I have no idea what I was thinking heading into this year’s ultra season. I didn’t get selected in the Western States lottery (no surprise) and didn’t get selected in the Hardrock lottery either (also no surprise). I had no back-up plan. Those were the two races I was hoping to get into. Western States to try for Sub-24 hours, and Hardrock because it’s the last race on the bucket list of races I made 10 years ago when I first started running ultras. So I was grateful when Adam Hewey from the Seattle area reached out to me to suggest that I run the Cascade Crest Classic 100-Mile Endurance Run. Adam is on the board of directors for the race, and he informed me of a lottery by-pass method that this race institutes for special individuals. I guess that’s me. So I took them up on their offer, signed up, and was automatically in.
So I started planning my year out knowing full well that taking on the toughest 100-miler (on paper) that I’ve ever taken on would be an incredible undertaking simply given the fact that I’m now a full time race director. Putting on 7 Fat Ass Runs and 5 Official Races takes a TON of time, not to mention that I’m really not making money yet. So how in the world would I make it to the start of the CCC100 and how in the universe would I make it to the finish line? I had my doubts from the beginning, which is why I signed up.
My plan started with my once again running in all of the Fat Ass runs I organize in the Front Range, in their entirety, and then running the following races/journey runs: April: Rockin’ K 50-Mile in Kansas, May: Trans Bryce Journey Run, May: Dirty 30, June: San Juan Solstice 50 Mile, and the new brutal Never Summer 100k in July. I finished Rockin’ K with my worst performance there in the 3 years that I’ve been going. I was an hour slower than my last time at Dirty 30, I didn’t finish the entire run at Trans Bryce.. but I managed to run a strong consistent race at San Juan Solstice, and after a very patient first 44 miles at Never Summer.. I turned it on for a crushing final 20 miles. After Never Summer, I had it in my head that if I could do what I did there, I would certainly be able to finish Cascade Crest.
I flew into Seattle on Friday, landing at 8:30p local time. I went right to the rental car place, got my car, then drove back to the airport to pick up Andrea Risi. Andrea volunteered to come out to Seattle to pace me in the second half of the race. I don’t “need” a pacer, what I need is companionship. Andrea was the perfect person for the job. After picking her up curbside, we started driving to the mountains under a very light rain that had begun to fall in Seattle. A god send seeing as they hadn’t seen rain since May.
We drove to Easton, which is the town the race starts and finishes in, where I had reserved a camping spot at Lake Easton State Park. Google maps screwed us a bit, and we drove around for a half hour looking for something in front of our faces. Check-in closes at the campground at 10p and of course we pulled in at 10:30. I just drove to our site and we set up our tent. It reeked of campfire due to the large fires raging around the state. The forecast for the weekend was rain, and lots of it. I knew I’d be wet during the race at some point, just wasn’t really sure when. Our campsite was literally right next to the highway. Neither one of us slept as cars and trucks sprinted by all night long.
When the alarm went off in the morning, I was of course slow to get up. I was already exhausted. I was just glad that for the first time in three 100-mile races, I wasn’t sick to my stomach the day before. When I say “sick to my stomach” I mean.. the last 2 hundreds I’ve started I spent the entire day before (and morning of) in the fetal position with some kind of 24-hour stomach flu. Maybe it’s nerves, I don’t know, but I was incredibly relaxed for this one. I looked across the tent and saw Andrea awake, it was just starting to rain outside, the loud rush of highway traffic still blazing by. Neither one of us managed much more than a few hours cat nap amongst the noise. We slept.. just not well.
We arrived at the start/finish area which is the fire station for this tiny town in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. The fire fighters seemed to all be there, volunteering for us, as a portion of the proceeds from the race go to help them out. They treated us to a pre-race breakfast complete with pancakes, eggs, ham, bacon, fruit, OJ, coffee, muffins.. quite a spread and I’ve never really seen anything like it in the over 50 ultras I’ve started. Andrea and I checked in, got my 2 drop bags to their spots, and worked up a plate of food. We sat down and ate while a number of folks who I’m Facebook friends with (though have never met.. or haven’t seen in years) came up to say hello. It was a friendly cordial atmosphere where the community of us runners was really put into focus.
I can honestly say that I showed up to this race without having read much of the runner’s manual. I’m as guilty as anyone else is. The only thing I really looked at were pictures from the course, and the elevation profile. So naturally, I should listen intently to the pre-race meeting. I didn’t. I used the time to get geared up, ready to go, just lay down in the wet grass, and kind of meditate. I’d been so exhausted from race directing my own races, that I told some friends back home that I wasn’t going to Washington to run 100-miles, I was going to get away and take a weekend long nap. So, it goes without saying that I arrived at the starting line for the race, listening to the National Anthems of Canada and the USA, completely blind towards what to expect out there.
Start to Tacoma Pass
The race started and we ran under one of the most amazing start/finish line contraptions I’ve ever seen. It’s really beautiful and captures the essence of the area we’re running in. Pine trees EVERY WHERE. Not just the pine trees you see where you live, these are unlike any other. True giants. We started by running down the road, runners conversing and sharing their goals. I talked to only one runner, a girl from British Columbia (originally New Zealand) who was running this race as her first 100. I found her kind, cordial, and in a way.. inspiring simply by her disposition alone.
Soon we turn off the road and reach a trailhead, the first climb is here. Easton sits at around 2,000’ elevation. Since I live at 5,300’ and have spent most of my summer in Fairplay at 10,000’, I was definitely already feeling amped up by the extra oxygen in my blood. It was incredibly easy for me to settle into the race, while also being able to push it a little bit. When we reached the first climb, I just told myself that I was going to attack these early climbs and get them out of the way.
In looking at the race elevation profile, I reckoned that most of the elevation gain for the event was in the front half. If I could attack it, get it out of the way, and ease into the second half.. I could possibly make it to the finish line. I had some great conversation with a Father and Daughter originally from New Hampshire. They’ve been around for awhile. I saw Tony Covarrubias and his wife Shawn McTaggart. I saw Ben Blessing and he and I had some cool conversation about the older traditions of ultra and how they sometimes get lost. I even managed to share a few miles with a girl from Carbondale, and a guy from Durango. I felt right at home and I enjoyed the climb.
The first two aid stations made me chuckle. I didn’t mind them as I typically show up to a race being pretty self reliant. But I thought about if I had aid stations like this, people would send complaint letters. I thought they were fine. The first one was just a pick-up truck with a few plates on the tailgate. Those plates had very small handfuls of the typical snacks and they were filling water and GU Brew for us. Being only 4 miles in, I didn’t see why we needed anything. The next aid station was at mile 11 or so. They had even less. I walked in as it started to rain. All they had was water, GU Brew, and popsicles. So I stopped, refilled my bottles, and grabbed a popsicle. I then took out my rain pants and jacket and threw on my rain gear and as I left the station, the rain started to come down.
Just past here the course starts to head downhill finally. The downhill is fast, fun, and a quad buster if you’re not careful. I took my time. The rain quickly stopped and the sun was coming out again. This would be the tale of the next few hours. When it rained it got windy and cold, so I’d suit up in my rain gear. When it wasn’t raining, it was warm and sunny, too hot for the rain gear. I spent much of the first 20 miles of the race stopping to put my rain gear on and taking it off. I could have saved time by just saying screw it, but.. I felt that staying dry for as long as I could was worth it given the forecast for later.
I reached the blowout Mountain Aid Station where they had actual Ninja Blenders. They were making smoothies. You could have a dairy one or a non-dairy one. I don’t even remember what I had, I just remember it was awesome. The gummy bears were for some reason the softest gummy bears I’ve ever had as well. I was in ultra heaven,
When I reached the Tacoma Pass aid station, I found Andrea with Anne Watts. They helped me get re-organized to continue on while I forged through the aid table for some grub. I had a cheese quesadilla, lunchtime and all, a cup of soda and some noodles. Andrea told me she’d been following the forecast and it was scheduled to rain at about midnight, and when it did rain.. it was going to pour for hours. I sat there and computed some splits in my head. Based on how I was feeling, how I was moving, etc.. I told her I’d see her at mile 52 at 11:30pm. And with that.. I left.
Tacoma Pass to Hyak
I felt really comfortable running along the high mountain ridges of the Pacific Crest Trail. Everything was still so green despite Washington having no rain since May and with wildfires raging in the surround areas. You could definitely smell campfire in these hills. The views were amazing and I only wished the clouds had lifted to be even better. Perhaps I’d have got a glimpse of Rainier. Someone had mentioned the “ground wasps” earlier in the day and it was on the PCT that we all learned what they were talking about. A good 20-mile section of the course was home to a number of ground wasp nests. You can’t see them. You only know they’re there because you get stung. One girl was stung 4 times. I managed to get one on my right hamstring. Man it hurt. I jumped with a “yip!” and immediately held the spot where I had been stung. A few minutes later I could feel the area getting tense and stiffening up. All I could do was laugh.
I enjoyed more conversation with an older gent who had just finished the Hardrock 100. I forget his name but I’ll never forget him. This guy wasn’t allergic to bees, but he was deathly afraid of them. Every time we heard the chattering sound a crickets wings make upon flight, he blast into over drive and run yelling at the top of his lungs “Ahhhhh! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO!” These little episodes were pretty good for the occasional adrenaline rush. I kept forgetting what the issue was, expecting there was some mammal chasing us. Nothing, just the mere thought of there being wasps nearby. It was comical and entertaining to say the least. I’ve never known a grown man to be so afraid of wasps.
I had beef ravioli at Meadow Mountain. That was a first. When I went in to the station I knew I wanted something warm, for dinner. I asked what they had. “Potato soup, veggie soup, and Chef Boyardee”… “Wait.. did you say Chef Boyardee? As in, Beef Ravioli?” They gave me a cup and it was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever eaten during an ultra yet, it was so good and needed. “I don’t think I could ever eat the amount of salt I’m getting from these ravioli’s right now! Thanks!”
In the aid stations I kept seeing a runner with a very professional looking film crew taping him. At the next station we left together. I kind of felt like his crew was in the way a bit. They didn’t seem to really have a care, or to mind, where other runners were and what our needs were. They only cared about filming. I was getting peeved. So when we left Olallie Meadows I asked him, “You special or something? What’s with the cameras” he said, “It’s for my job.” I figured out that it was the Ginger Runner. He was actually a really nice guy and we shared a few miles together. I still haven’t watched the film they made of the race, his first 100, but I did enjoy what conversation we had. I just hope his crew is a bit more mindful of the rest of us in the future.
Upon arriving at the ropes section, it started to rain. The rope section is one of the sections this course is known for. There’s really no trail here, but a climbing rope tied to various trees as you descend a very steep slope. At times I think it was about a 75-80 degree angle. At one point I slid and landed in the dirt, scraping down the mountainside a few feet. I got up, brushed off, grasped the rope, and continued down. We also learned that on some sections of the rope, you had to go one at a time, or the swaying of two runners on the rope would just be havoc. At the bottom of the hill, you turn right onto an old rail bed, which leads to the tunnel.
The tunnel is another aspect of the race that makes the event unique. It’s an old train tunnel that is now a regular pedestrian trail, a rails-to-trails segment. The tunnel itself is 2 miles long. As we approached, the rain was really starting to pick-up. I rushed to get to the tunnel so I could stay dry a little longer. Ginger Runner and I entered the tunnel together. He looked and felt strong, so I let him go, while I tailed off a bit and did some run-walk sectioning through here. The tunnel was dark and lonely. All you could here was the constant dripping of water through cracks, and tiny mice scurrying by. It was so dark in there I felt myself starting to tire a bit. A thought about laying down for a quick nap, but I saw the mice.. so I skipped the thought. About ¾ of the way through, race staff had put a skeleton in the tunnel with glow sticks, and a bib that said “Pacer” on him. It was good for a chuckle.
Soon, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I got to the end, I could see, hear, and feel, that it was just down right pouring outside. I put my rain gear on and headed out into the deluge. The aid station was another mile or so ahead and when I arrived, I realized I was right on time.. 11:30pm. I saw Andrea and Anne, I grazed for food. The place was hopping. Runner’s crews, pacers, people.. everywhere. I was really happy to see the RD there. He was a really nice and encouraging dude and it’s always great to see RDs out on the course during the run. After getting myself situated, and hearing the updated forecast (Rain.. LOTS of rain).. Andrea and I got ready to go. We had no idea what was about to happen..
Hyak to Mineral Creek
As we left the Hyak aid station I had a really great conversation with the race director that lifted my spirits. After saying good-bye to him, we were on some paved road for a short time. It was raining buckets and we had no intentions of seeing it let up any time soon. I made sure to keep my hood up and focused on the race, instead of the rain. It is what it is, I couldn’t forget to eat and drink knowing full well that doing so would cause me to freeze during the night, and potentially end my race.
Runners were in pairs of 2 with their pacers as we went down the road. Some we leap frogged with, others we caught, passed, and wouldn’t see again for some time. Others… they passed us and I can’t really recall if we saw them again. I just know it was raining, and hard, as we passed under the interstate and once again began to climb another hill. Eventually pavement gave way to a dirt road and we climbed to the top. By the time we reached the top of the climb we were soaked from head to toe. Simply having rain gear on didn’t matter. It had rained so hard, for so long, that everything had soaked through.
We walked into the aid station up here where a whole host of runners huddled underneath the canopies they had erected here. I immediately walked into the canopy where I had spotted a fire present. The fire was nothing more than a very small propane fire place. Flames towered into the sky, all of 5” off the top of the fire ring. I don’t think it actually was letting off any real heat, but it helped dry me a bit while I munched on a grilled cheese and downed a cup of soup. Aid volunteers were crafting garbage bag ponchos for any runner who needed one. Even though I was in full rain gear from head to toe, I needed one. Andrea and I both received our new fashion trend and sauntered back into the night, while buckets of rain continued to come down.
The next section was a dirt road with some nice switchbacks on it. The rain actually let up a little bit to nothing more than a light rain, and the garbage bags acted as a vapor barrier. Air wasn’t getting in, nor was air getting out. You could see the condensation from the heat I was emitting collecting on the inside of the garbage bag poncho. The further down the mountain we got, the more the temps rose a little bit for some reprieve, allow us to warm up a bit, and pick up the pace.
At the bottom of the mountain is the section they refer to as “The Bushwhack.” I have ample bushwhack experience, and I can tell you that this is a trail in most other places. But make no mistake, it’s not a nice trail. It’s gnarly. With these giant trees towering above you, I felt like I was on America Ninja Warrior trying to navigate one of the worst collections of rock and root that I’ve ever experience in ultra running. To make matters worse, I was sleepy.
For the next 3 miles, I crawled along the side of Kachess Lake, looking for the event of this section which we felt didn’t have one. It was slow. We were pokey. Every know and then I would fall asleep on my feet and stumble off into the bushes. Every once in awhile I could feel Andrea tap me on the right or the left, either to wake me up, or to bounce me back onto the trail before falling off. We entered grey hours, that time in a race where the sun is starting to rise again, and the entire world is grey before it’s light rays finally hit us. These are the worst hours for me in any hundred. I had warned Andrea about it ahead of time, yet hoped to not have an issue. I was having big time issues simply staying awake.
In having so much trouble staying awake, I was really having a hard time staying on my feet. I felt like I was running/hiking over the tentacles of a cracken that kept yanking me down to the ground. I was tripping over roots. Falling. Skinning my knee. Banging my shins. Rolling my ankles. I finally just stopped and took a few deep breaths, ate something, drank, and soldiered forward… only for it to continue to happen. I stopped again and looked at Andrea as I took my pack off, “What are you doing?” she asked. “I’m going to take a nap.” “HERE?! NOW?!” “Yes.. right here, right now. Just give me 5 minutes. That’s what I need from you. Keep time. Don’t let anyone wake me up. 5 Minutes.” With that, I laid down on top of a pile of pine branches, which elevated me enough above the mud to give a care. The last thing I remember feeling was my head crashing to the ground, and I was out like a light.
I wish you could call it sleep, but it’s not really. I’ve done this many many times before. What some people would worry about as a waste of time, I’ve seen it resurrect me many times. I can hear everything going on around me. The few runners who passed us asking if we were ok. Andrea explaining that I was napping, then the reply, “HERE?! NOW?!” One guy even said, “He needs to get up or he’s going to get hypothermic from the ground alone.” He wasn’t wrong, but I was right to sleep. After 7 minutes, Andrea woke me up. I sprung to my feet, took a caffeine pill and off we went.
Mineral Creek to Thorp Mountain
The Mineral Creek Aid station is at mile 71. In all the years I’ve been running 100s, I’ve always said that mile 70 is truly where the race begins. We both had prepared drop bags for this spot knowing that we’d be here as the sun rose, and whatever we could stuff into a bag would be a welcome refreshment from whatever the night had thrown at us. Andrea’s bag was totally dry, but mine, not so much. I opened my bag and it was as if they poured a few gallons of water into it. Everything was soaked. My new socks, my shoes, warm clothing… everything. Totally soaked. I was at a loss for words.
We sat there in the freezing cold as the rain continued to fall and the temps seemed to chill more as a wind started to blow in. We watched runners crews gathering drop bags post carnage from a bunch of folks calling it quits here. I watched another guy talk about it, move on it, then walk away. I sat there sore, tired, hungry, soaked.. Andrea and I looked at each other and had that conversation. The one where you consider what lies ahead of you, what you’d just done, and the pace you’d most recently gone. If our math was correct, and our suspicion as well, there is no way in hell we’d ever make it to the finish in time.
We never talked about quitting there. We just talked about the plan. Andrea gave me a pair of Injinji toe socks. They were dry, so I put them on. I then got rid of my Pearl Izumi Trail M2s and put on my sopping wet pair of Asics Gel Kayanos. Dry socks in new road shoes completely saturated. “Well, I think the plan is to get out of here and up this hill. It’s a long slog up and out of here. If I can find a way to get to the top of Thorpe Mountain by 11a, I’ll have a chance at finishing this thing. But that means, I’d have to find 2 hours on this long ass uphill, as right now I’m chasing the cutoff.” Andrea agreed.
Someone else’s crew gave me 2x 400mg of Ibuprofen. I took one and stashed the other. I rose to my feet and started walking. Immediately out of the aid station, it climbs. In my head I started repeated this saying, “I am the master. This is what I do..” Over and over. I tried to get some speed up under me but I felt like something was holding me back. I had to stop for a bio break. I didn’t even tell Andrea, I just walked off into the ditch, squatted, and sacrificed my Colorado Buff to the mountains. As soon as I “got the lead out” I got back onto the road, and started to motivate again. Think of the ultimate warrior entering the ring in the old days of the WWF. Grasping the ropes, head banging, and psyching himself up. That was me inside.
With each step, my pace picked up. I marched uphill at 4+ mph for nearly 10 miles. We passed runner after runner, many with their own pacers, many looking like drowned rats and boiled horses. Andrea and I just talked. We laughed. Told jokes. We were inappropriate, rude, crude, and lewd. It was hilarious. I started to think about the possibility of the sun coming out again. I looked at Andrea and said, “If the sun comes out kid, if this rain gear comes off, the gas turns on.” All she said was , “Oh yeah?” I imagine deep down she wanted to add a “We’ll see.”
About ¾ of the way up, a car came up behind us with the window down. The woman who was driving reached out of her window with a bag of twix. “You guys want any twix?!” I don’t know why, but it sounded heavenly. I took a handful, ate one, stuffed the rest in my bag, and continued to eat them one by one as we climbed. Upon reaching the aid station, which was an all out Luau, she came up to me and asked me what else I needed. She even offered some weed, “My husband is sleeping in the car over there. Knock on the window and he’ll hook you up.” I passed on her offer but it was good for a decent chuckle.
We left the aid station and continued on our way towards the top of Thorpe Mountain. Everything was uphill, or so it seemed. But I didn’t care. If there was a down or flat, I ran it, and at a good pace. If there was an up, I hiked it. I attacked it. I powered up everything. I was not quitting. I was not timing out. I was finishing this thing. “I am the master, this is what I do.”
Thorp Mountain to The Finish
The trail went up and up. The higher we got, the steeper the sides of the mountain were on both sides of us. Rocks everywhere. I felt right at home having spent most of my life running and hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The terrain and environment was eerily similar. In a few spots you could see where one wrong step would have sent you cascading down into the abyss. Clouds above us. Clouds below us. Rain still falling. The wind became bone chilling, and picked up slightly.
Finally, we came to the Thorpe Mountain aid station. Reports were that it had snowed up here over night. It sure felt like it. I was frigid to the core. We had to climb ¼ mile to the top of the mountain where a fire tower was. There, a baggy full of little slips of paper to prove we had gone up. We slowly, VERY SLOWLY, slogged our way to the tower. I grabbed my paper and got a pick of my rain soaked waterlogged body. This, was the final “big climb” of the race. We turned and headed back for the aid station.
At the aid station, I checked in, grabbed some grapes and candy, and we just took off. Expecting that everything was downhill from here, I picked up the pace. Only problem was that around every corner was a ridiculously steep hill. All short-lived but all one. Right. After. The. Other. I was literally pushing with all I had to get up and over each pointless up, and crashed down every welcomed down. Around a corner, do it again. It felt like each incline was slightly steeper than the one before it. Yet I continued to attack, and continued to remind myself, “I am the master, this is what I do.” No one would pass me. I wouldn’t allow it. I was locked in and ready to roll.. I just needed to hit the final crest.. And we finally did.
We started to run down on some tight single-track trails. They were loaded with mud, standing water, and things were certainly slick. We were still in the fog. Every evergreen we passed looked like Christmas trees decorated with drops of water as ornaments. As you brushed by, the water rubbed off onto you and you only got wetter. As we reached the next station, the skies opened again. I walked in and looked at the food. I saw bacon. BACON! I grabbed a piece and mowed it down. Then I saw cheese Quesadillas. I grabbed on of those. I swear I saw some pan fries there too. Next thing you know, I was eating a cheese and potato quesadilla with bacon and avocado in it. Meanwhile, I joked around as much as I could with a volunteer as Andrea pushed to get me out of the station and on our way.
I kept asking Andrea.. “What time is it?” When I asked her here, and she told me.. I redid the math in my head. We had literally just crushed the worst parts of what was left of the last 30 miles of the course. At mile 71, I sat slumped in a chair, soaked form head to toe, talking to Andrea about us not making it. Now, I did the math and told her I’d be done with a 28-29 hour finish time. I don’t think she believed me, I could hear a little bit of doubt in her voice. Or maybe it was her realizing what we were about to do if that was to be the case. The trails widened, the rain stopped, and the sun started to come out.
First, I saw the girl I had met from British Columbia. She was running in her 1st 100 and she passed me when I was sleep running. She moved out here from New Zealand. She was one of the nicest people I’ve met out in a race in a very long time. However, “I am the master, this is what I do.” She stopped to adjust something on her pack and Andrea and I slid on by, picking up the pace with each step. I was on a mission.
I really started to pour it on now. Running so fast that my pants kept falling down. I was constantly hoisting them up, trying to cinch them tighter, but to no avail. Didn’t matter, I’m the master. This is what I do. We passed a runner and his pacer,. Then another. And another. Yet another. I was picking people off left and right. Finally the sun came out. I stopped and took all my rain gear off. I was back in shorts and a long sleeve shirt. Everything still soaked, I knew it would dry out. I stopped and ate more. I drank more. I took account of everything that was going on. Everything inside me, around me, with those nearby, with Andrea. Everything slowed down into slow motion. That moment when all you hear is your breath. Your eyes with this razor sharp focus, like something magical was taking place and I’m writing it. I put my bag back on, smiled at Andrea.. and took off.
The further down the mountain we got the more I picked up the pace. We were easily kicking out 8:30-10:00 minute miles 85-90 miles into a 100 mile race. I passed who I could, and refused to let anyone pass me again. I explained to Andrea how most times, “this is one of my rules late in these things.” It keeps me going. Over log bridges. Crashing through stream crossings without even stopping to figure out how to do it while staying dry. It didn’t matter. Some downhill’s were steep, and required a little more care, but for the most part, I was full steam ahead. I could tell I was working Andrea, hell, I was working myself. I even started to question if I could keep this up. I know she was too. Had I blown my wad too soon? Would I crash and burn with 5 miles to go?
We arrived at the last aid station. I had to crap again. I asked where the porta potty was and they pointed yonder. I went over there and did my thing. Right after having sat down, I heard a commotion. It was the New Zealand girl. She had picked up the pace fiercely for the last 5 miles to make it to this aid station… so she could go to the potty. I could hear her. I envisioned this girl squeezing her ass cheeks together as she ran towards the potty. When she got there, she was exclaiming to all, “Oh my god! Oh my god! I have to go so bad! Oh my god!…… OH NO!!!! THERE’S SOMEONE IN THERE!!!” I started giggling uncontrollably. There was one potty, and I was in it. I heard her crew usher her off into the woods where she said screw it and took care of business.
I got out of the potty and went back to the station. I got what I needed from there. Just 4 miles to go and this thing is over. We were still on pace for a 28-29 finish. Then, the New Zealand girl comes out from the bushes with her crew and she tales off. “Oh I don’t think so..” I said to Andrea. We took off after her. When I passed her she exclaimed, “No way man! I’ve been chasing you forever.. I had you!” I just smiled, laughed, and we pushed faster. We passed another runner. We just kept running at 8 minute pace and didn’t look back until we hit a hard left turn to get out of the power lines. I looked back and saw… no one.
Andrea and I walked for a minute, just looking at each other, taking stock again. I couldn’t stop smiling. “Let’s finish this pig” she said, “Aye aye captain.” We picked it up into the run again, and we fought forward. I could see one more runner ahead of me, and it was the Ginger Runner and his crew. He was walking ever so slowly, and I blew by like he was standing still. The 9-minute miles continued onto the pavement. We crossed back over the interstate. The sun was out full blast now, and it was hot. I was actually squeezing water from my handheld onto my head to try and stay cool.
We took 2 short walk breaks, each all of 50 yards. When we hit the saloon in town, I knew we were done. I kicked it into gear once again. Pounding out these 9-minute miles I looked at Andrea and said, “Hey.. we’re running 9 minute miles” She replied, “I don’t run 9 minute miles.” I said, “You are today.” And I just put my head down and focused on one thing, the finish line.
Usually at the end of running 100-miles, there is an overwhelming sense of emotion that just has to get out of you. Every time I’ve done it, I’ve broken out into tears during the final miles, or at the finish. This time.. it never happened. I just kept repeating in my head, “I am the master. This is what I do.” I did it all the way to the finish line. A crowd had gathered there to cheer us all in. I could here the RD over the loud speaker telling everyone, “From Thornton Colorado, Originally from the Granite State of New Hampshire…” I sprinted up to the finish line. When I got there, I put my bottles on the ground, stood up tall, and gave a “mile high salute” to all who were there. For the 15th time, I had finished a 100-Mile Ultramarathon earning another buckle.
First, I can’t say enough about this race. Of the more than 50 ultras I’ve started in the last decade, this was by far one of the very best. From top to bottom, it was a top-notch event. I felt cared for. I felt important. I felt relevant. The course was well marked. The volunteers attentive. The single-track was A-MAZING. I can say all this while having endured the worst summer storm in Pacific Northwest History. I would return here in a heartbeat, without question or hesitation. I am one of the most critical individuals in ultra running. I know this. I know how good this race is.
Second, HUGE thanks to Andrea who flew out to keep me company. I just posted to the Front Range group that I run that I was looking for a pacer if anyone wanted to go. I explained to her that all I wanted was companionship. I think we both got more than we asked for. Yet, there is something to be said about how we BOTH pushed towards that finish line together. We kept each other up right, in it, and warm. I cannot thank her enough for her selflessness. I also really appreciate the race director Rich White and Adam Hewey for their encouragement, hospitality, and energy.
I finished in a time of 28 hours and 35 minutes. I’m now 15 for 21 at the 100-Mile Distance. Good enough for a 71% finish rate. I don’t know why I keep track of these stats, it doesn’t matter. However, knowing what I accomplished in Seattle truly is. It was one of the most difficult summers I’d ever put together for myself. Especially when you include San Juan Solstice, Never Summer 100k, and then Cascade.. all while directing a series of 5 races of my own. One thing is for certain, “I am the master. THIS IS WHAT I DO.”