Rattler and I got to experience first hand why only 14% of those who start the Plain 100 actually finish. We both ended up with DNF's at mile 45 after 17 hours on the course. That said we really had a very enjoyable day of running. We didn't quit due to injury, sickness, getting lost, or lack of will to go on. We stopped because we knew that we were not having the kind of day that it takes to complete such a difficult and challenging course.
Gilles, Michael, and Daniel at bfast
Tony & Steve
Heading up to Maverick Saddle
Dan, Ben, & Daniel at summit of Klone Peak
Trail Scat in hyper -drive
Entiat River 2000 foot elevation
Entiat River downstream
Tommy Creek waterfall
Climb to Signal Peak
Moonrise at Signal Peak
We arrived late Friday evening to the Thousand Trails Lodge in Plain which serves as the meeting place, kitchen, Search & Rescue (SAR) base, and start/finish line. Our carpool gang consisted of Rattler, Michelle, Steve, and myself.
The Plain course is off the charts tough. Just to make it a bit more of a challenge they don't provide trail markings and you need to self support. There is only one "aid station" at mile 55 where runners can get aid from a crew or restock from a drop bag. SAR stations were located along the course however the volunteers would not provide aid or directions to participants. Runners could only receive aid from other runners SAR would provide your position in the race. This years race had approximately 25-27 participants.
The race started on Saturday at 5:00AM. The following photos were taken as we worked our way up to Maverick Saddle, Klone Peak, and Signal Peak. Rattler and I had planned to run the entire course together. My first setback on the run happened between Lost Lake and the start of trail 1426. I had a stuff sack swinging from the back of my backpack with my gortex running coat in it. We ate some food at Lost Lake and when I put everything back into my pack and zipped it up I put both zipper pulls on the top of the pack. With Rattler in the lead we ran toward trail 1426. Along that 2.6 mile section the weight of my jacket swinging back and forth pulled open the zipper. It started to feel like the stuff sack was swinging around a lot more than normal so I reached back and discovered that it had come unzipped. Rattler zipped it up for me but we failed to check for anything missing until we made trail 1426. That's when I discovered that my map and my headlamps had fallen out of my pack. Our only hope was that another runner would pick them up.
As we made the top of Klone Peak which involves a 1 mile total out and back we hoped that we would run into runners on our way back down that had found my stuff. Sadly we were far enough ahead that even after eating some food at the summit and chatting with some other runners that were at the summit before us we did not see anyone when me made it back down to the trail. At that point I became Rattlers "trail bitch" because he had directions and a map plus an extra headlamp he was willing to let me use.
From Klone we ran 11 miles from 6820 feet elevation to 2000 feet elevation at the Entiat River. We loaded up on water at this point because the course was dry for 14 miles as you climbed 7 miles and 5000 feet up to Signal Peak. A majority of the climb was condensed into the first four to five miles. Rattler and I both loaded up on 150 Fluid OZ of water then started the climb. In hindsight that was about 40 OZ too much water.
Rattler was fighting some stomach issues so the climb didn't start to well for him. At that point I was climbing strong and feeling good. With Rattler lagging behind me I tried to moderate my pace and keep him in sight. I watched my Garmin 205 and when we reached 4500 feet in elevation I waited and broke the news to Rattler. I must have hit him at a low point because he offered to just have me go on ahead and leave him. I knew that I could make it up to Signal much quicker but decided to stick with our plan and run as "amibros". Turns out this was a really good decision as I started to lose my legs very near the summit of Signal Peak.
As we watched the sun set and a beautiful full moon rise we started to discuss our situation. We both agreed that if we didn't feel any better than we did at that time that we should drop at Deep Creek where Michelle and Steve were waiting for us as our crew. After working through a couple of more unexpected yet significant climbs we started the decent toward Maverick Saddle in darkness. The trail was very chunky and rough and because we were both limited to just one light each rather than a head lamp and waist lamp we were unable to run.
We worked our way along the Billy Creek trail and about 1.75 miles down the trail we saw some headlamps ahead of us. The lights flashed at us a couple of times then stopped. After a while we heard some voices and saw what looked like a vehicle. Turned out we had come to the Tyee Ridge SAR checkpoint. The Tyee Ridge checkpoint was 7 miles away from Maverick Saddle. We decided to drop. Turns out the checkpoint was 100 miles drive back to the finish if you took the roads. Ratter and I decided to make the two hour drive instead of suffer for another 7 miles over 2 hours and then waiting for a ride. Surprisingly Arthur one of the SAR volunteers handed me my map and headlamps that had fallen out of my pack. Another runner Melissa had picked them up on the trail and left them with one of the earlier SAR checkpoints. Thanks Melissa! Rattler and I were not the only runners that dropped at Tyee. Since we were the last two runners on the course we did have the advantage of not having to wait for any more runners before the SAR folks headed back to the start/finish line. King Arthur, and Joe Lee, and another runner whom I didn't know had been waiting for up to four hours. The SAR vehicle was packed with all the gear they required to do their job so it was going to be tough to shoehorn four runners and three SAR volunteers into the vehicle. The Chevrolet Tahoe was so overloaded that the suspension was making creaking sounds when we turned corners to the left on the windy gravel roads. SAR Arthur and his wife made arrangements to meet another SAR vehicle to lighten the load. We meet the other SAR vehicle and I jumped out and rode with them. I think these vehicles had more computers and radio gear than the first mission to the moon. Turns out it was a 100 mile drive to get back to the Lodge from Tyee where we dropped. It was worth the two hour drive.
Meanwhile Michelle and Steve had quite a day of there own. They saw us off at the start at 5:00 AM and then jumped in the car and drove to Cle Elum so Steve could run the Cle Elum 50K. Michelle acted as crew for Steve. The drive took about 1.5 hours one way. Steve ran the race in about 6.5 hours and then they headed back to Plain where they set up for crew duty at Deep Creek Campground. They had a propane lantern and two cook stoves. They ended up cooking grilled cheese sandwiches for many of the runners and some support folks. Karen W. was the official aid station volunteer at Deep Creek. She directed runners to their drop bags and worked on runners blistered feet. Rattler and I expected to make it to Deep Creek around 11:00 PM. We had the SAR folks at Tyee radio that we had dropped so Michelle and Steve wouldn't end up waiting around for us.
The Tyee group of dropped runners arrived at the Lodge around 11:45 PM. We grabbed a little bit of food and Michelle and Steve arrived with Shawn and Tony in our car. We chatted for a short while and then headed to the cottage we had rented for showers and a good nights sleep. Michelle cooked Rattler and I our own grilled cheese sandwiches when we went over to the cottage. They were the best!
I will post the results when available. I think a new course record was broken.