Monday, January 9, 2012

Cascade Crest 100...All Aboard the Pain Train

I wrote down some thoughts awhile back about this was an amazing experience that needs to be shared.

After Western States, I was really looking forward to helping William get through his first 100 miler, The Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run. I ended up driving up to the race by myself. It was kind of nice...I took the "long" way through the Gorge and up 97. I met up with William and the crew (Jason, Kane, Jolene, and Mason) in Cle Elum. We found a place for dinner that served pasta and it turns out the pasta dishes came in two sizes, so there was a lot of discussion with the waitress about whether we were man enough to eat the full dinner. Hey, do you see this belt buckle that I'm wearing? After dinner we went back to the hotel room to relax, go through the race handbook, review past race splits, discuss plans, etc.

The race has a unique starting time of 10:00 AM, which I learned was used so even the fastest runners have to run through the night. It was nice not to have to get up so early, but once we got there, checked in, dropped off the drop bags, and said hi to a few runners and crew that we knew, there wasn't much to do but wait. Luckily Kane brought his mask and of course there was the hobo house to explore. By the time they finally took off, it was starting to get pretty warm. I believe William was forecasting a high temperature of about 75 degrees for the day...I think it got a bit hotter than that. According to the internet, it was already 75 degrees at the start of the race! The high temperature for Easton, WA on 8/27/11 was 96 degrees! I think that was hotter than Western States!

Once they were off, our crew split up. Jason, Kane, and I planned to meet Jolene and Mason at the first crew access at Tacoma Pass at 23 miles. We had quite a bit of time to kill...hmmm...too early for lunch. We ended up driving around for awhile...finally we felt like it was late enough to have lunch so we stopped at Mountain High Hamburgers and had the Mt. Rainier burger. After lunch we figured we could head up and wait for William. Based on splits from previous years, I figured he would come through somewhere between 2:30 and 3:00 PM. There were a lot of people already there waiting. I was looking for some I said before, it was pretty warm. Rod Bien came through first...he looked good...I would say effortless, especially when compared to everyone else...second place was already 17 minutes back! Wow! About an hour later, Randy Benthin and several Frank Schnekenburger look-a-likes who we dubbed Frank 1, Frank 2, and Frank 3 came through...we expected William very soon. When he did come in, I have to say I was caught off guard...even though almost everyone coming in looked like they were already hurting, I expected William to come in grab his pre-filled bottles and take off. What, he wants to sit down...shit, we didn't bring the chair. What, he needs some tomato soup...shit where is it (as I'm digging through his bag). He needs some ice...shit, the aid station doesn't have any (I had to run back to the truck to get some). Hey, don't worry, we told's early...there's plenty of time to get things back together.

At the next two crew access points, Stampede Pass (mile 33) and Meadow Mountain (mile 41), he was definitely doing better. I was still surprised, though, at how rough almost everyone was looking by these points in the race. At Meadow Mountain the sun was starting to was weird that most weren't even half done with the race and it was getting dark. We skipped the crew access (it was discouraged anyway) at Olallie Meadows at mile 48 and went straight to the next crew access at Hyak at mile 53. Jason would be pacing William from here to Kachess Lake (mile 68). After they took off, Jolene texted me asking how William was to answer this without worrying her unnecessarily. I said he's doing better, still running. I drove to Kachess Lake with Kane and got myself ready to run. By this time, it was approaching 2:00 AM and I was finally starting to get really tired. Thankfully they arrived before I fell asleep. In a funny moment at the aid station I remember going through a list of several things that William should try to eat...the response was no, he's off that, no, he's off that...he was off pretty much everything at this point.

So we started off on the Trail from Hell...what a way to start. It was pretty much a scramble...lots of downed trees to crawl over/under and other obstacles that made it impossible to run. I thought it was kind of ridiculous...we couldn't do much more than laugh. After the scramble section we got on the trail along the was just a really difficult trail to run on. I was actually telling William to save himself on this section. Things seemed to be going pretty well, then maybe halfway into this section, he stopped to try to puke...from this point I could tell my job was going to be to just keep him moving. I kept telling him, the faster you keep moving forward, the sooner you'll be done. When we got to the Mineral Creek aid station, we heard over the radio that Rod had just finished and broke the course record! Not really what you want to hear when you're hurting and have 27 miles to go yourself. Out of Mineral Creek was a long hike up a gravel road...about 7 miles long. I remember we'd been heading up for quite awhile and hadn't seen anyone...William asked me if I was sure we were still on the course. I was pretty sure we were, but inside I was a little panicked. Eventually we saw some people coming downhill, which was weird at first, but they were part of someone's crew. We weren't going to see our crew again until mile 96.

It was really cool when the sun started to come up. We were still hiking up the gravel road and there were some amazing views of the surrounding mountains. It's well known that some of the most difficult terrain on the course comes near the end. There are the cardiac needles...several very steep climbs...and the high point on the course, Thorp Mountain. Even with my elevation profile, I was never quite sure if we were through the worst of it. William kept trying to run anything that was runnable, but it was obviously very tough for him. Heck I was starting to have trouble myself...the last 20 miles of the course were a lot tougher than I thought they would be. At the French Cabin aid station (mile 88), we were informed there was one more climb...are you kidding me! But maybe the toughest part was the very long descent that followed that climb...especially since William couldn't run downhill at this point! As we headed down the steepest section to the last aid station, I was giving him periodic elevation readings from my Garmin since we knew approximately how far we had to descend. When we pulled into the last aid station everyone was there to greet us...all aboard the Pain Train...Jason, Kane, and I all finished it up with him. Jolene and Mason met us at the finish.

As the day was unfolding I couldn't help but feel bad for my friend...he didn't have his best day. I can understand the disappointment that comes when you don't perform to what you feel is your potential. But I was also reminded of how incredibly tough this guy is...the Pain Train was in pain! I couldn't help but think how many people would have quit under those circumstances. He confirmed to me what I already knew...William Swint is a BMF and just Plain tough. Bring on those Washington mountains!