Cascade Crest is the big leagues, and even though I’ve run a few gnarly trail races (Yakima Skyline, Beacon Rock, White River, Waldo), I knew I’d have to step things up. I gave myself ample time to recover from Rocky Raccoon, and didn’t start my “formal” training until the beginning of May, although I worked in a few races in March and April. The first was the Chuckanut 50K; pumped up on antibiotics and steroids to fight a lung infection I managed a cold, wet slog, barely beating last year’s time. Next up was the American River 50 where I ran a PR in 11:22. However, things went downhill after that.
While my lung infection had cleared, I still had a persistent cough — something that had plagued me for almost two years. Thinking it might be acid reflux, a year ago my doctor put me on Prilosec; while the cough diminished it never went away. We were both eager to fully eliminate it, so in mid April I started a 30-day grain elimination diet, thinking it could possibly be caused by an allergy to wheat and/or grain. Knowing it could affect my races I waited to start it the day after running the Yakima Skyline 25K.
Last year I swore I’d never return to that race. While the scenery is gorgeous, I don’t do well on steep, rocky descents — something this race is known for. But with Cascade Crest coming up, I hiked up my big girl pants and gave it another go. I was a good half hour ahead of last year’s time when disaster struck: after a particularly gnarly climb I decided to push the pace once I hit level ground. My foot clipped a rock and I went down… HARD. Both knees sustained deep gashes, enough to require a tetanus shot.
A week later I toed the line for the Capitol Peak 50-miler. Between my trepidation over falling and my lack of energy due to my diet restrictions, it was a personal worst. My only consolation was receiving a handmade mug for coming in DFL. Two weeks later I once again earned that distinction — sans mug — at the Lost Lake 50K. My 10-hour finish demoralized me and I questioned whether I was capable of — or deserved to be — running Cascade Crest. There were more than 100 people on the wait list at that point, and I figured they were far more prepared than me.
The diet experiment left me lethargic and irritable, and although my cough had indeed quieted down, I didn’t think an allergy was to blame. I started reintroducing grains back into my diet and my energy soon returned. The fear of falling, however? THAT stayed with me. (Didn’t help that I took a couple more tumbles).
Then came my Bighorn 50 disaster.
Based upon rave reviews from friends my darling signed up for the 100-mile race and I for the 50-mile. I was concerned about the elevation (tops out just above 9,000 feet), but I figured the worst that could happen would be I’d have to slow down a bit and my breathing might get a bit heavy. Sure enough, my heart rate climbed somewhat on the ascents and my legs felt dead. I pushed through as best I could. However, I did not anticipate the rocky terrain. As the course descended down into a manageable elevation the trail became steep and strewn with rocks — again, my nemesis. Just when I thought I could pick up some time I found myself gingerly picking my way down. I barely made the first cutoff at mile 18.
Despite feeling good I couldn’t muster up the strength to do much running; my legs had no energy. The next cutoff was at mile 34.5 (Dry Fork Ridge); I nervously scanned my watch periodically to monitor my progress. As I descended into the mile 29 aid station I could see the Dry Fork station far in the distance (this is big sky country and you can see for miles). I prayed I could make it in time, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I powered up the last climb to the station, thinking perhaps one of the volunteers would see me and think I was capable of continuing on. Nope! Although I was less than 5 minutes over cutoff, they pulled me. I was devastated.
With that weighing heavily on me I seriously considered pulling out of Cascade Crest. Seemed none of my races — or even training runs — were going well and I felt unworthy. But I allowed myself a pity party and eventually got back in the game. Had a couple of great training runs on the White River 50 course, as well as a a 30+ mile run on Tiger Mountain with approximately 8,000 feet of elevation gain. My hill training paid off as I ran a 14-minute course PR at White River, gaining most of that time on the climb from Buck Creek to Suntop. The following weekend I ran several portions of the CCC course — the start to Goat Peak on day 1, Stampede Pass to Hyak on day 2, and Lake Kachess to Silver Creek on day 3. I was so happy I did, especially since I got to experience the Cardiac Needles. Still, it wasn’t the confidence boost I was looking for and I feared I’d be swept for not making cutoff.
With three weeks left to go there was nothing more I could do to improve my fitness, so I concentrated on eating healthfully and getting lots of rest. I ran a handful of short, easy runs just to keep my legs limber. I also tried to keep my taper madness at bay lest I drive my husband/pacer/crew insane. Not sure if I succeeded, however 🙂
Next up: It’s show time!