A tale of my trials and tribulations out on the trails. I hope you find my rewarding experiences inspiring for yourself.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Cascade Crest 100
The Cascade Crest 100 mile Endurance Run. It makes Western States look like child’s play. The experience I had during this event was nothing less than spiritual. We started the race at 10 AM, with my dad and Brent Spilsbury to see me off. Our first climb was very steep, and to make it worse, 2 motorcyclists were trying to pass the whole field on these steep, tight little switchbacks. Get to the 1st aid station, and I am smoked. The 1st climb really kicked my butt, and I was ready for some down hill time. There were rocks, making running down the next hill impossible at best. The miles before Tacoma Pass was very hilly and mountainous. I got into Tacoma Pass (mile 23) and my dad was there. Took a bit of a rest, and then I headed off to Snowshoe Butte. Hit Stampede Pass at mile 33, and threw my headlamp on. I arrived there at 6:30 PM. I was feeling great, really enjoying the scenery. The Cascade Mountains are gorgeous. By mile 40, it was starting to get dark out. Miles 40 to 47, Olallie Meadows, were very, very wet and rocky and muddy. My feet weren’t happy with that. Got to mile 47, had been running with this nice Canadian, Laurie for a while, and caught up with my pacer. She was going to run from Hyak at with me, but it was cold out and she wanted to be moving. The descent into Hyak was horrible. We walked our way down this extremely rocky road for a good mile, and got to the rope sections. Charlie the RD said you didn’t need the ropes to get down the hill, and he was right. You could roll down if you wanted. Bushwhacking through the trees sucked pretty bad. Got from there down to the road, and met up with the infamous tunnel. It was very, very long. Nice and wet, with the condensation on my glasses driving me crazy. After that, we ran down this nasty asphalt road into Hyak at mile 53. I was very tired. The aid station was set up with a Christmas theme, which helped brighten my spirits. The 1st half of the course was hard. It was just before midnight when we got out of Hyak. We ran on this painful asphalt road for 2 or 3 miles, and then began the long ascent to Keechelus Ridge. This ascent marked one of the most serious lows I’ve ever had. I was so worn out, I really doubted whether or not I could finish. People were dropping like flies from Stampede Pass and Hyak, and wondered if I was in for the same fate. We got to the top of Keechelus Ridge, mile 60, and I was in better spirits. I passed a couple of people on the way up, and that helped restore my confidence. Stephanie and I took the next 8 miles very quickly, and I passed 12 people. That really set my spirits high, and the downhill was a nice change of pace. The next section was absolutely horrible. Starting at mile 68, the “Evil Forest” and “The Trail from Hell” have a reputation for being the nastiest trails of the course. The Evil Forest really isn’t a trail, just course markings and glowsticks through the brush. I got out of that section, and came to a fork in the road with no markings at all. I had to run up the road ½ a mile before I could even find any, so me, my pacer, and another runner went and followed that one. For the record, we left the Kachess Lake aid staion (mile 68) at 4:15 AM, and we didn’t get into Mineral Creek Aid station at mile 73 until 6:30 AM. That trail, was just, absolutely horrible. Words can’t describe, you just have to experience it for yourself after 68 torturous miles before hand. You arrive at Mineral Creek, and the trouble doesn’t stop. A glorious 7-mile ascent awaits you. We lost my dad, which was just horrible for my pacer, and she ended up going all the way to mile 88 with me. James Varner and Laura Houston had an 80’s Revival Party at mile 80 for us, which was just great for those of us that just had the worst hike of our lives. They sent us off, and our next obstacle was the Cardiac Needles. A series of 4 short hikes, they go straight up the hill, and took all of my energy. I popped my 1st Iboprofen of the race after those hikes. They were so very hard. I really had nothing left, after the ascent from Mineral Creek and the Needles. After that, we made our way up to Thorp Mt, mile 84. Thorp is the highest point of the course. That hike was grunt as well, but the view from the top was incredible! Glenn Tachiyama was up there taking pictures. After the horrible climbs I was put through, I was ready for the descent that followed afterwards. No I wasn’t! It was so treacherous, like trying to make it down an avalanche of rocks. I barked, because I could see the next aid station. I heard a faint “Oorah!,” from my dad who was there. He was supposed to meet us at mile 68 and 73, but had fallen asleep and wasn’t there. We were so glad to see him there, since Stephanie got 50 miles of pacing with me unlike the 15 we discussed. There was one more climb after the French Cabin aid station (mile 88), and after that, the rest of the course was downhill. I ran along Silver Creek for many miles, and passed through these gorgeous meadows, until the final descent into the Silver Creek aid station, at mile 95. That ascent was so brutal on my quads, which were shot, and the rocks and rubble broke these painful blisters open on my feet. It was excruciating. I was so happy to get into the aid station. It was just pass 2 pm, so I still had a shot at doing to course in under 29 hours, which was my goal. I high tailed it into Easton (not before making a wrong turn), and was so high and excited to be finished. I did a full on sprint the last 100 meters into the finish lines, and had a little victory dance. 28 hours, 55 minutes. I made it. I received my finisher’s print and the CCC belt buckle, which I had desired for so many months before the race. What an incredible experience. The course was absolutely brutal, and I felt like a champ for finishing it. Thanks, Charlie. My feet are destroyed. My soul is renewed.
Hey there! Ben Blessing is my name. I am a former Marine who is working towards my Bachelor's in Music Composition. Other than that, I spend my time on crazy weekend trips running insane amounts of miles. I am currently training for the Cascade Crest Classic 100 mile Endurance Run. I have high hopes of getting into the Badwater Ultramarathon next summer.