Pacing at the Cascade Crest 100

Ever since last year when I paced a 14 mile stretch through the middle of the night, I knew I’d have to come back and see Glen through to the finish line. Once again I started at the Hyak/Gold Creek aid station at mile 53 as it’s a convenient access point to an otherwise very remote course. So at about 9:45pm Saturday night Sara dropped me off and I sat down to wait for Glen to arrive. By 11:45pm we were heading out under clear skies and a new moon.

The following afternoon, Glen completed his fifth Cascade Crest 100 in as many years. Although things did not all go as planned, we both had a good time. I’d intended to go all the way to the finish line, but after many miles of technical descending, my left foot told me quite clearly to stop. Despite stopping 4 miles short, I had tons of fun and accomplished what I set out to: I pushed Glen through the night and on the climbs. I’d like to think I provided a little motivation to pick up the pace on some sections where it can really make a difference, particularly those climbs. And I covered 12 miles more than I’ve ever run before on a beautiful day in the Cascades. Win all around.

The day was also a real learning experience for me since I’m a somewhat experienced distance racer, but a rather inexperienced ultrarunner with only one previous run longer than a marathon. Here are some notes from the day:

  • I’m still a really bad technical trail descender. I spent a lot of time this spring learning to run downhill efficiently on roads in preparation for Yakima River Canyon, but this was not anywhere close to sufficient for the CC100. I frequently found myself wishing for skis, the proper way to descend mountains.
  • Nutrition/hydration experience from long course and ultra distance triathlon transferred very well. I’m pretty sure that my careful control over calorie and water intake helped me manage the heat and I was never low on energy.
  • On a long run, sometimes little things make a big difference in comfort. At one aid station one woman pulled a toothbrush out of her drop bag. At that moment, I’d have done about anything for a toothbrush. I’m gonna use that one.
  • Running in the wilderness at daybreak on a trail marked by glowsticks was gorgeous and Zen-like. It looked like a place inhabited by magical creatures. Or Ewoks.
  • Braces and ultrarunning don’t mix. The inside of my mouth is raw from the constant motion and abrasion.
  • I took a big risk and wore road racing flats. I did this primarily because I’ve never had a blister in these shoes and they’re light. It worked. Even after 43 miles and splashing through streams, no blisters. But the light shoes with no support certainly made the descending even harder and it probably had something to do with my foot finally protesting.
  • Ultramarathon aid stations are awesome. Some highlights: bacon, grilled cheese sandwiches, potato leek soup. Frozen towels.
  • Ultrarunners are awesome. It’s so amazing to be on the course with such a diverse set of people in every respect, but be united by the fact that we’re all out just having tons and tons of fun doing something we love. It’s like the Ironman scene, but so much less competitive and very low key.
  • Running, hiking, camping or climbing: after ten years of living here I’m still totally in love with the Cascades.
  • Running through the alpine meadows was amazing, both for the inherent beauty and just to see the state of things this year. With the massive snowpack and late melt out, it looks like early July up there. Two weeks until wildflower season?
  • Saw cougar and goat tracks, cougar and bear scat, but not any big animals themselves.
  • That 43 mile stretch was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. To everyone who competed: I’m in awe.

So when am I going to run a 100 mile race myself? I don’t know, but probably not soon. Maybe in 2-3 years, although I probably won’t start with Cascade Crest. Charlie puts on an amazing event and I’ll have to do it sometime, but for now I’ll just continue to support friends there or maybe volunteer.

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