This year, my training has been going well and my speed has increased significantly. I had some pretty good marathon and 50K times as well as logging a lot of miles through the end of June. All of these good things to make Cascade Crest Classic 100 a good race for me. Unfortunately, and to Glenn’s point to me, I peaked too early. Western States would have been good timing for me to run a 100 miler. Glenn is my mentor/running partner/pacer/BEST FRIEND and I respect his opinion implicitly when it comes to running.
July came and the prospect of my getting to run the White River 50 mile run disappeared as my wife and I made concrete plans to visit family in Texas. I was concerned about getting in enough long runs during July as managing time between work, kid’s activities, and thankfully very little ‘honey-dos’at home, I make races my main stay for many training runs.
Thankfully, a group got together to run a double on the CCC course just before I left to go to Texas. We ran the first part of the course to Tacoma Pass (22 miles) on Saturday, and then most of the last 32 miles of the course (from the campground to the Shell station) on Sunday.
I had incurred an injury in June running a free marathon. It was a dumb thing but aggravating none the less. My hip flexors and ab muscles were strained and this caused me pain on fast, long runs. I skipped a marathon in early July because of this.
So, running the double gave me confidence that the injury would not bother me during the 100 miler.
Texas was hot and humid (duh) so I mostly ran in either the morning or in the early evening. I ran almost every day but didn’t too much more than 5 miles at a time. No trails but I did run a 20 miler at the end of the second week there.
The next week, Glenn and I ran a 12 summits run (a 34 mile run with 10,000 feet elevation gain). It was slow but it didn’t seem as easy as it should have. My abs were sore during a lot of the climbs which dropped my confidence again.
This week was tough as I was trying to focus on the race and run some easy to medium runs. My job however, kept me way too busy and the stress level was the highest it’s been in a long time. My boss had been out of town since August 17th and we have a new director who was relying on me to fill him in on clients and day to day activities. Friday came and I still had way too much on my plate to feel like I could coast the day and leave work early. I had packed my gear and printed up my crew list on Thursday evening just in case I wouldn’t have time on Friday. I also spent some time on thought and prayer trying to relax and focus on what I had to do on the course to break 24 hours. I did leave early on Friday to go to my wife’s company picnic which helped me to settle down a bit and release some anxiety.
As I walked around chatting with my ultra running friends, I still felt unprepared to be running a race that day; especially a race of this magnitude. I was physically prepared (I think?) and I knew the facts of what I needed to do; take the early climbs easy so that I could work the flats and inclines between Tacoma Pass (22 miles) and Hyak (53 miles). I’ve been moving too slowly there in the past and was determined to focus on that. But my heart (soul) was not into the prospect of having to work hard mentally as I’d been exhausted for two weeks from work. I kept telling myself that this was different because my mental was going to push me through my physical pains and not frustrations of dealing with people. That helped somewhat but my confidence was still waning. Then, of course, I was worried about what I would do if my abs started acting up. Not only did I not want to DNF but I wanted a good time. I’d trained for a sub-24 and really wanted to attain that goal.
Glenn was there at the ready along with a lunch time running buddy of mine Clint. He had never been to an ultra so crewing at a 100 miler was going to be a different experience for him. I was also privileged to have my wife and daughter out there crewing for me. My 14 year old daughter is just getting into running and I thought this would be a good way to show her how to continue on through a tough run and persevere (geez, I hoped I wouldn’t blow this one)!
The race started and it was nice to see the real competition take off pretty fast. It was easier than last year to hang back. Still, I got caught up in running with a group that put me in 8th-10th place before the climb to Goat Peak. Last year I lead the eventual winner (Jamie Gifford) and 2nd place (Kendall Kreft) to the top of the climb. This year, I let people pass me and I climbed very conservatively. I barely felt like I was working and imagined this is how the first part of a 100 miler was supposed to feel.
I continued on like this until I came to some down hills where I picked it up a bit. Through the first aid station and another down hill section followed. I moved at a comfortable pace, working somewhat, but at restrained pace. As I started up the climb to Cole Butte, Howard Cohen and Sue Johnston caught me (about mile 10). This was great. I could hang with Sue for a long while and get some smart pacing. As we climbed away from the aid station, Sue asked me to pass her for some reason. I know she’s a strong climber but she must have not liked the pace. I moved ahead and we eventually came to the PCT and the nice, long down hill section of soft trail. I again got caught up in a faster pace as it was pleasant running faster on the soft trail. There were several people around me and I lead the push down to the Tacoma Pass aid station. I moved from 12th to 8th place in the last mile before the aid station. NOT a smart move. I stayed too long in the aid station and the 4 who I’d passed got back ahead of me. I moved along and eventually Howard and Sue caught me. Sue wanted by and I obliged. Offered for Howard to pass and he said, “no way, she’s on a mission.” I thought this was a perfect opportunity to hang with Sue and get pulled along through the section where I normally go too slowly. I hung with her for maybe a mile and it was all over. She “was” on a mission.
All by myself now, I made an effort to keep plugging away and a faster clip. No one passed me and I passed no one through the next aid station and into Stampede Pass (mile 33.5). At Stampede I told Glenn that I had a couple of issues. I had hot spots on both feet and might need a sock and possible a shoe change at Ollalie Meadows. Also, my calves were cramping and that concerned me. I had been taking Succeed! Caps but may not have been drinking enough fluids. I told him I would pay more attention to how many Caps I was taking and make sure I drank more.
The running went really well between Stampede Pass, Meadow Mt (mile 40) and then Ollalie Meadows (mile 47). I think my crew was surprised that I got there as quickly as I did. Again, no one passed me and I passed no one in this section (except for a couple who eventually dropped). I decided that I wanted a mocha frappicino here and that tasted great. Glenn started pacing here and it was nice to again have company. We talked a lot about the race so far and also about how the sun was just starting to go down – it’s normally dark by the time I get here.
The climb down to the tunnel was a pain as usual but went fairly smoothly. I wanted to run slower than normal in the tunnel as my tendency is to plow through there and leave myself too tired to run from the end to Hyak (mile 53 aid station). We walked a couple of times to break up the monotony but then ran straight through from there to Hyak. I felt like I had a rock in my shoe and would wait until the aid station to take it out since I was planning to change socks there anyway. When we got to the aid station, I pulled off my shoe and sock to pull out the rock. Instead, what I found was a callous that had a blister forming under it. No way was I taking THAT rock out. I wiped the dirt off my feet and changed socks. On my other foot (my right), I tended to my big toe that I had jammed trying to pass someone on the Goat Peak climb. There was some sticky stuff on it that I realized was blood. My whole toe nail was lifted off my toe and the blood and dirt had mixed to make a nice paste. No sense in messing with nature’s cure … I left it there and wiped around it and the rest of my foot before putting on a new sock.
My hydration was back up and I hadn’t noticed any cramping in my calves; Just a little soreness from the earlier cramps, so that was a good sign. Another frappicino and a double shot to go and Glenn and I were off. We ran the entire road from there to the start of the fire service road, which I’ve never done before. We passed by Craig Ralston and his pacer Kendra Borgman, as well as Donna Utakis from MA, and continued up the climb to Kachellus Ridge.
My main goal on this section was to stay awake. This has always been a challenge for me because of the time of night and the fact that it’s mostly a power hiking section. This year, I had hoped that the frappicinos would keep me awake; that and by throwing in some runs, no matter how short, would help me stay awake. I was able to run quite a bit of this section and only yawned maybe once the entire way up. I had asked Glenn to remind me of 3 things that I wanted when I got to the aid station. One was soup and I was happy to find it there at the Kachellus Ridge aid station that Tim Lofton and son were manning (mile 60). I sat and drank the broth; got some more broth; put on some gloves and headed out. While I was sitting, Donna showed up and was ready to head out before I was. She waited however as she didn’t want to head out into the darkness alone.
It was nice having Donna on this section. We ran as much as possible on the downhill but both of our legs were shot. When we walked, she and Glenn would get way ahead of me as they are both very fast walkers (I needed some up hill to keep up). I didn’t mind as that made me jog a little more in between to catch back up to them. This section had never seemed so long as it did this time out. I think it’s because I am usually able to run most of the way. My quads were just too hammered to sustain the constant pounding.
I was happy to see the light of the next aid station (the Lake Kachess campground at mile 67.5). Here, I would get my new hand held light for the “trail from hell” (TFH) and, more importantly, a grilled cheese sandwich. I sat and was enjoying my sandwich until Scott Jurek told me to get up and get going (Dang! Busted). My crew followed suit and my relaxation was over. It was a good thing because I was starting to get too comfortable.
The TFH was no surprise to me or Glenn but Donna was in for a rude awakening. She was very grateful that we were there for her to follow. Glenn pulled us through this section very rapidly and we were able to jog quite a bit of the trail this year with the use of the two lights (head lamp and hand held).
Mineral Creek (mile 73) - We arrived here quicker than expected and my crew had just arrived 2 minutes earlier. Again, I spent too much time in the aid station but I wanted to get fueled properly and did not want to hurry things. Hopefully, I’ll get better and this or get my crew better at making sure I eat a lot at this aid station in the future. As I sat there eating, I started to shiver. Everyone told me to get out there to warm up. They were right, again of course, so I got up. I had to put a jacket on while I was finishing my soup. As we were heading out, someone told us that my crew could not go to the No Name aid station. This, apparently, was mentioned in the trail briefing (note to self: Make sure my crew listens to the trail brief – ‘cause I certainly won’t ;-). Glenn and I each grabbed an extra bottle and he ran back for some more food. My crew was not prepared with a sandwich for me and I hoped I had enough GU and Hammer Gel to sustain me.
Glenn and Donna started to pull away from me as I was still trying to gather myself out of the last aid station. No worry, this was a 7 mile climb and I could run to catch them if I needed to. Still shivering a bit, I started to walk now with purpose. Then, Ric Hatch’s crew passed by and gave me more reason to pick up the pace. “Hey Tony, guess who’s catching you?” came the call. “Ric and Scott are going to catch you.” Scott Jurek was now pacing Ric and they were hot on my tail apparently.
I picked up the pace, still walking but really moving now. I passed by Donna and Glenn and kept on going. The brisk pace was nice and I was warming quickly. I threw in a short run then back to a brisk walk. I passed Tim Englund soon and was putting distance on him and his two dogs who were pacing him.
Then, out of nowhere, I heard someone running behind me. I kept moving, looking forward, as they screamed on by. It was Brian Morrison and his pacer. He was having stomach problems earlier, took a 2 hour nap, and was now on his come back. It was amazing watching them just pull away. I wanted to join but reality took hold. Glenn caught up to me and asked what the heck I was doing running before. He said, “This is a 7 mile climb.” It was my plan to run a little up this climb but my experience told me to listen to my pacer and I did. We continued climbing strong and Donna & Tim were not too far behind. As we approached the next aid station, and the top of this climb, there was about a half mile of flat road. Glenn encouraged me to run and I declined. I knew we were going to hit the Cardiac Needles soon after and I wanted to make sure I could climb that section strong.
Through the aid station to fill water bottles and we were off. Glenn had planned on dropping his headlamp off at this aid station but now we had no crew. As is happened, it was still dark anyway and we still would have had to bring our lights. It was my plan to try and get to Thorpe Mt in the dark and we were well on the way to doing just that.
We started running out of the aid station and onto the dark trail. It was a little tough to see but I knew this part of the course was not very technical. A little further and we were starting the long climb up the Needles. I was low on energy and had no gel/GU left. I plugged away at the climb but was a bit slower than I wanted to be. Still, much faster than last year when I totally bonked. More running and climbing and we caught and passed Bill Thomas (who I didn’t recognize in the dark). Just as quick as I had passed Bill, Tim passed me. I knew he was coming because his dogs did a ‘recon’ earlier.
Shortly after that, I had to make a pit stop which was a good thing to do before climbing Thorpe. We climbed Thorpe which was tougher than I would have hoped for. I was running low on energy and had no fuel. On the way down, we saw 3 runners; Bill, Donna, and (uh oh!) Ric, followed by a hootin’ Scott Jurek. He was telling Glenn to get me running – not sure if that was a threat or a suggestion ;-) … so I did my best to pick it up.
Now at the bottom of Thorpe, I had to make another pit stop … how annoying. A little more running and then we hit the first of 3 climbs I knew were there after Thorpe. The first wasn’t too bad but the second got to me. I asked Glenn if he had any gels and he gave me a Raspberry gel (yuck!). But hey, beggars can’t be choosers right! I was going to save it for the last climb and Glenn wisely told me to eat it “now,” followed by, “and make sure to eat at the next aid station. Up the last climb and then the down hill glide to the aid station. But wait, ANOTHER dang pit stop. How annoying. I kept waiting for everyone to pass and finally, Bill Thomas did.
I finally made it in to the next aid station where they asked, “What can I get you.?” To which I promptly responded, “I smell something good what is it?” “Pancakes …” “ Gimme!” I was ready for some good food and got it. I spotted some peanut butter and asked for some of that on my pancake. I swallowed it in a couple bites and was looking for another. I had to wait for the next one to be cooked. When I came up for air, I noticed that Bill was taking a seat as well as another runner who I did not recognize. Also, Olga was there all smiles. She was helping Glenn with something to eat and he told her to feed me – so she started stuffing fruit in my face until the pancakes were cooked. Got my next cake and was out of there as we had already spent too much time waiting. Olga offered to take our headlamps and we were both eager to get rid of them. Out of the aid station just as another runner came screaming in with his TWO pacers – Brock was is name. He didn’t stop as his pacer got his water for him.
I was feeling a lot better now and just moved aside as Brock ran by. Bill had left before I had but I soon caught and passed by him. We had only the saddle to go through and one last climb (really) and the rest of the last 10+ miles were down hill or flat. I used the small down hill to give me momentum for the first part of the climb. Glenn asked, “Hey, what are you doing?” I said that I was using my momentum to climb and he told me to pace myself. I felt incredibly good but held back, yielding to wisdom. We finished the climb and I was psyched to get through the down hill without falling. Glenn will usually pull me along as fast as I can go and was doing the same here. He looks back every once in a while to make sure I’m still running. I felt good and didn’t seem to need to walk now. I continued on a felt even better as my quad muscles got warmer. All of the sudden, I knew that I could keep holding this pace for a long time. I felt good and I picked it up a bit; then, all of the sudden, “Dang!” No, I didn’t fall but I got a rock in my shoe. I begrudgingly stopped and took it out. There was too much down hill left to leave it in. Out with the rock quickly and back to find that sweet rhythm I found earlier. I was back in a groove in no time and soon found myself catching Brock. I picked it up again so this would be a pass with no follow. I passed by pretty quickly and they just moved aside.
I was in cruise mode now and was just riding the wave. The steep down hills did wake my legs up some and I had to take a couple of walking steps every so often. I felt myself slow down as the pounding continued but I also knew I had the 4.5 miles of road to follow. As I was headed down the final set of switch backs, I could hear some talking from above. No, not God although I know he was smiling, but what I imagined was Brock and his pacers. They were starting to catch me.
I came into the final aid station, dropped my gear, picked up 2 GU’s and a full water bottle from my crew, and was out of there. I moved cautiously but steadily on the road. My left foot felt again like I had a rock under it but I knew it was that callous. I knew I was going to have to run with it and adjusted my foot plant to take the pressure off of it. I gave into a walk break once again and listened for people behind. I turned onto another road a mile later and took a glance back. There was Brock with a new pacer. I knew that I couldn’t afford to take a walk break now.
I moved quickly down this road and took the next left. This was a section of “trail” that local ATV riders used. I didn’t like it and would have rather run the asphalt road that was 3 feet to my right, but that’s not part of the course. I made it through this section and was still running at a fair pace. I got onto the road and went over I-90. Now with only road for a while, I picked up the pace. I ran to the end and glanced back as I made the turn towards the railroad tracks and the last stretch of the course. I saw Brock but he was way back there and not within striking distance. This gave me a chance to walk a few steps to relieve some of the pain in my legs and foot. Back to running and through the most ridiculous part of the course (sorry Randy). Here, we headed away from the finish line for a 100 yard or so before taking a left and hitting the side of the railroad tracks. On to the side of the tracks and it was steady as she goes the rest of the way. As I approached the fire station, I could see my daughter peering around the corner with camera in hand. I ran in with a nice ovation from the crowd. I had to ask the co-rd (Ron Berman) what time it was as I don’t wear a watch. He told me I ran a 23:26 … a lot faster than I had thought coming into the aid station at mile 88. I met my goal of sub-24 and PR’d by an hour 45 minutes. I was incredibly happy!
Well, I just made next year difficult for myself. I’ve gotten a PR each year running this event. Next year, I have to finish in order to get a silver 5 year buckle. Here is how my CCC races have faired to date.
2001 – DNF (bad early on)
2002 - 28:08
2003 – 25:33
2004 – 25:11
2005 – 23:26
Next year will be tough but fun as usual I hope. I love this race!!!
-- Tony C.