I was so ready for this race!  I trained very hard this year, and after a successful run at Where’s Waldo 100K, I knew that I would be well trained for a good race.

The Check-In was as usual, with a lot of the same friends I do the races with typically.  I felt extra confident as many of the runners were asking me for advice on how to do the run.  After the briefing, I had a great dinner, got my pack ready, and dozed off around 7.  I was really happy I was able to sleep well that night.

4 AM came without me even needing an alarm clock to wake up.  Got breakfast, my last use of a man-made toilet,  and before you knew it I was back on the steps for Round 2.  The countdown came, and we were all off.  I saw about 10 people take off with Tim Stroh, and I appeared to be mid-pack.  We climbed the road to Maverick Saddle.  When I got to the top, I was already very pleased to see I was more than 20 minutes ahead of last year.  It is a short downhill to Mad River Trail 1409.1 from there.  Along this section I had a packet of dried apricots.  Delicious!  I used a big fanny pack this year to tote all my food around in, as my goal was to eat on the go and not stop for anything.  Having the food accessible and in the front proved to be extremely convenient.

I made the long nasty climb up Hi-Yu and back down to Mad River.  I was feeling great, and continued to do well running uphill all the way to Klone Peak.  I didn’t run uphill too much, wanting to conserve energy for the latter sections of the course, but it was quick going!  On the way up, one of the other racers flew by me.  I asked him if we were on the out-and-back, and he said we were not far from the top.  I was very surprised I had missed the turnoff for Klone.  1/4 mile farther, I was horrified to see that he had missed the turn, and was headed in the wrong direction!  I screamed very loudly to try and get him to turn back.  I imagine somebody put him in the right direction.  I reached the top of Klone at 10 AM sharp. I was 45 minutes ahead of last year!  From Klone I ran the brutal downhill to the Entiat.  I made it from Klone to Fox Creek in 2:40.  Along the way I had a couple of quesadillas with delicious Nutella, along with a turkey bagel sandwich.  Chris and Tom were at the Entiat River, and wished me well on my way.  I remember saying I was looking forward to the climb up to Signal, and finding out how well my training throughout the year was.  When I got to Fox Creek, and made a point fill up as quickly as possible, as I was behind schedule.  I had really wanted to arrive there at 12:30, but the Plain 100 Bermuda Triangle got me.  Shawn McTaggart arrived, and she was doing pretty well.  I was so great to see people!  I though the climb would take 2:30-2:45, and had really hoped I would get to the top by 3 PM.  I was sure this wouldn’t happen now.  Oh well, so I got my iPod going and began the long ascent.  I stayed great on fluids all the way up, but I did empty my 100 ounce bladder by the 4th mile of the climb.  I knew I would have to hold off on the next bottle until the junction with the  Tyee Ridge trail, and the other once until the junction with Billy Creek trail if I wanted to get to Cougar Creek in OK shape.  The climb was hot, but I felt great all the way up.  It didn’t take anything out of me, unlike last year, where I died on the way up.  I ran on Tyee Ridge, but my feet were becoming extremely battered from the rocky trail.  I was getting big blisters on my heels.

The Billy Creek trail came along sooner than I expected, and I hit that junction at 4:19 PM.  I was excited I was running so well, and though that I could get to Cougar Creek before 5:30.  But for all you Plain veterans, do remember how nasty the last descent to the creek is.  I arrived there at 5:47 PM.  On the way I passed the road 5705 SAR checkpoint.  I learned that Darrell Jensen was only 5 minutes ahead of me, and I was elated to see another runner.  Shawn M.  was the last person I had seen, and that was 5 hours beforehand!  I caught up with Darrell, and was bummed to see the guy hurting.  I wished him well and continued on my way, now feeling the drive to get to Deep Creek in a hurry.  On the descent to Cougar Creek last year, I was running in the dark, getting there at approx. 9:30 pm.  I was now 3 1/2 hours ahead of last years pace!  I passed Michael Popov on the descent as well, and offered him some encouraging words.

Cougar Creek’s water was wonderfully tasty!  I was happy to top off with some cold water again, and bounded up the trail to Maverick Saddle.  With a couple of navigation discrepancies, I got off track once I passed over the Mad River, but I made it to the SAR checkpoint at 7:11 PM.  3:45 faster than the year prior!  I felt better than I did at the start of the race, and made for a quick descent to Deep Creek.  My heels that had been beaten up on Tyee Ridge were toast though, so it took some gait changes to run easily.  It was a very beautiful view on the way down though, and the sun was casting some glorious colors into the sky.  I felt at peace with the world, and realized that this is what true happiness feels like.

I ran to Deep Creek without a headlamp (8:20 PM)!  It was a big goal of mine to accomplish this task this year.  I was feeling great, and munched on tons of food.  Tim Stroh was there, and I was sad to learn he dropped from tendon issues.  The next runner was 45 minutes ahead of me.    It is amazing how spread out everyone gets during this race.   While I was chowing down, Shawn McTaggart arrived at Deep Creek as well.  In retrospect, I should have waited for her to get on the trail as well.  But I didn’t.  At 8:50 PM, I was back on the trail, ready to annihilate Loop 2.  A couple of miles in though, my world grew in around me.  My blisters were excruciating on the downhills, and my NoDoz wasn’t doing its job.  I tried to run but couldn’t gather the energy necessary for this.  The real battle began.  I fought my head and the demons it threw at me.  I wasn’t going to give up easy.  I was moving soooo slow.  I couldn’t figure out what went so wrong.  The hours flew by but the miles didn’t.  When I arrived at the Alder Ridge Trailhead, I realized I wouldn’t be able to continue.  It took me 3 hours to go 7 miles.  Weeping and in despair, I walked back down the asphalt road to the Lodge.   A SAR volunteer picked me up about 2 miles from there, and drove me back. I was moving for 21 hours.

Boy, did Plain ever crush me!  Definitely a post -grad run.  I am so happy that this is the only course I lay DNF claim to, as it is a worthy opponent.  The race rules disqualify pacers.  That is where I have the hardest time.  People really help, and probably makes ultra-running races 1000% easier.  So long to Plain for now, but I will make it.  Javelina Jundred next month.


3 thoughts on “Plain

  1. Hey Ben … sorry the deamons got to you. I don’t know what the answer is…heck, I don’t even know how I finished. I just kept moving slowly. One thing I would humbly offer as advice … don’t try to stick to such a rigid time schedule. Use your estimated times as just that, a guide. Sometimes we kill ourselves trying to get to a certain point by a certain time and it kills us for the next section.

    You’ll get ‘er done next year. BTW: I didn’t get to Deep Creek until 11:30 – I was freakin’ slow.

  2. I think you may be right about the time aspect. It was nice to see the time moving by so quickly though. When I’m doing these things, and I see my time is good, usually it pumps me up enough to keep me moving when I’m not doing so hot. Hope you are recovering well.

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