18th Cascade Crest Classic 100 Miler Endurance run
August 27/28, 2016
August 27/28, 2016
What is it?
A 100 mile endurance footrace in the Central Cascades. A loop course that begins and ends at Easton, WA at the fire station. The course is mostly on single track trail, with some forest service roads and a little pavement thrown in. It covers some of the toughest and most scenic trails in Washington, including 30 miles on the PCT. This is the classic, old school ultra race where many folks know each other. www.cascadecrest100.
The Cascade Crest 100 originally it was known as the Cascade Crest Classic, hence the CCC100. There is no fanfare, little hoopla, and no awards ceremony. It has a refreshing spirit of community quality. It starts and finishes at the Volunteer Fire Station in the little town of Easton, WA. The town has a diner for milk shakes, a drive through espresso that is rarely open, and not much else. The race is hard, in the Cascade Mountains, and is a course of amazing beauty in every mile. The course has officially just over 23,000 feet of elevation gain.
Arthur Martineau’s map of the course at Guye Cabin
The CC100 Couse (Arthur’
Cascade Crest has a devoted community who returns year-after-year to bring it all together for the 34 hours runners are on the course. It attracts the kind of runner who’s looking for a very long day of exploring wild, beautiful, amazing mountains with dozens of old and new friends. Everyone who toes the starting line is inspiring.
I had never run a 100 miler. I have done more than 100 Ultras (races longer than 26.2 miles) in my running career, but 100 miles with no sleep always seemed beyond the limit of fun. Doerte and I both volunteered at Cole Butte last year and were quickly caught up in the excitement. Although early in the race it was evident what an amazing journey the runners were on. This year I found myself looking for new challenges. Suddenly training time was not limited any longer. Doerte almost had me committed before the lottery even opened. We were in LA at the Olympic Marathon Trials when I got the email I was in. The easy way out did not happen. I was in.
Cascade Crest is hard! Why not find an easier 100 miler? This is our backyard local race, and a true classic of the running community! Why would I want to travel to a race where my friends aren’t, the scenery is less spectacular, and the course is less challenging? Bring it on!
My training began as soon as I signed up for the lottery. I worked to build my weekly base to 50 miles as well as increasing both time and elevation. As the spring and summer evolved I was on my way to 80+ and then 90+ mile weeks. The Snoqualmie Pass Training runs weekend completed my training with back to back 50ks’s on the course. Jesse Lange, last year’s winner was there so I knew it was the right thing to do.
The three week taper from the training runs was the worst part of the process. After months of running a lot almost every day it was difficult to stay occupied. Eventually I finalized my gear, and drop bags. I thought about my race strategy every day.
Beginning in Easton, Washington, CC100 is at the harder end of the spectrum in terms of mountain 100 milers, winding its way in a massive loop through the Cascades, from Easton to Hyak at Snoqualmie Pass, to Kachess Lake, then the Thorp Mountain Fire Lookout, and back to Easton. It is considered harder than the famous Western States 100. The course profile is scary on paper. The climbs are steep, beginning already at 2 miles. Save something for the second half, veterans suggest. Go easy early on, hike the climbs even in the beginning or pay the piper in the second half. The race manual even states that many Cascade Crest DNFs (Did Not Finish) begin on the first climb up Goat Peak, which starts after 2 miles. The mention of the dreaded Cardiac Needles - the hardest part of the course, and which start at a sporting 80 miles is a stern warning to back off on the early climbs and save some juice. Adam J. Hewey says “If you wouldn’t run it in the last 30, don’t run it in the first 30”. Don’t worry about me Adam!
Race morning for me was the usual fun with friends. The elites and fastest runners were mostly serious, but the middle and pack of the packers were more light-hearted. We lined up at the start and Adam gave us some instructions although I doubt anyone was listening. Next was the national anthems of Canada and the US, a CC100 tradition, and then off we went.
We started with 2 miles of flat/slightly uphill and then the big climb to Goat Peak. Everyone hiked it. Oddly enough in the first 10 miles I could I already see a few people struggling which was not good for them. I felt good, tried to stay relaxed and stick to my strategy. Not having done a 100 before I only had to go off what others had told me. Break down the 100 miles to just the distance between aid stations- simply go from aid station to aid station. I moved at a moderate pace, drinking often to stay hydrated and keep my electrolytes up, ate a gel every hour, and took real food at every aid station (mostly organic soup) We also had wraps, Piroskis, ravioli, pancakes. At mile 10 we had a popsicle, and at mile 15 a smoothie. Friends were at all 16 aid stations. I knew at some point I would run out of energy, the question was when.
Race Director Rich White found the course a little short so this year he added 3.3 miles and 1500’ of elevation. He said they had used a “rounding factor” in the past. This added .75 to 2.0 hours to runners’ time.
At Blowout Mountain we join the beautiful forested single track of the Pacific Crest Trail for 30 miles until near Snoqualmie Pass. I have run this section many times and expected it to go well. It did. I really enjoyed the Trail Crew’s beer gauntlet with ice cold Rainier and Pabst- totally unexpected, but fun and appreciated.
View from the Pacific Crest Trail south to Mount Rainier
Night falls at Meadow Mountain at mile 43. My legs feel good, my breathing is very easy and my stomach is fine. I enjoy the dark- it is cooler, many stars, the course is well marked with reflectors, and the many strange noises don’t bother me. My paces stays the same as I cruise up to Mirror Lake and then to Olallie Meadows and the dreaded rope descent to the Iron Horse Trail. It is a long steep descent to the ropes and tunnel section. The “trail” down is loose, direct and tricky. I almost burn my hands as I fly down quickly. I power walked the 2.2 mile Snoqualmie Tunnel with Glen M.
The Snoqualmie Railroad Tunnel 2.2 miles long
The Hyak aid station seemed to be on a break when I got there. I had to ask where the drop bags were, ask for soup, and ask where to go to continue. I was in and out in about 5 minutes. On pavement to the other side of the freeway, I kept a powerwalk, hoping I was doing better than 4 miles an hour. I continued to pass folks, many of whom complained of stomach troubles and not able to eat or hold anything down. After 8.5 miles of up we had another 8.5 miles of down. I complained that my light was not bright enough and had trouble running so I kept the power walk to the Lake Kachess aid station.
This is where the notorious 5.5 mile “Trail from Hell” begins. This is a stretch of “bushwhack trail” that takes most runners 2 hours to complete fresh and in daylight. It includes relentless ups and downs, creeks and rivers to cross, rocks/roots/trees to climb over and under, and precarious footing along steep, washed-out embankments that threaten to end your race and maybe also your life. Less than a mile in, the sun rose with an amazing sunrise and it became light. I looked for that sunrise second wind that folks talked about, but I didn’t find it. It was light though! 5 of us did the trail from hell together, forgetting it was a race.
The Mineral Creek Aid station was one of the best of the best. Hot soup, coffee, new socks and fun with Terry, Gary, and Reed. Power hiked up the dirt road to the no Name Aid station with the crazy Barvarian theme and excitement, then off to the Needles, Thorp Mountain Lookout, and finally home to Easton.
The “Cardiac Needles” are described in the course guide as a “series of short, steep climbs,” up and down some of the final peaks of the race. I have run the Needles 6 times so I know them very well, however, I had never run them at mile 85 and they were a different animal.
People have asked me how many there are, and I just say “a lot, don’t count them”. I will never count them. The Needles have never seen a switchback, so they just go straight up, up and more up, forcing runners to dig deep. I seemed to get slower and slower with little juice. Near the Thorp Mountain Lookout Glen told me that everyone feels that way, and I immediately felt better. I was amazed I was still capable of the some of hardest ascents of my life.
View from the Needles to Mount Daniel and the 3 Kings.
Yea! Finally I was at the French Cabin Aid Station, where they immediately told me that if I didn’t leave very soon they would start telling jokes. Although I enjoyed the views and the company I soon continued on my way. It was only 10 miles to the finish.
For the next 6 miles I tried to keep moving as fast as I could although I could not really run. No juice, and my right foot was gunked and hurt with every step. At one point my chest hurt, and I worried that I would get a DNF at mile 95. Okay, slow down a little.
At Silver Creek I was met with a wonderful aid station, cheering folks, and Doerte, who paced (ie dragged) me in to the finish. I was at my lowest in the last miles.
I did it! From the first step across the start line in Easton, to that last stumble across the finish, I spent 100 miles having fun, feeling stronger, more confident. We are blessed to live in these rugged and magnificent mountains of the Pacific Northwest.
I only wanted to do one 100 Miler - Cascade Crest Classic, and now I have an awesome buckle! I will treasure it and all the memories that go with it for years to come. I couldn't have done it without the unfailing support of my beautiful wife Doerte Mahanay and the countless others who encouraged me, told me I could do it, and trained with me. I am incredibly grateful for the hundreds of people who were selflessly volunteer enabling us to spend this time on the trail doing what we love to do the most, the amazing folks who shape this race into the gem it is, the friends along the way-both new and old, the challenging and playful course with breathtaking landscape. Thanks to you all!!!
The finish line and finally a place to sit with a cold drink