 100 miles rather than stopping short at 89 miles. I jotted down my time and got into someone's heated van to change into my clothes. Just as I was coming out of the van, Lorie came in. She finished just a couple minutes behind me.

Dan took his own sweet time before heading out for his final long loop. He hadn't left by the time I left and Lorie told me he still hadn't left by the time she got back to her house and I had already showered. My time was 26:56, Lorie 26:58, Dan 27:03, and Karl 27:38. Even though we all ran within 45 minutes of each other, we all finished at different times in the day since Lorie and I started early on different loops and Dan stayed with me when was finishing, doing 2 small loops back to back. Karl has a goal of his own and wants to finish twelve 100 milers this year. So he is putting on a fat ass event the weekend of November 21st, but I told him Ken's brother was coming to town from Alaska and I would not be able to make it. Besides, that one is even worse with one 10K loop. I would get too dizzy!

I stayed on top of eating and drinking as best as I could. Admittedly, I started the run low on calories since Jess and I got up early and I didn't really have a breakfast. I had a small granola bar and spent a good part of the next few hours trying to catch up. I tried eating less GU and more solid food, and that worked okay until the end when I needed calories fast and GU was able to provide me with that. Backing off on the GU meant less caffeine, and I peed less but enough to know I was well hydrated (pretty much 1-2 times an hour and clear). I had left over pizza, which was good. I went through 12 granola bars. I took a Succeed every hour. I had bacon. I used hand warmers. The weather was completely dry-no rain or snow. My shoes stayed dried unless I was not able to control my urine stream. I had no stomach problems. I brushed my teeth at 30 miles and 60 miles and they were not sensitive after the run. So the run went pretty well except the mental challenge of running multiple loops.

Here are my loop splits:

Big loop (14K=8.7mi)
Loop 1=1:55 (night and day)
Loop 2=1:55 (day)
Loop 3=2:06 (day)
Loop 4=2:26 (day and night-Jess' light low)
Loop 5=2:20 (night)
Loop 6=2:41 (night)
Loop 7=2:56 (night)

Small loop (9K=5.6mi)
Loop 1=1:16 (day)
Loop 2=1:17 (day)
Loop 3=1:32 (day, clothing change)
Loop 4=1:39 (night)
Loop 5=1:51 (night)
Loop 6=1:38 (night and day)
Loop 7=1:21 (day)

We stayed and chatted for a little but hit the road as soon as we could. Jess and I grabbed some food. I also had my leftover Chinese Sesame Noodle-heavenly! She drove most of the way home as I passed in and out of consciousness. I only drove for an hour after we made a rest stop to the border and then to Bellingham. She then drove the rest of the way home-thank goodness she was there! I was glad I was able to grab some sleep. Taking a Celebrex kept the pain tolerable. After dropping Jess off at her house, I drove home with an overwhelming sense of fatigue. Somehow I was able to stay awake. I got home at 7pm, much earlier than Ken had expected me to be home. He was worried I'd come home at like 3am and have to get up to work. It helped that we were able to run an early loop and that Jess was able to drive most of the way after having been able to get little but some sleep after she finished. I know she would have rather finished 100 miles and be exhausted.

I had a full night's sleep and was in surgery for 13 hours the next day. Fortunately, I was not needed in the clinic on Tuesday and had my normal day off Wednesday, allowing me to catch up on rest. But I did go for a nice run at Cougar with Mary Hanna, Dean Kaylor, and Allison Moore for 11 miles. I felt pretty darn good. This was followed by another good run with Heather Nugent for 9+ miles at Lake Youngs on Friday and 17+ miles with the Seattle Running Company at Cougar on Sunday. I think my recovery went just fine!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sisters Poker Run

October 17, 2009

This is a special run that I try to make every year. Gene "Fatboy" Trahern puts on a fun run with nice giveaways and prizes. I've done it the last 3 years and have gotten great race momentos with race logo including North Face gloves in 2007, knit arm warmers in 2008, and this year a neck gaiter/head warmer. I treasure these! I lost my arm warmers at Bighorn this year but Gene gave me a leftover pair when I saw him at Hundred in the Hood. I won't let them out of my sight ever again! The race fee is just right and the proceeds goes to the Sisters Trail Association. I enjoy going down and socializing with Oregon runners but many Washington runners participate as well.

This year I rode down with Jess Mullen. Allison Moore was supposed to join us but couldn't find a sitter for her dog. She was bummed and we were too. We all had so much fun when we went to Hundred in the Hood together. Jess and I drove down Friday and stopped at our favorite market-the New Seasons Market on Rose Park Way just past the OR-WA border. Jess introduced me to this place and the food is so wonderful. I love their Biali, a bagel type bread with onion mix in the middle. I was disappointed when I got there and a woman was taking one of only two left. I took the last one and asked the baker if I could pre-order some and pick them up on Sunday. It just so happened that she had 4 more on a rack. So I bought all five and didn't take too long to eat them all over the next few days. Also, they have a wok grill their and you pick your ingredients that they stir fry up. It's sooo good!

We arrived in Sisters a little after 7pm, checked into the Sister's Inn, which was new and very nice, and headed to the noodle house where people usually meet for pre-race dinner. Unfortunately, everyone had eaten and left. We returned to the hotel room and we retired fairly early.

The weather forecast earlier in the week called for rain and colder temperatures. It is always cool at the start. But the day turned out to be very nice and Jess and I complained that we were overheating as the sun warmed up the day. In past years, I have stayed at Sean Meissner's house, which is only a few blocks from the start-walking distance. Our hotel was just a five minute drive. We socialized for a while before the race. Shawna Wilskey and Joe Tompkins were there. Terry Sentinella came with his wife, who volunteered at an aid station. Jess and I said our hellos to Michael Cartwright and his wife Tamara. I reminded Michael of when I made fun of him last year. I had come down with Shawn McTaggart and Tony Covarrubias and we were running the first stretch on the road before hitting single track. A car was approahing from behind and Michael yelled, "A cah is coming.". I said to him, "It's caR, not cah!" He replied, "Peace off!" I yelled back to him, "It's PISS off, not peace off!" Shawna, Joe, Jess, Tamara, and Terry just roared in laughter. It's fun to make fun of Michael's South African accent.

Gene briefed us a little about the course. There were several distances: 20 miles, marathon, and 50K+. The aid stations were stocked with the usual fare from previous years including pumpkin pie, animal cookies, Rice Krispie treats, pretzels, and others. The course is very runnable with great single track. For the 50K runners, there is some climbing but nothing too strenuous, and the views on this day were so beautiful. We hadn't planned on it, but Jess and I ran the entire run together. It was fun. Jess had a rough spot in the middle of the run. But when she recovered later, I worked hard to keep up with her. Jess is getting stronger for sure. We saw several runners on the out and back, including Shawna, Joe, Linda Barton, Christel Elliot, Caroline Ly, and Heidi Deitrich.

We reached the second to the last aid station and crossed the creek over a log bridge. Then some more running until the last aid station where we had to cross the creek with almost knee deep water. It was refreshing but added several pounds to each foot. At each aid station, runners grab a card and finish with 5 cards. Then at the finish we get one more card and choose 5 of 6 cards for the best hand. I ended up with two pairs (6 and 4) with high of 8. My hand was something like the 16th best hand. Nowhere near random prize winnings. Jess had nothing :( The winners had full houses. Michael Cartwright, who won the hand the last two years ended up winning the random chip drawing (each poker chip had a certain card value) when his chip was selected for a quilt. It's not fair, he always goes home with a major prize. Every year, Gene's wife hand quilts a piece, and this year it was a wonderful picture of mountains in the background, runners, and all kinds of flowers in the foreground. I soooo wanted it! Oh well, guess I have to keep coming back!

Monday, November 2, 2009

September 26, 2009

Hundred in the Hood

Short: 23:12, 6th female

Slightly longer: This was my 5th 100 miler of the year, one month after Cascade and two 50K races between. My 11th total (one 150 miler, nine 100 miler, and one 24hr run/108 miles). I traveled down to Mt. Hood, Oregon with Jess Mullen and Allison Moore Friday before the race. It was a great girl's weekend. We stayed at a decent place in Government Camp. After checking in and dropping our stuff off, we headed to the start at Timothy Lake to get our race packets. Olga Varlamova and co-RD Mike Burke were there to greet us. Olga and Larry, newlyweds, acted like an old married couple. They seemed very comfortable around each other. We chatted with a few other runners and headed for dinner at a pizza/pasta restaurant in ZigZag.

We retired after dinner after getting our race morning clothes ready. I felt dehydrated but did get up to pee a couple times. It was pretty warm, which made it hard for me to sleep, so I opened the window. It helped some but there was a loud noise outside and it kept me awake, so I closed it back up. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well.

The race started at 5am. It was cool out but not cold. I spaced that it was going to be dark at the start and didn't have an extra one. Allison lended me hers, which I returned back at the nine mile aid station. The race layout was out 14 miles, then back, and then 37 miles out on a different part, then back. That's right, 102 miles. The entire race was on the PCT, so it was too runnable. It took it's toll on many of us. Allison was there crewing for Jess but helped me out quite a bit as well until she took over pacing duties at mile 55.

There was an amazing view of Mt. hood off to our left on our way out in the first out and back. On our way back, Karl Jensen caught up to me and we were coming into a group of spectators. Several children were screaming/cheering us on. I screamed back. Then Karl said, "I didn't touch her, really!" I played along and said, "Get your hands off me you dirty old man!" The crowd loved it!

I started to experience the same problem as at CCC where I had to pee a lot. (I had not figured out yet that the caffeine in the GU in addition to the Fraps I was drinking was dehydrating me). As a result, by 50K, my legs were heavy. I slowed down but continued to move along. I was passed by a bunch of people by mile 55. (I ended up finishing before most of them.) Jess caught me at this aid station, where Allison joined her and she continued to run strong. I was very impressed! She had gotten serious with Cross-Fit and lost 10 pounds after starting on a Paleolithic diet. Whatever she was doing was clearly helping her. I was not able to keep up with them and just concentrated on running my own race. The section after 55 miles was beautiful (Breitenbush)but challenging. The entire race was a series of hills that were too runnable. As a result, you felt compelled to run these but wore yourself out in doing so. The section after 55 miles featured more of the same but the trail was more technical, so that taxed us out even more.

This was only my 3rd 100 mile race without Ken crewing. I had run most of them before without a pacer, so this was not new, but it would have been nice to have someone to keep me company during the night. At times I was worried that I was off trail, even though the PCT is the main trail there. The trail was not marked except at the aid stations. I also heard things in the bushes that freaked me out. I basically ran the last 25 miles completely alone. I finally was caught about mile 90 on a significant uphill that I didn't remember being so long on the way down but lost the runner and his pacer from having to stop and pee constantly. At least I could make out their light far ahead. When I reached the last aid station, I had caught them. We were all under the impression that we only had less than 5 miles to go. Apparently, we had over 6 miles to go. I lost them again. They were laughing and taking their time when I caught them for the last time with about 2 miles to go. They let me pass. The last mile was on a different trail than what we ran out in and wouldn't you know it, it was the most techhical trail of the run. Many people got hurt in this section, which was during the night for most. I also got very cold. The temps got into the 30s. But then I would put on my shell and get hot. Clearly, I couldn't control my body temp, which is usually a reflection of dehydration and calorie deficit.

I took my time in this last mile so that I wouldn't trip but still had some urgency to finish. Finally, there it was! Jess and Allison were wrapped in blankets sitting next to a fire and cheered me in. I got my belt buckle and hat and headed straight for the car. I changed slowly, careful not to pull anything. Just as I was finishing, Jess and Allison got in the car freezing. The fire didn't do enough to keep them warm. We decided to head back to the hotel. Fortunately, it was only a 30 minute drive and Allison drove.

Jess finished 4th woman in 22:33! A strong sub-24. Only sub-24hr finishers got a very cool belt buckle, which I didn't know. Next year they will give out Bronze buckles for sub 30hr finishers. I'm glad I didn't blow up too much and was able to bring home more booty. First male was just under 17 hrs and Shawna Wilskey won in her first 100 in 18:26. Sick! Apparently, the front runners (the first 10 runners, including Shawna) missed the trail to the major aid station for miles 55 and 75 because of a mis-marked trail and had to go basically 14 miles without aid.(There was a section of the race where it was a 10-mile stretch between aid stations with a water drop a mile from the main aid.) Plus, they were supposed to pick up their pacer at 55 miles. But everyone held on tough.

When we got back to the hotel, I really had my first chance to see how pale and weak Jess looked. She really left everything out there on the trail. I couldn't see her well in the dark. But back in the hotel room with full lighting, I became very worried about her. I asked her if she wanted us to take her somewhere (like the hospital). She said she just needed to rest. Allison and I went down to the hotel restaurant and got her a hot chocolate and Sun Chips. This helped her she said. I was the first to hop in the shower. That was nice! Jess was next. Allison had to deal with both Jess and me coughing our phlegm out as she tried to get some sleep. After Allison showered, we headed to the start/finish to see others finish, like Tony Covarrubias and Shawn McTaggart, engaged since CCC. Also, Nic Plemel and Mark Dahlby (his first 100). We had a bite to eat and hit the road. We thanked and hugged Olga for a fine race.

We took turns driving home and stopped at Dairy Queen for some calories. We re-lived the weekend with laughter and pictures. Good times! Thanks girls for a memorable weekend!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cascade Crest Classic 100 Mile Endurance Run

August 29, 2009

Short: 26:40, 3rd CCC, 6th female

Long: This really is a classic race. Great race director, great course, and great volunteers. So close to home, can't really pass it up. But these are 100 challenging miles and runners who start need to be in good shape and mentally tough. It's getting to be popular and the race filled up in a week this year. It will probably be by lottery next year. I would like to become a five time finisher.

The race starts at 10am on the last Saturday of August in Easton, WA. The place is buzzing with runners, crew, pacers, volunteers, dogs, children, search and rescue, and bees. The pancake breakfast, including sausage and ham, eggs, muffins, fruit, orange juice, and coffee fuels the excitement. Drop bags are dropped off. Numbers are pinned on. Check and double check all your gear. Race briefing. Charlie's second year as race director. Good guy to have taken over. Wife Audrey two weeks from delivering their first child (now having entered the world as Lucy). Some notable accomplishments and nice framed pictures given out. One of them to Jamie Gifford going for the only 10 year finisher if he completes the run, which he does in fine fashion and gets a ten-year jacket. I need to get to 5 years first then start thinking about 10 years. Hopefully it still will be around and I will still be able to make the cut-offs. Charlie talks about not being able to go down the rope section to the John Wayne trail and throught the 2.5 mile tunnel since it is closed. The new section features extra elevation but no extra charge. No complaining allowed. There is also a test question at the top and you have to answer it to continue. We all have nervous and incredulous looks on our faces thinking that after 50 miles, we could be disqualified for being brain dead at night and not be able to answer the question.

We line up, all with fresh legs (or not for some of us-but I did actually taper for this race, that is, I didn't run a race the weekend before), realistic goals or not, but happy to make it to the start. I vow to stay on top of my eating and drinking and to start out conservatively. Ken is crewing for me, Mary Hanna will run with me from 47 miles to 53, brother-in-law Cliff Richards from 53-75, and Gwen Scott to the finish. This is a great team. I get to the first water only aid station having already emptied one bottle, refilling it, and arriving 2 minutes slower than previous years, which is what I am hoping for. The first major climb up Goat Peak taxes me, even though I started out conservative. I am sweating profusely because of what I feel is very humid conditions, but others are looking comfortable. I'm power hiking, not running up this mountain like I have in years past. Yet by the time I get to the Cole Butte aid station at about 10.8 miles, 5 minutes slower than previous years, my legs feel heavy already. But I know there is some downhill running coming up and hope to stretch out my legs. Uh-oh. The increased speed moves things along and I have to make a pit stop. I take a little detour off a side road and take care of business. But in my bathroom position, one of my inner thigh muscles decides to cramp up! I jump up immediately, thank goodness I was done, but very worried that I am having problems so early on despite eating, drinking, and taking salt early.

I continue running down the hill, not at a full clip, but taking advantage of the descent. I know the next aid station will be after another climb. I power hike this but by the time I get to Blowout Mt (Chris Ralph and Tom Ripley's 15 mile aid station), my legs are twitching and I seriously need to slow down my WALKING pace before I have a full blown cramp. I've been through this pre-cramp feeling before and know what I need to do to avoid a muscle catastrophe. I arrive about 8 minutes slower than previous years. I leave the aid station very slowly up the hill, knowing there will be some downhill in about a mile and arrival at the PCT. At this point, I'm peeing like every 15-20 minutes. I'm not understanding what I'm doing wrong. My low back is hurting and my legs have no spring in them. I am able to stumble the downhill once it comes, but certainly cannot take advantage of this nice trail and grade. Many people pass me. I get passed on the down, up, and flat. But I'm still slowly running, not walking, which does help me cover some distance. It does give me a chance to really enjoy the beauty of the PCT. I enjoy running in the clouds sweeping over the trail. Even if there is no view, the wind swept alpine trees are beautiful and strong. I am in the moment.

I arrive at Tacoma Pass at about 23 miles, manned by The Balanced Athlete, hurting pretty bad in my pelvis, low back, and legs despite the gradual downhill to that aid station. However, I'm glad to see Ken for the first time. Jess Mullen, who is crewing Allison Moore, is there also to help me. This place is a zoo, being a major aid station with crew access. Even though I'm hurting, I'm not too worried. I have had low spots before and have gotten through them. I smile at all the people cheering as runners come through. I drink a Frap and grab a dixie cup of mashed potatoes that I had cooked up the day before with cream, butter, and salt. I later learn that it is probably all the caffeine that I consume early in a race found in GU and Fraps, which affects me more since I don't drink coffee on a regular basis and dehydrates me. Too much sugar makes me pee a lot too. I have also found that uphill running and downhill running aggravate my low back, which does not bode well for mountainous runs that I love so much. I arrive at this aid station 35 minutes slower than 2007 and 17 minutes slower than 2008.

But I leave still in a good mood, happy to be on the PCT. There is quite a bit of uphill after leaving the aid station and I welcome this chance to eat and take my time. More people pass me. I get encouragement and advice from some who probably thinks I'm new to this. I slowly start to feel better. I'm able to run the flat and slight ups now along with the downhill, almost being able to keep up with those who catch up with me. But I'm smart and try not to force myself to stay with them. I need to run my own race. The PCT foliage changes from bushes right next to you creating a funnel with twists and turns to more open areas with bigger trees. I can hear a constant buzzing as if bees are all around me, but I don't actually encounter any, even when I step off trail to pee.

It takes me about the same amount of time to get to the next aid station as last year, but still 37 minutes slower than 2007 (where I went out too fast). I'm still about 1hr10minutes slower in total time than 2007 and 18 minutes slower than 2008 by the time I get to Snowshoe aid station at mile 29. But things continue to improve as my next 4 miles pace is the same as 2007 and faster than 2008 by 10 minutes. I arrive at Stampede Pass, another major aid station teeming with crew and volunteers, at about mile 33, still behind 2007 and 2008 pace, but gaining back some time. I'm feeling better and greet Ken and Jess with a smile. More Frap and mashed potatoes. I leave with an extra shirt, gloves, hat, and headlamp, required at this aid station. I give Ken a quick kiss goodbye and start hiking uphill and eating my potatoes.

I cover this section in decent time and others who see me leaving the next aid station at Meadow Mt at about mile 40/41 tell me I look strong. The trail becomes much more technical at this point and Gwen had told me that if I could run this part of the race with still some light, it would be much easier. Unfortunately, I'm less further along than I had been in previous years by the time it gets dark and I have to accept that I will run this next very rocky section with the aid of my headlamp. Yet it does not take me much longer than in previous years and I'm am starting to catch some of the people that passed me earlier. I'm still peeing a lot, needing to refuel with gels that have caffeine. Even with darkness now here, I'm still warm and don't require any extra clothing as long as I'm moving along. About a quarter mile before Ollalie Meadows at 47 miles, manned by Seattle Running Company, I hear Ken's voice, "Van, is that you?" "Ken? What are you doing here?" I am not aware that I am close to the aid station. He wants to warn me that they are not allowing any pacers from Ollalie like they had in previous years unless you arrive after 10pm. He is worried that I would be very disappointed and affect my race. I am totally okay with it but am sorry that Mary would not be able to run with me. He runs with me back to the aid station where Mary and Cliff have my night gear. Jess had already taken off with Allison, who had a great first 100. I cover this stretch before Ollalie in similar time as years passed.

I take some perogies with me and head down the rocky trail. I chat with David Bliss for a little bit until he loses me when we reach the road going up to the Alpental Ski Area. This is the re-route, which is not as fun as going down the rope and running in the tunnel. It definitely adds on about 20 minutes. I climb for what seems like forever, but of course, not knowing where the trail will go next and especially at night is very disorienting. I constantly search for that next flag or glow stick. I'm moving along strong however. I get to the top after a few false summits and get to the test question that I worried about so much at the beginning. There is no gatekeeper there to DQ me if I get it wrong. The question is, "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?" I think back and remember this question being asked before, somewhere, I think at one of the other CCC races. I smirk and move on. Unfortunately, the next part is a steep descent on barely a trail strewn with rocks everywhere! I trip and curse but somehow stay upright. I don't see any blood on the rocks from previous runners although fully expect it. After what seems like an eternity, I'm running down a steep slope of grass and dirt, hardly able to control my speed. I pass someone but am even more surprised to be passed by another guy. He is screaming down the slope. Maybe he skis this slope during the winter. At the bottom we have quite a bit more of trail, some techinical, some runnable, but defintely a gradual climb before hitting pavement that head downhill. I'm able to run this well and stride into the next aid station after going under I-90 to Hyak, mile 53 and grand station central. I've lost some time here because of the re-route but don't stress about it. I'm approached by volunteers in costume and cheered on by spectators, including RD Charlie. Ken and Mary load me up on food and Cliff joins me for the next 23 miles.

We hit 2.5 miles of pavement, gradual uphill but runnable. Every year I force myself to run this section because there will be a lot of walking when we hit the gravel road, that climbs a little steeper for the next 4.5 miles. At the start of a shorter race, this can be run, but not after 55 miles. I imagine the front runners can run it though. I continue to drink despite peeing a lot. I eat. I'm feeling good so continue what I had being doing all day. We see few runners on this stretch. Unlike last year when there were rowdy and troublesome kids, we have no encounters this year. Cliff has been injured but felt he could pace me after I had run 53 miles. He also wanted to be a part of what a mountain 100 mile race is all about. He is in for a treat! We make good time to Keechelus Ridge at mile 60-61. We don't dawdle too long. I think I have some soup and Cliff does as well. We leave with more road a little up then a long down before it levels out to Kachess Lake station at mile 68. In 2007, I ran down the road too fast and think I developed a bone bruise that hurt during the next stretch and after the race for several weeks. I grab some things from my drop bag, eat some food, and leave quickly again. We head up the last bit of road and make a sharp right turn smackninto the side of the hill with buried skeletons.

The next section starts with a bush back, which is the beginning of the Trail from Hell. We head in the opposite direction from the final direction that we will be heading once we reach the main trail. There are a lot of downed trees on this trail, some large enough that I can't reach my leg over to touch the ground on the other side. Many of these trees head straight down, so you are fighting gravity to scale them. Cliff provids me with a foot support as I try to slither over one without pulling a muscle. We follow the glow sticks through terrain with no trail at times, careful not to get our eyes poked out by branches. We finally reach the main trail but almost immediately have to cross the creek on the remnants of what used to be a major foot bridge that has been washed away. We continue on a very technical trail that has some significant drop offs down ledges and rocks, steep lung busting climbs, up and down creek gullies, a short section that was washed away into the lake way way down below with a narrow ledge left, and of course more downed trees. Karl Jenson said he counted over 90 downed trees. I guess that's a good way to pass time. I run in front. We catch a runner or two with their pacers. Again, after what seemed like an eternity, we make a right turn down to the Mineral Creek crossing. In past years, I have gotten my feet wet, but this year, there are perfectly placed logs where I scooch on one and have my feet on the other. I am careful not to get splinters in my but though. A short section and we are at the aid station at 73 miles. Some potatoe soup before we head uphill again for another section of gravel road.

I continue to feel strong. Cliff is stiffening up. His injury usually felt better at a certain pace, which we are not able to keep. This short section before getting to Ken at the intersection in the road takes forever. During this time, it gets light. Gwen is ready to go when we arrive. She and Ken had been waiting for a while, but Ken is used to this now, me not showing up as planned. If I don't have pacers, he worries more. It's amazing to me that my crew and pacers give up their time to come support me in my long races. At least the pacers get something out of it. They get some exercise and to run on amazing trails. But Ken seemingly does not get anything out of it. His thing is rock climbing, so he "gets it" when I push myself or come back for more. But he doesn't have similar running experiences to compare. He does enjoy seeing runners come through. He gets joy if I am having a good race. He comments later after I finish that he has never seen me looking so strong and happy in any of the 100 or plus mile races that he has crewed for me and this makes it worth it for him. But in the past, I have had tough races and snapping comes out. I have lightened up and make a real effort to remember that this is something that should be fun.

I get some butternut squash soup and take a Frap with me. I am glad to get rid of my headlamp. This is about the only time I put on my red shell, which I take off after about 15 minutes. Gwen paced me this section in 2007, and I wasn't very pleasant to be around. I was having a lot of trouble breathing that year and really struggled. This year, I am feeling strong and breathing is fine. We run and walk, joking and laughing. Gwen was really stressed out the days leading up to the race because her dog Scout was dealing with some health issues. She had just found out some good news and relaxed for her pacing duties with me. I get tired of stopping and peeing so much and stop hydrating as much as I had been. I run more of this section this year and Gwen is impressed. We are both impressed with the views from the road across the valley towards the Leavenworth area and the Enchantments. With the sun rising, it is gorgeous. I'm glad to share it with Gwen, such a good person.

We arrive at No Name Ridge aid station at 80 miles and I've made up some time. We continue mostly running, some walking. There is a steep section that I remember coming up but Gwen does not. I am right. It is a long one. We get through it. Having run CCC 100 and Bighorn 100 (2nd female in both!), Gwen knows what I need to get through these last 25 miles. She constantly tells me how strong I look, compliments me profusely when I run a section, and reminds me to eat and drink. We amble along up and down until we reach the aid station before Thorpe Mt. I drop my pack and ask them to fill it while we hike up to the top to retrieve a chip that indicates we went to the top. Glenn Tachiyama takes our picture. We have spectacular views of the lake below us and Mt. Rainier in the distance sitting above the clouds. We see runners come down as we head up and runners head up as we run down. I show the aid station workers my chip and get back my pack. One of them tells me that she didn't have to fill it, it was pretty full. Gwen gives me a disappointed motherly look. "Busted!" she says.

I cover the last section to Thorp faster than in previous years. I know the next 3 hills are part of the Cardiac Needles (there are 5 and we already did one before Thorp). We pass two runners who are "re-grouping" in the shade. The sun beats down hard and Gwen gives me her hat so I don't overheat. It saves me. I start drinking again, but backing off earlier is catching up with me. My legs start to get tight and there is a little twitching. My breathing is more labored as well, not just from the Needles. I am downing GUs every 10-15 minutes and they simply evaporate. But I cannot eat regular food anymore. I am able to complete this section before French Cabin (88 miles) a little faster also than previous years. Last year I had no pacer for the last 25 miles. Mary had paced me up to the point where Ken met me last on No Name Road.

I get to French Cabin and grab a pancake, hoping I can eat it. I took two bites and handed it to Gwen after we get back on the trail saying I just can't eat it. She had grabbed a Frap for me but I never drink it before finishing. I just keep eating GU. I start peeing again and running is possible, but breathing continues to slowly get worse from dehydration. But we are moving along really well and I am catching people. After leaving French Cabin, there is one last climb, the last of the Needles. I grunt up this thing. Thereafter, the trail rolls up and down, but mostly down. There are some technical sections that slow me down, but I run most of this 6+ mile stretch. There are several short creek crossings and it feels pretty good on my legs as the day gets hotter and hotter. We finally reach the long, steep, and rocky downhill before the last aid station. I am able to run this pretty well and pass 4-5 runners that I remember passed me earlier in the race when I was struggling. I am glad I made the decision to slow down then so that I could recover for the rest of the race.

I arrive at Silver Creek (95 miles) ready to finish this. But it is very warm and we are told even hotter when we reach the road. I fortunately have a hat in my drop bag and am able to give Gwen hers so that she can get some protection from the sun. Ken has my water bottle ready and a couple more GUs. He and everyone else there clap and cheer us on for the final stretch. I am able to run most of this but grunt a lot of the way. Gwen does a good job of ignoring all the noise I make. We make the last turn and run along the train tracks. The fire station looks so small in the distance. Every year it seems further away. I run as hard as I can. I don't understand it when someone walks the finish or show little joy of finishing. I have seen people in agony right before the finish and still sprint in as fast as they can. I have experienced pain and fatigue in the end but somehow the adrenaline rush of finishing masks the pain and I am able to run hard across the finish line. I want to give the people who have stuck around to see me finish something to cheer about. There is a surprising number of people still there and a decent roar as I finish. I don't run another step after passing under the finish banner. I give Gwen a hug (I think) and Charlie gives me a hug, my third belt buckle in three CCCs, and a beautiful print made by Leah (formerly Jurek).

Ken helps me to a chair under a tent shelter. I had been trying to fuel as much as I could in the final miles, but now nausea overcomes me because of my calorie deficit. I don't feel sick enough to need to lay down or hurl, but it is uncomfortable. I am able to eat something but it only fills part of the deficit. I clean my feet in a bucket of water. I watch with everyone else as more runners come in. I scream as loud as I can for each runner. I was only passed by one runner in the second half, a 19-year-old who looked so strong passing me in the stretch from French Cabin to Silver Creek. I know I passed at least half a dozen, I think more. My three CCC times are all within 30 minutes of each other: 2007 26:22 (5th woman, 19th overall), 2008 26:48 (5th woman, 23rd OA), and 2009 26:40 (6th woman, 43rd OA). But 2009 was the one I felt the best (after my rough start). The second half from Hyak to the finish really tells the story: 2007 14:05, 2008 13:54, and 2009 13:10.

I want to stay longer but had to work the next day. Ken helps me get my drop bags and into the car. We see some runners coming in as we hit the freeway. Ken asks me if I want to head to Cle Elum to get something to eat but it is in the other direction. I just want to get home as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we are not aware that there is a big back up ahead because of a motor home that had pretty much burned down to it's frame. We are now stuck. I am starving and eat the last of Ken's sandwich. We are both exhausted. I nod in and out of consciousness. Somehow Ken gets us both home safe. It takes us two hours to get home, twice as long. We had fixings leftover and I make each of us a substantial hamburger. It feeds us well. I take a shower without slipping. We retire early and in contrast to my other 100 mile runs, I am actually able to get some sleep. Usually, I cannot find a comfortable position and am kept awake by constant shifting. I get enough rest to be able to be on my feet for 10 hours of ortho surgery the next day. I ran again 7.4 miles for the first time the following Wednesday with a fast group and was worried that I was going to run the 2nd half alone. But I felt great and did several miles in the low 7s pace. It was nice to get some leg turnover.

A sincere thanks to Ken, Mary, Cliff, Gwen, Jess, and everyone else who made this my best CCC experience (so far).