Sunday, July 13, 2014

Issaquah Alps 100 Mile 2014

“Sissy” Issy 100 Mile July 4, 2014

Last year, I was the first person to finish the Issaquah Alps 100 Mile run (37 hours 58 minutes)designed by my good friend and running partner George Orozco. It was a supported run but one of the hardest things I had ever done. I wasn’t planning on running it again, but my other running partner, Jess Mullen, wanted to return to the course to do the whole thing having done most of the 100K + (minus Mailbox peak). Two other people completed the course this year. Ras completed it in March unsupported with lots of snow high up on the peaks (67 hours 1 min) and Jennifer Hughes’ supported run in June tied my time.

This year I dubbed the run “Sissy” Issy because it was going to be supported enough that we would not need to carry a large pack-just a medium pack for most of the run, and at times  we would be able to just carry a hand-held bottle or waist pack. The goal was to get our running packs off our shoulders for a short period of time. Carrying a loaded large pack was a lot of work last year, and I wanted to lighten up this year. Jess was all for it. We lined up people to meet us when we came down from a peak to get real, hot food, and pacers to get us through the challenge. Deb McInally was going to join us for the whole 100 miles and use it as a training run for Tour des Geants 200 mile race with over 78,000 ft elevation gain. George was going to attempt a self-supported 100 mile run. We invited Leni Karr to join us as well for 50K or more. We all looked fresh before the start:

Leni Karr, Deb McInally, me, Tracy Brown, George Orozco, and Jess Mullen

I had bought Sparklers and we lit them for our pre-run pic, but there was too much smoke. My husband Ken, Jess' Mike, Leni's Larry, and Deb's Dave all dropped us off at the start and to exchange drop bags. Tracy was going to crew us the second day and grabbed our bags and coolers. Tracy and Mike (along with their dog Tina), joined us for the hike up Mailbox. They turned around as we were headed down. George took off ahead of us and we saw him coming down from the top as we were making the final push. There was a lot of wildflowers, particularly Bear Grass near the top. It was quite spectacular.


Jess, Leni, and Deb on the final push
At the top of each climb of the run, we took a summit picture:

Summit #1 Mailbox
I spent the night before the run fixing a lot of solid food so that I could save the gels for the second half of the run. I did have a gel on the way up, after eating a banana before the start. Then I had half of a BLT sandwich at the top. Didn't have enough time to finish the whole thing. My partners were already heading down.
I wished I had brought my Z-poles because the run down Mailbox trashed my quads. I had used my poles at Bryce, but with my asthma and a touch of pulmonary edema, I felt they got in the way more than helped. I packed my poles for after the 100K mark if I needed them, but I was needing them now.
We arrived at the base of Mailbox about 10 minutes ahead of last year's schedule. Mike was there with our stuff. We loaded up with food and water for the next 11 miles. So far the trails were not too overgrown until we crossed the Middle Fork Road and hiked the trail up to the CCC road trail. This part was very overgrown. Deb had run it a few weeks back with her husband and he got pretty ill from all the nettle stings. I packed some old scrubs and also let Jess borrow a pair, which fitted well over our shorts and were not too heavy to carry. With my arm warmers, I was pretty protected. Deb had some leg sleeves she put on and Leni followed close behind me. We were happy to have our pants but it was pretty warm. I was wearing a bike shirt that did not breathe well, so I was overheating, even though our pace was slowed by the overgrowth. We finally got to the CCC road and took off our pants. It was refreshing. 
 Me, Deb, and Jess
We ran down the CCC road trail and arrived at Mt. Teneriffe Trailhead still about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. It was really starting to get warm. Mike was there with our stuff. We had some watermelon and cold coke. I was putting some solid food down like sticky rice and Bockwurst. I was still eating gels on the climbs. We headed up the road for about 2 miles before it turned into the switchbacks on very rocky trail up to the falls. Once we got there, it was straight up to the summit. I was really overheating now and when my face gets really hot, I know I have to slow down or rest to get my heartrate down, or else I will start to cramp. I know this feeling well and I listend to my body by slowing down. Deb let me use her poles so that my legs could get a rest, and that really helped a lot. About halfway up the climb, my legs started to feel better. We stopped at the top to have lunch. I had some chow mein and we took our summit shot:

 Summit #2 Mt. Teneriffe
We bounced from tree to tree down a steep trail off the summit that leveled out after a short while and then it was a nice rolling trail to the service road. This road is pretty rocky and steep in places and trashed my quads further. But I was still able to run it still. I had some Chocolate Coconut ProBar on the way down. I had stashed some water where we get off the road and take the connector trail to the Talus loop trail toward Mt. Si. I stashed it too well and had to bushwack to get to it. It was nice to get back onto single track. In a short while, we hit Mt. Si. At that point, Deb called her husband to make sure the place that we wanted him to pick up pizza was open. They were closed! So glad we checked. He did find a place that was open and had gluten free pizza also for Jess and Leni. Jess led the way up Mt. Si and we made good time. Not sure how far ahead of last year's schedule we were at that point, but I think we were over 15 minutes ahead. Just as we were going to make it to the base of the Haystack, we saw George. He was as surprised to see us as we were to see him. He said he went out too fast and was cramping. His quads were bothering him too. He said he was eating salt pills like crazy. I knew exactly how he was feeling, but my case was not as severe. At least he had poles to help his legs out. I didn't, but planned on calling Ken to bring me my Leki poles when we saw him at about mile 55. They are not as light as my Z-poles, but they would have to do until I could get to the 100K mark. Here we are on Mt. Si:

 Summit #3 Mt. Si
We headed down the Big Si-Little Si connector trail. This is a really steep trail and my quads did not like it. I wasn't cramping. I just was weak in my quads and this slowed my pace going down. Once, I slipped and almost tweaked my knee. Scary. I picked my way down, everyone well ahead of me. I tried to eat something. The theme all day was that I was overheating on the descents more than the climbs because I had to work harder in placing my feet to avoid falling on my trashed quads, which trashed them even more. I had stashed water where the Boulder Garden Loop met the Little Si trail and we stopped to reload. The hike up Little Si had pockets of cool air and I was able to cool down. And it was more uphill than flat, which my body didn't mind. We caught George on the final climb up to the summit. I really enjoyed seeing George on the trail. It grounded me having a familiar face. He was hurting though, and I felt bad for him because of that. I can't say I felt a whole lot better but I smiled nonetheless for each summit picture. I finally took off my poorly breathing shirt and didn't experience any chafing for the the 5 miles that I had it off.

 Summit #4 Little Si

Deb photo bombing George at Little Si
We headed down the Little Si trail with thoughts of pizza and coke to come soon. Deb's husband Dave met us about 3/4 miles up the trail and ran us down with their dog. Leni's husband met us there too with more food and night supplies for Leni for her attempt at the 100K. We took about a 20 minute break here eating pizza, stuffing our packs for the leg after we got to Rattlesnake lake, and just carrying very little for the next 6 mile stretch. I had a waist pack. Deb changed her shoes. While we were eating our pizza, George walked through the parking area with his head hung low and said, "Just going to have some more powder." Poor George! We so wanted to offer him some food. He had stashed his own. We were all dreading this next section of flat trail, but the sun was going down and it was cooler. I did better in this section because it allowed me to use different muscles and my quads recovered a little. We saw a bear on this Snoqualmie Valley Trail. Other critters we saw during our run at some point included a frog, a deer, and of course squirrels. We met Dave again about 5.5 miles up and put back on our heavier packs with headlamps. We had just passed George, but he passed us again when we were stopped. We were less than 1/2 mile to the Rattlesnake trailhead at that point and met up with him again. All of us used the Honey buckets there. We put on more bug repellent before we started the hike up. We left George with his lap full of gels, looking unappealing to him. We were at the 40 mile mark.
I took the lead now up the trail. Up was definitely easier for me than down. I did enjoy this part. I love it this time of night-dusk. People were hiking down.We still did not need our headlamps. The trail was wide and not too technical. The grade was perfect. Last year, we had to put on our headlamps about a mile up the trail. This year it was not until 3 miles up. That was nice. We were over 30 minutes ahead of last year. We peered over the edge and saw all the fireworks below in the valley. As we ran along, there was a constant boom coming from all directions.

Summit #5 Rattlesnake Ridge East Peak
Summit #6 Rattlesnake Ridge West Peak-we did take a picture. Where did it go?
At this point, Jess had texted Jenn Hughes and let her know we were approaching the Rattlesnake-Tiger interchange. Jenn was a mile up the trail from the parking lot on the Snoqualmie end at where the powerlines intersect the trail. We ran towards each other. Next thing you know, we see her approaching. She said she saw three other people on the trail. One was a guy and the other two were women from MIT. Impressive! Didn't expect other people to be on the trail this late. We had a Stanford gal among us-Leni! We reached the interchange and headed towards Tiger. There is actually a trail here that you bushwack down to the service road but you have to know where to look. George had kindly cleared the overgrowth with his machete and navigating this at night was much easier. I had to have the girls go ahead of me because I stepped wrong and nearly cramped a quad trying to catch myself. Fortunately, I was okay and was able to continue on running once we hit the service road.
We arrived at the spot where Jess and I stashed water about 10 days prior to this run. Except, it had been bulldozed over. Out bottles were gone! Fortunately, Jenn had plenty to share. We headed down the trail that starts out as a popular mountain bike trail and took the trail to the left. Down, down, down we went. Pain, pain, pain in my shot quads. This would be a recurring theme on all the steep down hills for the rest of the run. We hit the power line trail and took that towards Hwy 18 and the Raging River. There are river rocks as you approach the river, and once again, I had to be careful not to aggravate my quads. Instead of crossing the river, we climbed up to Hwy 18 (you just have to know where to look for a steep trail that gets you up there and Jess found it). It was about midnight? Still cars on the road. As soon as everyone was on the road, we booked along the side of the road that took us to a pull out off Hwy 18 to the trail that climbs up Tiger. A couple cars passed us as well as a semi. Fortunately, no one got hurt.
This next part is tricky because you have to find an unmarked and fairly narrow trail that takes you across a creek. I was able to find that and we got our feet wet for the first time. No way to get around it. Then it's a very steep but relatively short hike up to the service road. Another 1 to 1 1/2 miles on the road before we hit single track again on the NW Timber trail. Jenn led the way and these miles seemed to go by quicker.
Ken was going to meet us at Hwy 18 but now also Greg because he was there to pick up Jenn. Jenn had texted Greg to go get us some French Fries and Mango shake at McDonalds. We had planned on instant potatos with bacon and chedder cheese with Ken, but no one seemed to want to take the time to do that. I think I should have had some, but I didn't want to keep the girls there too long, having already slowed them down with my sore quads. Plus, we were trying to get going before anyone got too cold. Actually, it was very hot and humid the entire run, and I only had to put on arm warmers twice during the night when we were stopped. The rest of the time, we were all in shorts and t-shirts and still overheating. Ken did bring coffee that people really liked. He definitely has good taste in coffee. I had some french fries and mango shake-yum. I had asked Ken to bring my Leki poles and they did help me move along better, taking the load off my quads.
Next was the climb up East Tiger going on the service road. Last year, it was foggy here and we got cold. Not this time. And usually East Tiger is cold no matter what, but there was no breeze there. We took a comfortable picture in just what we had on and headed down.

Summit #7 East Tiger

The next section is a little frustrating for those of us who knew the trail before it got longer. You run on the Preston trail back in the direction of East Tiger summit before turning away from it towards the East Tiger Trail. We finally reached the Bootleg trail and headed down. Unfortunately, the next mile was very overgrown. This is one part of the trail that we didn't get to when we came out to clear the trails. It was slow going and Deb's headlamp was fading. Because it was almost getting light out, we didn't change her batteries. Finally we arrived at Dwight's trail, which was nice to look forward to since Jess, me, and George had come out the week before and cleared it. It was only a one mile section, but it was bushwack free.We arrived at the High Point trail and over a mile later, we finally hooked up with Tracy. My watch showed that we were just under 70 miles at this point, but we still call it the 100K mark.
Tracy had been up most of the night getting texts from us about our progress. She gave up her entire Saturday to crew us. She brought us each a McDonald's breakfast platter with eggs, sausage, and pancakes. All of us did a major clothing change here, because we were all sticky and smelled badly. I change everything, sports bra, underwear, shorts, shirt, sock, gaiters, and shoes. I switched from my Leki poles to my lighter Z-poles. Robert Lopez and Kim Kuhlmann joined us for the last 34 miles as well as Deb's friend Michelle Maislen and her dog Brutus. After a decent time there, we got going again. We arrived here about 2 hours faster than last year. Leni set a new FKT for the 100K with a time of 23:37. Way to go! You are totally ready for CCC.
It was still early in the day, so not so muggy yet, but that changed as the day warmed up. Last year, I was falling asleep during the climb up Tiger 3. Not so this year. Everyone was moving well. I was able to keep up on the climbs.

 Summit #8 Tiger 3
 A short jaunt over...

Summit #9 Tiger 2
Down the road and up a steep hill...

Summit #10 Tiger 1 (with Brutus)
The next part is on trails that I have run many times. I was looking forward to it but was aghast to see that it had been logged. It looked so different to me. I kept looking up in wonder. It was sad. At least the Christmas tree was still there. The trail after the tree was totally overgrown but thankfully short. The next part towards to the Paw Print bathrooms was slightly overgrown (better than last year), and then an open area that had been bulldozed over. We made it to the Tiger Mountain Trail. I was feeling spent here and followed Jess. She had dropped water before this point but realized after we passed it and it was too late to turn back. Everyone was doing fine on water. Up and over One View trail next, well known to me. I know where all the hills and slopes are. I was dreading the run down Poo Poo Point trail. This is where I struggled to keep up. On the way down, I texted Tracy and let her know we were approaching in a shorter time than last year. Yikes, she said, better head over. At that exact same moment, George texted me that he was dropping at the 100K because he was peeing blood. I texted him I was sorry and that he should probably see a doctor. I caught up with Michelle and we had a nice talk. We walked the down hill, which was a nice change in pace. Everyone was lounging at the base of the trail when we arrived. A short distance further and we were at the High School trail.
We hit pavement, which was painful on the bottoms of our feet heading towards Sycamore Lane, where Tracy was waiting. I switched to a waist pack and let air breathe through my back. It was so dang muggy here. I continued to use my poles and it helped propel me up the climb on the East Ridge trail. I had done a lot of clearing of the trails on this side of Squak and Jess and George cleared the trails on the other side. Last year, I nearly lost my mind when I had to move through this overgrown trail.This year, it was much better. Too bad I couldn't make much time on the down hills.
The run down West Side trail took me forever as I expected. We finally got to Tracy and she had popsicles for us. What a treat! I should have had 2! I decided to leave me poles for this next section on Cougar because the trails are mostly rolling and I was doing fine on the uphills, just needed some assistance on the down. Michelle led the first half of this 8.5 mile loop and her pace was perfect. Robert and Kim followed her, then Jess, Deb, and me. I focused on keeping the same distance behind Deb. I never like following too close behind someone. It allows me to adjust my pace comfortably and also so I can see the trail ahead and not trip. Finally, we made it to the Quarry trail, which meant we were on the side of the mountain that would lead us back to Tracy. I had one of Jess' Rice Krispie treats to fuel me on the climb. We took our final picture of the last summit, #11. I thought we would have to show 10 fingers and stick our tongues out but Michelle had a better idea:

 Summit #11 Wilderness Peak
Usually I really like the run down Wilderness Cliffs trail, but this time, it was basically putting the dagger in my quads. This was the one spot I wished I had my poles, but I didn't want to carry them the rest of the Cougar loop.
Tracy had saved me some turkey slices and put them in a baggie for me. I forced them down before heading up Squak. Actually, it was not so bad to eat (moist, not much chewing required) and it was a good source of salt and long lasting energy. A package of ElectroBites was exactly what I needed halfway through this stretch. It gave me 100 calories and was salty. Even though they are dry nuggets, they dissolve immediately with a sip of water. I will for sure have them in my food supply for the next big runs so that I don't have to rely all on gels. I grabbed my poles for the climb up and over Squak again. This went as well as I had hoped for me, that is to say that I moved along, albeit slow. The run down Squak was better than Wilderness with poles.
We reached the awful pavement but this signified that we were getting closer.  We walked to Tracy who was waiting for us for a quick exchange for the last 3 miles. I ditched my poles for the last time. Onto the High School Trail, the Brink trail, and then Swamp. Dave, Deb's husband, met us on the Swamp trail with their dog.We got to the final road that connects upper and lower parking. This last half mile is a nice down hill with a little incline in the middle. To make it in 36 flat, we had to run this all out (it felt like 6 min miles but probably was more like 7-7:30 min miles. Surprisingly, my quads were able to handle this. It was nice to finally stop.

 New FKT 36 hrs 00 min

Everyone went to their husbands and got a big hug, even though we smelled badly. I sat next to Ken and just rested my head on his shoulder. I didn't bother to take off my shoes for 10 minutes. Then I joined the group, had an amazing can of coke (the mini ones are a perfect size for me), and finally took off my shoes. Tracy offered me a Top Pot doughnut, but I couldn't get myself to eat anymore sweets. We sat around in a circle for 10 minutes just staring off into space, or maybe that was just me. Then everyone scattered and headed home.
My quads were my weak link for this run, something I had never experienced before. I had heard of shot quads in races like Western State where there is a net downhill, and now I know what it means. Usually, it's my asthma that is my limiting factor late in the runs. It took me much longer to recover in those muscles than usual. I seemed to have reached a plateau in their recovery one week later and was very worried about that. Then I went on a 14 mile training run that I had promised a friend on the first part of the White River course. I thought I was making things worse because they felt horrible during the run, but afterwards, my legs felt much better. It seems that I just needed to break up some scar tissue/adhesions maybe and get the blood flowing through them again.
George recovered and said he was going to get back to on the course to train again.
Will I ever return to do it again? Ask me again in a few months, but for sure the answer is a big fat NO right now.
Again, just wanted to say that this run would not have been possible without our husbands, Tracy Brown, and our pacers!