Cascade Crest 100M Race Report
by Bruce Hoff
Here's the scoop on my race August 24th: I ran the "Cascade Crest Classic 100 Mile Endurance Run" which began at 10AM Saturday and finished 6PM Sunday in the central Cascade mountain range, about an hour east of Seattle, Washington. I finished at 8:49AM Sunday, for a 5th place time of 22hr:49min.
I entered the race after deciding that my place on the waiting list for Colorado's Hardrock 100 was too far down to have any hope of getting in. My friends Jana Gustman and Elena Sherman had entered "CCC" and suggested I do so too. I looked it up and decided it would be an interesting change of venue, and liked the low key atmosphere (entrants limited to 100)
and relatively cheap entry fee. In contrast to other races in recent years, I wasn't entering with an aggressive time goal, just as something to sort of fill the summer. It
remained to be seen whether a more relaxed attitude would pay off or cause me to be
unfocussed. I had already completed 6 consecutive weeks above 100 miles/week at the end of May, along with a couple 50 mile races. That "burned me out" a bit, and caused me to slack off in my training for five weeks, including the entire month of June. July I was back in
force. Jenine and I spent a weekend at Mt. San Jacinto, and another in the southern
Sierra. We nabbed Jana G (aka the "Jungfrau"), met up with Jenny Johnston and Dave Penny to run the classic Rae Lakes loop in the Kings Canyon region of Sequoia Nat'l Park.
The next weekend we all met up in Seattle to preview the CCC course. In short it was rugged but scenic, and also wet and cold. This appealed to me, since I usually get dehydrated and suffer in long, hot races. There were lots of downed trees to vault, which seemed to turn off Jana. Anyway, we were committed, and now it was just time to taper.
Race day was warmer than the weather we'd experienced in July. After a short prerace briefing at 8:30AM, we started promptly at ten. After exiting town, the race turns uphill for about 3000 ft., stringing out the runners. I found myself in the top ten, not a particularly big deal in a race of 60 entrants. The first 18 miles take forever, but then there are 30 miles of more runnable trail along the subsequent PCT. The first crew
access point is mile 24, where I saw Jenine, her sister Denise, and my pacer Michael Duncan, who had graciously flew up from San Francisco to run the last 30 miles with
me. On the uphill leaving the aid station, I started feeling a bit queasy, undoubtly from the warm temp's in the early part of the run. I was running with Tom Hayes from Montana and Kendall Kreft, a local. We spread apart, but I'd see each of them again. By the time I'd reached Meadow Mountain, mile 42.5, Jenine's friend Glen had replaced
Denise in the crew. He was enthralled witnessing his first 'hundred.' Jenine was doing a great job getting me through the aid stations quickly. Glen later remarked that our
carefully orchestrated stops contrasted the wandering, browsing and grazing by some other runners he watched. On the next stretch of trail I began leapfrogging with Jamie Gifford. We passed through Olallie Meadows, about mile 50, as sundown approached. We were warned that the next section included hacking through a make-shift trail, straight down a hillside. I was happy to be far enough along that I'd have some ambient
light in this section. Using emplaced ropes to descend the hillside, it wasn't too bad, even fun, and I was quickly at the bottom, entering a 2 1/2 mile decomissioned train tunnel. I ran with Jamie and his pacer through part of this section. For the past 30 miles I my stomach had been uneasy, and I'd been moderating my pacer and pushing the fluids, in an effort to remain hydrated. Pushing the pace a bit on the easy flat terrain through the tunnel caused me to regurgitate as we exited the other end. As I walked along recovering, I realized that it was pretty early in the race to have to start dealing with
stomach problems: I'd not yet reached the mile 55 aid station. It was 9:30 at night. I was
in fifth place, moving slow, an in for a long night.
The race director says that he starts the race at 10AM to 'force' all the runners to run one whole night. That sounds tough, but the second half of the race has a couple road sections which make nighttime running easier. From mile 55 to mile 70 we had nothing
but paved and gravel roads. The first half is an 1800 ft. climb and the second a matching
descent. I forced myself to trot along the first level two miles, then reduced to a walk when the road turned steeply uphill. I leapfrogged Jamie who was walking I worked hard to pump in the fluids, and salts I'd lost, in an effort not to get stuck "behind the hydration curve." The importance of this was drilled into me by Caesar Cepeda who paced me in 2000 at Western States, nursing me back to health during a tough night on the trail. In fact, I did this so well that I ran out of water halfway up the hill, and had to stop at a roadside spring to refill. The big surprise on this section was that, as we approached the crest of the ridge, I passed two more runners, suddenly finding myself in second place! I quickly refilled and tried to bolt down the road, only to feel my stomach get queasy again. I had to moderate my pace, nervously glancing over my shoulder, looking for flashlights approaching from behind.
At mile 69 1/2 I reached Lake Kachess. My original race plan, designed to break 24 hours, had me reach the lake at 1:43AM. As I approached, Jenine remarked, "Welcome to Sunday." It was midnight. At the rate I was going I would run in the low "22"s rather than just under 24 hours. But I knew that the nausea would probably cause me to slow later. I was joined by Michael, my pacer, and we headed out onto a very rocky trail. I knew from our course preview that this 5 1/2 mile section would take nearly two hours, and hoped the long walk would allow my stomach to settle without any runners passing. The first place runner was reportedly 25 min ahead at Lake Kachess. I hurled again before the mile 75 checkpoint, and we stumbled into the aid station. "How long ago did the front runner leave?," I asked? The reply came with a pointing finger, "Scott Eppelman is standing right there!" Scott must've been having a rough time, to let us make up 25 minutes. He was quickly gone from the station, on up the hill.
The next section was a moonlit gravel road which quite simply ascends 3000 ft. in seven miles. The race had taken its toll, and we did little more than walk up. A runner doing well could gain quite an advantage here by mixing speed walking and running on the consistent, moderate grade. At mile 82 we were just two minutes behind the leader.
Here the course becomes a rocky trail, following "No Name Ridge" above Lake Kachess. Like any good ridge line, it follows the uneven terrain contours, inflicting pain on the runners with each short, uphill grunt. The section has earned the nickname, "Cardiac Needles." Near the end of the four mile section, Jamie reappeared, struggling, but doing better than me. At this point we were required to do a short, very steep ascent up to the peak of Thorp Mountain, one more climb I did not relish. We saw Scott and then Jamie coming down and, as we descended, another runner coming up. Shortly afterwards I was slowed by more vomiting, and watched Jamie disappear permanently. The newcomer quickly passed from behind, running really well. He would go on to pass the other two and win the race!
Despite a few more short, uphill grunts, the terrain is mostly downhill through mile 97. Despite the rising sun, I was still suffering from sleep deprivation and nausea, not moving too fast. I was muttering to Michael that we had to get going, or we wouldn't break 24 hours. Although I honestly wasn't moving fast, I was (as I saw later comparing my
planned splits to my actual ones) staying close to my 24 hour plan. Close to the
final aid station, Kendall, whom I'd left around mile 30, went flying by. He looked great, pounding the downhills.
The last aid station was mile 97 1/2. It was a straightforward, flat cruise to the finish, but I was constantly looking over my shoulder, knowing that Tom Hayes was still back there, as were some other entrants I'd pegged as probable front runners. Fortunately, we saw
no one else until I'd crossed the bit of orange ribbon set up as a finish line. A hearty handshake from RD Randy Gehrke and a brass finishers' buckle wrapped things up.
Although the race went on 'til 6PM, we were finished at 8:49AM. Jenine and Glen had returned to the hotel after the midnight aid station for some well deserved sleep, and were at the finish to snap some photos and pour me into the car. In the afternoon, after passing out for a few hours, I saw Jana with a pretty bashed up hand she'd gotten in a bad fall on the course. Nevertheless, she perservered to finish in 26:11 (11th overall). Elena
claimed that she spent too much time eating huckleberries and checking out the scenery. She was pulled at mile 75 for missing the mandatory time cutoff.
Jenine and I spent the evening at her folks' in Seattle, then returned MondayBack to story index page