When your horoscope on the day of a big race reads, “fake it till you make it,” you know you are in for quite a special day. Going into Cascade Crest 100, I was pretty psyched and very ready to get on with it. I have had a pretty competitive season of running and have really loved it all, but the big dance for me was this race. Not to mention, this was my idea of celebrating my 30th birthday! Yeah, no trips to the spa, no shop till you drop with the girls, not even any champagne toasts. Running 100 miles gives new meaning to ” the dirty thirty.”
I had assembled my crew- Mom, Dad and JB! My Dad suprised me with bright yellow crew tee-shirts that said ” You Got This!” I was just blown away at how thoughtfull it was! It was also brilliant, because I was able to see them coming into aid stations and they kept me moving. I probably only spent 20-25 minutes total in aid stations! That is amazing and I would have turned in a much slower time if they hadn’t helped me speed through, anticipating my every need of food, drink, encouragement and the occasional scolding for not eating all my carbs!! (Haha, Thanks Dad)
Anyway, the morning of the race was the most leisurely I have ever experienced. With a race start of 10:00am, I slept in until 7:00, ate huckleberry pancakes and had plenty of time to say hello to my friends- Roch, Chris, Walter, Justin and lots of others. The weather was just perfect- cloudy, cool and even threatening to rain. After Charlie delivered the pre-race speech, the national anthem and crew instructions, we lined up. My heart was really beating fast. I was full of emotion and drive. I knew going into this race, that I was going to try to push it, race it a bit and see what would play out. I knew a couple other girls were fast and it would take alot to crack top 5. But this was my chance and I felt trained and prepared enough to test myself. Because really at the end of the day, it is a true battle with your own demons… and by demons, I mean the mental and the physical pain that are inevitable.
The start to Tacoma (mile 23)…. Climbing, climbing, climbing briskly but still to the point that it was fairly easy. I enjoyed the cool weather, the trees and just finding a rythym in the race. I had a very high heart rate, but I knew it wasn’t real- it was nerves and that takes a while for me to get calm. I ate, drank and the stomach was good. My right hamstring was pulling at me though and it made me nervous. I also had pain from my plantar fasciitis on the right foot that was playing into the race very early on. No matter though- if something isn’t torn or making me scream from pain, I vowed to keep going. How could I DNF a race on my 30th bday. I got to talk to lots of runners and we all commented on how the day was just perfect weather. The first section peeled away quickly and before I knew it, I was nearing the first crew point. I was very excited to see my crew coming into Tacoma Pass and sure enough, they were ready for me too. They were like an Indy 500 pit crew. I was moving pretty fast and I could see they were a bit nervous about this. I was at 24 hour pace and even wondered myself if this was a bad idea. But, 30 seconds later I was moving up the trail on to the next section of the course.
Finally we got onto the PCT and it was lovely. The trails still had some climbing- but nothing too steep or dauting. Just lots of good running and conversation with my new friends Ronda and Allison. They were great ladies to spend time with on the trail- Allison Moore- blazing along her first 100 miler and Ronda Sundemeier, a seasoned and strong runner. They helped me forget about some of the longer sections between aid stations and we held a good pace for a long time. In fact, Ronda and I went back and forth for about 68 miles- it was very cool and helped motivate us both, I am sure.
Coming into Mountain Meadow at Mile 40, I had just battled about 7 miles of intense nausea. I barely ate anything and even drinking water was not going so well for my gut. This was a low point. I saw my crew, told them I didn’t want any more Ensure’s and that I would see them at the next aid station. If I lingered, I knew I was on the edge of complaining and letting the stomach get the best of me. Best to just keep moving.
Coming into Olallie mile 47, I told my mom “Your girl is back!!” I felt back to normal and got to enjoy a piroguie, courtesy of Scott McCoubrey and team. It was yummy and just what I needed. I still sped through the aid station and put my headphones on to get me to Hyak and mile 53 where I could pick up my pacer/husband extraordinare. At that point Ronda was running number 3 and I was running 4th woman. I knew it would be a battle through the night and that anything could happen. The section to Hyak had changed and over 750 feet of additional climbing and decscending had been added for this year’s run. It probably added a good 15 minutes to times this year. The downhill being much more tedious than the uphill.
Coming into Hyak, I ran with my Mom the 1/4 mile into the aid station. They had everything ready for me and JB was set to go. He was antsy and his legs had lots of energy! Good, I thought, I can use his energy to push me. I quickly drank some coke, put compression sleeves on my calves (which I defintely recommend on these long runs) and grabbed my extra torch handheld light. I was moving so fast, I almost forgot my nathan hydration pack and my Dad yelled at me to get it- Wow, that would’ve been bad. Then JB and I took off. Two miles into the paved uphill road, we saw something moving in the bushes. We stopped and looked closer and saw a very large deer that appeared to have broken legs and upon further inspection, we realized this poor thing had just been hit by a car. It was suffering. This took me into a low, low place. I was tired and could not deal with how bad this was. JB, being a techie, had his phone with him and called my dad, who promised to call the Forest Service. It was the only way I could keep going. I love, love, love animals and this was a blow for me to see in the middle of my race. I pushed the thought out of my head as best as I could and we kept moving uphill. In fact, we climbed 3,000 feet on road and then forest road for 7 miles. It was a grind. JB threw on his iphone with this compact speaker and played music to the delight and possible dismay of other runners. It was definitely fun for me. We rolled into Keechelus ridge and rolled right on out for a seven mile descent into Kachess Lake Aid station. This was a bad section for me. My gut was not happy and I had to make several stops for that. Also, a large blister had formed on the ball of my right foot and it was not helping me with speed on the downhill. After what seemed like forever, we made it to the aid station. I changed my socks, JB tried to lance my blister, which was not successful and so we taped it and sped off for the “Trail from Hell.”
The Trail from Hell was like the Blairwitch Project. It had nightmare written all over it. It is 5.5 miles and takes most runners 90-150 minutes to complete. It did not disappoint. We climbed over about a hundred downed trees, navigated a single track near steep drop-offs, and still had steep uphill climbs and descents over roots, rocks and mud puddles. I actually had fun on it, until the very end when after crawling on my stomach to get under an awkward log, I stood up and said, this feels like boot camp and I am done with it! We came into the aid station and I woolfed down about three quesadilla sections and noticed the second place female was in a chair, sleeping off the destruction from the previous section. Her pacer was super nice and told me how great I looked and to keep going!
JB and I plowed ahead for the next 2.5 miles uphill on forest road where our crews were wating for us. Another uphill grind. We played music and tried to run/walk up the hill as best as we could. We saw my parents, who were getting a little loopy from staying up all night. JB turned up the music and we all danced to the beat for a few minutes while we drank some Red Bull… it was awesome. I took off uphill and about 20 minutes later the caffeine kicked in and I was at my all time high for the race. I was singing every song outloud and running uphills. JB told me to slow down, but apparently, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” was cranked up too loud and I didn’t hear him. I finally looked behind me as we made our way to No Name Ridge (mile 80) and realized I was pulling away from even JB. So I thought, maybe I should walk a bit. We checked in at mile 80 with over a 30 minute gain on time. I was pumped. This was probably the last time I was pumped for the rest of the race. It all got real interesting from that point on.
The next 20 miles went something like this- more steep, steep climbing, legs hurting, stomach being a pain, and motivation was a little lackluster. The only moment of brilliance was the sunrise after No Name Ridge- the beauty of the Cascades in full glory. I took in the moment and thought of it literally and figuratively as a new dawn, a new decade for me. It was amazing, but too bad my legs were not. The cardiac needles were rough and I had shaky legs. The needles were no joke and I started to get a little mad about it. I wanted to move faster, be more efficient. We made it to Thorp Mountain and just kept plugging. Getting to French Cabin, mile 88 at 8:18am was still putting me at around 24:30 hours or so. I just needed to put my head down and move it. Mile 88-96 were a true battle. The kind of test you put to yourself when you want to know what you are made of. With sore knees and a few more falls ahead of me, my downhill legs didn’t have it this time. JB and I certainly did not make up time on this section and in fact, I lost quite a bit. I got to Silver Creek, mile 96 at 10:18. I had nothing left in me. But we were so close. Okay, head down and legs moving. JB got in front of me and I told him to count down the miles so I could keep an okay pace to the finish.
4 hot, tedious miles on a mix of paved road and gravel and the finish was in sight. I made it, I survived and I was so happy! 25:03 and 3rd woman in! What a race, what a course, what a birthday. Hugs and smiles all around and I was done. 20 minutes after finishing, I was decompensating and going down fast. I had to lie down in the dirt to keep from fainting and then I started puking. The medics came over and took my BP (100/60) and my pulse (140)… not good. I insisted on walking into the medtent and agreed to getting an I.V. One Saline bag later, I was feeling a bit better. I guess something was not right in those last miles. My hydration and electrolytes off somehow. I still don’t know why this happened.
Today, I am just downright happy. On top of the world and confident that I can run strong. I am also finally sleeping well again and am looking forward to lots of walks this week with maybe a short run this weekend. So many thanks to Mom, Dad and JB. Memories to last me my whole life.