Cascade Crest Training Camp
|August 7, 2015||Posted by Emily under Uncategorized|
It’s the end of the week and I STILL can’t stop smiling about last weekend’s trip to explore the Cascade Crest 100 course (and its nearby saloons, breweries and creeks) with new friends.
On Friday morning, I headed up to Easton, Washington (where the race starts and finishes), and joined a handful of other runners for three days of checking out the dirt in the Northern Cascades.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, especially since I didn’t know a soul when I took that first step on Friday afternoon. But by the time I pointed my car back toward Eugene on Sunday evening, I had a bunch of shiny new memories and an incredible group of new friends. The kind that I like so much that I fully intend to hunt them down for more beer and miles in the ASAP future.
It was another one of those weekends that left me totally and completely in awe over how incredible the trail and ultra running community is and so freakin’ excited about my next big endeavor in this sport.
Okay, I’ll try to stop gushing about how much fun I had to talk about the running for a second.
Day One: 14 miles/4k’ of climbing/Miles 0-7
Start to Goat Peak (out-and-back)
On Day One of Cascade Crest Summer Camp, we had the option of doing a short, bonus warm-up run on the first section of the course (which can be summarized with “straight up”.)
Photo: Cascade Crest Facebook
We were under strict instructions to turn around after two hours of running out on the course. Which was just fine with me. We had plenty of miles to run during the remainder of the weekend and after pregaming the workout with a 5 hour road trip in the Rad Rav, I didn’t feel like much more than 14 miles.
In those two hours, I managed to hit that first bump on the elevation chart, go downhill for a bit, and then start going up again before turning around right below the tip top of the peak to head back to the fire station that doubles as a 100 miler start line on August 29th. You might think I would have pushed to reach the summit after getting so damn close, but that was in the opposite direction of the fully stocked cooler in my trunk, so you’d be wrong.
During the 3.5 hours I spent out on the course, I made a few early observations about the race:
-If my crew is any good, they’ll make sure it’s not as hot on August 29th. (Hear that, Sarah?)
-The opening climb is gentle, and if done as a solo workout, would make for a lovely run. But during the race, I’d be an idiot if I did anything other than walk nearly every step of it. Which is easier said than done when you’re feeling fresh and excited. So if anyone wants to volunteer to join me in Washington and remind me of that over a bullhorn, that’d be grrreat.
-The trails were not nearly as technical as I feared, but there are still plenty of spots that will leave me with a pair of severely bloody knees if I’m not careful. Or if I’m just my normal self and average my standard horizontal position at least once every 12 miles.
-This course is outrageously gorgeous. It will be nice if I can appreciate that in between the pain of racing 100 miles.
Day Two: 31 miles/6200’/Miles 22-53
On Day Two, we got shuttled out to the Pacific Crest Trail to do a 50k back into Snoqualmie Pass (the mountain that we called home for the weekend).
Photo: new friend Alley.
On the elevation chart, this section looks relatively runnable. Practically pancake flat when you compare it to the early and late climbs.
In reality, it’s anything but flat.
We were running with a race veteran who kept telling us some variation of “it’s all downhill after (fill in the blank landmark)!”
Which it was.
Except when it wasn’t.
And then it was going uphill.
Another Alley shot.
I ran WAY less of this section than I expected to. There were plenty of slopes that were steep enough to slow you down to a hike, even on fresh legs.
Unfortunately, the day also ate me alive and spit me out all over the PCT.
For some reason, last week was a REALLY tough week for me, the heat, and some ugly variety of dehydration.
I suspect I dug myself into a bit of a deficit during the 50k I did last weekend and never really climbed out of it, which left me primed and ready to get pummeled by the heat during training camp. (The first red flag was waving on Tuesday night when I asked for water instead of beer at the end of the hunt. “That was weird,” said one friend. “Never do that again.”)
On Friday, I felt a little bit off, a little bit queasy and a lot thirsty.
And then it progressed into total and complete annihilation on Saturday. The combination of a tiny bit of altitude (our baseline was around 4,000’ish), a lot of exposed sections, and near triple digit heat was enough to scorch me into one of my worst training runs to date.
I was sick in the bushes, I went through more water in 8 miles than I did in all 31 during the race the previous weekend, and I seriously considered never leaving the PCT when my hydration pack went dry on a particularly exposed and bitchy climb. It was a constant struggle trying to decide whether to make myself sick with calories or remain low on strength thanks to a lack of fuel.
Luckily, there were strangers who gave us something borrowed in the form of water filters when we arrived at something blue in the form of Mirror Lake thirsty and desperate for water. They didn’t even make me deliver on my offer to exchange a limb and/or first born kegerator for hydration.
The silver lining of the very tough day, is that it gave me GREAT 100 miler training.
You might think I’d be sick of seeing this feisty mountain, but you’d be wrong.
While I was at my peak of suffering, I was convinced that I’d DNF the shit out of the training run as soon as an opportunity presented itself. (We had an amazing volunteer manning two water drops/aid stations and I knew he had a truck that could carry one very thirsty and very sweaty runner back to our camp.)
But instead of quitting, I figured out how to cope with the bad day. I slowed way down and walked for a few miles, letting my core temperature drop and my heart rate lower. Which in turn, let me successfully take a few calories in without watching them go right back out (sorry I’m not sorry there’s no such thing as TMI in trail running.)
By the time I reached the aid station at Mile 25, I was running again (slowly but surely) and ready to keep running right into Mile 31 (also slowly but surely).
I sincerely hope I got that all out of my system before the race, but if I didn’t, it was fan-effing-tastic practice for hitting problems on race day. And the best reminder that the most effective way to cope with heat is to slow the eff down.
Day Three: Planned 31 Miles/5800’/Miles 68-100
Actual: 15 Miles/2500’/Miles 80-96
On Day Three, I was planning on joining the organized training run and doing the full 50k that the group was getting shuttled out to run. But after the mess I made all over the trail on Saturday, I was not feeling like a third 30+ mile run in 8 days (counting SOB 50k) was necessary for training, or a good idea at all.
So when the option to cut the run in half and still check out the hardest and most talked about part of the course came up, I was all over it. (Is this what growing up feels like?)
The main point of the weekend was to preview the course. The tough training was a nice bonus, but I was most definitely not set on all 75 of the miles and would not have planned that kind of weekend for myself if I hadn’t gone to Training Camp. So chopping a few miles off and totaling 62ish instead of 75? Easy decision.
Our group of three got shuttled out to tackle the section affectionately known as the “Cardiac Needles”, which is a series of peaks that we get to climb at mile 80 of the race (when we’re nice and fresh) without the aid of switchbacks.
The elevation chart does NOT do this section justice.
For starters, the climbs looks fairly small and manageable when you compare them to the very long climbs we do at other points in the race. But I don’t care how small a climb is, when it goes straight UP a steep face, any distance is a tough distance to cover.
Secondly, there are WAY more Needles than advertised. Or at least way more thumbtacks, pushpins, nails, and Needles. You lose count of how many climbs you’ve crossed real quick. And when you’re sure it’s over, it’s not. I imagine this section is going to be a real joy on race day, and I trust my pacer is excited to watch me stumble through it.
But the good news is: as hard as it was, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. In my head, we were climbing Class 5 style up peaks that rival Everest. In reality, it’s not quite that vicious.
And as hard as it was, it was even more stunning than I thought it would be.
This was on a cloudy day so the views were “bad.” But the cloud cover was helping me stay cool, so I wasn’t complaining that a little bit of Rainier was buried in the sky.
Day three was, by far, my favorite day of the weekend. I felt good, I got to share the trail with great company, and this stretch of the course is an absolute delight.
If I wasn’t already excited to run this race (which, if we’re being honest, I kind of wasn’t. Too busy being terrified.), after three days out on the course, I am now out-of-my-mind pumped for August 29th. Still terrified. But also excited.