September 8-9, 2007

“Now I look tough.”

My comment after I was covered in dirt after my first trip and fall 

When the luck of the Wasatch 100 lottery rejected me, friend Tom Jackson from Washington suggested that we run in the very tough Plain 100 in the Cascade Mountains, near Plain, Washington.   I was bummed out that my local race (Wasatch) rejected me, but I felt up to the challenge and quickly signed up for Plain.   The Plain 100 is one of the toughest 100-mile races in the country.   I believe it is tougher than Wasatch 100 for these reasons:   1. The race is actually about 106 miles.  2. There are no course markings.  Racers must use maps, directions, and navigation skills. 3. There are no aid stations, it is a self-supported race.  4. The trail conditions can be very challenging because of dust that permeates shoes and socks.  5. Three massive climbs (and descents) of nearly 5,000 feet and a total of 21,000 feet elevation gain. 6. The very high DNF rate (only 18 finishes in the first nine years of the race – 15% success).

 

 

The course consists of mostly well-maintained single-track motorcycle trails.   There are also some stretches of dirt road and one 3-mile section of pavement.   The care put into the motorcycle trails by a biking club is impressive.  Switchbacks are reinforced with a lattice of concrete covered with dirt.  Deep ruts are improved with maintenance, and blow-down deadfall by the hundreds are cut and removed each year.   It is an interesting demonstration of a multi-use trail.   The toughest climb of the course is the second major climb up to Tyee Ridge.

This would be the third race of my personal Slam for the season.   I previously finished Vermont 100 and Leadville 100.   After this, I will run in the Bear 100 and Pony Express 100.  With the 15% success rate, my primary goal was just to finish Plain 100.  However, as I continued to study the course and read every race report available, I became convinced that a sub-30-hour finish was within my capabilities if I could stay on the course.

All my waypoints for the course

For my race preparation, I poured over the course description and the map.   Without any course markings, I knew that it was critical for me to know the course description well.  Many runners do not finish in their first attempt because they get lost.   The most important preparation I made was to set about 140 course waypoints into my GPS.   I marked every important turn and included “comfort waypoints” about every half mile to reassure me that I was on the right trail.  I should have ordered the Green Trail map for this section but didn’t because of the expense.  It would have been worth it and would have greatly helped my planning.

Course map.  Loop 1 in blue, Loop 2 in orange

Clockwise direction on both

I flew into Seattle on Friday morning, rented a car, and made a three-hour drive to the race headquarters at Thousand Trails Clear Creek Lodge.   The race directors (Chris Ralph and Tom Ripley) were getting things set up so I decided to go scout out a few portions of the course.   The course consists of two huge loops with an out-and-back connector on both.   I first drove up the dirt road toward Maverick Saddle.  That was helpful because there were two turns that I now knew I should not take.   Next, I drove along the out-and-back of Loop 2 up to its connecting point at Alder Ridge Trailhead.  The trail along this section crosses many dirt roads.   There is a very confusing right turn before Goose Camp that I should have looked at more carefully (more about that later).   I also noticed that the trail was used by motorcycles and mountain bikes.  It was covered by very fine dirt/dust.   After walking just 50 feet on the trail with my running shoes, I could already feel the grit in my shoes.   I confirmed this by taking off my sock, seeing that the dust went all the way through my shoe mesh and sock.   This caught my attention and I knew this would be a major challenge.   I decided that I would have to go with toe socks and not use Bag Balm or tape.   This turned out to be a very wise choice.

I returned to the lodge, and checked in.  I received a big bottle of Hammer Gel – much appreciated.   My friends Todd Holmes and Tom Jackson soon arrived.   I planned to run the entire race with Tom.   Running with a partner can be very helpful, using two sets of eyes to stay on course.   Even better would be to run with someone who has already run the entire course.The race briefing was very long as expected.  The race director, Tom Ripley, went over the course map and description in very good detail.  All 30 racers were paying very close attention.   We enjoyed hearing experiences from runners who had taken wrong turns or got lost on the course in past years.  We picked their brains for details to make sure we didn’t make the same mistakes.   I observed that the running field was much more competitive this year.  Several elite runners were in the field.   I predicted that the finishing rate would be better this year.   The weather was cooperating.   It would be sunny and cool.

Tom Ripley conducting the pre-race briefing

We were introduced to the Search and Rescue teams.   At several places along the course we would check in with these teams.   However, these SAR people could not provide us with any support or information.  They would not give us directions nor answer questions.   If they saw us taking a wrong turn, they would not correct our mistake, they would only take note if a search was later needed.   Wow!   They would ask us how we felt and the only correct answer should be “I feel terrific.”   We practiced that phrase several times   During the race we could only receive aid at one point, mile 55 (actually mile 60) where our drop bags would be located.   We could receive aid from another runner at any time along the course.   Pacers could not be used.  

The crazy Plain 100 runners and volunteers

Me at far right

After a wonderful pre-race dinner including some yummy brownies and ice cream, Todd, Tom and I drove up to the course.  I pointed out to them the things that I learned about the trail from my previous scouting journey.   Next, we checked into a cabin near the start/finish line.   We went to bed early and for a change I got a pretty good pre-race sleep.   We were up by 3:30 a.m. making our pre-race preparations.    I planned to travel very light.  I would use a waist belt and a very small camelback without the bladder.  I would haul some food (Instant Breakfast and burritos), extra socks, tape, and a whistle in the camelback.  The pack was very light and when I put it on, I could hardly notice the weight.   Others would be weighed down with much heavier packs.   I would bring four water bottles with me.  For most of the time two would be plenty, but I would need all four for the climb up and over Tyee Ridge.   I carefully prepared a drop bag that would include a resupply of food, socks, and warmer clothes.

Tom Jackson and Todd Holmes ready for the start

We went to the lodge and they had a breakfast of oatmeal, bagels, and pancakes  I experienced a nervous feeling as the start time approached.  I knew this would be a very challenging day.  At the last minute, I decided to leave my handheld flashlight behind in my drop bag and go with a headlamp for the early morning.  That was a good choice and further lightened my load.

Runners at the start line.  Me at far right

At 5:00 a.m., we gathered at the steps of the lodge for a picture and the start.  Away we went up the dark dirt road, a crazy group of runners with bouncing lights.   I quickly made sure I knew where Tom was.  Usually I start 100-mile races pretty fast, liking to “bank” early miles quickly while I feel good.  But today would be different.  Tom wanted to take it easy early and save strength for Loop Two.  That was fine with me.  It would be an interesting experiment.  So we stayed in mid-pack and watched the lead runners, including Todd, disappear ahead in the dark.

Off we go with blazing speed. Me on left.

For the next three hours we ran pretty close to a pack of runners that included Jeff Huff of Hawaii and others.   Scouting out the first five miles of the course proved valuable.  During the early stages of the race I never worried about making a wrong turn.  The slower than normal pace took some getting used to.  At times I would push ahead faster and Tom would eventually catch up.  But we fell into a comfortable pace and enjoyed some conversation.  We arrived at the turn at Deer Creek (mile 5.2) at 6:00 a.m. (1:00 elapsed).  The morning was brisk, ideal for running.  I wore a long-sleeve shirt, shorts, and gloves.

James Masterson and Tom Jackson climbing the road to Maverick Saddle

Dawn soon arrived and as we climbed the road higher toward Maverick Saddle, we enjoyed the view of the Cascade Mountains and Fish Lake below.   Behind us was a guy who talked very loud.  We marveled at how far his voice carried as he talked non-stop.  After awhile this motivated us to push ahead faster.  Tom asked how far ahead we would have to get until we couldn’t hear him.  I answered, “about a quarter mile.”  Tom thought it would have to be further.  He was probably right.

Looking down to Fish Lake at dawn

We arrived at Maverick Saddle checkpoint (mile eight) at 7:00 a.m. (2:00 elapsed).   There were several trails and roads that could be taken.  I quickly discovered that the footprints of the front-runners could be seen clearly in the dust.  That would be one of the most important means of navigation.  The number of footprints were many, reminding me of our slow pace.  Tom reminded me that there would be plenty of time later to use stored up energy.  He was right.

We left the dirt road and ran on a single-track trail above Mad River.   I quickly checked my GPS and confirmed that we were on the right trail.  I told Tom that the next turn would be in 1.4 miles.   That fact was helpful because we knew we could just run straight ahead for 20 minutes or so.  The forest was beautiful.   We ran near Michelle Maislen from Seattle for awhile.   I would see Michelle on and off for the next 24 hours.We reached the Hi Yu trail (mile 9.4) at 7:31 a.m. (3:31 elapsed).  The trail became steeper as we climbed up to McDonald Ridge above Mad

River.  As my uphill muscles kicked into gear, I couldn’t hold back any longer.  I started to push the pace and felt my heart rate increase.   I was having fun and would stop and rest as Tom caught up.   As we reached the top of the ridge, the rolling trail was very fun to run on.   My initial challenge was a very sore left foot.   The sesmoid bones (two small bones in the ball of the foot near the big toe) were becoming very inflamed and sore.   This happens often and I can only try to bare it until it calms down.

Tom avoiding a deep trail rut across a field

After Lost Lake, we could hear runners behind us gaining.  In their group was the loud runner.   We could hear his voice echoing through the forest.   Not long after that I let out a yelp.   A bee stung me on my left leg.   It really hurt and would continue for hours.   A runner in front of us was also stung.   As we continued, I heard behind us someone else let out of yelp.  I later learned that a runner had kicked a log that contained a hive of bees.   The bees were getting their revenge on the runners in the Plain 100.   Great, now I had both a sore foot and sore leg on the left side.   The wound swelled up and I believe later affected a tendon behind my knee.  For awhile it felt like a stinger was still in the wound, but we checked it out and couldn’t find one.

One of the Two Little Lakes

As we continued on through beautiful forests and meadows, the temperature would vary widely.  I kept putting on and taking off my gloves.   At one point, we went through a very cold area and Tom noticed that there was frost on the ground.  We crossed over Mad River and came to the Blue River trailhead.   The GPS was very handy to help us know for sure we were on the right trail.   We ran past Two Little Lakes, with pretty green water.  For our water needs, we simply dipped our bottles into passing streams.   I started with two full bottles of diluted Ensure.  With the cool temperatures, that lasted me for nearly four hours and 14 miles.  We didn’t bother with filtering, that would just take too long.

Next up was a climb through valleys leading us to Klone Peak.   The views were amazing.   I put on my MP3 music to help boost my energy.   I mentioned to Tom that to stay on schedule, we should arrive at the peak at 10:00 a.m.  After awhile, Tom didn’t think we would make it in time.  That made me push the pace even harder.

Tom and me at the summit of Klone Peak 

The climb to the summit is an out and back ½ mile.   I pushed ahead of Tom for the ascent to the top.  With a couple hundred yards to go several runners were heading down.   When I reached the top, I took in the views and waited for Tom.   We summited Klone Peak (about mile 20) at 10:04 a.m. (5:04 elapsed)

View of Glacier Peak from Klone Peak 

After Tom arrived, he had trouble with his pack.  A gel broke open and made a mess.   He needed to clean up the mess.   I was amazed at how much stuff he was hauling.  As I waited and chowed down a buritto, Jeff Huff and his group arrived.  He was very complimentary of my race reports.  His Plain 100 race report was very helpful to me too.

Tom running down from Klone Peak 

We soon took off down the hill.  Finally some good downhill running!   I would blast ahead of Tom but keep him in sight as we descended many switchbacks.   At one point I tripped and went down.  The trail was so soft that I didn’t even have a scratch.  I was covered in dirt but said to Tom, “Now I look tough.”  

Burned forest

We went through several burned out areas from a bad forest fire several years ago.  As we continued to descend, we came across a couple of mountain bikers heading up the trail.   After that, I noticed that the foot prints on the trail were very few.  I consulted my GPS and feared that we missed a turn.   We stopped, checked things out for awhile and then continued on slowly.  Finally I concluded my way points in this section were just approximated and that the mountain bikers had covered many of the tracks.   Such worries like this can really slow down this race.   We finally dumped out a dirt road and checked in with Search and Rescue.  (We arrived there at 11:58 a.m. and were running in 17th place.  The leader at that point was 1.5 hours ahead of us.)

Tom running on the paved road

Next up was three miles of paved road pounding that was pretty annoying.  We did our best to just get it over with.   The GPS was very handy to warn us when we should turn off the road.   I guess one year a runner continued down the road for many miles.   We arrived at a trailhead referred to as the “culdesac” (about mile 31).  We were there at about noon.   We were about fifteen minutes ahead of my predicted schedule for a 29-hour finish.   There are two trails at the culdesac, and it is important to choose the one on the far left that goes downhill.  At the next turn, near Entiat River, we were greeted by the race directors, Chris and Tom.  They were of no help prompting us which way to go.  We carefully consulted the printed directions and the GPS and soon selected the right trail.  Tom smiled at us and encouraged us on.

Near Fox Creek Campground, we crossed a bridge over a stream and stopped to fill up on water.  We knew that there would not be any more water for 14 miles.   I drank as much as I could and filled up four 20 oz. water bottles.   The miles and elevation climb/descent was very similar to a Mount Timpanogos climb which I can do with 2-3 bottles.   Well, it turned out I really should have had 120 oz.   Beware!   I made up two bottles of Instant Breakfast.

The Jeff Huff group arrived and so did Michelle Maislen.   I wanted to stay ahead of all these runners, so we quickly packed up and started the 4,500-foot climb.   As we started, I noticed my shoes and socks were really getting full of dust causing toe and foot fatigue.  I mentioned to Tom that we should clean out our shoes at the next stop.  I kicked in my uphill gear and discovered that I had good speed and energy.   I noticed that Tom below me wasn’t keeping up.  I really didn’t want to slow down, so I decided that I would push it hard and fast to the top, stop there to clean out my shoes while waiting for Tom.   (Little did I know that this would be my last glimpse of Tom during the race.)

The climb went well but was very steep.  It soon felt like the climb up the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  There were probably over 100 switchbacks and the upward ascent was relentless.   As the trail would start to level out, I would check my GPS and see yet another climb.   Finally I reached the top of Tyee Ridge and stopped to clean my feet.  My socks were full of dirt.   I did my best to clean my feet, shoes, and socks.  It took me about 15 minutes.   I thought I heard Tom arrive but it turned out to be Jeff Huff and James Masterson.   Michelle soon arrived and mentioned that my “buddy” was really having a hard time.   She passed him halfway up.  He was sitting down and using sticks for poles.   He was struggling up the hill and was probably still over 15 minutes away.   I thought about it for a couple more minutes and concluded that I should continue on.  I thought that Tom would want me to do that.  

Jeff and James heading up Signal Peak 

Off I went.  I soon passed Michelle and caught up to Jeff Huff and James Masterson.   I asked them about Tom.  Jeff confirmed that Tom was having a rough climb.   As we climbed up Signal Peak, I carefully looked back along the ridge but could not see any sign of Tom.   We have been in three other 100-mile races together and in each of those races Tom caught up with me and passed.   I concluded that he would likely recover and catch up later.

Me, feeling great.  Picture taken by Jeff Huff

I was still feeling great.   I put on my tunes, pushed far ahead of Jeff and James and really enjoyed the trail.   As I was singing to my tunes I was surprised to come across a runner sitting beside the trail.  To my great shock, it was Todd Holmes.   He was really suffering from blistered feet torn to shreds by the dust.  He explained that he had led the race at mile 15 but then took a wrong turn, probably at the Blue Creek trail.   He had no footprints to help guide him.   After that things unraveled.  He had left his powered Heed behind somewhere so lost his primary source of Carbs.   I helped him tape his heels as Jeff and James passed by.  Todd said that he planned to drop out of the race in about 12 more miles at the drop bag area.   I mentioned that I felt bad about leaving Tom behind.   He assured me that I did the right thing.   I wished Todd good luck and ran fast down the trail. 

I came to a dirt road with a SAR checkpoint at 5:31 p.m.   (I was running in 19th place at the time.)   I didn’t know which way to go.  After consulting the GPS and quickly reading printed directions, I turned right on the road.  I looked back to the SAR lady to see if she was reacting to me going the wrong way.   She had her back turned.   After a couple minutes I stopped and decided to head back.  I couldn’t find foot prints.   This time I headed down the road.   But again, no foot prints.   I returned to the SAR location and finally noticed a trail directly across the road that was partially obscured by the SAR truck.   I sheepishly went on my way.  The SAR lady smiled as she knew I finally made the right choice.   Wow, during the whole ten minutes she really had her poker face on.

Me, cruising along

In about a half mile I was surprised to again pass Todd.  He was moving well and mentioned that the tape had helped.   I pushed on ahead.   I was out of water and needed to arrive at Cougar Creek fast.  I was getting badly dehydrated.   It seemed like the creek would never arrive and my pace slowed.   Finally I arrived at Cougar Creek (about mile 48) at 6:43 p.m.   I gulped up 40 oz. of water and immediately felt much better.  Jeff Huff’s group was preparing to leave.   As I was gathering up my things, Michelle arrived.  She mentioned that Todd was moving very slowly.

Feeling much better, I enjoyed the run along the Mad River toward Maverick Saddle.  I was moving pretty fast and was surprised that I didn’t catch up with the Huff group.  Dusk arrived and I turned on my headlamp as I crossed Mad River and started the climb up to Maverick Saddle.   Down below I could see Michelle’s light catching up.

We arrived together at the Maverick Saddle SAR checkpoint (about mile 54) at 8:06 p.m.  (I was in 18th place).  I was now over two hours behind my 29-hour schedule.   Clearly there were extra miles in Loop One.   Michelle went off running down the road as I pulled out a burrito.  I was getting low in energy.   My left foot was really hurting bad.   I had hoped to really blast down this road to finish the first loop, but my run was slow and painful.  Out of water again, I had to stop at a stream to fill up.

I arrived back at Deep Creek (about mile 60) at 9:34 p.m.   A volunteer guided me to a chair and had my drop bag ready.  There were four other runners there including Jeff Huff, Luis Escobar, James Masterson, and Les Mignery.   Jeff and his group had arrived at 9:15.  I cleaned out my shoes, wiped my feet and put on clean socks.  There was a ton of dust in my dirty socks.  I also put in a new insole in my left shoe, an insole that would mold better to my foot.   That really did the trick, I felt much better.   One guy was washing his feet.  I thought to myself that was a waste of time because I knew the next section was the dustiest section of the course.  His feet would be dirty again within ten minutes.

As I was refilling my bottles and resupplying with food, I listened to the other runners talking in the circle.  I didn’t join in the conversation but enjoyed listening.   They mentioned that their GPSs reported that we had traveled 60-61 miles instead of the advertised 55 miles.  That confirmed to me that the race was indeed 106 miles.   I also felt better about doing the first 60 miles in 16.5 hours.   I searched my bag for burritos to take and was alarmed that they were missing.  (On Sunday I found them in a side pocket of my bag).  Without burittos, I would not have a good solid food to take with me.   That was discouraging.  I looked around and saw a big bag of bagels.  I asked Jeff Huff if I could have one.  They were stuffed with turkey and really hit the spot!

I was really impressed with Jeff Huff.   Clearly he could have pushed on to get a good time, but he was content to stay behind and help the runners he was with.   One guy mentioned that he planned to sleep for an hour and then would walk the last 40 miles.   I didn’t say anything, but I thought that would be a huge mistake.  He would feel cutoff time pressures and would be on his feet much too long.   I was planning to leave with Jeff and his group, but I heard them mention plans to start walking.   I had no intention to walk.   Now that it was cool and dark, I planned to really start running.   So finally I got up and said, “Boys, it is time to leave.”   It was too comforting sitting around with them.   I had already been there for almost a half hour.   I left about 10:00 p.m.

As I left, a woman near a car wished me luck.  I asked if she was Michelle.  She mentioned that Michelle had already left.  I said that I would try to catch up with her.   I turned up onto the Lower Chiwawa Trail.   This trail would roll up and down for the next nine miles.   I soon found my running gear.  My feet felt great and I felt like I was truly in my element, my favorite time of a 100-mile race – night running.   At times it felt like I was running on mogles, the trail would bounce up and down.  I soon discovered that I could run on the edge and bypass the big dips.  After about a mile I caught up with Michelle and she mentioned that I looked like a Christmas tree with my red and green lights.  She had trekking poles and looked like she going to walk for quite awhile.   I pushed on ahead. 

As I arrived at Goose Camp, I turned right on a wide trail that seemed to be right, but I was unsure.   When Michelle arrived, she said that I was headed the wrong way (I wasn’t).   I returned and she explained that last year she took the wrong trail at this point and went in circles in Goose Camp for hours.   We headed toward Goose Camp but Michelle said this was the wrong way.  I wasn’t so sure and wanted to go ahead into the camp.   Yesterday I had scouted this out and felt sure I saw the trail in the camp.  Michelle was forceful and convinced me not to go into the camp.  We went out to the main road and she took me to a Lower Chiwawa trailhead sign and pointed to the right trail.  I explained that this was the trail that she had called me back from.  She apologized.   The sign was very confusing because it didn’t have any pointers on it to explain which of the three trails at this point is the Lower Chiwawa trail.   I still wasn’t convinced and again went on the trail to the camp.  Michelle followed me and convinced me to come back.   I finally did and headed up the correct trail but couldn’t see many footprints.   Finally they did appear.   I later worried about all the foot prints we laid down on the wrong trail.  

Little did I know what the effect would be.   These footprints ended up ruining Tom’s race.   Tom was about two hours behind me and left Deep Creek at about midnight.   When he got to Goose Camp he took the wrong trail into the Camp and spent the next two hours circling the camp trying to find the right trail.   Finally Demitri helped him find the right route.   He went on to Twin Creek, but by then it was 4 a.m.  As he was by the main road, the race director drove up and expressed the worry that Tom wouldn’t finish by the cutoff.  (I think he could have).   Tom decided to pack it in and accepted a ride back to the lodge. 

Alder Ridge trailhead (with arrows!) at Twin Creek

Back to my race.   After wasting five minutes, I left Goose Camp at about 11 p.m.  I pushed up the speed as Michelle’s light disappeared behind me.   While I had been at the Deep Creek (the drop bag area), no other runners had left before me.  I concluded that the next runner probably was at least an hour ahead.   I would have a long, lonely chase.   At midnight I arrived at Twin Creek (about mile 66), the junction that if all went well, I would return to in about nine hours or so.  I hoped that I would reach this point before seeing the race leader.  No sign of any runners.   I was very pleased with my pace. My running gear was still there and I was even running up many of the small hills.

I continued on into the dark.  When I arrived at trail junctions, footprints of the runners ahead were very helpful.  I did notice that there were fewer footprints than on Loop One.  Clearly a few runners had dropped out.   I reached the Chikamin Creek Trail (about mile 69) at 1:15 a.m.   I had been running for 20:15.  The trail now climbed up Marble Canyon.   I still felt strong and pushed a good pace.   At times I thought I would see a light ahead, but I concluded that they were just stars shining on the horizon.  Other times I believe it was just a reflection from my light onto the eyes of some critter looking at me.  When I reached the top, I stopped to again take ten minutes to clean out my socks.   It was frustrating to take the time, but my feet felt so much better.   The trail rolled for a couple miles and then turned into a steep climb up Chikamin Ridge. 

I arrived at the Chikamin SAR checkpoint (about mile 79) at 4:18 a.m.   I had to wake them up.   I wasn’t sure which way to go, so I stopped, sat on a stump and pulled out my GPS.   I quickly found the next trailhead and away I went on the next climb.  I was still moving pretty fast and was surprised that I had not caught up to any runners.  Where were they?  (The next runners were 30 minutes ahead.   I was in 10th place).

The rest of the night went well.   I concentrated on following the footprints and frequently consulted my GPS to make sure I was on the right trail.   At times the wind increased making me feel cold.  Instead of stopping to put on my jacket, I simply increased my pace to warm me up.

As dawn approached I was alarmed as the trail seemed to be heading in the wrong direction.  My sense of direction was totally turned around.   The GPS told me I was fine and I still saw footprints, so I stopped worrying.   Finally as I reached the top of the third major climb, I was thrilled to again run downhill.   I kicked in my “blast down the trail gear” and really started to fly.  After eight hours of not seeing another runner, I was surprised to catch up and pass a runner.  He was surprised to see me.  I didn’t slow down.  On the next downhill, I really started to fly and passed by four more runners who cheered me on.

I then noticed something very interesting.  There were very few footprints on the trail ahead of me.  I was on the right trail, but it seemed like there were only 4-5 sets of prints ahead.   If I could stay ahead of this group, I could finish in the top ten.  I wanted to do that.

The morning sun shines on the top of trees.  Note the dusty trail.

As I arrived at Marble Meadow, I slowed down and played leapfrog with one of the runners who caught back up.   When we reached the Alder Ridge Trail, I pushed the uphill hard and left the runner behind.   At the top of the ridge, I was flabbergasted to see how high I was.  I had a 4,000-foot descent ahead of me.   At first I enjoyed it, but soon the steep descent and endless switchbacks were grinding on me.   I ate something and breathed it up into my sinuses by mistake.  I stopped and had a painful sniffing, coughing fit.  The other runner caught up and passed me.  

Finally I recovered and continued the steep descent.   I ran dry of water and started to suffer from dehydration.  I thought that I would pass creeks, but I didn’t.   As I finally reached a dirt road, I had to again stop to clean out my shoes.  The pain was terrible.  As I did, the other four runners passed me by, including Michelle.  One mentioned that he was impressed how fast I was flying earlier.   Now, I was suffering.   I should have asked them for water, but I didn’t.   With cleaner feet, I felt better.  The dirt road seemed to go forever.  At a trail junction, I took the wrong turn.  The other runners (actually walkers) didn’t correct my mistake until I called back to them as they turned on the right trail.   We finally all arrived at Alder Ridge Trailhead (about mile 98.5) at 10:34 a.m.  (29:34 elapsed time).

Four runners and a SAR guy at Twin Creek

Michelle Maislen, Michel Roger, Glenn Rogers and Beat Jegerishner

I gulped up the water from the creek, refilled my bottles and ate.  For the past couple hours I had done a poor job taking in carbs.   With no water, I couldn’t drink Instant Breakfast and I couldn’t eat dry cookies.   I had emptied my Hammer Gel flask and did my best to hold on.   I listened to the four runners and discovered that they planned to walk the final 7.5 miles.  I left right ahead of them.  Good, I had repassed all the runners.  Was there any more?   The next 5.5 miles were tough.   I did reach the 100-mile mark before the 30 hour mark.  At one point I forced myself to run strongly for ten straight minutes.  That helped me keep going.   I hoped to still break 32 hours.   Two girls on mountain bikes stopped to let me go.   As I continued for the next mile, I noticed that no foot prints were over the bike tracks.  This meant that any runner ahead was probably at least a half mile ahead of me.   Finally there was a set of footprints over the bike tracks.  Hmm, maybe I could still catch another runner.   I filled my water bottle a couple of times from creeks.   I worried about getting sunburn and rolled down my long sleeves.   It was getting warm.

After passing Goose Camp, I was very puzzled to see Arthur Martineau running toward me.  He had passed me coming down to Twin Creek.  He asked how far the road was, I told him it was just down the hill.   I assumed he had dropped out somewhere and was out running to come in with a friend.  But in reality, he had taken a wrong turn at Goose Camp, ran the road to Deep Creek and the SARs told him to return and come back the right way.  Bummer.   Wow.   He did go back to the point of his mistake and then pushed as hard as he could to regain his place.   He passed the other four and was on my tail in hot pursuit.   I didn’t realize this.

Arthur wrote:  “I quickly caught up to and passed Glenn, Michelle, Roger and Beat. I didn’t think I could catch Joe or Davy but I was going to run hard anyway. About a half a mile from Deep Creek I mentally lost it. Pain, stupidity, pain, fatigue, and more pain became more than I could handle silently and I cried out a sort of grunt whimper pout with every step, especially on the downhill’s where my quads and feet really paid the price for my mistake. The S&R check point guys heard me coming into Deep Creek, and they gave me more encouragement and cheers then should be allowed. Now it’s just a mile and a half to the finish, again. And they said that Joe and Davy weren’t moving very fast and that I could catch them. I don’t know if it was true but it got me to give all I could. The thought of not losing my finishing place inspired me for a half a mile or so. I was very emotional out there on that road. I was also a bit dehydrated, ok a lot dehydrated. I had been conserving water; I didn’t want to run out of water before the end but I was drinking it now. I stopped to walk a few paces 4 or 5 times to dry my eyes. I think I was on the verge of a total emotional breakdown or maybe I was in the middle of one. Does someone in the middle of a breakdown know it during the breakdown? I don’t know but my eyes are watery just typing this. … So I did pass Joe, I think he was content on just walking it in. But I didn’t catch up to Davy. Just finishing this race was enough. It didn’t matter to me, after I finished, that I went from 5th to 6th place.”

I arrived back at Deep Creek at about 12:25 p.m.   Joe Lee had just left and was walking on the road.  We had two miles left.   I stopped and talked to him.  He was going to walk it in but still hoped to arrive before 1:00 p.m.   I still had my running gear so I pushed on ahead.  He said he would try to draft behind, but couldn’t keep up.  I pushed up the speed several notches and it felt like I was sprinting down the road.  I was anxious to get this over.   As I approached the end of the road, people were cheering my arrival and called to the race directors that I was coming.  They asked me if I was Joe.  Nope.  I finished very strong at 31:45, covering the last two miles in 20 minutes.   Neither Tom or Todd were at the finish and I assumed that they both had headed home.   I had finished Loop Two in under 15 hours, a pretty good time.

My finish!

I was very pleased with my accomplishment.   With 30 starters, only 14 would finish.   I finished in 5th place.   The 4th place runner finished almost four hours earlier!   The winner was Tim Englund who set a course record of 25:43. 

It had been the toughest 100-mile race that I had finished.   It had been a very crazy adventure and I enjoyed most of it.   I took a quick shower at the lodge and the volunteers were very kind feeding me good food.   I was pleased that somehow I finished without getting any blisters.   The time I took to clean my feet paid off.  Six others finished within ten minutes of me.  Arthur nipped Joe for 6th place.  In an hour I was ready to drive toward

Seattle to check into a motel.  I was disappointed to hear that Jeff Huff DNFed at the top of Chickamin, but there were still four other runners on the trail.   I drove away from the lodge with a smile on my face.  It had been a good race.

I called Tom.  He was already back at home in Moses Lake, Washington.  I apologized for leaving him behind and felt bad about his DNF problem at Goose Camp.   I was pleased to hear that he didn’t quit after Loop One and did his best.  I also called Todd.  He was very complementary about my finish and impressive time.

Plain 100 is an amazing race but very tough, not for rookie 100-milers.   If you are crazy enough to sign up, prepare well, and intend on spending some time off the course during the run.

Next up, Bear 100 in three weeks.