Monday, August 25, 2008

Cascade Crest Classic 100!

Congratulations to all the finishers (and starters) of CCC100! What an amazing accomplishment. I had such a great time this weekend being a spectator and a pacer to Francis. The thing I was most worried about was staying up and running through the night. I thought for sure this would be the hardest part. WRONG. I also thought that in order to stay up, I would need lots of Red Bull. WRONG. I also thought that I would want certain foods and planned for it. And what do you know, I was WRONG. These types of events just can't be planned without lots of options. Options, Options and more options.

To start, Francis, Glenn and I carpooled to Easton. Unfortunately, Struth could not come. Although the course was dog friendly and there were lots of cute dogs having a ball, I just couldn't have Struth stay in the car for hours upon hours while I ran with Francis. He could have run with us, but as it was my first time pacing and my first time running through the night and I did not want to compromise Francis's race with worrying about Struthie. I missed him there, but he was in very good hands with friend Mikenzie and her family, including dog Jolie.
The race started at 10AM but Glenn and I headed up to Goat Peak, mile 7, so he could take photos of the runners before the start. I had a cheat sheet of the runners names and numbers so as they rounded the corner past Goat Rock, I would cheer for them by name. Some runners wondered how I knew them until they saw my cheat sheet and realized I calling out every one's name. I had a fun time doing this and every single runner was smiling and many were commenting on how beautiful the course was so far at mile 4. Some even took photos of the scenery themselves. After the last runner passed through, Glenn and I hiked back down to the car and headed to Tacoma Pass, mile 23. Here, I sat and enjoyed talking with some folks and seeing some of the runners come through. The runners were still smiling and obviously having a good time. The volunteers at the aid station were so on it in terms of greeting the runners and getting them whatever they asked for. We all cheered whenever a runner was coming down the trail and they seemed to appreciate it. It was interesting to be on the other side of the aid station, a spectator. When I come through an aid station I am usually thinking I don't want to stay too long. I often feel overwhelmed (depending on which mile it is) because it is such a different reality being surrounded by people who are excited and cheering for whomever it is that comes through than being on the trail running on my own and in my own head thinking about many things and thinking about those many things in a way that I don't when in "everyday life". Anyway.....after Tacoma Pass, Stampede Pass was next, mile 33. Here I hung out with Shawn mostly and again, cheered for runners coming by and noticed how the lead runners were changing positions. This person was in the lead and is now second, and so and so is a head of so and so, and wow, that person seems to be having a great race, etc. Overall, the runners were still enjoying themselves and ready to keep it going.
Next stop: Olallie Meadows-mile 47, the Seattle Running Company Aid Station. The bugs were out in full force. Even with bug spray, they were biting and sucking and making me and everyone else do the itchy mosquito dance. It was fun up there though b/c Scott and Lesley are awesome and they were also playing music and I got to sit in a real chair so my back was happy. The runners coming through still looked happy, although it was apparent they had run 47 miles as it seemed there were some tired smiles but happy faces. A few dropped here but most headed on to the rope section and tunnel. I decided to see if I could sleep a bit knowing I was to meet Francis at Hyak between the hours of 10:30-midnight. I think I got in about 30-40 minutes. Then it was off to Hyak, mile 53. Once I got there I wasn't really sure what to do, it was a little chilly, the bugs were still gnawing at any human flesh available and I had no real idea where Francis was or when he would be arriving. I knew I couldn't sleep b/c I was too anxious with the thought of missing him. So at 10:45, I had everything I would run in on and hung out at the aid station with the Christmas theme. Luckily there was a free blanket and chair, so after talking with some people, like Olga, who were waiting for friends, I sat down and chilled. My view was the back of a huge blow up snowman surrounded by glow sticks.
I sat here for about 45 minutes. I watched as runners came in with twisted ankles and nasty blisters but in great spirits and ready to keep running. The thought of running 47 more miles with blisters sounds so daunting. Just goes to show how powerful the mind can be.
Francis came running through at about 11:45pm. He ate a bit, changed clothes and then we were off. We started running at midnight and one of his first comments was "oh, I wish I had your fresh legs". At mile 53, this was the longest Francis had ever ran. We had 47 more mile to go. We were on the road for a bit and wondered if we had missed a turn b/c we hadn't seen a glow stick or ribbon. It was hard to even see if there was a ribbon b/c it was so dark. We saw headlamps bouncing in the back round behind us so we waited a bit just to make sure we were going the right direction. We were :-) On our way to Keechelus Ridge, mile 60, we walked and ran and started talking with a woman from Chapel Hill who it turns out I had run with before while visiting my parents there over the winter holidays. Imagine that, 2 in the morning, in the middle of the mountains running around and what do you know, I meet someone I had met before across the country and ran with no less! Bizarre!

It was a beautiful night, not too cold if you didn't stop moving and definitely not too hot. I didn't even have gloves on or a winter hat, just a few layers and a running hat. I was feeling pretty good despite my stomach talking to me and not in a very nice tone. That conversation with my stomach lasted until No Name Ridge, mile 80. I didn't want to tell Francis how much my stomach hurt, but I think he figured something was up as I had to keep stopping off the side of the trail to deal with it. At one point he joked, "if I don't finish in under 30 hours, it's all these side of the trail stops that are the cause!" Keechelus Ridge AS, were stopped briefly for soup and water and headed back out into the starry night. Francis seems to be in good spirits although he was starting to get a little tired and was thinking that aid stations were too far apart because how could it be that it was taking us so long to go 8 miles? But I assured him it was the steep logging roads that kept us for moving a normal trail running pace and not too worry, Kachess Lake Campground AS was around the corner...and soon enough, it was! Although I was having stomach issues, I made sure to keep eating. I thought I would want red bull and grilled cheese here, but the thought of red bull turned my stomach, the thought of anything with sugar in it turned my stomach but the grilled cheese sounded like something I could eat and I hoped my stomach would be ok with it. Francis was grabbing food and stashing it in his pack. I just made sure he was eating every 30 minutes and drinking regularly. From here, we headed out to run/walk the Trail from Hell. I had heard a lot about the trail from hell and was expecting much worse. The skeleton at the beginning and the subsequent skeleton heads made me think it was going to be way worse. But it wasn't so bad actually. We had to move slow and at times it was hard to find the next glow stick. Lots of roots, rocks, trees down to climb over and uneven trail. I expected it to take us over 2 hours to run this 5-6 miles and it did. The sun was up when we got to Mineral Creek AS, mile 73. My stomach was really screaming now, but I took off my headlamp and a few layers, ordered a cheese quesadilla and made ANOTHER pit stop in the woods. Can I just say that it takes a community to put on a 100 mile trail run....these volunteers at the aid stations are amazing. They camped overnight and hung out long hours to make sure that the runners, and their pacers, had food and drink. A huge thank you to all of them from start to finish not only on the race days but before and after as well.
We headed off up another long long long logging road that I thought would never end. At this point I was getting tired. I found myself closing my eyes while walking just to keep them moist. The scenery was gorgeous and so I had to keep myself motivated by looking around and taking some photos. Francis was not sure he would ever do this race again and in all honestly, I was thinking I would never pace it again. So much back was hurting and blah blah blah. But I knew that 10 minutes after we finished we would forget about all these aches and pains and be glad that we did it. Especially Francis-he was the one running 100 miles....I only did 47. What did I have to complain about? I was trying to stay motivated despite my waning enthusiasm. I knew I was just tired and that I needed to stay positive for Francis and at times that was tough. But never for that long. I kept remembering what Charlie wrote in the CCC Runners Manual, "remember, you paid money to do this" and I was thinking, 'I volunteered to do this....shift your focus to the beauty of the course.... '
After talking about how demoralizing it is to keep climbing that logging road, we finally got to No Name Ridge AS, the AS of Alison and James and the 80's theme. It was fun to see them and have another grilled cheese and refueling of liquids. And we were off...I knew the cardiac needles were coming up, but I did not want to tell Francis because he was really starting to hurt. His knee hurt, his blisters were bad and he kept telling me that his whole body hurt. I just kept trying to move him along and tell him how good he looked and how strong he looked and to just put one foot in front of the other and instantly progress is made. On the last of the cardiac needles, the longest and most steep, Francis stopped a few times. At one point he looked up at me and said quite poetically, "this is not for me." I had to chuckle because, well it was funny at the time. I knew he would never quit, I could see it in his eyes, HOWEVER, I also knew that these hills were hard for him mentally. I was prepared for them mentally b/c when I "ran" the course with Glenn a few weeks earlier, I was demoralized by it. So this time around, they didn't seems as bad. I was trying to be as positive as possible for Francis because now his knee was not working properly and his blisters were screaming. We saw Olga pacing Gail on the trail up to Thorpe Mountain. Gail was kind enough to give Francis some much needed Advil. He could not run at all, it was far too painful he said. But next thing you know...we had made it to Thorpe Mountain! We had to get up to the top (.5mile) to get his "green card" to prove that we were up there. Glenn was 3/4 of the way up taking photos and fighting off the mosquito's. It was great to see him up there, he looked like he was having fun and everyone was so happy too see him and have awesome documentation of the trip up there. As usual, Glenn looked like a professional on the side of a mountain taking the best photos. It was gorgeous, of course, (see those photos!) partly sunny so some views. Francis had a hiker take our photo. I think he really just wanted to sit down!

The down we went and handed in his green card, refueled and started making our way to French Cabin, mile 88. There were more serious hills here and I started thinking...can Francis finish this on his own...? I am tired....but seriously, whenever I thought how tired I was, I just thought about how much MORE tired Francis was and how I could NOT be a wimp and stop. So I took a mental adjustment and then keep trying to tell him how great he was doing and the finally, the downhill to the AS came upon us and we started to run down. More refueling here and off the Silver Creek, mile 95. This section seemed like the longest. It was also the most runnable. I kept making sure that we were on the right path b/c I thought surely, this was too easy for too long on this course, we actually ran for miles and miles at a time. Francis had decided that although he knee was not moving properly and his blisters were painful that he would suck it up and run and get there quicker. What a champ! Then finally, mile 95! We refueled and Allen from SRC told us "it's less than 5 miles from here!" What a relief, more for Francis than for me, I didn't have any blisters and my knee felt fine. I looked at my watch and we had 50 minutes to cover 4.8 miles to make it under 30 hours, which was Francis's goal initially. I think he has changed his goal from <30hours to finish somewhere a few miles ago. But I told him we could do it. We walked first, then ran and POP, went his blister. I can only imagine. It is horrible to run with a blister, especially when you already have 95+ miles on your feet. We walked most of the way, or in Francis's case,-limped most of the way, crossed I-90, and headed towards the Easton Fire Station, otherwise known as the Finish Line. People were cheering for all the runners on the road and it made the last few miles go by quicker. At this point, the finish was in the bag and Francis started smiling bigger and bigger. We ran the last 25 yards into the finish and all were applauding for him. He finished in 30 hours and 18 minutes! It was awesome to be a part of his big accomplishment. I felt as thought I had accomplished something by helping him accomplish something and that was a good feeling.

Being a part of this 100 mile run makes 100 miles seem less daunting. I don't know if I will ever do one, but I am glad to have had the experience to be involved with one. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's easy....I'm just saying that it seem less daunting and possible now. Besides some very chapped lips and about 20 itching mosquito bites and being tired from no sleep, I am doing just fine! 16 hours on my feet with Francis was quite an experience. Congratulations again, to everyone who ran. Results are here. Photos from Glenn here! And thanks to all those volunteers who spent their weekend marking the course, sweeping the course, making food and drinks for runners and cheering people on. And of course to Charlie for being RD!


gtach said...

thanks for keeping me company on goat peak! announcer girl made it much less lonely and a lot more fun! isn't it amazing when you think of all the selfless people who gave up their time and sacrificed their sleep in order to make this event happen? truly a labor of love. francis was very fortunate to have you as a pacer. nice work getting him to the finish!

KeNdRaLsTiN said...

What a great report, alm! It's weirdly true how you can't predict what food you're going to crave (or just tolerate) during those kinds of efforts. "Options" is a good solution! It was fun to experience this year's CCC as best I could thru your words & G's photos. Oh, and congrats to you and your runner!

Struthie, the ultra dog! said...

mom? why are there strange dogs on my blog? i thought this was supposed to be about you & me?

Francis said...

Thank you for keeping me company and running 47 miles with me. it is definitely the longest time you have ever spent running and that is why I would be willing to pace you at next year race. Well written blog. I am not a good writer but you really mentioned everything about run, bathroom breaks, mix of foods and sleepy time...
thank yo again

Motivator said...

WOW, M'Lady "I only had to run 47 miles"--did you chuckle at that at all? What an adventure and great to read about your night-time experience running, pacing and partying in the forest. hooray to all!