This is the true end to my journey
Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
13Trip End Jul 28, 2013
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The next morning I volunteered as a sweeper for a 12 mile portion of the CCC course. Volunteers are granted automatic entry to the next year’s run, but that didn’t matter to me in the slightest, especially after what I had witnessed the night before. Sweeping the course, made me feel no different as it started with a horribly technical trail and ended in a 7 mile uphill grind. I thought after that weekend, I wouldn’t be entering a 100 miler ever. We shared beers with Adam Gaston the day after his 100 mile finish, and I remember feeling such an intense feeling of proudness and excitement about his accomplishment (I still do)! One story I remember Tim and him recapping to me is how, in the middle of the trail, Adam laid down and went to sleep. Tim said he was scared and wasn’t sure what to do. Adam said he had a bizarre dream about chickens. Then, suddenly, Adam popped back up and kept going. This reinforced my lack of desire to run 100 miles.
About a month later, I was sitting at my lunch table and I had an honest conversation with myself, 'What would it take for you to run 100 miles? I’d have to have a lot of time off from my two jobs to train.’ I had been working about 55 hours per week and even keeping up a training schedule for a 50 miler that I had completed earlier that summer had been a killer. Then, I had a lightbulb moment. ‘Hmmm…you’re taking 6 weeks off next summer.’ I had already been granted time off from both of my jobs to go to Spain to complete the 550 mile pilgrimage trail, el Camino de Santiago, a trip we had been planning to take with our dear non-runner friends Kiera and Lillie for at least a couple years. Then I thought, ‘And traveling by foot across a country for 550 miles in 4 weeks seems like a pretty good way to cap off a 100 miler training program.’ I was annoyed with myself for having this honest conversation, but I realized then and there, if a 100 miler was in my future, it would be Cascade Crest 2013 since I would be perfectly trained and have guaranteed entry because of my volunteer status. I told Tim later, and I think he was a little annoyed too since it took him a few months to coming around to the decision to enter.
Cascade Crest entrants are chosen by a lottery system for those who weren’t guaranteed entry through volunteering. Tim, even though he was a pacer, wasn’t considered a volunteer. He would have to be chosen by the traditional method, which he wasn’t. He was waitlisted until 8/1/13, just 23 days before the event date 8/24/13. That caused him a lot of anxiety, but he was well trained since we had pretty much stuck to the same training program. I was thrilled to run the first 50 miles of Cascade Crest with him and a random 7 miles in the middle of the night too.
I wrote before about how I developed the ugly cry when I came to the point in our 55 mile day in Spain when I was planning to go ahead without Tim (http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/angel.mathis/1/1374324963/tpod.html). I realized (again) during our Cascade Crest run how much I value our running partnership because I missed Tim whenever we weren’t together. Tim had gone ahead without me when I was joined by my awesome crew (more on them later) at mile 48 but I came upon him and saw that he was dragging a bit at the 60 mile aid station. I was so happy to see him, but I knew he needed some support so I gathered him up, with my energetic pacer, Aggie, and got him to the Kachess aid station where I knew he would be joined by Adam Gaston (yes, the roles reversed this year! Isn’t it cute?!) and he would be in excellent hands. I had all trust and faith that Adam would get Tim to the finish line. I don’t think Adam realizes how much comfort that brought to me when he joined Tim. I realized last year, and the feeling has been reinforced this year that pacing or crewing a 100 miler runner is like solidifying a relationship and making it invaluable to all those involved. The sense of love and support that you have for your runner, your crew members and your pacers is indescribable, but I will make an attempt.
Since that self-conversation at my lunch table last year when I decided I would be entering Cascade Crest, I had begun thinking about who my pacers and crew would be. I felt strongly that it would be all women, even though I think this information hurt Tim’s feelings when he said he wanted to pace me (that was before he decided that he would run it himself) and I told him I was planning to have female pacers. I knew my crew needed to consist of people who were willing, organized, funny, a little serious, reliable, committed to the goal, reasonable, whimsical, and easy for me to get along with. I put a lot of thought into my crew and pacers, and I strongly believe if it weren’t for the fantastic crew and pacers that evolved, I would not have had as good of an experience as I did!
Firstly, Kathy Vaughn, who I paced for her first 100 miler back in May, was my honorary crew member. Her husband, Ras, an ultrarunning legend, was running this day too, so I didn’t want to weigh her down with too many of my own responsibilities. Kathy greeted me at the starting line, and provided an extremely calming presence during a time that I was having a great deal of nervousness induced nausea. Kathy also provided valuable crew support at mile 23 and mile 32 bringing me some of my favorite food items that I had packed for myself—juice, Spanish style sandwich that I learned went down really well during my training month along the el Camino, my lights for when it got dark, a chair to sit in and she even loaned me a pair of her gaiters which kept all the gravel and grit from getting in my shoes, which was a big problem for me during the first 32 miles. At the end, when I was exhausted, she met me at the finish line, gave me a big hug, pulled a chair up beside me after I sat down (even being next to Kathy feels good), brought me food, and ice for my joints and cold water for my feet to soak in and did everything you would expect an experienced 100 miler and crew member to do. I found myself feeling like I didn’t do enough for her during and after her 100 miler. Lesson learned.
I strategically brought Broeck Jones onto my crew because she brings organization, responsibility, a huge amount of mental encouragement, and has a secretive hilarious inside that she doesn’t always let show because of her extreme beauty and conservative nature-she’s a true lady and I imagine her blushing as she reads this. Although I didn’t tell anyone except Broeck this, I thought of her as my crew captain. I was relieved when my official crew arrived to meet me at mile 48 and Broeck immediately went to work making sure my every need was met. She loves instructions so, the night before the race, when I gave her a typed out list of things to specifically do for and ask me she was very happy. For example, one instruction was don’t let me stay longer than 5-10 minutes in aid stations. I was surprised when I met her at the mile 48 aid station and she said "You’ve been here 5 minutes now" as she looked at her watch and got me out of there. Geez, those 5 minutes go fast! Because of her, my aid stationing went very smoothly. To my point above about developing deep bonds with crew, Broeck sent me this message which I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing, “I'm not sure if you feel this way, Angel and Tim...but I wish that we were all still out there parading you through the forests and mountains! What an exhilarating weekend watching and supporting you 100 milers...a true inspiration to many of us!!!” This literally made me cry.
Aggie Hartkamp was also strategically brought on as a pacer. I have always loved running with Aggie because she’s so relaxed and encouraging, a great conversation maker, a really strong runner and, now, mountaineer. She is also fun to be around and she stepped it up a notch the night she was pacing me from mile 48 to 68 lasting 9:30 p.m. to 2:15 a.m. I was so excited to see her in her rainbow tutu and we just chatted away for the first 7 or so miles we were together. We had a lot to catch up on like how Spain went, how I had been feeling during the day, how I would probably fart a lot during the next section, and how she had been summiting mountains faster than I could count. She helped me down the SUPER steep and technical section giving me good mountaineering tips to prevent me from falling since there were actual ropes to hold onto so as not to slip down. We laughed together as we got to the bottom of this section and saw a red light next to an empty outdoor folding chair next to a rock that looked to me like a tombstone. I shouted out, “Is someone over there?” and someone shouted back an affirmative. I told them it looked like Halloween there and it gave me the creeps because they had that red light on. I don’t think the person in the chair appreciated that very much. The run got creepier after that when we entered into a 2.5 mile long tunnel. Friends of mine (Genia Kacey) had told me that they turned their lights off while they were in the tunnel because it was straight and there was nowhere to go except straight and it made the 2.5 miles seem to go by more quickly. I convinced Aggie that this was a good idea and after we turned our last light off, I think we lasted 10 full seconds before turning them back on. Thankfully, I didn’t see the rat in there that Jess Mullen told me she saw.
After Hyak (mile 53), the conversation slowed and the climb was long, so Aggie pumped up the jams (darn it, Aggie, why didn’t we play that song?) and she started singing and dancing around on the trail in her rainbow colored tutu. This might sound ridiculous to those who read this that have no sense of humor, but I’m telling you, it made these miles fly by and I was so sad to be leaving Aggie at Lake Kachess aid station, mile 68. When I went to grab her hand and hold it up like a champion boxer as we entered the aid station and declare her the best pacer in the world, she diverted and gave me a hug and kiss instead. OK, I thought, don’t make me cry yet! I still have 32 miles to go!
It was here that I picked up Alicia Woodside, who came all the way from another country (Canada) to pace me. Alicia was added to the team a little less strategically as I didn’t really know her very well. We camped together in a group the night before the Rainshadow Running Yakima Skyline Rim 50k, an extremely difficult race due to lots of elevation and technical trail. Alicia ran with ease coming through the aid station where I was volunteering proclaiming how much she loved the course and how beautiful it was and how she wished she could stay out there longer. That day she established herself on the ultrasignup.com leaderboard as the 4th fastest woman on this course ever. To put this in perspective, this is the same race that I did for my first ever 50k in 2012 where I thought I was going to die and where I wasn’t brave enough to take it on a second time this year, hence the reason for volunteering! After the race Alicia was glowing and had learned that I was slated to toe the line at Cascade Crest and said something like “I totally wanna be a part of that.” I hesitantly told her she was welcome to come along. Little did I know that she would step into one of the most valuable roles in my race.
After Aggie handed me and the tutu off to Alicia, we were on our way for a little bush wack and a treacherous stream crossing that on legs that had run 68 miles at 2:30 a.m. didn’t seem all that dependable. One of the first things Alicia said that I remember is “Check this shit out” as she flashed her brighter-than-the-sun flashlight. This made me laugh the moment she said it, surprised me when I saw how bright it was, and came as a great comfort to me later on the section of the trail known as the “trail from hell.” It has this reputation because it is extremely technical, has log crossings, a lot of rocks and roots to trip on and drops right off the side into a lake so if you trip, your life could be in danger. The race director, Rich white, reassured the runners that the only person who had ever fallen off and swam to safety was a person who littered on the trail. I was sure not to litter! I made a rookie mistake on this section of the trail and forgot to grab the spare set of batteries packed away with my crew. My lights were becoming dim, but with Alicia’s light, we had no worries except for the long shadow that cast from my feet covering the trail directly in front of me.
Alicia and I spent the next 10 hours together and during that time she told me stories so funny they made me want to poop my pants. Everyone knows, what’s said on the trail, stays on the trail, so I won’t recap those stories here, but you have to know that she’s a great storyteller. She is a minor trail running celebrity because she runs in gold shorts and everyone always says “You’re the gold shorts girl.” Even though it didn’t faze me at the time, now I think it’s funny because when I think back on the race, I recall hearing that very often. Alicia talked me through my major low point, which came on the trail from hell. I was feeling frustrated by how slowly that 5 mile section was going, and probably had a calorie deficiency. Alicia just had me stop and eat for a second, and I had Adam Hewey’s words going through my head “Everyone goes slow on the trail from hell.” If you don’t know who Adam Hewey is, I would recommend you watch this emotional finish at this past year’s Hardrock 100 miler. How lucky was I that Adam gave me a hug before the race to wish me luck and came to shake my hand after the race as I sat in a chair with stiffened legs too weak to even stand to meet him at eye level? At least I didn’t run face first into a big rock when I finished!
Alicia turned out to be a great strength in my run, having a stern but gentle voice. I distinctly recall going up one mountain where she gently talked to me in such a soothing and sing-song voice I thought maybe she was my mother and I was her baby saying “Settle in. Just settle in. You’re doing great.” and repeated it over and over again. It was a mantra at that moment that worked really well.
Alicia brought Tara Berry all the way from Canada to join our crew too. Tara brought her enthusiasm to the team and seems like she’ll go along with just about anything wild and crazy and fun. I had only met Tara once before Cascade Crest. I was happy to have her along for support and to run with me for the final 4 miles and tell me some other stories during this most mentally tough part of the race. Those miles are on or next to road and highway. After spending so much time in the mountains seeing beautiful scenery, it’s a difficult adjustment and I really wanted to walk. Thankfully to my crew, they were pumping me full of energy the entire way. For example, at the final aid station at Silver Creek (mile 96) they helped me change into the infamous pink unitard. Yeah, the one featured here.
I was not the only person to cross the finish line in style. You already know that Alicia was wearing the rainbow tutu. But did I mention she had on a sleeveless denim shirt? My entire crew was looking amazing. Aggie was literally turning heads in her blonde wig and red 80s prom dress that was improperly fitted and had a giant bow on the back. Tara had on a leopard print 80s hot pink and fluorescent yellow over the shoulder shirt. Broeck was wearing a beautiful 80s workout Jane Fonda outfit, and Annie…
Annie was a very strategic addition to my crew. There are few people in my life that give me belly laughs as much as Anne McGuire. When I first approached this owner of the pink unitard to ask her if I might borrow it yet again, she wondered why. I told her about Cascade Crest thinking she would think that was the craziest thing in the world. You see, she’s the person who was on my Ragnar team last year who did a couple “training runs” but I picture them more like frolics in the park while wearing an 80s workout suit and a pair of old running shoes that she had borrowed from a friend that were a size too small for her. She reminded me yesterday that I “made” her go to Fleet Feet to get a pair of shoes that fit, that she hasn’t warn since! After I told her about Cascade Crest, she said something like, ‘let me know where the finish line is and I’ll go.’ I immediately rebutted, “Why don’t you join my crew?” I told her about how it would be so fun, hanging out in the woods, staying up all night in the freezing cold, and she could wear whatever brightly colored outrageous outfit she wanted, I would need all the energy and encouragement I could get. She was in! She also didn’t disappoint.
Annie brought her costume bag full of 80s outfits and wigs. Across the span of the night there were entire wardrobe changes, light-up hula hoops, and she even sported a camouflage adult sleeper at one point. There were T-shirts with all different angel slogans on them. I heard this raucous crew way before I saw them at the aid station where they joined me at mile 48. I couldn’t help but wonder if other trail runners appreciated the liveliness as much as I did? I immediately was relieved to see them and they perked me up so dramatically! After leaving that aid station, I had felt the best I had felt ALL day. Positive energy really is contagious. When Annie met me at the finish line to run in the final mile with the rest of the crew in their outfits, she was wearing her vintage red one piece dance suit that she got a couple days earlier for her birthday.
Cascade Crest is a massive 100 mile loop course that starts and finishes in Easton. There is a signature Cascade Crest rectangular frame made of logs with the bark removed and on top sits the metal Cascade Crest logo, a tall pine tree in the middle flanked by two shorter ones. The Frame has etched in it Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run. This frame adds to the significance of the event as every runner goes under it when they start and again when they finish. As I crossed the finish with my crew on both sides of me, I started to become very emotional. This second time under the frame marked a major life accomplishment, one that I didn’t know that would come even at the time that I first went under the frame 26 hours earlier. It marked the day that I would no longer have to think multiple times a day about the race and if I was doing enough training and setting myself up for success. I was and am deeply honored that six beautiful, intelligent, and amazing women chose to spend this weekend with me to help me accomplish a goal that I myself didn’t believe would happen. I told the five of my main crew, Aggie, Alicia, Annie, Broeck, and Tara, a hundred meters from the finish with tears in my eyes, and I meant it, that “I couldn’t have done this without you.” I was able to hug and kiss my husband and training partner who finished the race 20 minutes before me and was waiting for me underneath that iconic frame. Since starting and finishing I have received an outpouring of encouragement from friends and family that has made me feel so incredibly special and undeserving. If I can do this—a girl who started running after getting inspired to do some physical activity after watching Ironman on TV 3 years ago, where my first run was 10 minutes long and ended in a stop at Fleet Feet Seattle and a shoe sale from Phil Kochick who now owns Seven Hills Running Shop—anyone can accomplish their physical activity goals.
I know this is long, and if you’re still reading, I’m happy. I do have a couple other things to say that are less emotional and more functional but maybe non-traditional.
My training plan-long runs, short runs, day runs, night runs, evening runs, slow runs, back to back long runs on consecutive days. Run whenever I can. Hot yoga. Plain yoga. Bouldering. Planks. TV watchers (Alison Naney!). Standing work station. Elevation training-Mount Si, Chiripeats, Mount Teneriffe, any place steep, Interlaken repeats. Feel guilty when I’m not running. Go to Spain and do the el Camino de Santiago-run almost every day for a month with a couple rest days, averaging 20 miles per day-in the heat. Take a lot of walk breaks, feel guilty about walk breaks. That sums it up. Gain confidence in knowing that you can do a 50k any day of the week. Last year when I met Ras after his Cascade Crest finish and Kathy sitting next to him, like she did with me this year (smile) I told him I was surprised that he was going to be running Mt. Saint Helens circumnavigation with us in a couple weeks. He said, “I can do a 50k any day of the week.” That was such a profound moment, and at the time, I didn’t know that you could feel that way, but now I do. Having this confidence felt really good when I got to mile 68 and I said, “Just 50k left, I can do that any day of the week” and believed it was true.
My fueling training- Another thing I learned from Adam Hewey that works well for me-eat what looks good. Spain helped me feel confident in my ability to give up energy foods; you know the processed things that come in packages that are easy to carry that cause flavor and consistency fatigue. Eating what looked good worked for me because I didn’t get any muscle cramping and I didn’t have any vomiting. I did feel I was always on the calorie tight rope though. To me, eating what looks good almost always equals coffee. One strategy that I used is no coffee or caffeine for 5 days before the race. I didn’t consume caffeine until mile 48 (I was really looking forward to mile 48!). Wow! That gave me a HUGE pick-me-up. Eating what looks good commonly equaled fresh fruit—peaches especially—really plain and basic sandwiches. I also packed sugary snacks that I know I love-chocolate covered peanut filled pretzels, chocolate covered raspberry jellies, soft gummy things (not the kind that get hard in the cold). I packed ginger to calm an upset stomach.
I limited these—cheese, dairy products (yogurt for breakfast is OK), fried foods, greasy foods (potato chips-no way).
I ate 2 breakfasts on race morning. I calorie loaded very early on in the race eating as much as I could at each stop and while on the trail.
I bought a ton of delicious food from Bakery Nouveau and packed it. Specifically a croissant sandwich that I wish I had in my hand as I am typing this, and a bunch of chocolate croissants. Croissants are easy to chew, have a lot of calories, and are salty.
I commonly find that I am hungry for crispy things like fresh fruit of vegetables. I packed a corn/kale/cilantro/tomato/parsley salad seasoned with fennel salt and took a few bites at stations where I saw my crew. YUM! I am not sure, but I think the green leafy stuff might calm my stomach.
I’m pretty sure all the fresh fruit and things caused me a lot of gas, probably because of the fiber, so if you’re too embarrassed to fart in front of your pacer, or if your pacer doesn’t appreciate farting, then you shouldn’t follow this routine. Thankfully, neither of those were true in my case!
Hydration-I used a 20oz hand held bottle filled with water only for the first half of the race and the final 5 miles. At mile 48, I switched to a bladder which made my pack heavier, but my arms thanked me. I used a 10 oz bottle that I filled with juice or coconut water and stashed in my Nathan pack front pocket for the entire race.
Liquid calories and/or electrolyte replacement— I don’t use salt tablets mostly because they make my stomach hurt really bad. I’ve found that consuming juice for easily digested calories and electrolytes works really well. Coconut Water and pickles and/or olives seem to do me just fine for electrolyte replacement. Lunchmeat is also really good (prosciutto is a favorite!) because it’s salty.
Finally, I have a lot of people who inspire me who also participated in this race and I'd like to mention them.
Jenn Hughes-thanks for outfitting me and it was nice to meet your mom at Silver Creek! I am amazed that you ran as strongly as you did despite going through all that vomiting. Van Phan and Deby Kumasaka can't wait to go around the Wonderland for your epic adventure in 2 weeks! Stacey Nievweija-I am so happy we shared the ride over together. I promise I didn't give you the wrong bag so that I can see you again soon! We really have to find a way to see each other more often. Y'all were in my thoughts all the time when I was running around Spain!
Rich White-thanks for letting me into the race even though I didn't have an 'official' 50 mile qualifier. I'm glad I finished or else I would have felt like I really let you down! This was a great race and all the marking and aid stations made me so happy. Thank you!
Eric Sach-thanks for literally taking the socks directly off your feet at mile 23 and giving them to Tim when his sprung a leak!
Tonya Hoffman-I can't believe you hauled a 50 pound keg to the top of Mount Rainier!
Erin Earle-I just love you and your energy. This wasn't your year, but I know you are super strong.
Betsy Rogers and Betsy's Bitch-you always make me laugh. I wish I could have seen your finish.
Arthur Martineau-wow, seriously? Your 8th Cascade Crest Finish? Whoa! Thanks for the awesome weekend training runs and the overnight run.
Genia Kacey-not long after we finished, Tim incredulously said "You came in before Genia Kacey!" I still don't believe it! I still know you could kick my ass any day.
Julie Cassatta-you are tough. I know it from the runs that I've done with you. I'm looking forward to some orienteering adventures!
Glen Tachiyama-thanks for the photos and the kind words of encouragement before the race and at several points along the course.
Brian Morrison-the shorts I got from your store a week or so ago worked well! You know we're fans of Fleet Feet!
Phil Kochik-thanks for all you do in the ultra/trail community. What a wonderful addition.
Megan Kogut-thanks for all your work and innovation with High Heel Running Group. You empower women like me every day. If not for HHRG, I don't think I ever would have met Deby Kumasaka, the first time I ever heard of someone doing a 100 miler!
Yitka Winn-keep up the really good work with TrailRunner and all your hardcore adventures. I miss you in Seattle, but you are still an inspiration to me. You weren't in the race at all as far as I know, but you were in my thoughts and you sparked a conversation between my pacer and I so that is good enough for a mention here.
Kevin Smythe-I'm so glad we were able to share a significant chunk of the early part of the race together. You make a great training partner!
Martin Criminale-nice job with 12th overall! Excellent showing.
Johnathan and Linh Shark-you two are just too cute and I'm really going to miss you in Seattle.
I could probably go on all day...obviously I'm in post 100 race bliss...sorry if I left you off, but I've been writing this for 6 hours and I have a meeting to go to!