Tuesday, June 30, 2009

20th Century 100k and Beyond

I’ve definitely begun tapering for Hardrock at this point, but I guess tapering is all relative. After maxing at about a 250 mile week, I was itching for another long run, so I decided a few days prior to the race to do the 20th Century 100k last week. Because this is a very easy course as far as 100k trail races go, I figured it would be a great way to get in a solid long run mileage-wise without a ton of time on my feet (the best of both worlds!). I know hindsight’s 20/20, but I’m happy to say that my foresight for once matches my hindsight in this situation, so I’m really happy it all worked out well.

It’s kind of fun to sign up for a race at the last minute and to go into it with the total mindset of it being a training run. I felt zero pressure and had a really fun time all day long. Race day itself began with beautiful weather and nice cool temps. I rode out to the start with my friend Lindsay and we were definitely running a bit late. We parked at the finish in Carnation, WA and were fortunate enough to barely catch one of the RD’s leaving the parking lot as we arrived, so we bummed a ride to the start out in Easton, WA with him. Whew! The course itself is pretty straightforward. There’s an old rails to trails railroad grade (the John Wayne trail) that runs roughly East/West from somewhere around North Bend to somewhere else pretty far away (Vantage maybe?). Anyway, it goes a long way and it’s a very moderate grade, and basically feels like you’re running on pancake flat ground the whole time. The course essentially follows that from Easton west to Carnation. However, due to a tunnel closure through Snoqualmie Pass, there was a fortuitous reroute on the course this year up and around Snoqualmie Pass. This meant an additional 1,000 or so feet of climbing and a section of some of my favorite single track trail from the Cascade Crest 100 course. This section came somewhere around the 15-20 mile mark if I remember correctly, and was a very welcome change after a quick warmup on the railroad grade. I wasn’t sure who was registered for the race, but knew it was a fairly small crowd and sort of expected to be running alone for most of the day. However, I was pleasantly surprised to have company right from the start. A guy I hadn’t meant before (Shawn Bussert) hung right with me for quite a while. It was fun having him there to push the pace a bit and not let me slack off, and it was fun chatting with him a bit here and there too. He’s new to ultrarunning, and a great runner already, and this was his first go at the 100k distance. Needless to say, he ran a great race. We came into the 50k aid station (and halfway mark) right together at right about 4:30, and then pressed on down the railroad grade. Not too much to report other than I was really tempted to go off on many side trips to mix it up a bit (specifically, I wanted to turn off on the McClellan Butte trail for some nice single track and a fun summit, I wanted to join the folks we saw climbing for a quick up and down, I wanted to turn off and run a quick time up and down Mt. Si…), but I abstained and stayed on course. My pace stayed pretty steady and by mile 40 or so I was running alone and would be for the rest of the day. The last 6 or 8 miles seemed super long, but the finish line eventually came into sight, and a really fun 100k came to an end. The race directors (Michael Cartwright and Scott Krell) spare no effort in putting on a race and truly put on a tremendous event. The course was incredibly thoroughly marked, the aid stations well stocked, the volunteers amazing, the finish line extravaganza unmatched. I feasted on a fully loaded hot dog, and Scott’s wife made me a fresh strong cup of coffee (with the beans ground right there!). I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a race with delicious on demand espresso drinks available post-race- wow! This was a super fun day out on the trails, and I’m really glad I made the call to go out and do this one. A huge thanks to all the volunteers and to Michael and Scott!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mt. Adams Recap

This weekend’s adventure proved to be a particularly spectacular one. Often one has a few niceties or worldly luxuries sprinkled in with an arduous trek like this. For example, on an ultra-run, you might revel in the momentary solace of some peanut M&M’s at an aid station or a hot cheeseburger that your crew brings you. Or maybe you’re on a weekend camping trip with friends and you suffer through the extra pounds of a few bottles of wine in your pack for enjoying a few glasses around the campfire that night... Let me just say that this excursion involved no such luxuries of any sort. Though the views were spectacular and the conditions ideal, this was a hard push in its most simplest form.

We headed out of Seattle late evening on Friday, opting to cram 4 fairly good sized men with a ton of gear into one very small car. Unable to move in the back seat, our adventure began by mistakenly getting on the express lanes and being forced north out of downtown (Mt. Adams is south…). We eventually got turned around and headed back south toward Portland. The trip was long and cramped, but the Pearl Jam was good. After about 5 hours we got in the vicinity of Mt Adams. Since our trip began in the wrong direction, it was only fitting that it ended with a missed turn and plenty of confusion amongst 4 very tired guys arguing over a map. After much back and forth, hunting for the right road, mistaken bear sightings, etc. we eventually found ourselves on the proper road for the summit route trail head. We had heard the snow level was so low that we’d have to stop about 3 miles short of the trailhead. The 2 ultrarunners in the car loved the idea of 6 bonus miles, while the 2 climbers were not so excited. The reality ended up being that we parked a good 5 miles short of the normal trailhead, making for a sweet 10 mile bonus.

We parked around 1 or 2am and decided to lay down for an hour or so to regroup. We just lay under the stars in the woods for about an hour, but no one actually slept. Then we were back up around 3 to get packed up and ready to roll. Brock cooked up some fresh Caffe Vita coffee to get us going (ok, our one luxury of the trip), and we shared some Red Bulls for an extra boost out of the gates. We hiked up the snowed in road all geared up and the first 5 or so miles to the trailhead proper went by relatively quickly by headlamp. The sun was up then and we made a few adjustments before heading up. Quigley, Dan, and Brock all put on their skis/skins, but I had no such gear (oops) and just bootpacked it up. It was a challenge keeping up with them to say the least, but it all worked out. The climb was long, fun, and tough, and eventually we got up to the headwall. There were a surprising number of folks out there, but it was by no means crowded. Up the headwall we went and onto the false summit. Dan was having a little altitude issue and I was moving slow with all the extra weight, so Quigley and Brock got a good bit ahead of us. They headed up for the short extra shot up to the true summit. As Dan and I sat on the false summit we knew the view would be the same from up there and decided our best bet was just to hang there and save what was left of our legs for the trip down. Eventually Brock and Quigley reappeared and we all strapped on our skis and took off down the headwall in picture perfect snow. The trip down was incredible and we managed to stay on course (fortunately) and eventually found ourselves skiing back down the snowed in road. We soon took off our skis though and hiked in the rest of the way. I was tired of banging my calves on my skis hanging too low off my ill-equipped pack though and opted to just carry my skis, etc. the rest of the way. We were a motley, haggard crew arriving back at the car, but we made it and it felt great. We loaded all the gear back in, wedged our bodies back into the sardine can, and headed back to Seattle. Again, the trip was long and had few stops and no luxuries, but the Pearl Jam was good and we eventually got back to town late on Saturday night. Our creaky bodies emerged from the car and all the suffering of the day was well worth it for a picture perfect blue bird Pac NW day on the mountain.