Sunday, June 30, 2019

Into the Cascades We Go

Old Cascadia 100 | Ultra #041

Pre Race

At the end of February, I had just finished my first 200 mile race ( followed up with Jackalope Jam 24 hr, where I obtained my goal of 100 miles ( I then realized how much I loved these longer distances. I just knew I wanted to run more 100 milers. And with that the UltraSignUp search was on and I came across this epic race out in Oregon, Old Cascadia, that had only been on for one year but with tons of vert and some epic scenery to its credit. Early in March I pulled the trigger and convinced the family to come with me to Oregon for a race adventure in the Cascade mountains.

Travelling with my crew as we arrive in Oregon | Photo: Katie Meding
Mid-June was finally upon us and I had been counting down for weeks now. At this point, my last race was back at the end of May which seems like an eternity to me, since I enjoy racing a lot with my Trail RacingOver Texas (TROT) schedule and the extra races I find to fill in the gaps. I had booked off work Wednesday morning as our flight was that afternoon. Oregon was lush and green beyond depths as expected once we got to my wife’s brother’s place in Wilsonville. I got in a short shakeout on Thursday to enjoy some of the lushness in a local park there. Friday we travelled southeast down to our Airbnb in Sisters which was only 35 minutes from the start line in Willamette National Forest. The pre-race anxiety was there as usual and I tried to sleep with the rest of my crew in our cozy loft style house. I slept good once the kids settled in.

Race Day

03:30 wake up to be on the road by 04:00 for the 40-ish minute drive to the start line. My wife and I packed the kids and gear into the van and headed to the start line/bib pickup. We arrived with plenty of time ahead of the 06:00 start time. I walked over to the start area in the brisk 38f morning mountain air. It sure felt cold to what I was used to in Texas, but at the same time the crispness was refreshing, reminding me of back home in AB, Canada. 10 minutes to go and the race directors, Trevor Hostetler & Janessa Taylor, gave the briefing. Here we go! The 47 starters lined up (along with an additional ~65ish 50 milers) and off we went.
Race morning bright and early | Photo: Katie Meding

Standing with 3 oldest daughters as they stayed warm by the propane fire just before the start of the race | Photo: Katie Meding

The Course

This course is a 50 mile giant lollipop. There is a 10 mi “stick” to the first aid station where it proceeds to be a large 50 km (30 mi) clockwise circle (“the lollipop”) where you return to this original aid station and then return the 10 miles back down the “stick” to the start finish. There are 4 major climbs within this course that are all at least 2 miles long with significant gain which comes out to ~12,500 ft per 50 miles (25,000 ft+ overall). At least the amazing Cascade scenery distracts you during all of these. The only road section was a 1 mi pavement road (2.0%) + 0.6 mi gravel access road (1.2%) at the very start of the race. The other 48.4 mi (96.8%) of the loop was all awesome singletrack trail.

The race provided excellent detailed maps and elevation profiles on their website prior to the race which was useful in preparing.
Source: Alpine Running website

Loop 1

Bridge at about 3.5 mi from start |
Taken from Old Cascadia Facebook page | Photo: unknown
Since the start was all intermixed of the 100 & 50 milers it was very confusing as to who was in what distance. This was good and bad. The plus was it forced me to run my own pace and not judge based off the others around since I did not know exactly what distance they were doing. I settled in and followed a group of 5 or so where we were all cruising at the same pace once we got to the singletrack after the 1.6 mi road sections. The next portion of the 10 mi “stick” part of the course consists of a nice long 2,700 ft climb which ensured you wouldn’t go out too fast. Once you got to the summit of this first peak and tagged it, we then cruised down a long flowing section nearly losing all the elevation we had just gained.

After finally getting to the first aid, we veered off to the left and headed back deep into the Willamette National Forest. I was so excited and looking forward to what lies ahead as it was all new trails and terrain to me. I knew the approximate splits between aid but I did not have it super memorized. There were a couple longer gaps around 10 miles so I made sure I always filled up water & fuel when I could.

Greeting my 2 oldest daughters 50 km in | Photo: Katie Meding
At the Quarry, which was mile 31 (50 km into the run), I got the opportunity to see my crew (a.k.a. my family) for the first time. This was a huge boost. My watch was reading slightly under mileage at this point and so it was a bonus surprise when the aid station was within ears reach. I also knew this was close to 1/3 of the race complete, which was also a good positive mental point. I told my wife I’d be here at approximately 6 hrs and I came in right around 5 hrs 55 mins --- as close as one can get in time estimation during an ultra. I felt good and was energized by seeing my family. I refueled and turned back out, mentioned I was aiming for 11 hrs total elapsed time (to the next aid station they’d have access to).

There was a nice little 3 mile section here down around to the next aid, but then it was the longest climb of the race – the pyramid trails. This was a 2,700 ft+ climb up the mountain all the way to the peak. It was steep and steady climb all the way. Once at the top I noted it was essentially 20 km (12.5 mi) back to the start/finish. Little did I know this is where the quad crushin’ descents would take its toll. I don’t know the exact tally, but about 75% of those last 20 km were downhill! It was all downhill back to the first aid station, where there was a small ~2,000 ft climb up then all downhill again back to the start/finish which included that road section there. Since I was “only” half way through the race I felt ok still I was doing a decent pace down these last 13 mi. I was holding onto a runner in front of me (which I think was a 50 miler) to hold my pace.
Running on the lush PNW singletrack with a bunch of runners loop 1 | Photo: Kyle Meck

Taken from Old Cascadia Facebook page | Photo: unknown
Taken from Old Cascadia Facebook page | Photo: unknown
Taken from Old Cascadia Facebook page | Photo: unknown
Epic Cascade scenery, awesome photography here | Photo  Kyle Meck


Coming in to start/finish half for 50 mi seeing my family | Photo: Kyle Meck
Coming into the road section at the very end I glanced at my watch and sure enough I was nearing my 11 hr estimate. I was hoping my family was there and ready for me, and sure enough once I turned that corner at 10 hr 58 min I saw the arch and crossed the line for lap 1 in nearly exactly what I had told my wife. I sat down here in a chair for the first time and got some calories in and conversed with my wife and kids. I only managed to stay just over 12 minutes as I got my food in and refilled my pack. I re-applied my Trail Toes to prevent any issues. Soon I was off again headed back out for another trip around the lollipop. I told my wife I would be back for 24 hrs (best case), but more likely 26 hrs (which would be 08:00).
Family crewing at halfway point | Photo: Katie Meding

Loop 2

Knowing exactly what to expect for this loop I knew the downhill sections would be the part that may or may not be my undoing of the race. I headed out trying to keep my pace best I could on the uphill sections hiking steady. There was no sign if muscle cramps or fatigue yet. But once I got to that first peak and had to run 2,500 ft back down to the aid station my quads could feel every single step. From this early part of loop 2, I knew that downhill running would be my nemesis. Once I got that first 10 mile “stick” portion done I had to switch on my headlamp as the darkness was creeping in. Normally I enjoy the night running but today the night hit hard and made me feel a little sleepy very early on. I was doing a little sleep running, not fully concentrating on the steps and it took a bit for me to snap out of that. But by the time I came around to the Quarry again mile 31 into the loop (mile 81 overall), I was fully lucid again. I sat down here and got in some great calories thanks to the aid station volunteers: bacon, quesadillas, and soup broth. This definity revived me and my spirits at the time. The only thought in my mind at this point was the fact that there was so much downhill left, but first I had the largest climb ahead me.

The pyramid trail was again a long grind as anticipated but I got it done in the darkness and took a moment there at the summit to take it in. I sat there for a few moments and breathed deeply knowing it was mostly downhill ahead of me (and this was the quad crusher). I pushed through best I could and ran the downhill as much as I could. The pain was setting in every step, but I continued to focus on the finish line. On the long way down to the original aid station I was no longer in need of my headlamp as the sun was peeking back through the tall trees. I was about 2 miles to the aid station on that decent and looked down to check the time – shit – my watch was off, it had just run out of batteries. Earlier at the Quarry aid station, I took out my used battery charger and placed it in the drop bag, I just never replaced it with the fully charged one I had sitting there waiting – rookie mistake.

I got to that aid station and knew I was now 90% done…just 10 miles to go and just one last climb. My goal of 24hrs was now out the window at is was essentially 06:00 now. I filled up on calories one last time and hit the trails with that end in sight. Day light was slowing creeping higher as the morning temperature was just about perfect to run in, not too cold now, but not yet too warm. The last miles were not the fastest nor the easiest, but they went by as I just anticipated seeing my family at the finish.

Popping out of that last singletrack and knowing I only had 1.6 miles to the finish was a great feeling. Since my watch was off I didn’t know exactly what time of morning it was but I figured I would be over my 26:00 estimation (which is turned out was fairly accurate). I got to the final pavement section and the last 0.5 mi I started passing cars and some of the spectators and crew vehicles of people. I got a few cheers and words of encouragement here and turned the final corner where I could see the finishing parking lot. I saw my wife in the distance standing in the road peering down looking for me. I saw her gather up the kids and inform them I was coming. My 3 oldest daughters ran down the road to me, this is the best feeling. I gave them all a big hug and then gathered them all up and even got the youngest from my wife too. After 26 hours and 43 minutes I crossed the finish with all 4 of my daughters beside me as we passed under the arch!

Crossing the finish line 26:43:49 | Photo: Katie Meding
Presented with my buckle. With Race Directors Trevor Hostetler & Janessa Taylor | Photo: Katie Meding

Gear Used

Gear Bags: VictorySportdesign
Drop Bag: VictorySportdesign (Coyote II)
Shirts: TeamTROT x1 t-shirt & x1 sleeveless, rabbit x2 t-shirt and x2 long sleeves
Shorts: rabbit FKT 5” (gecko green)                                                                                        
Shoes: AltraRunning TIMP 1.5
Socks: Drymax Socks (2 pairs)
Jackets: rabbit elements jacket
Headwear: rabbit (BOCO gear), multiple buffs
Sunglasses: Goodr
Watch: Garmin Fenix 3 HR
Hydration: NathanSports Inc Grit 7L Race Hydration Vest (electric blue), Nathan Sports Inc VaporKrar WaistPak (black)
Headlamp: NathanSports Inc Halo Fire
Calf Sleeves: Zensah compression leg sleeves (Lego print)
Nutrition: Tailwind Nutrition, fruit, coca-cola, and a bunch Hammer Nutrition gels and Muir Energy gels. Really enjoyed the aid stations with bacon, quesadillas, and got in quite of bit of soup broth during the night hours.


7th overall (M6) | 102.69 mi | 24,785 ft+ | 26:43:49
My 41st ultramarathon.

As mentioned my stupid watch froze due to my error in battery management and so the activity is split up over 2 entries: (the first 90.10 mi recorded) (the finishing 12.59 mi manual entry)
100 Mile Finisher buckle

Thank you

A big shout out to my 2019 supporters:
rabbit | rabbitELITEtrail Team
Trail RacingOver Texas | Team TROT
Victory Sportdesign | Team Victory
Nathan Sports Inc | Team Nathan

Alpine Running for being awesome hosts and putting on a stellar event out here in the middle of the Cascades. The Race directors: Trevor Hostetler & Janessa Taylor. They have found a gem of a course I know they will grow this event.

My wife, Katie, whom is always my biggest supporter and allows me to do these crazy adventures (Lucky for me we were able to make this a family vacation and visit her brother out on Oregon around this race). I am so thankful when Katie is able to attend and be there to support me. Her crewing with 4 little ones is no small feat in itself. My 4 daughters who inspire me as well, again it is amazing to see their smiles after long efforts.

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