I started getting excited about this year's Cascade Crest 100 miler in June as Allen and I were driving back from Wyoming after running the Bighorn 100. We both realized I needed to go into the race with a plan and a crew. A plan formed, a crew jelled and Saturday found me toeing the line in Easton feeling rested, anxious and hot.
My crew consisted of my lovely wife Jane and my kids Hazel and Theo and pacer Jim Norton during the day then Allen took over at night. My plan was to try to break 20 hours. My previous PR for a 100 miler was on the CCC course in 2009 and was 20:42 so I figured why not try to knock off 42 minutes? I actually wrote my goal splits to get me to the finish at 19:50. I thought 52 minutes in 100 miles is like taking off 30 seconds per mile. Plan part 2 was finding out my main competition, Rod Bein from Bend, Or. was shooting to break the course record of 18:30 held by his training partner Jeff Browning. I schemed to stay on my sub 20 schedule and see if Rod maintained and won or if he would blow up late and I could take him. The other known entity was Phil Shaw who has won this race twice before and finished second last year. Phil's best time was 19:41 in 2009. I am 43 years old and have no business thinking this way.
I make most of the food for this race. Taper week was spent making 12 gallons of potato soup, 12 gallons of carrot-tomato soup, 125# quartered, boiled potatoes and around 170 brownies. I also made myself a cache of ham and cheese sandwiches, bacon and two chocolate croissants for my race.
Race day dawned hot and dry. The start saw Rod, Phil and two other guys take off fast chasing Kent Holder on his bike down the trail. I followed them with a pack of Bellingham's best boys. Up Goat peak we chugged faster than I thought prudent. Within four miles I had accidently dropped my splits cheat sheet which, thankfully, Dan Gallant found and gave back to me. Dan, Daniel Probst and Kevin Douglas and I peaked goat peak in a line and started the rolling, climbing chug to the first aid station. Eventually Daniel and I pulled ahead and had a nice time chatting along some awful, hot, dusty climbs. We started to catch some of the enthusiasts who took off too hard at the start. I lost Daniel after a while and kept catching people who were suffering in the heat. I eventually found myself in 3rd by mile 20. Then I saw Phil. I was shocked, I wasn't ready to see him until much later in the race, he stepped aside and let me pass, I was now in 2nd, we rolled into Tacoma pass aid station within a minute of eachother. My crew was there with a change of bottles and some food. It felt great to be taken care of and not have to "shop" at the aid station table. Revived and well kissed I took off well ahead of Phil. The next section has some parts I don't like so I played some podcasts on my ipod for the first time ever in a race. It worked, it took my mind off the pain and heat and drudgery and I had company. I popped out of the woods and into Stampede pass aid station, mile 32ish and again was met by my waiting family and Jim to care for me. I left feeling confident. I wasn't looking at my watch or my splits but I was behind schedule. I powered on to Mt. Meadow aid station where they usually have raviolis. They hadn't heated any by the time I arrived, so I had them open a can and I gulped down two cold, it was disgustingly delicious. On to perogies from Scott McCoubry at Ollalie and then the new section of the course for me, the rope assisted bushwhack to the train tunnel which was intense. My training runs through the tunnel were cold, see your breath cold, race day it was so hot, the tunnel was almost humid inside. I exited the tunnel and found my way up I90 to the crossing and into Hyak aid station where I had my full posse now Allen was there. I ate some soup and sat until Allen forced me to git. Jim and I headed down the road and up the ridge. My goal was to run the whole damn ridge, I almost did with Jim's help and we watched the sun set as we gained altitude. Over the other side we bombed into the Lake Katchees Aid station where Allen was waiting with a warm cup of soup and a grilled cheese. Here I picked up Fleet Feet teammate Jon Robinson and said good bye to Jim. Jon and I chatted it up along the Trail From Hell and I felt my energy really coming back as the night cooled a bit. I was still too hot to wear a hat. We got to the end of Hell and found Heaven in John Novak's Mineral Creek aid station where I had more soup (thanks Adam) and some Frappaccino shots (thanks John) then grabbed the bacon and a chocolate croissant from my drop bag and headed off chomping up the No Name Road. Again, I wanted to run this ascent as much as possible and after eating, we did. Jon kept me running about 80% of the 7.5 miles. We peaked at the No Name Spa aid station where Laura Houston had another chocolate croissant waiting for me. I had a 1:25 appointment for a Manli/pedi but when I finally looked at my watch it was 12:58. I now knew I was 27 minutes ahead of schedule. Awesome, we hit the needles hard and fast then rolled into French cabin and had more soup and coffee from a great group of volunteers then punched it over the last needle and had only the last neverending downhill left. I heard Owls hooting as we flew down the trail. In years past it started getting light on this descent. Not this year. I had no idea where I was on the course because I'd never done this part in the dark before and before I expected it, whamo! We were at Silver Creek, the last aid station. We dropped everything with good ol' Allen and sprinted the last 5 miles into Easton, up the hill, across the train tracks and to the finish where the clock, in the black of night, read 19:05! Holy shit. I couldn't believe it. Did I really just take 97 minutes off my PR? I did. Did I just run the 3rd fastest time in race history? I did. Did I feel good? Oh yes. Allen found Jane and woke her up, she'd set her alarm for 5:30. The only people around were my crew (Jon, Allen and Jim), Rod and his pacer (who didn't blow up and set the Course record by 3 minutes 18:27!), RD Charlie Crissman, Kent Holder and Rich White. My elation turned to hunger, then fatigue as we waited for more runners, Phil came in to claim 3rd place, we watched as the next 10 or so runners stumbled in then I could no longer function so Jane and the kids poured me into the van and drove me home with a shiny new belt buckle and the Masters record at Cascade Crest.