David Crockett's Running Frontier

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I like to Run Insanely Long & Crazy Distances
Updated: 1 hour 47 min ago

Grand Canyon double crossing R2R2R #14

29 November, 2013 - 10:51

Inversion layer of clouds

In 2005 I ran across the Grand Canyon and back for the first time.   At that time, only a few runners could be found running rim-to-rim-to-rim.  Now during some weekends it is almost like a super highway of runners who experience the amazing beauty of the canyon.   It had been about 2 ½ years since I had run in the canyon and four years since I had run a traditional R2R2R using the corridor trails.  It was time to return and I had my sights on attempting a quad crossing, repeating what I had accomplished back in 2006.

The only known quad crossings are: Jim Nelson (1999) – FKT 22:48, Wally Shiel (1987), Dana Miller (1993), Susan Gimbel (1994), Davy Crockett (2006), Jason “Ras” Vaughan (2013) – did sextuple crossing.

After Thanksgiving dinner I headed to the canyon and spent the night at Kanab.  I got up very early and drove to the North Rim for a 5:00 a.m. start.  As I drove through some fields near the National Park entrance, I noticed that my car thermometer was diving  10, 5, 0, -5, and then to -10!   Three years ago on the same weekend I aborted a run starting at the North Rim because the temperature at the same spot was -20 F.   I was amazed and worried.  The heater in my car couldn’t keep up with the cold coming in from the outside.   I hoped that my car wouldn’t break down.   This time, I kept driving and thankfully it was warmer at the trail head, a balmy 11 degrees.

I still dressed in shorts because I knew it would be much warmer below.  There were no cars in the parking lot and it felt very lonely as I walked over to the trailhead  in the dark to start my very long run.  There was about six inches of snow at the top as I started running down the North Kaibab trail.   Down I went and the trail was pretty slick in spots for the first mile.   Curiously it wasn’t getting warm as fast as usual.  I later figured out that there was an inversion going on near the rims, with very cold air that was spilling into the canyon.  I saw frost on the trail all the way down to Roaring Springs.

Lately I had been worried about soreness in my bad leg near the area of my bad fracture in 2012.  Again, the pain was felt and I became to doubt that I would be able to do the quad crossing.  It just wasn’t worth a bad injury.  But I kept going and tried to keep the pace up.

As I was filling up my bottle at the facet in front of the Roaring Springs house (about mile 6), I saw a light coming up the trail.  A backpacker came up to me and we chatted.  He was heading up to the North Rim.  I told him what I was doing.  He predicted that he would be seeing me again in the afternoon.

I reached Cottonwood Campground (mile 6.9) in 1:20 and was surprised to see that the water was still on there this late in the year.  Finally it was starting to feel warmer and dawn arrived by the time I entered The Box at mile 10. (The Box is a slot canyon that Bright Angel Creek roars through with the North Kaibab trail on the side.) My pace now was fast and I was ready to shed my jacket.   I stopped and stashed my light, jacket and some gels and then ran on.

I arrived at Phantom Ranch  (mile 14, the bottom of the canyon) at the 2:40 mark.  My best time from that North Rim in the past was a speedy 2:24 for those first 14 miles.  I was now more than 6,000 feet below the North Rim. While filling my bottles, I noticed two groups of R2R2R runners who were heading in the opposite direction.  I tried to greet them, but they didn’t respond much, too focused on their tasks.

I continued on and headed over Black Bridge to run up the South Kaibab trail toward the South Rim, towering above more than 4,400 feet.  I usually go up Bright Angel Trail which is a mile longer, but if I was going to run a quad, I needed to reduce the miles.   Looking up the river, I could see a river rafting group eating breakfast as they watched me run across the bridge over the Colorado River.   The river color was unusually muddy red.  As I ascended the steep trail, I realized I made a mistake leaving my jacket and gloves stashed back in The Box.  A wind kicked up and it was chilly.  I hoped that the sun would hit the trail soon to start warming things up.

I think there is a no more beautiful place to watch the morning light than from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  I love to watch the light, colors and shadows on the monoliths above.  There were a few day hikers coming down and I greeted them all as I did my best to jog up the trail and keep a good pace going.  At one point I looked ahead and noticed a round rock that looked like it had a tail.  But then it moved.  It was a tame big horn sheep.  It barely moved as I ran by just feet away.

When I reached Lift Off and the Tonto Trail junction, the wind was pretty stiff and cold.  I was glad that I wasn’t running the Tonto trail today.   The weather just seemed very odd.  Coming from the rims above were thin layers of clouds, inversion.   As I climbed higher, it was an amazing thing to see.  I wished I would have taken pictures but it was too chilly to stop.  As long as I was moving hard, I was OK.  The higher I went, streams of day hikers appeared.  They were all bundled up in winter coats and there I was going in the opposite direction with short sleeves and shorts.  I received many curious looks.  Only a couple people asked me what I was doing and I would explain that I had run from the North Rim.   I left them stunned.

I started to have leg issues.  This time it was bad cramping in a quad muscle.   I had to keep stopping and roll it out with my water bottle.  That was slowing things down.  I hoped that it would settle down.

I soon reached the cloud layer and sure enough it was a layer of ice fog.  The temperature dived about 10 degrees, well below freezing as I ran through it.  But once over it, the warm sunshine was nice.   I reached the South Kaibab trailhead in 5:26.   I had hoped to reach the top by the 5-hour mark, but still I was pleased to beat my personal record by a minute.  I didn’t stay long and turned around and headed back down.   I passed about 100 day hikers who were amazed and alarmed to see me running.  One let out a cry as I tripped a little on a rock but it was no big deal.

One guy heading back up saw me coming and asked, “Are you Davy?”   I stopped.  I’m always amazed how people can recognize me from my pictures on my blog.  We talked briefly about my past adventures and he was very kind.

The morning was finally warm and even the day hikers were starting to shed some over coats.  The river came closer very fast and I could now see another river rafting company stopped for lunch.  They watched me as I ran by the river back toward Phantom Ranch.   I arrived there at the 7:14 mark which is my fastest time by nearly an hour.  I took a long stop there to eat plenty, refill my bottles, and visit the bathroom.

I would now run back up the trail with a trekking pole in my right hand and water bottle in my left.  That worked out great and I enjoyed running up the trail along Bright Angel Creek.  I reached my stash and it was good to have my jacket and gloves again.   I had been debating internally if I would continue and do another R2R2R.   I had plenty of good energy, but with the leg issues and the cold weather, I was pretty sure that I would finish at the top.

I tried to predict when I would see the other R2R2R runners coming back down and my prediction was nearly exactly right.   The first group was moving good.  They had 11 miles left and I also had 11 more miles to reach the top.  Others came later and I counted a total of nine R2R2R runners for the day including me.

The higher I went, the colder it got.  If I pushed it hard, I would sweat plenty and then feel even colder.   Near Roaring Springs, I met the backpacker from the morning.  I asked him if it was still cold on top.  He explained that even at noon, it was frigid up there.   I wasn’t looking forward to the rest of this cold climb.   But if I kept pushing, I would arrive back to my car by dusk and avoid the big plunge in temperature.

I started noticing frost far below Supai tunnel and then the ice started to appear.  It was already below freezing.  I pushed on but the cold was slowing me down. During the final mile, hypothermia started to set in.  My feet and hands were freezing.  I knew I would be OK, but I worried about the group of R2R2R runners who would start in the morning.  I sure wouldn’t want to finish after dusk in this frigid air.

I never needed to get my flashlight out and reached the trailhead at the 12:56 mark.   This was a PR for a North Rim start by 16 minutes.  My best time for a South Rim start 12:47.  I believe starting from the North Rim is tougher because you have to end up with a much longer climb.

It was easy to quit with one trip.  Making another trip through the night would be just too cold and miserable.   My leg was sore so the wise thing was to stop, warm up and start heading home.

It had been a great day running across the Grand Canyon and back.  Certainly because of the weather, this was one of the most unusual R2R2Rs that I had run.   This was my 14th double crossing.  I’ve now been up or down the North Kaibab trail 30 times and I know every turn well.   I also now have logged 1,004 miles in the canyon.

Winter training

10 November, 2013 - 17:30

Now that winter approaches, most runners start shutting down their training.  I tend to do the opposite, step it up, and increase the weekly miles.  But the type of training shifts from the mountains down to the desert floor.  For me, the summer is about mountain 100s and adventure runs that involve peaks and long climbs.  But during the winter, I love to run on the plains and train for the speedy flat-land races.  This is how I discovered the beauty of the Pony Express Trail, running in the desert during the cold months.

My next races will likely be Across the Years 72-hours, Rocky Raccoon 100, Buffalo Run 100, and Salt Flats 100, all relatively flat courses.  Making the shift from mountains to the plains is not as easy as it may seem, and for me getting even more difficult with age. These past six months have been good.  Even though I slowed down, there has never been a better year for me running uphill.  My downhill speed hasn’t fully come back since the broken leg almost two years ago, but my strength and speed running up hills during later stages of recent 100s has been a nice surprise.  But now it is time to leave the hills behind for a few months and rediscover the flats.  I started my winter training officially started on October 26, later than usual because of a terrible three-week cold/illness. 

To kick it off, I decided to do a 50K+ run all the way around Lake Mountain, a mountain behind my house that rises about 3,000 feet above the desert floor.  I’ve run around this mountain 11 times before.  Because of the terrible fire on the mountain more than a year ago caused by thoughtless target shooters, large sections of road are closed as the mountain vegetation tries to heal.  But that wouldn’t stop me, I would simply run down Redwood Road on the east side by the Lake for some good fast flat miles.

I accomplished the 33-mile run, but it was rough, slow and discouraging.  It seemed like all my chronic injuries of the past plagued me during the run.  Has age finally caught up with me?  For the next few days, I recovered.  I let my sore hamstring calm down and then carefully started controlled treadmill running to get back up on that horse.  The first day was rough, the next day better, and by the third I had hope that I could pull out of this running low and start getting in better shape.

So, just seven days after my last Lake Mountain Loop, I decided to try it again.  But this time I would make the loop bigger with even more flats, 41 miles.   The initial 15-mile paved run along Utah Lake in the dark went much, much better this week.  My pace was good.  I underestimated the frigid cold that is typical in Cedar Valley on the west side and slowed terribly because of the cold and tumbleweeds but as the sun warmed things up my legs came to life and I finished strong.  In fact this week I covered the 41-mile loop more than an hour faster than the 33-mile loop the previous Saturday.   I came away convinced that my training was making progress and I was started to get in shape.  Yes, that might sound silly, given the many huge runs I accomplished during the summer, and the ability to do a 33-mile run last week, but still, I felt out of shape.

I kept the training going with early morning consistent treadmill runs of between 7-10 miles.  For the third straight Saturday I again ran around my mountain for the 14th time.  This would be the largest loop ever around the mountain, 44 miles.  This time I was better prepared for the cold and kept a solid pace going that surprised me.  I did run low on water when my bottles froze solid right after dawn.  But once re-hydrated at Camp Floyd, I was able to run negative mile splits for the last 12 miles or so.

With the good results being seen, it now is much easier to crawl out of bed in the morning and train.  At 55-years old I wonder if I can beat Father Time once again and compete with those much younger.  My big test will be Across the Years 72-hour race held over New Years’ near Phoenix.   I’ve run the 48-hour race three years previous and finished in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for each of those years.  This year I wanted to step up to 72-hours, run more than 200 miles, and try to compete for the win.   My training for the next five weeks will be key.  Time is short, but with further determination and being careful to avoid injury, I think it is possible.  I ran 86 miles last week and it is time to ease that up to 100.

Mogollon Monster 100

28 September, 2013 - 15:46

Mogollon Monster 100 runs below and on top of the Mogollon Rim in central Arizona.  The Mogollon Rim rises out from the earth 2,000 some feet for a span of 200 miles across Arizona and into New Mexico.  The race gets it name because it is a monster of a race, but also because of a legend that Big Foot roams the course.

Pictures by Michael Miller

The course runs on sections of the Highline Trail shared by the very tough Zane Grey 50.  I’ve run and finished Zane Grey 50 four times and after that fourth time vowed that I wouldn’t return because it hammers you and isn’t particularly scenic.  However, when I have run there, I was always intrigued about the possibility of also running on top of the rim.  Well, I now had my chance.

I went into the race with my eyes wide open, fully aware of how difficult this 100-mile (really 106-mile) course is.  Last year in its first year, there were many problems and only nine runners finished, most very familiar with the trails.  In my email exchanges with the race director, Jeremy, I could tell that preparations had dramatically improved and I was willing to take a chance and run it.

My expectations for a good finishing time were low.  I decided that my only true goal was to cross the finish line.  Finishing in about 30 hours seemed reasonable for me. I liked the fact that the race was “traveler friendly” meaning that I could show up at the start with an hour to go, deliver my drop bags, and listen to short race briefing.  Thus, I went to work on Friday, flew afterwards, arriving at Payson, Arizona in the evening with plenty of time to get ready.

Me in orange

The weather was on the cool side, no rain in the forecast and seemed perfect for me.  There were about 47 starters this year and I started running with the top six for the first mile or so. The first section of the course presented a nice view of the town of Pine below and then made its way up Pine Canyon to the top of the eastern edge of the Rim.  This would be our first of four trips up to the rim.

I led a small group of runners in the second pack as we made our way up switch-backs for an 800-foot climb. As usual, after a while I let them pass and continue on, preferring to slow a little and go at my own pace.  I arrived Pine aid station (mile 8.4) at 2:08, probably in about 15th place.

The next section was very enjoyable as we ran through forests on the rim in a place called Milk Ranch Point.  We were becoming much more spread out and I enjoyed the solitude of running alone in the cool trees about 7,500 feet.  I arrived at Dickerson aid station (mile 13.4) ahead of my pace schedule doing well.

Mogollon Rim

The next section involved a very technical long descent down to connect with the Highline trail (Zane Grey course.)   I discovered with all the technical descents I had run recently that my legs loved the rough trail and it wasn’t long before I passed several runners.  I was having a blast pushing the pace on the technical downhill.  My shoes, New Balance 1210’s seemed perfect for this course, with a good rock plate and some nice cushioning.  Hokas would not have worked well enough because of stability factors running on the constant rocky trails.

Looking good on a climb

By the time I arrived at Geronimo (mile 18.4), I had passed six runners, and arrived there at 4:14, about 45 minutes ahead of my planned pace for a 30-hour finish.   I was doing very well.  Next up was the trail I was very familiar with, the Highline Trail, a rugged, rocky trail that goes up and down constantly as it traverses across drainage areas below the rim high above.

The miles between aid stations in this race are generally long, normally between 7 and 10 miles.  This next section going to Washington Park includes a three-mile section of exposed burn-out area and it already was becoming very warm.  As expected, my two hand-held bottles were not enough, so I dipped them into a couple passing streams, deciding to take the chance rather than going into dehydration.  The water was cool and tasted amazing.

Arriving at Washington Park

I reached Washington Park (mile 27.1) at 7:12 to loud cheers and friendly greetings.  This was the race headquarters and I enjoyed talking some with the race director there.  He noticed dried blood that trickled down my arm and asked if I had fallen or was just getting too close to the nature.   It was the latter.  I since learned which nasty bushes to avoid bushing by. I must say that at every single aid station in this race were very helpful, kind, experienced volunteers.  At times it felt like I had my own crew there helping me cut down the time.

Trail heading up to the rim

Next up was a monster climb straight up to the rim along some power lines.   There were no runners to be seen either ahead or me or behind so I made the climb alone.  The final section was very steep (45 degrees) and very rugged but I enjoyed it and made it to the top, greeted by some radio guys.

Looking down at the steep trail

Once up, there was 4.5 miles of dirt road running to the next aid station.  The road went along the rim providing spectacular views.  I could look back or ahead nearly a mile, but could see no other runners.

View from the rim

I arrived at Houston Brothers (mile 34), a forested aid station on top of the rim, at 8:57, about 30 minutes ahead of my planned pace.  From there, I would run across the rim through the forest going up and down across little canyons.  After I climbed to the top of a ridge, it was finally time for a bathroom break in the trees.  My break was about ten minutes and finally a couple runners caught up to me.  But I now had plenty of energy and pushed on ahead.  At a road crossing were kind radio guys who took our numbers and pointed to the continuation point.  The course markings and volunteers at intersections made route-finding almost idiot proof.

The last three miles of this section was nice single-track downhill.  The guy behind me with trekking poles caught up, passed me going fast.  That woke me up and I started clocking 8-9 minute miles all the way to the next aid station.  I arrived at Pinchot (mile 41.2) at 11:00, fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.  It was now 5:00 p.m. and the sun was getting low in the forest.

Next up was more rolling forest back to the huge power-line decent off the rim back to Washington Park.  First up was a dirt road section.  With the low sun, I pulled my hat down to keep it out of my eyes, but I totally missed a well-marked turn.  After a half mile I could not find any runner tracks in the road.  As I pulled out the course directions a crew car drove by.  They stopped and I asked if I was still on the course.  They explained that I should be on a trail to the west.  So back I went back and found the missed turn, wasting about ten minutes.    The sun soon went down and it quickly became cool up at 8,000 feet.   I took the steep descent off the rim pretty fast although my feet were now feeling pretty punished on the rugged, rocky sections.   I arrived at Washington Park (mile 50.9) at 13:25 about ten minutes ahead of schedule.  At this point I took a very long 30-minute break to change into my night clothes and get everything ready for a long night back on top of the rim.

Next up was one of the toughest sections for the course.  It was only 5.2 miles of Highline Trail to Hell’s Gate, but at this time of the year there is about two miles covered with thick three-foot grass.  It was impossible to run it.  Normally I would let my feet feel the trail, but the trail under the grass was loaded with big rocks and holes to trip over.  So it was slow going and that section took me 2.5 hours.  It was pretty well marked with reflectors but I would have to stop many times to look around and figure out where the trail went next.

I arrived on Hell’s Gate (mile 56.1) at 16:36, now a half hour behind schedule.  I didn’t plan for the very long stop at Washington Park.   I really looked forward to the next section, a very tough, rugged climb back up to the top of the rim.  It indeed was tough and at times required hands to steady myself on very steep sections.  But generally there were also switch-backs to help.  I was well ahead of the next runners and it was fun to flash my green light for them to see far below.  I could see many lights making their way up toward me, or back further on the Highline trail.

When I reached the top of the rim, the trail was marked kindly by true lights and I eventually was greeted by a nice radio guy who gave me water and commented that he had been tracking my green light down below for a couple hours.  He said it could be brightly seen down below.

It was much cooler on the Rim and I put on my jacket and made sure I stayed warm.  I put on some tunes to help me push the pace down a dirt road to the next aid station.  I arrived at Buck Springs (mile 63.8) at 19:20.  My times at the aid stations were increasing significantly as I was trying to eat plenty and warm up.  I was now more than an hour behind a 30-hour finishing schedule.

Going out of the aid station, the volunteers said to go up the trail about 75 feet and turn right on a single-track trail.   I went up the road but failed to find the trail.  I searched and searched.  I hit a red flag which means stop and turn around, but no good flags.  I went back to the station and they admitted that they had just arrived and were just relaying directions from those they had replaced.  So they went with me and we figured things out.  The big problem was that this turn had no reflectors or glow sticks.   The first flag seen was a red flag and later a good flag.  It was very confusing in the dark and wasted another ten minutes.

The next section was nearly all forest single-track with some significant climbs and descents across some little canyons.   It became significantly colder.  Thick frost formed at the low points and I put on a garbage bag to wear to keep me even warmer.   It worked for a little while, but soon I became chilled, then a hypothermic (drowsy), and finally what always happens to me in these cases, my stomach lacks blood-flow, gets stressed, and stops processing well.  So, things started to fall apart.   The faster I pushed the pace, the more I became cold because of a slight breeze.

Finally, I had to stop and take periodic cat naps.  It was warmer lying beside the trail.  Just shutting my eyes for a couple minutes made a huge difference.  It was a lonely time.  I made stops that probably totaled about 20 minutes, but even with that, no runners passed me.  I was having a rough time.  It took me about three hours to do this 8.2-mile section.  These night sections were just too far apart from aid stations.  A little before the aid station, I stopped at the historic cabin where a volunteer was camped.  He was there to give directions near a confusing intersection.  He was stoking his fire and I stayed a few minutes to warm up.   Finally a couple runners caught up from behind and we arrived again at Pinchot (mile 72) at 22:35.   I stayed by the fire for quite some time, trying to dash away the hypothermia.  My mood was somber.  The volunteers were quite concerned, but I assured them that I was going on and could recover from this low point.  It turns out they radioed ahead for the next checkpoint to watch out for me.

I continued on.  Some sections were bitter cold.  But as dawn arrived, the temperature quickly went up and as usual, my stomach recovered.  It was still very tender, but at least was processing again and I could once again run with speed.   I arrived again at Houston Brothers aid station (mile 79.2) at 25:34, now more than three hours behind my schedule.  I knew that my race was shot.  For the first time since my rookie ultra season, I became concerned about cut-offs.   I was still 1:30 ahead of the cut-off but I didn’t think that was much of a cushion if something else went wrong.  I heard the aid station guys comment that more people had dropped behind me and that now there were only three more still coming.  Wow, I was truly at the back of the pack.  What is funny is that while I lost about three hours, I wasn’t passed by anyone except for the two guys I was now leap-frogging with.  The back-of-the pack just disappeared one by one because of DNFs.

Now, with new energy, a beautiful morning, and great views at the rim edge, I really pushed the pace hard running the dirt roads and the huge descent off the rim back to Washington Park.   I passed three runners on the way, and gained a half hour on the cut-offs.   But my stay at Washington Park was again about a half hour as I prepared for the heat of the day.

I left Washington Park with the two guys I had been leap frogging with for the past eight hours.  I was confident that I could blast ahead, but within minutes, as the warm sun hit me, my body temperature went up and I felt really sick.   I knew it was early stages of heat exhaustion.  First the cold, now the heat.  This next 8.8-mile section would go through very hot and exposed sections.  What should I do?  I started to go VERY slowly.  The two guys disappeared ahead.  About a half mile out, I was still feeling terrible and worried about the hot miles ahead.  I stopped, looked back, and seriously considered turning back and DNFing at Washington Park.   It was the right thing to do.  However, I kept considering all the hard work I had put into at this point running 87 miles.  How could I quit now?   So I faced forward and hoped for the best.

I offered a silent prayer for help, and pushed on.  I reached a stream, soaked my hat and wetted my shirt.  I replaced my water bottle with cold stream water.   My pace was terribly slow, and I knew by the time I reached the next aid station, my cut-off cushion would be gone.  How could I DNF at mile 95? This was the most depressing moment of my race.

Something wonderful next happened.  A breeze was felt in my face.   Within minutes, the terrible sick feeling went away and energy reappeared and I felt cooled.  I tried to run.  It worked.   I continued to squirt myself with cool water and filled up again at the next stream.  I pushed the pace even more and very soon I could even run the uphills on the tough Highline trail.  Could I catch those two guys?  They were probably almost a mile ahead but I could try.  I kept looking for them around each corner but they didn’t appear.  At one point I thought I took a wrong turn, went back and ran into a female runner who I had passed on the rim.  She was doing well.  We ran together for a while but I knew I could run faster so I soon bid goodbye and started running up and down the trail like crazy.

I arrived back at Geronimo (mile 94.8) at 31:06 with less than an hour cushion on the cut-offs.  The two guys were still there.  I didn’t stay long, just ate quickly and refilled.  We all left together.  I had caught up.   As we made the two mile very rough dirt road trek to the Webber trail, a terrible deep blister had formed on my forefoot.   I decided that I needed to stop, see how bad it was, and clean the foot.  The guys disappeared ahead.   After I did the best I could for the foot, the girl runner had caught up. She went ahead and I kept her in my sights even as we began the terrible climb up Webber Trail to the top of the rim.  I looked forward to this climb but it was longer and steeper than expected.  The switch-backs were steep and never-ending.  I wish I would have counted how many there were.   Another woman runner appeared below and caught up to me.  She explained that there were two more runners behind.

I considered that it was quite possible that I would finish in last place. (DFL).  That would be pretty cool.  But I looked far down the mountain and could not see any more runners below.  The two women teamed up and ran the rest of the way together.   I was struggling, but ate more, and took yet another pain killer, and soon could push the pace again.

Finally we reached the top together.  We had reached the 100-mile mark at 33 hours.  But there was still six more miles to go.  It was all downhill, how hard could that be?   Well, it turned out to be by far the hardest section of the course.   The trail down the other side of the rim consisted of endless switch backs, but the trail was the most rugged, nasty loose rock section that I had ever run.   I considered that I would never even want to run this section in training.  The trail was narrow and nasty bushes pushed out into the trail that scratched up the legs and arms.

The final descent down the Donahue Trail

Despite this nastiness, my pace was good and I quickly caught up with the two guys.  We talked about how cruel this finish was.  I became angry about it.   I could not see the point of it.  First, it made the course more than 100 miles.  There were plenty of adjustments that could be made to make the course the standard 100.  Second, this finish is just cruel.  The terrible rocks started to rip away at any forming blisters.   As I finally saw the Pine trailhead come into view (our start point) something ripped in my forefoot deeply, the pain shot up like crazy, and I could hardly walk.   I stopped, took off the shoe and tried to consider what to do.  The guys caught up, talked to me, and then went on ahead.

My car was in sight, so I limped to my car, retrieved some tape and a thick clean sock, and went to work.  Once finished, it felt much better, keeping the deep blister in place.  As I started out for the two miles of pavement into town, the lady runners appeared.   We ran together for a little while, but I knew I could run faster and didn’t want to risk being DFL.   My pace was strong and I almost caught up to the guys.  But then the finish came with a few people left to cheer at the finish.   I crossed the line feeling good at 35:11, certainly my slowest 100-mile finish ever.

I was satisfied.  I could have quit many times.  I had faced some terrible lows, but kept going and came out of them.   How hard is Mogollon Monster 100?  For me, it was the toughest 100 I had ever run, not because of the 18,000 feet of climbs, but because of the terrible rugged nature of the trails.   I believe in ranking 100s, it is tougher than both Plain 100 and H.U.R.T 100.

Will I run this one again? That is very unlikely.  Two reasons:  The length needs to be fixed to be 100 miles.  Second, the finish seems unfair. But perhaps Jeremy wants this to be one of the toughest races ever.  He certainly has worked hard to make this a great, tough race.  The volunteers were numerous and amazing.  The course markings were pretty much idiot-proof this year, in fact too many markings.

Of the 47 starters, I came in 19th.  Amazing!  Only 23 finished.  So “buyer beware.”  If you sign up to run Mogollon Monster 100, prepare yourself for a tough adventure run, not a 100-mile race.  If you like rough challenges, this run may be for you.  I’m glad I did it once and actually did finish.  This was my 58th 100-mile finish.


Wasatch Sextuple Crown – Six highest peaks in one day

19 September, 2013 - 10:36

Could it be done?  Once I set a goal it eats at me to complete it. The highest peaks in Utah are found in the Uinta mountain range, but the most impressive peaks that rise from the valley floor to the sky are found in the Wasatch Front.  Could the top six be summited in one day?  After sumiting numbers 1-3, 5-6 in one day a week ago, I was determined to do it right, all six.   I decided to take work off on Friday and head up to the mountains Thursday night to get it done.

These mountains are in three different locations, requiring a 1.5-2 hour drive between them.  With my experience summiting five of them last week, I now had the knowledge of the trails to do it much faster if I wanted to push it.  But speed wasn’t my part of my goal, just finishing was what it was about.

1 Mount Nebo 11,928′ Above Nephi 2 Mount Timpanogos 11,750′ Timpanogos Ridge 3 “South Timpanogos” 11,722′ Timpanogos Ridge 4 American Fork Twin Peak – West 11,489′ Above Snowbird 5 North Timpanogos 11,441′ Timpanogos Ridge 6 “Bomber Peak” 11,347′ Timpanogos Ridge

Mount Nebo summit

First up, was the highest peak, Mount Nebo.  I now knew the trail pretty well and made fewer wrong selections on the high ridges. Dusk arrived right before the final summit push.

Sunset on Mount Nebo

The sun went down and produced a spectacular sunset.   I reached the summit a little faster this week, in 1:50.  I quickly turned around and started to head down.  There was a full moon rising and the moonlight made a huge difference this week lighting up the ridges.  My time down was much faster, finishing the round trip in 3:14

Timpanogos ridge as seen from the east (back side)

Next up, I would need to drive to Mount Timpanogos.  I would need to summit four peaks along that high ridge top.

On the way to the trailhead, I stopped at McDonalds in Payson and feasted on a big burger.  A nice feature of these summit sections is being able to rest while driving between them.   At Timpooneke, I took quite a bit of time dressing warmly for the chilly night ahead.  I pushed the pace up Timpanogos a bit harder this time. Near Scout falls I greeted a couple making their way down, pleading to know how much further they had to go.  The guy asked me, “Are you going all the way to the summit tonight?”  I replied, “yes.”  He had no idea what I was really doing.  Their dog was really freaked out by my green light and ran up ahead of me to get away instead of down with the couple.  I finally calmed down the dog and he got by me to rejoin the couple. I next ran into Nancy Russell and another runner soon after that, coming down from their evening run.  From there, I had the mountain all to myself.   The small basins were very chilly, frost already forming and the water pools freezing.  But on the ridges it would be about ten degrees warmer.

City lights below

Once up on the Timpanogos Ridge, at the saddle, I would do an out-and-back (total of four miles) to summit both Bomber Peak (twice) and North Timpanogos.  I concentrated on picking the right routes to keep my speed up, but the rough ridge kept slowing me down.  The lights of the city below were spectacular.  I always wonder if people can see my crazy green light from down below.

A mailbox on North Timpanogos summit

The climb up North Timpanogos was steep and tough (class 2), but I made it there at the 8:58 point, about a half hour quicker than last week.  The trail (boot wear) up stays close to east ridge and cliffs down to the right.  There is a false summit, but the true summit isn’t far from that.

On the way back to the saddle, I ran into a huge porcupine on the trail.  Why was it all the way up there?  It waddled ahead of me on the trail with pretty good speed, but not fast enough for me.  It just wouldn’t leave the trail.  Finally I found a point where I could take a different route and rushed on to get ahead of it.

Near the saddle, I could see lights ahead of a couple hikers making their way up to Timpanogos summit.  They flashed their headlamps toward me and I knew they say my mysterious green light.  Next up for me would be another out-and-back on the south ridge to summit the main Timpanogos summit (twice) and South Timpanogos.  So essentially, I was covering the entire Timpanogos ridge twice by doing out-and-backs.   Are there better routes to do this?  End-to-end on the ridge would be much faster, but you would go up and down the mountain without using true trails and you would need someone to pick you up.  But I did detect one route to save about 20 minutes by bypassing the saddle on the way up.  Next time.

I passed the two hikers on the summit push and arrived at the true summit at the 10:52 mark.  This was my 79th career Timp summit. Now I needed to navigate the trail over to South Timpanogos.  It was much easier and faster this time.  The trick is, at any junction, always take the lower defined trail.  You have to keep an eye out for these lower trails.

The push up to South Timpanogos this week seemed much easier.  I knew what to expect, a steep climb up loose talus.  I arrived at the summit at 11:37, ahead of my last week’s pace by 1:37.  I hoped to find the gloves I had left up there last week, but they were gone, probably blown down the mountain by the wind.

This time, instead of going down the much shorter route through the giant rock slide valley to Emerald Lake, I decided to complete the out-and-back to the saddle.  It probably takes longer, but I was unwilling to subject my feet and body to all the loose rock/boulder hopping through that valley

Looking up to the Timpanogos summit (from the south)

Dawn arrived and it was spectacular watching the sun hit the top of mountain.   I climbed up, again reaching the Timpanogos summit and from there it was all downhill to my car.  My pace was lazy and I was getting dehydrated.   I took up about 80 oz of water, but that had to last for more than nine hours and it didn’t.  I ran out half way down which made the joints ache.   I saw several other runners going up and ran into several friends who I would stop and talk with for a few minutes, so my pace was pretty leisurely.  I reached the trailhead at the 14:43 mark.

Five summits accomplished!  But I had one more to go and it would be the toughest — American Fork West Twin.  I stopped again at McDonalds on the way to Snowbird and felt pretty recovered when I reached the resort.  My task was pretty clear.  From the resort bottom, all I needed to do was to climb to the top of the highest peak above, higher than the peak that the tram goes up to.

I started out running up a dirt road named Dick Bass highway and from there would make my way over to Gad Valley.  It was pretty fun running on the slopes I have skied down so many time.  But then I ran into a problem.  Signs were posted that Gad Valley was closed.  They were doing some massive construction, replacing the two lifts.  I could hear many construction vehicles in the distance.  What should I do?  I needed to get to the top of the Gad II lift and then climb up to a saddle above.   First to avoid any trucks going up, I climbed straight up a black diamond slope.  I then checked my map, ran up above the mid summit lodge, looked toward Gad Valley and decided to just run through the woods, avoiding the construction roads.  I ran on ski slopes and through wooded ski routes and finally reached the base of the slope I need to head up.

Finally past the tough parts, grassy slope to the top

The way up was tough, first doing a long boulder hop and then up a steep 400-foot grassy slope to a saddle.  But I made it.  I then looked up the ridge I would need to take to reach the summit.  It looked challenging and it was.  There turned out to be a few short class 3 sections to climb up along the ridge, but I eventually reached a nice grassy slope.  I looked down into the next valley, White Pine and could tell that I should have taken that easier approach.

More to go, down and up to AF West Twin summit

I pushed toward the summit and was pleased to finally arrive.  But when I looked to the north, I saw another summit about a half mile away that was higher.  I checked my Garmin and sure enough, I wasn’t high enough to be on the West AF Twin.  It turns out I was on Red Top (11,378).  I groaned.   I needed to finish this.   There was thankfully a pretty defined trail between the two.  I descended down a couple hundred feet and then pushed the final 400 feet of climbing to the AF West Twin summit arriving at the 19:30 mark.  It had taken me just under 3 hours to reach to the top of this peak.   The views were spectacular, but I had forgotten to bring up my camera.  I was anxious to complete my adventure and pushed the pace down fast.  But as I reached the steep slope above Gad II, I discovered that it doesn’t get the sun much and it was very slippery going down.  I fell a dozen times and came away with cuts, bruises, and pulled muscles.  That took the wind out of my sails and I took it easy going down the dirt roads to my car.

My actual route up and down the mountain

Mission accomplished.  I reached my car at the 21:33 mark (includes four hours of driving).  I felt pretty thrashed, especially from all the falls going up and down that last tough peak.  I should have bagged that peak first, rather than last.   My Garmin indicated that I had ran nearly 40 miles and had climbed about 18,000 feet during my crazy run.  While it wasn’t very far, it was very rugged.  It felt like I had just finished a 100-mile race.  The damage was mild, a pulled rib cage muscle, hyper-extended knee, new cuts on the fingers, a big scape on the butt, and a mild sprain of a finger.  No blisters.

So I had accomplished another first.  The first time the highest six Wasatch Front peaks have been summited in less than a day.  Here are my split times compared to last week.

9/13/13 9/19/13 Nebo trailhead 0:00 0:00 Nebo summit 1:56 1:50 Nebo trailhead 3:36 3:14 Timpooneke trailhead (driving) 5:35 5:23 Bomber Peak summit 8:38 8:11 North Timpanogos summit 9:35 8:58 Timpanogos summit 11:40 10:52 South Timpanogos summit 13:00 11:37 Timpanogos summit (again) 12:23 Timpooneke trailhead 16:27 14:43 Snowbird center (driving) 16:33 AF Twin Peak West summit 19:30 Snowbird center 21:33

This adventure did involve a ton of driving.  Starting from work in Salt Lake and ending at home in Saratoga Springs, I drove about 270 miles.

Wasatch Triple Crown

13 September, 2013 - 13:40

The highest peaks in Utah are found in the Uinta mountain range, but the most impressive peaks that rise from the valley floor to the sky are found in the Wasatch Front. In 2012 Jared Campbell had summited the highest three Wasatch peaks in one day. I considered if it was possible to summit the four highest Wasatch peaks in one day.  I knew I could do it.  If I was going to do four, why not the highest six because the other two were nearby.   That was my quest for this adventure.

You can define the highest peaks in several ways.  I chose to use a 300-foot prominence definition.  If you have two peaks close together, there must be at least 300 feet of descent between them to count the lower peak as a ranked peak.

1 Mount Nebo 11,928′ Above Nephi 2 Mount Timpanogos 11,750′ Timpanogos Ridge 3 “South Timpanogos” 11,722′ Timpanogos Ridge 4 American Fork Twin Peak – West 11,489′ Above Snowbird 5 North Timpanogos 11,441′ Timpanogos Ridge 6 “Bomber Peak” 11,347′ Timpanogos Ridge

To pull this off requires car shuttles between the three locations (because they are far apart).  I knew I would have to summit during the night, so this was my strategy:

  1. I would first summit Mount Nebo in the light.  It had been almost 15 years since I had been on this summit and I did not remember the trail, so I would time my summit to be near dusk so I could get familiar with the trail going up during the light.
  2. Summit the Timpanogos ridge peaks during the night.  I was very familiar with much of this trail, more comfortable with it in the dark.
  3. In the morning go summit the West Twin Peak above Snow Bird ski resort.


I debated whether to postpone because of the rainy weather, but the forecast and recent radar maps indicated that I would have a window of good weather, so I decided to give it a try.  As I drove toward Mount Nebo, I could see a huge storm near the mountain but to the west was good skies.

I arrived at the Mount Nebo trailhead above Payson Canyon and was on the trail at 6:30 p.m.  The round trip for this summit was only 9 miles, but there was about 4,200 climbing involved during the round trip.  I had the trail totally to myself.  While this is the highest peak in the Wasatch Front, it gets far less attention compared to Mount Timpanogos.

The trail was in great condition, damp and soft from the rain, but not muddy.  The trailhead is above 9,000 feet so I could feel the attitude immediately.  There were some good runnable sections but other sections were steep and reminded me of Bozung Hill at Squaw Peak 50.  Once up on the ridge toward the summit, there were some pretty exposed sections with cliffs on both sides, but the trail was fine.  With about a half mile to the summit, dusk arrived and I turned on my light.   Within minutes, the trail I was on ended.  I had taken a wrong turn.  I looked up and decided to scramble back up to the ridge where the right trail was.  This worked out at first, but soon I was in a very precarious position on loose scree, ready to spill me down the slope towards the cliffs.  This was pretty scary, but I backed off, found a better way up and eventually made it back on the right trail.

With that delay I pushed on toward the summit and arrived there in just under two hours.  I didn’t stay long and began my descent in the dark.  Looking down, I could see lights far below on the trail and they noticed my green light.  I eventually came upon a group of guys trying to start a camp fire.  One guy asked, “Don’t tell me you are running the whole thing.”  I just ran by quickly and replied, “yes.”   I arrived back at my car at 3:36.  #1 summit was in the books.

I was in no hurry, I wasn’t really going for a fastest known time.  I just wanted to complete my quest.  In Payson, I stopped at McDonalds and feasted on a big burger to give me energy for the next summits.  After about a two-hour drive I arrived at the Timpooneke trailhead and prepared to attack the Timpanogos peaks.

It was midnight and I had the trail to myself.  This would be my 78th career Timpanogos summit, but I had never summited the other peaks.  Within a half hour, the rain started. I put on my trusty garbage bag and that worked great to keep me warm and dry.  It poured at times but only lasted for about a half hour.  I decided that as long as I continued to stay warm, I would continue, but I worried what it would be like on top of the ridge.

I soon received the answer as I reached the top of the ridge (the saddle).  Thankfully the recent rain had not fallen on the ridge, but because of the low clouds I was in a thick fog.  Usually you can see the spectacular lights of the valley, but all I could see was darkness below.  At the saddle, instead of heading toward Timpanogos summit, I took a right and followed a trail I had never been on before which would take me two miles north along the ridge top to Bomber Peak and North Timpanogos.

At first the trail was nice and fast but then disappeared and I had to run on the ridge top and try to find the best route away from the cliffs to my right.  Because of the fog, this was a challenge at times and slowed me down greatly, and my stress went up.  My green light was great, but could not pierce the fog ahead far enough.  I would be running on the ridge and come to a halt because ahead of me would be just darkness.  At times it was a drop-off, so I had to take great care, back away and take another route.   Eventually I did figure out that the main trail (only lightly used) was nearly always on the west slope, just below the ridge.  I reached the high point on the ridge which must have been Bomber Peak, at the three-hour mark since the trailhead.  Yes, my pace was terribly slow on the ridge.

Next up was a 500-foot descent and 500-foot climb up to North Timpanogos.  I lost the helpful trail at times and did some climbing in the scree but reached the summit fine.  Next, I would retrace my route to the south to go summit Timpanogos.

But on my descent from North Timpanogos, I became confused in the fog.  As I was coming down, I concluded that I was following the wrong trail. I believed the correct one was to my right.  So I traversed around the North Timpanogos slope but never found the supposed trail.  Because the city lights were obscured below, I was totally turned around and going down the wrong slope.  Finally I noticed that the wind was at my face which I knew was from the northwest.  Wow, I going down the west slope instead of the south slope!  So, I angled back up and eventually found the trail again.  It had been a long delay.

Now on the right trail, my route was good and fast.  I now was familiar with the route and even with the fog could do some good running.  Back at the saddle, I was now on very familiar ground and made my way to the Timpanogos Summit.  The summit hut was soaked from recent rains.  I took a quick picture of me on the second highest summit.

Next, I was again on an unfamiliar trail to take me to the top of the Timpanogos Glacier area.  With all my summits, I had never come down that route.  Still dark, I made several wrong turns because of side trails that took you up to various views.   The trail wrapped around the mountain ridge top and as dawn was arriving I became totally stumped as the trail ended.  I headed back, shining my light down the slope and eventually discovered my blunder.  If only I could see through the fog to see the peaks, it would have been much easier to navigate.

I reached the saddle above the glacier and was amazed that even now in the light, I could not see South Timpanogos Peak.  But it was there on the other side of the saddle and I started to climb the steep slope.  There wasn’t much of a trail, just some boot wear and I did poorly staying on the best route going up a rugged slope of loose rock.  At times it was very rough and hard, but eventually I made it to the summit, now on the third highest Wasatch peak.

I worried about the steep descent on the loose rock, but as I went down, I stayed close to a ridge which was a much easier way down.  Well, it was much easier because it was the wrong way.  With the fog, I again had been totally turned around and was heading down a ridge to the south instead of returning down a slope to the west.   I still could see nothing very far ahead in the fog, but could hear some automobile noise down below, coming from the wrong direction.  I knew I had to go back up and I did.  Once higher up, I was still stumped.  The slopes all looked the same, which way was the right direction?  I wished I had a compass.  How many times would I need to descend to find the right way? I had visions that I would be up there all day lost in the fog. I pushed around the slope to the north and eventually found familiar ground and some boot wear on the rocks.  I was relieved when I became certain that I was going the right way and quickly descended back down to the glacier saddle.

At this time of the year, there is not much of a glacier/snowfield left.  But I decided to go ahead and take this route down.  The bare slope was very steep and I fell several times but soon made my way to a massive rock/boulder field that in the early season is covered by snow fields, and is easy to cross. But this time of the year was a very slow tiring rock/boulder hop and the rocks were very loose.  My pace was painfully slow and my ankles became bruised and my hands bloody from falls.  It would have been smarter to backtrack clear to the saddle and go down the way I came up.  But I pushed on.

Finally I made it through the massive boulder field and arrived at Emerald Lake where some campers were breaking their camp for the morning.  The rain again fell for about a half hour.   With all my long delays, I knew that I would no longer have time to drive to Snowbird for summit #4.   So for my return trip I took my time and enjoyed the morning.  I greeted all the many people making their way up the trail.  I passed by Timpanogos legend, Ben Woolsey who recently completed his 600th lifetime summit. Even on bad weather days, people still make this trek up the mountain.

Fog lifting on the way down, but more storms coming

I reached the trailhead and my car.  My crazy adventure was over.  I had been able to summit five of the highest six Wasatch peaks.  With all my wrong turns, I traveled about 31 miles and climbed nearly 12,000 feet.  It was far tougher and slower than I had expected, but now with knowledge of the route, I know I can do it again much faster, and get that summit #4 too, and I’m sure I will, but this time without the fog and rain.

Nebo trailhead 0:00 Nebo summit 1:56 Nebo trailhead 3:36 Timpooneke trailhead 5:35 Bomber Peak summit 8:38 North Timpanogos summit 9:35 Timpanogos summit 11:40 South Timpanogos summit 13:00 Timpooneke trailhead 16:27


Cascade Crest 100

24 August, 2013 - 13:10

Cascade Crest 100-mile Endurance Run is held in the Cascade Mountains near Snoqualmie Summit just an hour from Seattle Washington.  This was my third visit and I’ve always had an enjoyable time running this beautiful forest course.  The theme for the run is “Tall Trees, Tough Trails.”  The trees are amazing, there are long climbs, but the trails aren’t too technical.  The race directors do a superb job with the race, keeping it relatively small with a family feel.

Last year, this was my first 100-miler since busting my leg and I took it slow and easy but still finished well.   This year I had set my sights on a personal best for the course however I knew that I really didn’t put in the training needed.  This summer, I’ve just been enjoying running, not getting up each morning to train out of obligation.  But with the multitude of very long runs I have accomplished since April, I knew I would be fine.  (20 runs in the past five months more than 26 miles.)

The course is a giant loop, starting and ending in the small town of Easton, Washington.  I compare the difficulty to Bighorn 100 in Wyoming.  The similarities are many.  Both start late morning with a dirt road run and then present a monster climb to get things really going.  Then rolling single track, with some good climbs along the way.   Unique to Cascade Crest is the 2.5 mile flat run through the former railway tunnel under the mountain and later on a crazy bushwhack trail for six miles along a lake.  Both courses end up with a very long descent and a hot dirt road run to the finish.   My finish times for both races have been similar.

This year temperatures were on the cool side which was greatly appreciated.  I started quick on the flat dirt road to get the legs going but so many others were also taking the first couple miles quick.  As we hit the climb, I fell in with a train for runners, pushed pretty hard and held on.  But after a while, the leaders of the train weren’t going fast enough as we wound our way up the forest switch-backs.  Other trains caught up and I could see a very long stream of runners behind.  Finally I just found my way around the train and was able to go ahead and complete the main part of the climb at my own pace.

Photos by Chihping Fu

I arrived at Cole Butte (mile 10.8) in 69th place.  Despite how hard I was pushing, I was now back in mid-pack.  I could hear two women runners chatting non-stop like they were out for an easy stroll in their neighborhood.  I was amazed that they could chat like that as I was pushing hard and trying just to breath.  It went on non-stop and finally I had to let the train go on past.  I really couldn’t keep up this pace and had to watch others go by.  My thought was, “Let’s see if they can push the uphills this hard at mile 55.”  Typically so many of these younger runners blow up their uphill legs during long morning climbs like this and can only walk the uphills later in the race.  I like to be able to run up hills throughout the entire race.

The next section was a rough long downhill dirt road run.  As I recovered from the tough uphills, my legs started to enjoy the downhill.  I decided to push it up several notches and blast down faster.  I passed several runners but as happens too often, tripped and went down hard.  Nothing was broken but my left arm was a bloody mess.   I picked myself up, washed off the blood streaming down the arm and kept going.  This set my pace back, but I knew I could continue.  Soon I discovered that I had badly bruised the side of my leg, a quad muscle.  As I continued it would stiffen up and become a real problem.  But as the next long uphill came, I was doing fine.

I arrived at Blowout Mountain (mile 15.2) at 3:26 in 74th place.  I was exactly on my 2011 pace and 31 minutes ahead of last year.  The volunteers helped patch up my arm although it kept leaking blood for the next several hours.

We soon reached the Pacific Coast Trail.  It is a wonderful forest smooth rolling trail.  I was able to pick up the pace well but for long stretches over the next several hours I would not see any runners as the mid pack was getting spread out and keeping the same pace.  I arrived at Tacoma Pass (mile 23.3) at 5:22 in 88th place.  My leg was really bothering me, but I was starting to feel better and was able to run faster, trying to improve my position.

The weather was fantastic, cool with a cloud cover.  With runners so spread out, I put on my tunes and sang away as I ran down the trails.  I arrived at Snowshoe Butte (mile 29) at 7:10 in 85th place, but 8 minutes ahead of my personal best.  Each time I arrived at an aid station, I would find a runner or two resting or taking their time.  My stops were fast and I looked forward to the next segments.

At Stampede Pass (mile 34.5) there were plenty of crews and kind people cheering.  I reached there at 8:03, now in 82nd place, six minutes ahead of my best time to this point.  I was pretty amazed at how closely I was tracking to my best time.  Last year I was nearly an hour behind bringing up the rear of the race.  At this point I picked up my lights for the night, but I was still a couple hours from dark.  I arrived at Meadow Mt. (mile 42) at the 9:54 mark in 80th place.

As it became darker near Yakima Pass, I turned on my light and it became easy to detect where the runners were ahead of me or behind as they also turned on lights. But the gaps were huge on both sides.  No one would pass me for the next 30 miles.    It became truly dark about a mile after Mirror Lake and the trail is much more rugged as it passes through rock falls.  I could look back and see runners gaining but I was able to push it on ahead.  I arrived at Olallie Meadows (mile 47.7) at 11:43 in 79th place, exactly on my best time.  All the volunteers at the aid stations were so kind and helpful.  I traveled very light, during the day just with two water bottles and food stuffed in the pockets.  During the night I went with just one water bottle and my flashlight in my other hand.

As I ran on, I really wished I could see lights of runners ahead, but there were none to be seen.  I could hear the roar of I-90 getting louder as I approached the downhill to the tunnel.  Toward the bottom, is a crazy steep section with ropes.  I had my bottle and light in one hand, and hung onto a rope for dear life in the other hand.  Crazy fun.  I made it down through the crazy ropes section just fine, with still no runners to be seen ahead or behind.

Finally I was on the flat tunnel road and once in the dark tunnel could see a runner about a quarter mile ahead.   I tried to push the pace but my left achilles tendon started to burn if I pushed it faster than 8:00 pace, so I backed off and never caught those ahead.  It was funny to see their headlamps keep looking behind to see if I was catching up.   But soon I started to do the same and could see lights behind me.  They were probably a mile behind but it was really hard to tell in that dark, straight tunnel.  I must say, that I do really enjoy running through there at night.  It truly is a highlight of the entire race.

Once out, I ran the road to the Hyak aid station (mile 52.7) by the freeway, arriving there at 13:20 (11:20 p.m.) in 77th place.  I was still climbing the standings.   I arrived 13 minutes ahead of my best time.  I knew I was doing well, so I tried to make a quick stop, putting on a jacket, filling my pockets, and getting ready to attack the rest of the long night.

After a couple miles of easy pavement, the road turns up for a long runnable 5 miles or so to Keechelus Ridge.  I knew it was time to race.  My goal was to truly run most of this uphill section.  My uphill strength was great.  I put on some running tunes and pushed it very hard, catching and surprising several runners along the way who were just walking up the road.  I was having a blast and was really encouraged by the strength I still had after 55 miles.  As I made the turn into Keechelus Ridge aid station (mile 60.5), a guy who observed me coming said something like, “Boy are you moving fast!”   I felt great and was in very high spirits.

Next up was a similar dirt road run, but this time down the other side, all fast downhill.  I kicked it into gear although started to run out of gas toward the bottom.  I arrived at Kachess Lake (mile 67.9) at 16:55, in 67th place.  I had passed 10 runners since Hyak and still going strong.  I was now 16 minutes ahead of my best time.

The Trail from Hell an hour or so after I passed by

But the next section is fondly referred to as “the trail from hell.”   It is mostly a rough bushwack-type trail with only short runnable sections.  The key is to keep pushing the pace hard to make it through this rough six-mile section.  The trail rolls up and down along the lake shore like an obstacle course.  I passed one runner struggling and couldn’t quite catch another I could see ahead.  But soon the dawn light started to appear as I finally ran into Mineral Creek aid station (mile 73.9) at 19:27, in 63rd place, four minutes ahead of my best time.

I attacked the first mile of the next long uphill well.  I was reeling in some runners ahead and then things came apart.  As happens a lot recently, my stomach experienced too much stress and just wouldn’t let me push the pace hard anymore.   My breathing was too fast, and my energy level went down.  I had dropped off my jacket at the last aid station because morning was arriving, but as I climbed it got colder and colder.  I was soon chilled and I think my body takes blood supply away from my stomach to help warm me.   My pace slowed and I now struggled on every hill.

This was disappointing.  I did my best and still caught some runners but I knew my quest for a personal best on the course was fading away.  I reached No Name Ridge (mile 81.5) at 21:51 in 61st place, now nine minutes behind my best pace.

The morning was beautiful as I attacked what is called the first of the Cardiac Needles, a series of five long tough climbs over the next ten miles.   It was rough, but I maintained my position.  the highest climb is to the top of Thorpe Mountain giving an amazing view of Mount Rainier.  From this point at mile 87, you can mentally focus on the finish to come.  I struggled up another tough three climbs to get up and over ridges and ran down into French Cabin aid station (mile 88.7), arriving there at 25:06, 40 minutes behind my best time, but I was feeling better and ready for another 100-mile finish.

At the top of the last big climb I stopped for ten minutes to clean my feet because it felt like they would really get thrashed on the next long downhill section.  The course description reads, “There are basically three sections: steep downhill, moderate downhill, steep downhill.”  Yep, and more downhill.   I was feeling pretty good but the leg was stiff and the feet sore, so I just kept a steady jog going all the way to the finish.  I was passed by a couple guys running fast who for some reason saved it all for the end, but I came into the finish at 28:12:31, still in 61st place (out of 158 starters), and just 32 minutes slower than my best time here.  I was pleased with my third Cascade Crest 100 finish and my 57th career 100-mile finish.