Friday, August 23, 2013

Cascade Crest 100 Mile 2011: Return of the Tunnel, Including a Bonus Bicycle-Riding Ex-Meth Addict

Cascade Crest 100 Mile Run, August 27-28, 2011

Having the race start at 10 a.m. has its pluses and minuses.  Two years earlier I stayed at a motel nearby, so there was too much nervous time between waking up and running.  This year I took advantage of the late start by staying with friends in Seattle, and driving up race morning.

view from my friends' rooftop patio
I suspect my drop bags were one of the last to enter the piles.

Two years ago it was cloudy.  This year clear and sunny.  The amazing views new to me this year were well worth the extra heat.  I decided early that even if I didn't meet my pre-race goals of finishing under 24 hours for whatever reason, the better views this year were more important than my time.  But having missed the one-day mark by just a half hour, I was going to shoot for it.

Most of the stretches between aid stations are 7 or 8 miles apart (aid station chart), but I only carried one water bottle, as I like to have a free hand and arm.  I managed my fluids by chugging 20 ounces of fluids upon reaching an aid station before having it filled again for the stretch to come.

I probably briefly chatted with most of the guys who finished around me.  I ascended to Goat Peak with Keith Knipling and then a local Dan for 3 or so miles out Tacoma Pass.

by Glenn Tachiyama

James Varner, RD of the popular Northwest Pacific Rainshadow Running, was I think crewing for a friend and kept showing up at the aid stations. 

photo by Glenn Tachiyama

I also saw a lot of Betsy, who I had run into with her husband Matt, running his first hundred, with whom I struck up a conversation at a local market near by friends' house in Seattle, where I was looking for something so I didn't show up empty handed (like I did at my other friends' house, where I stayed post-race Sunday night, but I guess I had a better excuse).

Headlamps should be carried on your head

The stretch from Stampede Pass (m33) to Olallie Meadows (m41) was the most runnable up to that point.  I was feeling great, when I noticed the headlamp I picked up from my drop bag at Stampede and wrapped around the top of my bottle (because I hate having headlamps on my head when it's still light out) was no longer there.

A Tanaka-Hundred is not complete without some bonus miles.  I turned around with much apprehension-- the single-track was quite narrow with the thick vegetation on both sides.  Quite possibly some plant had knocked it off, which would mean that it was lying hidden from view under the foliage.  How far should I backtrack?  How slowly should I run so as to minimize the chances of not missing it?  If I gave up, would some volunteer have a light I could borrow for the tunnel, or would I have to await and tag along with another runner?

Luckily it was only 0.35 miles per my Forerunner, so not much more than 0.70 miles bonus for the extra round trip, and no one passed me, though the next guy was approaching the Meadow Mountain aid station as I left.

The next stretch to Olallie Meadows was more uphill and technical and less runnable than the previous.  I thought it funny that I didn't readily remember the gorgeous waterfall fed by Mirror Lake from running the same course just two years earlier. This course offers so much variety-- perhaps one pass doesn't allow you to absorb it all.

The culinary highlight of the course came at Olallie Meadows-- freshly made pirogis!  After too many PB'n'J quarters, fruit and sports drink, these really hit the spot.  I downed two and carried one to go.  Since 2009 was the first of two years the tunnel was closed and runners took a painful detour up and down a ski slope, this stretch was new to me.

Downhill for three miles-- initially fun single-track, but this converted to this awful, never-ending fire road covered with small, ankle-threatening rocks.  Then ribbons led into thick forest with a steep slope and loose dirt. There was were these ropes or wires that I had to crawl under twice as I slid down maybe 100 feet. 

Chihping Fu (posted earlier today)
One tip - wear gloves during rope rappelling down to the rail trail. Very steep and slippery. Have them ready from your drop bag at Stampede Pass. You can drop them at Hyak after an hour or so.

I eventually figured out that the wires I crawled under twice were actually the ropes I was supposed to be grabbing to help me get down the hill.  Duh.  MD = Majorly Dumb...

At the bottom, it was completely untechnical, flat dirt road to the right.

I passed what I thought were two teenagers right before entering the tunnel.  

I was a little disappointment with the buckle the first time I ran the race, since we didn't go through the tunnel.
This time, I liked it better


I had been playing classical music on one of my iPod since about mile 35 (aside note-- that particular Nano has only two types of recording on it-- classical music, and downloaded podcasts of NPR's This American Life and SMART EM (an evidence-based excellent way to try to keep atop topics in my field.)  I was never feeling good enough to concentrate on the podcasts.

As I entered the dank, dark tunnel, I thought to turn off the music.  I was feeling a little tired.  Indeed turning off my headlamp resulted in complete and utter darkness.  I was warned by another ultrarunner on facebook that the tunnel was exciting for about two minutes, then it turned into just a lot of flat running in the dark.  I was thinking that I would be able to appreciate the sensory-deprived experience for what it was.

Unfortunately, I never got a chance to find out.

I started hearing a crazed screaming from behind.  Undoubtedly one of those two kids I'd seen at the entrance.  Probably what a lot of people do when they enter the tunnel-- shouting and hearing your echo.

Pretty soon I realized he was yelling at me.

"Hey runner!  I'm coming after you!  I'm fucking going to kill you and chop you up!  I'm a crazy serial killer!  I've love murdering runners!  You can't fucking outrun me!"

So do I REALLY think this guy was going to chop me up and kill me?  If I were to bet money on it, no.  But, the kid was crazy, maybe on drugs, obviously, and his idea of fun MIGHT actually involve bodily harm to others.  I was exhausted and alone, and years since I last practiced martial arts, and so I was feeling nervous....


Speaking of tunnels, I took my family camping for a week a couple months back in Lassen National Park up north near the border with Oregon.  One of our day hikes was up Cinder Cone.  

I was especially proud of my then 3-year-old for doing this hike.

On the way back, we stopped by some lava flow caves.  My older son was a bit spooked when I had him turn his headlamp off.


When the loser finally caught up with me on his bicycle, it was clear he wasn't going to really kill me.  But he could screw with me.  Or try to screw me.  (Incidentally, one of these days I should blog about all the mostly urban situations I've been in while running when I REALLY did get concerned about my life.)

Soon, he was telling me about his former methamphetamine and multidrug addiction, and how he liked to ride his bike now as a healthier alternative.  Normally, I am inspired by stories like this, of people turning their lives around for the better.

But, it felt more like I was out of the frying pan into the fire-- of his irritating incessant chatter.   His family owns a restaurant in Hyak (the next aid station).  I had to answer questions about my pace and where I was in the race.  Maybe it was just the way he talked, or his freaking me out prior, but HE WAS DRIVING ME NUTS!  I REALLY WANTED TO KILL HIM.

Out of the tunnel, he kept on going, and it was a little easier to ignore him.  I think I started breathing more loudly so that he might think I was too out of breath to talk.  It worked; the dumb-ass finally left me alone.

At Hyak I traded my small headlamp for a more powerful one (Petzl Myo RXP) and put on my Ultimate Direction Wasp pack, with lots of pockets (but I took out the bladder to hold liquids).  I was now fully loaded.

I had developed an intolerance to sports drink, and switched to water (this has happened to me in several 100 milers).  The potato soup at Hyak was so good, I had three cups of it.  On the seven mile stretch to the next aid station, the saltiness of the soup made me increasingly thirsty, and, after my bottle ran out, increasingly nauseated.

Up and down a big hill.  Mostly nontechnical fire road.  At times I turned off my light to enjoy the night sky with the Milky Way.  I downed a Clif 100mg caffeine gel I'd packed to stave off my first bout of sleepies.

I came more prepared for the Trail from Hell (Lake Kachess to Mineral Creek).  I remembered if unsure about where to go, to turn right, though this was more clearly marked this year apparently. I also carried my handheld light in addition to my headlamp this year.  This definitely made the trail less dangerous, and I didn't stub my toe once, whereas two years ago my feet got bruised from all the roots and rocks I hit.  Also I didn't slide out of control like I did my first time.  Nonetheless, I didn't get through this section THAT much faster, accounting for my bonus miles second-guessing myself and backtracking the first time.

Probably two runners passed me through this section, but fueling up at the Mineral Creek aid station, I could have sworn that 3 to 4 guys that came in after me left before I did.  Still, not as bad as two years ago.

My new goal was to try to break 24 hours.  I remembered the last time leaving No Name station with my headlamp and only a few minutes later wishing I'd left it in my drop bag.  This year I was still feeling it was necessary or longer, though I could have done away with the handheld.  Since I finished almost half an hour over 24 hours last time, I figured I could make 24 hours if I kept working and nothing bad happened.  I did calculations in my head based on my split pace, the time and the estimated mileage left.

Then I hit the first needle.  They call them needles because they seem like they go straight up and down.

As my pace slowed to a 30 minute mile, I remembered what these needles were all about-- working hard, not going very fast.  Maybe sub-24 will happen, I thought.  Or maybe not.

Finally I got to Thorp Mountain, mile 86, where Glenn Tachiyama await us all and take stunning pics. Luckily I was slow enough this year that I get there around sunrise, so got some cool GT shots.

by Glenn Tachiyama

sunrise by Glenn Tachiyama

by Glenn Tachiyama

by Glenn Tachiyama

I ran into and passed Keith Knipling again right before the descent.  Earlier when he passed me (can't remember when), he didn't believe me when I told him we could make 24 hours, but now he realized I was right-- and all gung-ho about cracking it.  (He ended up being to last to make that cut-off, at 23:48).  By the way, there is no 24-hour buckle, so it's only a virtual special honor.

Keith finishing

Keith stalking me at the airport

My finish compared to two years ago:

2009:  24:28:08, 24th overall, 9th age-group
2011:  23:25:08, 14th overall, 3rd age-group

I had a volunteer take a staged picture of giving of RD Charlie Crissman handing me my finisher's buckle. Unfortunately, the iPhone camera is a little tricky and in my exhausted and exuberant daze, I forgot to check to see if it took.   It didn't.   Oh well, guess I'll have to sign up for the race again and run those 100 miles again to get that photo with the RD!  (And then you'll have to wait another two years to read my report....)

race schwag.  coffee mug is larger and heavier than average.
I was, as usual unpaced and uncrewed.  Volunteers, you were my lifeblood.  Thank you so much!

GPS recordings:

To avoid the almost-missed flight disaster, I booked to return Monday rather than Sunday, so saw a friend from my emergency medicine residency and her family at their new house.

I miss many of my old friends.  I don't see enough of them.
Maybe I should run less.


Hannah said...

Major congrats Mark. Thanks for the write up and happy recoveries to you. Hopefully I'll catch you at a race again soon. Until then, stay awesome.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Thanks, Hannah! Hope to run into you again too. Though I can't figure out for sure exactly who you are / your last name.