Monday, August 25, 2014

Pacing at Cascade Crest 100 - 2014 version

Like last year, I was very fortunate to be part of the Cascade Crest 100 this past weekend. I got to crew for three runners for the first 52 miles, then hop in and pace the last 48. While my two runs of the second half of the course have been quite different, the final result was amazingly similar.

And when I say amazingly similar, I am not exaggerating:

What I find awesome about this is that the last 48 miles I ran with each of them had almost opposite rhythms, difficulties and pick-me-ups.

After crewing for Dave and ultimately pacing Martin in 2013, I entered the Cascade Crest lottery this year but was so far down the wait list (#89) that I wasn't too excited to wait all summer to see if I would get in. Plus, almost every one of my good running friends was in and someone had to take up the crew and pacing rolls.
Me, Dave and Kevin pre-race
I was in charge of food, drinks and gear for Dave, Paul and Richard at Stampede Pass (mile 34) and Hyak (mile 52). After seeing them, Kevin and Matthew off in Easton I headed up to Stampede and helped the Seven Hills crew, Matt and Kerri and other volunteers set up the aid station. 

Stampede Pass before...
...and after! Ready for runners
Stampede volunteers; photo from 7Hills
The boys all came through separately within 17 minutes of each other, but looking good and with no serious issues. They were hitting pretty much the exact same splits as Dave and Martin had in 2013.

By Hyak 20 miles later they were still all within 36 minutes, with Richard first, Dave ten minutes behind and Paul 26 minutes behind Dave. Although Richard will sandbag a lot, he is extremely strong and we all knew he would go on from Hyak, sans pacer, to run a killer race. 

I jumped in with Paul and we set off for a few miles of road before the climb up to Keechelus Ridge. Hiking was quick, but not quite as fast as Martin and probably with fewer running sections. We passed some people here and ran the descent down to Kachess Lake at a comfortable pace, not pushing it. 

When we came in to Kachess AS Greg was there with a box of pizza waiting for Kevin, and said that Dave literally had passed through just a couple of minutes ago. We questioned whether we really had been moving fast enough over the last 16 miles to make up 25 minutes on Dave, or whether he was slowing. 

The "Trail from Hell" that leads from Kachess to Mineral Creek really is not bad at all. After 16 miles of monotonous forest service roads a rolling technical section is just the key to stay awake in the middle of the night. Paul had fun and we really moved on this section. We passed Dave about a mile in, who seemed a bit zoned out and appeared to be having stomach issues. Paul gave him some extra tums he had and we moved on. 

In 2013 Martin and I moved pretty well up the road to No-Name Ridge. This year, Paul and I practically were falling asleep, barely keeping a respectable hiking pace up as we slogged along. This is where Graham's great advice about caffeine pills was key (it was 3am after all). Paul had a few and after starting to do the drunk weave, we split one. Expecting an instantaneous boost, and obviously not getting it after 15 minutes, I told him to take a caffeinated gel as well. He got it down and after another 15 minutes, it both hit us and we felt great. 

We had been so out of it that neither of us saw the self-serve water station on the road, and when suddenly we saw glow sticks (always right before an aid station), we thought we were only at the water jugs when in fact we had come to the full AS at No-Name (Hooters!). It was an instant boost and we had a little pep talk on only having 20 miles to go...

From No-Name Ridge at mile 80 to the finish is where the biggest contrast between my two years of pacing at Cascade was apparent. Last year Martin was having serious ITB and knee pain, and that limited the amount of running we could do, but he still moved well. This year, Paul had some general pain (duh) but nothing too acute.

We ran, and we ran hard

Paul put in one of the ten-fastest splits for the entire field from No-Name to the finish: 4:21. 

We ran all the descents and almost every flat as hard as we could and hiked the Cardiac Needles, including a very quick trip up and down Thorp Mountain. Miles 90-96 from the top of the climb above French Cabin down to Silver Creek were 10:58, 11:28, 11:56, 12:12, 12:04, 10:23. We literally ran through Silver Creek without slowing down.
Descending Thorp; Takao photo
While Paul had been hoping for a sub-24 finish, he now had 53 minutes to break 23 hours. We both shared a few trail tears after passing through Silver Creek and talking about where he was going to come in.

We took four or five little walk breaks on the small humps in the final four miles, but Paul still split 43 minutes and after a sprint with another racer into the finish, he came in at 22:50:30. A fantastic first 100-miler.

So, I guess the question that must be posed: anyone up to go for 22:50:29 in 2015...?

I'm really proud of all of the guys; I'll let them tell their stories, but it sounds like there were many difficulties overcome and even when they wanted and tried to drop, they didn't. Each of them has a great buckle now. 

Kevin gets it done, Where's Waldo Hanscom as pacer; Dave's photo
Matthew too, with Ian pacing; Dave's photo
Kresser ran the lights out of the course and himself: 21:47; Dave's photo
I'm pretty sure Paul woke up eventually...Dave's photo

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