Blister Party -|sponsored by|- Hinson Lake

“Next time, I’m just going to hire a pack of teenagers with baseball bats, and get this over a lot quicker”

– Gary “Laz” Cantrell, 6:00 a.m.~ish, Day 2.

Lazy, Cocky and Stupid

Hinson Lake 24-hour race - Day 1
photo: Perry captures me in fine, “fat-man-running” form – thanks dude. {sigh}

Picture this:

It’s about 1:30 in the morning.

I’ve been running for over 17 hours, and assuming I’m remembering this right, have about 78 miles in the bank.

I had finally made the leaderboard, sitting in 6th or 7th place which was killer since I’ve never made the leaderboard before.

Hinson Lake leaderboard

Over six hours to go, and I only need 22 miles to complete my dream goal of 100 miles in 24 hours.

I’ve circled this 1.52 mile loop at least 50 times, so 16 more should be a walk in the park, right?


Those rewards are reserved for those who run strong, humble and smart – not lazy, cocky and stupid.

A Hinson Lake Homecoming

A record 200 people lined up at Hinson Lake to spend 24 hours running a 1.52 mile loop around the lake, attempting to gobble up as many miles as possible.

The field of runners was legendary. Gary “Laz” Cantrell was looking to continue his yearly ultra streak of 34 years. Ray K was running and gunning for 100 miles. Successful Appalachian Trail through-hikers Sue Norwood and Jim O’Neil made it out, and legendary, timed event record-holders from way before my time were also at the starting line.

Other names that you may recognize were Joe Lugiano, Juli and Val Aistars, Fred and Susan Dummar, Liz Bauer, Tom Adair, Byron “badass” Backer, Joe Ninke, Brad Smythe, Matt Kirk, Denise Davis, Larry “git-a-goin” Robbins, Trans USA runner Doug Dawkins, and so many more awesome runners, current/previous record holders and all around swell ultra folks.

That’s right, I said “swell.”

The Hinson Lake Course

Hinson Lake 24-hour is directed by Tom Gabell whom I met for the first time this year at Laurel Valley. Like most of the Magnum Track Club, Tom is one of those genuine runners with a great personality and an obvious love for, and dedication to, ultrarunning and ultrarunners.

Plus, at only $24, making a decision to run his event was an absolute no-brainer.

The course was mostly hard-packed dirt, with a bunch of short wooden bridges, tucked into the woods surrounding a big, beautiful lake. The race course was generally “flat”, but did have some gradual climbs and descents that seemed to grow with each cumulative lap.

After 50 laps, I started to refer to climb on the backside as Mt. Hinson …and Mt. Hinson got walked a whole lot more often than he got run.

The weather was warm, climbing into the 80’s with heaping helpings of humidity to remind you that you were in the South. I decided to run shirtless, allowing to the rest of the field to enjoy my jigglin’ belly and man-boobies.


The night time, at least before midnight, wasn’t much cooler and many of us remained shirtless and fabulous for most of the night as well.

Get to the $%$#! Race Report Already…

Hang on there skippy.

It’s hard to write a blow-by-blow race report when the entire race consisted of a course that only stretched a mile and a half long. Yeah, it was pretty the first time. …even the fifth time; but after about 13 laps, it became mostly about the grind and “gettin’ it done”.

And of course, the people.

In fact, it became all about the people.

In a typical, point to point trail race, you see some people pre-race, and again post-race, but because you’re usually trying to work your way up the pack, rarely do you get to spend much time with lots of different people throughout the entire race.

Timed-event races are different.

Christian’s Race ’cause It’s my Web Site

This is easy.

My race can be summed up as follows:

  1. I created a false sense of talent in my own head.
  2. I believed I was ready to tackle 100 miles – even though I just completed a tough mountain 100 a couple o’ weeks before.
  3. I forgot that I have only been running ultras for two years and that I’ve only gone 100 miles, three times.
  4. I showed up sore from weight-training all week, with the attitude of “who cares? it’s a flat, timed event, 100 miles is in the bag”.
  5. I taunted Vikena Yutz. (Huge mistake)
  6. I started out too fast.
  7. I continued too fast.
  8. I had a total, “where’s my mommy” pitiful breakdown.
  9. I tossed and turned in my truck, on the ground, and under our tent, feeling sorry for myself and feeling tremendous blister and chafe pain.
  10. Looked up, saw Laz hobbling down the lane, stood up, walked with him in the dark, and never stopped until the end of the race.
  11. Finished the last lap looking like a complete and total idiot having never heard the final horn to stop, huffing and puffing across the gravel, barefoot and blistered and carrying a banana, trying to prove who-knows-what…

Drama Queen.

But, in between all the mistakes and all the personal drama and reality-checks, I was still lucky enough to score some of those great moments that we live for as ultrarunners:

  1. I never get sick of the new friends coming up to me asking me, “Are you Christian?”I just love that. It makes me feel good and when people tell me that my race report, or my list post, inspired them to do something special and meaningful, I can’t help but feel especially proud. It’s part ego-padding, but it’s also a genuine love for seeing the recognizable stoke in someone else.
  2. I must have run 40 or more, of my 85 miles, with DOOM – Mr. Fred Dummar – and we really had something special going. For awhile there, we had a lap routine that looked like it was going to carry us to about 110 miles. All we had to do was stay steady. Yeah, all we had to do… regardless of the outcome, Fred and I became better friends on that lake and I’ll never forget it.
  3. I got to trot a few laps with Byron Backer, who many may know is one of my all time favorite ultrarunners. Byron is a great guy, but waaay too fast and he blew me up a couple of times, but it was worth it to run alongside of him to put a couple faster miles in the bank.
  4. I got to watch Vikena Yutz, a local friend and similarly-experienced ultrarunner, rack up 104 miles and 2nd place female. I may have thrown down the gauntlet, but she beat me over the head with it, and spanked me all the way home.
  5. The encouragement – from the basic “looking good guys” to Laz’s “lemme see some six minute miles”-type heckling, the jovial, fun atmosphere coupled with genuine encouragement helped keep me going when things looked grim.
  6. The volunteer lap-counters and food girls nicknamed me “smiley” and I enjoyed that. I tried very hard to come in after each lap smiling and letting them know how much I appreciated them being there. Without them, we’re just a bunch of freaks running circles.

Even with them, we’re still a bunch of freaks running circles.

But, the moment that stands out as the most unique of the event for me was my time with Gary “LAZ” Cantrell.

Laz is a staple in our community. A legendary runner, race director and writer with more varied talents and smarts than I could ever hope to have. Coming into the event, I was very excited to meet him and secretly hoped I’d get the opportunity for some one-on-one time with him.

Stay with me for as minute and try to imagine the scene

It’s dark and it’s late. …or “early”, depending on what you call 5:30 a.m., and the race would be ending in a little over two hours.

A sorry-looking, dejected, shivering Christian Griffith is sitting in a chair, trying to find some warmth from a Coleman lamp that wasn’t even designed to be warm.

Sad shape at Hinson Lake

I had announced I was quitting about 4 hours earlier. (’bout 1:30-ish)

I had 78 miles in the bank but somehow had lost my way. Pain set in. My brain melted. I entered a moment of weakness, and it beat me.

With only 22 miles to get my goal of 100, and almost 7 hours to do it, I gave up.

I crawled into my truck, but the truck light wouldn’t go out and I was too stiff and locked-up to move to turn it off. This attracted a million bugs inna ’bout 2 minutes, and I found myself covered in bugs, and sweating to death from the lack of moving air in the vehicle.

I staggered to the wooden floor near the outdoor restrooms, and saw Ray K sleeping in a sleeping bag there, so I figured it would be a great spot.

It sucked.

For one thing, millions of mosquitoes kept buzzing in my ears while I tried to sleep; but it was futile anyway, because my feet, legs, chafe and blisters hurt so badly that I couldn’t get comfortable in any position on that wooden deck.

Plus, every time I heard a runner coming through the start/finish area, announcing their number to the lap counters, I felt worse and worse about my decision to quit.

I was sticky, dirty, sleepy, sore, grumpy and really just about as miserable as any one person could be.

My body temperature was so jacked up – I’d go from hot and sticky to cold and shivering – so, I got up and staggered back to our tent along the course and that’s where we pick the story back up…

Christian – shivering away in a zip-up, grey GUTS jacket, with it stretched out and pulled down over his knees …head in hands and really feeling like tee-total shit.

And here comes Laz.

Laz wasn’t exactly sprinting and was all alone; and since I was freezing my @$$ off, it seemed like a great opportunity to get in a few laps with him while also taking my mind off my terrible state.

I got up and joined him as he passed by…

…but my blisters hurt so badly that I yelled out, “Laz, you’ll have to go on without me, man, my blisters hurt too much”

and he said, “if you just keep going, they’ll hurt less.”

And that was the beginning of me being part of Laz getting to his new goal of “Strolling Jim” distance (40 miles) as well as the beginning to my ability to continue on, another 5-7 miles, pushing me over 85 miles for the race.

We must have looked pretty comical as we snail-paced that loop, laughing a whole helluva lot and not really paying much attention to the clock anymore. Hopefully, he was happy for the company, and I was happy that I wasn’t dying anymore and instead, actually feeling pretty good and a little energized.

I’ll tell you this much, it’s definitely the first time I ever waited for anyone in between loops, and MOST definitely the only time I ever waited for someone to finish smoking a Camel cigarette in between loops.

That is just too damn classic.

Along that 3.04 miles of walking with Laz, I came to realize that I was not going to quit. His effort inspired me to keep going no matter what, and when he got his 40 miles and found a comfortable chair along the track, I kept going.

Crocs and all.

And when the Crocs even became too much for my blistered feet, I took ’em off and kept going barefoot.

I wasn’t going to quit.

I thought I knew how badly it felt to quit but I guess I hadn’t learned my lesson.

I was trying to redeem.

And when I took off with that banana, with 23 minutes left until the end of 24 hours, my feet hurt so bad I was crying without anyone seeing it, and grunting when no one was near, and wiping the stray tears once I got passed those who were packing up.

I felt so much, although I couldn’t really put my finger on what it was, but I was consumed.

How could I quit so easily earlier, yet now I was running, …and running really hard, trying with everything I had to make it back and finish that loop before the final horn.

I passed a few walkers and they gave me encouragement, “go get it, don’t stop!”

And I ran my heart out. Barefoot.

I turned the corner and heard Mike Melton say, “good job, Christian” as I staggered and rock-hopped the big gravel, heading towards the bridge…

“Hell Yeah, I’m gonna make it before the horn!”

And I hit the bridge…

…looked up…

…and the clock wasn’t moving.

“What the…”

I missed the horn.

It blew.

I didn’t hear it.

I failed.

I felt really stupid charging across that finish line.

I staggered to my chair, sat alone, sulked a little, and examined my SHREDDED feet.

And that’s how the race ended.

I still have a lot to learn about ultrarunning.


For your enjoyment, I introduce the Blister Videos

…and don’t forget the toes…

I realize I probably just stopped 1000 people from ever visiting ever again, but that’s ok.


Cascade Crest 100-mile Trail Race Report

Cascade Crest Buckle

I have the buckle, but I still have a lot to learn about running 100-miles.

Especially, and more specifically, the rough and rugged 100-mile trail races.

As ultrarunners, we seem to have serious selective memory, so I’m writing this report from a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet to ensure that I remember and report on everything that I wanted to during the time I plodded on through the Cascades …one foot after the other.

Cascade Crest is no joke.

If there are more difficult 100-mile trail races, then I found my “difficulty limit” for quite awhile. Ultrarunning Magazine lists Cascade Crest right up there with Massanutten, Hard Rock, …and of course, the Superior Sawtooth trail 100 which I completed last year as my first 100-mile race.

I’ve heard ultrarunners say the Superior Sawtooth 100-miler is harder than Cascade Crest, and finishing times seem to indicate this might be true, especially since it is a “slower” race, but I rarely found myself climbing at Superior like I was at Cascade.

Must be more of that “selective memory”.

Like a kid on Christmas Morning

I was very excited for Cascade Crest.

Being from Atlanta, I travelled a long way to get there. I showed up race morning with enough energy to power the small mountain town of Easton, Washington for a month. In fact, stepping out of the van was just about the time I met Jon Yoon, an enthusiastic ultra-list member and extremely supportive and nice guy. Jon would be volunteering and manning a few aid stations during the race, so he had plenty of good cautionary advice.

If you know me, you know how much I love meeting people in our sport. It’s one of my favorite parts of the race experience. For the first time I got to shake hands and chat up with other well-known, West Coast ultramarathon runners including Chris Martin, Kent Holder, Chihping Fu, Andy Kumeda, Catra Corbett, Jessica Deline, Hans Deiter-W …and more.

(sorry if I forgot some people but I have “ultra-brain” right now. I’ve been calling Pat Ackley, my host and crew member, the wrong name all morning. —“Hey Phil!”)

One of the neatest things was meeting Brian Morrison at Seattle Running Company, who folks may remember as the fastest runner at the 2006 Western States 100-mile trail race who collapsed 1/4 mile from the finish and thus ended up disqualified.

Think about that for a second – I can’t even imagine what that must have been like.

10:00 a.m. is a nice race start

Video note: This is a 1:31 video of just the start of the Cascade Crest 100, but I think it’s key in demonstrating smart pacing. Chris Martin, the dude in the white and blue sleeveless shirt, starts the race in last place just walking – he finished over 2 hours ahead of me. Proper pacing ladies and gentlemen.

For one thing, starting at 10:00 a.m. makes it easy to get to Easton, and thus the race start, without having to get up at 3:00 o’clock in the morning. That’s nice. Plus, it pretty much ensures that even the fastest runners have to run through the entire night.

We started the race like most races start, and found ourselves headed down the gravel road, past local barns and grazing horses, towards the first serious section of the day, the climb to Goat Peak.

Warning: Cascasde Crest is an incredible race and I’m about to throw it down. Right here, right now, so if blow-by-blow bores you, you just might want to go visit a less enthusiastic web site. …Just givin’ ya the heads up.

“What did I get myself into?”

I asked myself that same thing over and over just a couple of miles into the climb to Goat Peak. Making runners start a race climbing a very long, very steep, rugged, and rocky mountain is, …well… as I was about to learn, very Cascade-Crest-like.

Of course, I studied the course a bit and knew the climb was coming, so I just settled into a very slow grind, sorta laughing to myself as gravel roads turned into technical single-track, turned into cambered rock, to even more steep technical trail, before finally giving us some much-appreciated relief.

Goat Peak is a long, tough climb – very tough – but, as we were soon to see, it was just one in a series of race challenges in store for all the runners over the next 24+ hours.

“I’m amazed at how fast everyone is going out!”

During the long descent after the first aid station, I was throwing that statement out to anyone who’d listen, secretly hoping they would validate my concerns and my decision to go out slower. After all, the race reputation is one of a much more difficult second half and I was trying to respect that enigmatic element of the event.

After coming down the other side of Goat Peak, dropping 1500 feet, we started climbing again (up 1500 feet) to the 15-mile aid station at Blowout Mountain. This was 100% old dusty gravel logging roads. I could taste all the dust gettin’ rustled up and whenever I’d bite down, my teeth would crunch the dirt I inhaled from the air.

That’s West Coast for ya.

But oddly, over just a mile or so, we found ourselves climbing into the clouds again on very steep, moist and damp single-track. Like the flip of a switch, the weather and climate just changed.

Being in the clouds is such a trip. You can literally see the clouds rushing by in front of you and feel the dampness on your skin – like a cold steam room. I got a big kick out that …at least until the night time when that same phenomenon created freezing cold temps, at high elevation, with no escape other than to just run through it, hoping for a descent to get you out of there.

Are ya listenin’ Kecheless Ridge?

A little more bobbin’ and weavin’, up and down, (mostly “up”) and we found ourselves running onto the drop-dead, stunningly gorgeous, PCT – the famous Pacific Crest Trail, the West Coast’s version of the Appalachian Trail.

The PCT might just be trail running heaven.

A little bit of running love

Ok, so the entire 100-miles is not brutal. The PCT section between miles 17 and 47 were absolutely incredible. Lots of varying terrain with old growth forest that looked like it was lifted from a masterpiece painting.

I ran the first part of the PCT in absolute heaven. I was fast and feeling it. I’d roll into those aid stations yelling at the top of my lungs, and getting the love back from all the volunteers and crews waiting for their runners.

I was so stoked by the beauty and runnability of the trail, and I was feeling fantastic and just had to let everyone know.


…as is typical,

…it can’t stay bright sunshine and fluffy kittens forever…

Cover your eyes ’cause here comes the D-word

Yup. Diarrhea.

My butt blew up; and for the first time in an ultramarathon, I found myself dealing with major ASSplosion over and over again, for more than 30 miles. I had to drop and squat over 20 times until I finally just quit counting out of disgust with the situation.

Sorry about the graphic detail, especially for those reading who do not run ultramarathons, but as ultra runners you know the serious race impacts of the D-word: lost time, dehydration, frustration, un-kind leaf irritation, and unavoidably, our friend, mr. chafe.

I have no idea what did it to me, but if I ever figure it out, I might just ban it from my life altogether. Period.

But, I’ll move on…

Video note: Here I explain, very succinctly, what needs to happen.

Darkness falls

I like running at night. It’s a forced excuse to slow down and it’s an easy way to identify runners ahead that you might have a chance of picking off, and runners behind, moving more quickly and making a move to pass.

It’s also comforting to see a headlamp ahead of you – then you know that you’re most likely going the right way on the right trail, …or BOTH of you are lost, but either way, you aren’t alone in the forest in the dark.

At mile 41, I picked up Betsy from Montana. We had run near each other at various points in the race, and both left the Meadow Mountain aid station at the same time with head lamps a’blarin’.

If I remember right, this was her first 100 mile race and the first time she had run in the woods in the dark. I don’t know if any of you readers have much experience running in the dark, but there’s a huge difference between “running in the street” dark, and “running in a mountain forest” dark.

“Mountain-forest-dark” is just plain BLACK dark.

Like “coal-air-dark”.

Like “what in the Hell was that?”-dark.

But Betsy was an absolute trooper, and in my opinion a far better runner than me. She mentioned that maybe we should stay together as a sort of companionship thing, and I was happy to accept. I let her lead and she’d just chat away while navigating technical slippery scree-rocks, and climbing very rugged terrain around Mirror Lake.

She didn’t seem to be phased one bit by the darkness in combination with the technical terrain and I was a little worried that I would not be able to keep up with her. In retrospect, I’m glad she charged it like that because we passed quite a few people together.

The new addition

One of the most unique elements of the Cascade Crest 100-miler is a very steep, bushwack descent, down to a 2.5 mile long tunnel that runs right through the center of a mountain. Supposedly it’s drippy and creepy and straight out of a woods-themed horror movie.

But, the tunnel was closed this year for construction, so the RD set out to find a suitable replacement.

The replacement consisted of a very long climb up and over Snolquamie Pass , a ski resort with a beautiful lodge and treacherous slopes. Let’s put it this way, I would have MUCH, MUCH rather skied down these slopes as opposed to running down them. Wow!

Apparently, lots of people were frustrated and my crew told me that people were showing up at Hyak (mile 53), all bloodied up and wounded and not-at-all happy about the chosen course change.


I didn’t really care. I had never seen the tunnel section anyway, and yea, I bitched and moaned coming down those steep, dangerous, and loose-rock declines, but I love that kind of stuff – especially once it’s over with – and running down a ski slope was pretty darn gnarly, so I was 100% cool with it.

Plus, with Betsy leading, I could let her find all the sketchy spots first and make sure to avoid them – such the gentleman huh?

“Hey, it’s a race – that gentleman stuff doesn’t apply.”

Hyak = halfway home

Video warning: Please excuse the excessive cussing at the end of this video clip …I was a little “fired up!” and excited to be halfway through the race.

Victor and Pat, my race crew, were a welcomed sight after all that madness through Mirror Lake and the Snolquamie Pass ski slopes.

They ushered me into a chair and Victor immediately started with all the “are you coherent?”-type questions:

“Are you eating?” – yea.

“How are your feet?” – great.

“How are you feeling?” – good.

“Are you sure?” – yup.

“What do you want to eat?” – grilled cheese.

I even got to have a few quick words with Charlie, the race director, letting him know how much fun I was having and how much I was enjoying the race.

I can’t remember if I shared my D-word problem with the gang, but I do remember getting some ginger candies from Victor and Pat, so maybe I did. I was afraid Vic’tah would make me stay at the aid station if I shared any discomfort at all.

Victor is kind of a hardass and he wants you to do well, probably as much or more than you do yourself, so I was cautious with what I’d tell him sometimes. At least until the later miles when I acted like a little, pitch-a-fit baby and he got more than a mouthful from me.

I would never wanna deal with me in a broken state, so three cheers for Vic’tah for hanging in there and not kicking my ass and leaving me on the trail.

At least I know I’m good for fifty???

I felt fantastic for someone who had just run 53 difficult mountain miles, and once Victor got me fixed up and Pat scored me some hot food from the aid station, 10 minutes had passed, and I was fired back up and ready to go again.

You’re allowed pacers at this point, but I didn’t feel like I needed it yet and Betsy had planned to have her Dad pace her from here anyway, so I just jumped in with them.

Dan, Betsy’s Dad, might simply be one of the coolest dads around and I really enjoyed the time I ran with the two of them.

But, once again, the good turned to bad.

The long, 100% uphill, 7-mile climb up to Kechless Ridge did me in. It started out ok, but it felt like it took forever. In reality, it only took two hours, but it felt like all night. Even worse, the D-word problem forced me stop over and over again.

Whenever I could find suitable leaves, which got harder and harder as the elevation got higher and higher, I’d pause for a humbling squat session. Then, once I got business taken care of, I’d have to sprint uphill to catch back up with my little two-person group.

By the time we hit the top of the climb, Kechless Ridge aid station, we were playing at close to 6000 feet with temps in the 30’s, and facing another 8-ish miles of the backside.

And that other side of that climb, the descent from Kechless Ridge aid station, was just as damn long – maybe longer.

where’s that course map, anyway?

I rolled into mile 68, the Kachess aid station, feeling like complete death, loopy, and badly needing some food and tender loving care – and I got it thanks to my awesome crew and the cheery, experienced aid station volunteers.

As nice as everyone was, I could tell from the way they talked to me and looked at me, that I had better get up and keep moving, or I could get stuck there for the night.

The trail from Hell

Don’t blame me, that’s what the trail is called, and for good reason!

I really don’t think it’s possible for there to have been a worse time for me to have to embark on this ridiculous section of trail – I was trashed. I wanted to go home.

The emotional meltdown was starting.

I told Vic’tah that I definitely needed a pacer now – which really just equates to some company – so he got dressed, grabbed a ton a gear and supplies like he always does, and obliged.

Describing this section of trail correctly will definitely test my creativity and literary semantic skills because no matter what I say, you’ll never truly understand how nasty this trail is until you step foot onto that beast.


It’s something else.

Really… it’s crazy-hard-nasty-tricky and mean.

The trail opens up with a half-buried skeleton at the base of a short, steep climb that doesn’t even really look like a trail head at all. It looks like a bear was just digging for ants up a steep embankment.

And, this is pretty much the case for about 1/2 mile of complete and total bushwacking that is 100% unrunnable – barely walkable – and in fact, it almost appeared as if it was “created” exclusively for some sort of masochistic ritual.

Somebody needs to come clean. {grin}

Once you make it over the plethora of huge blown-down trees, the thick bushes and thorns, and the steep camber that could easily send a woozy runner down the slope and into the abyss, you then, finally, start the official Trail from Hell – 5.5 miles of constant up-n-down, barely-a-trail type footing and heaping helpings of danger to round out the experience.

The progress is super slow which equates to a long, grueling grind, many times hand-over-hand, all while trying to prevent yourself from slipping off into the Kachess Lake – about 500 (?) feet below.

Ok, I’ll just say it – this section was very, very hard for me. Both physically and mentally. This was my wall, and poor ol’ Vic’tah got an earful from me for no other reason than the fact that he had ears and was there. I’m not happy nor proud of my mini temper tantrums, but it’s part of what happened out there and I can’t deny it.

He’d tell me to eat, and I’d tell him “no.”

He’d tell me drink, and I’d yell, “I hate that GU2O sh*t!”

I’d accused him of lying to me about the aid station distance.

I’d accuse him of lying about the time.

I’d accuse him of lying about knowing the trail.

Finally, he’d get fed up with my whining and yell back, so we pretty much sounded like an old married couple out there on that stretch of insanity.

Christian crumbles.

“Make sure he’s ready, it’s a long climb to NoName Ridge.”

Coming into the Mineral Creek aid station, and finally finishing the Trail from Hell, I really didn’t need to hear that comment above.

And sure enough, the next section would challenge me more than I could have ever imagined. It was on this stretch of climb that I started an even worse downward spiral.

The climb to NoName Ridge is 100% climbing, 7 miles, with an elevation gain of 3,000 feet, all on loose gravel.

I walked 99.9% of it.

Once, I was so fatigued that allowed myself to just collapse smack-down on the side of gravel mountain road, hoping for just a minute of rest, but NOPE! Vic’tah snatched me up off the ground, yelling at me to keep going while some other runners encouraged me to just get to the mile 81 aid station (NoName Ridge).

The sun came out and started to roast us down, but also made for some gorgeous views of the jagged Cascade Mountain Range. We were above the clouds in some spots and you could see this beautiful, fluffy cloud floor below that looked so comfortable I fantasized about running and diving over the edge of the mountain and sleeping for a month on the comfy clouds.

Pitiful, huh?

At mile 81, I laid down on an Army cot for 6 minutes.

It did nothing for me.

Nice to see Laura Houston. A familiar face.

Time to keep moving.

Finding ways to compensate for pain

Here it comes…

Some of the most difficult terrain in the entire 100-mile race was next – The Cardiac Needles and the climb to Thorpe Mountain …and in my case, the descent to French Cabin.

At this point, I had developed a knee issue that was preventing me from running downhill – while this sucked royally since downhills are where you can really make up time, the knee was fine climbing steep uphills. I’d simply have to switch the natural strategy and try to charge up the climbs and go easy on the downs …not a pretty scenario for 80+ miles in, but necessary none-the-less.

After some pleasant and beautiful sunny sections of rolling single-track, the first of five (5) Cardiac Needles appears. There is nothing you can do but put your head down, laugh at the ridiculousness of the grade, and march up the beeeeyatch as slowly and carefully as you can. One small stumble, slippage or lean in the wrong direction and you could be rolling backwards like an avalanche.

Afterwards, more nice trail with great views …and of course, more nasty Needles to climb.

Lots of drastic descents testing my thresholds for pain.

Lots of drastic ascents testing the conditioning of my heart.

Those Needles are laughable.


At least they are relatively short climbs. Long miles at this grade might just wreck a dude for life.

The Thorpe tease

Talk about a let down.

You feel like you’ve done something. “Nice, I hear voices, I made it here faster than I expected…”


Instead, you get to wave to the aid station volunteers as you begin a steep ascent on a scree-like, technical trail at a ridiculous grade, for at least the distance of a couple of football fields, …grab a piece of unique paper that proves you went to the top, …and return down that steep, ridiculous grade to hand in the paper to the race volunteers and get your aid.

84 miles in. Tired and sleepy and trashed.

Downhills hurt the knees, forcing me to employ some silly-looking, fast-falling-walk that looks like I am throwing myself down the trail and my rag-doll legs are bobbin’ and weavin’ below me at an unsustainable, wobbly pace.

Like a mall-walker on acid.

Chafe is at raw-skin stage and the compression-like shorts are sticking to my exposed flesh. The blisters have become so big, I can move my foot inside the shoe and redistribute the fluid to different parts of the blister. Gnarly, huh?

Oh well, only 16 miles to go – just’a little more than a “half-marathon”… well, plus a road 5K, plus…

Cussing the trail

More steep Needle climbs, more ridges, more beautiful scenery…at this point I am in total, head-down, grind-it-out, don’t-talk mode where all I can think about is the finish.

The quintessential “death march” that everyone tries to avoid.

The tree-covered ridge running opens up to a drastic, sun-exposed, technical and dusty descent down a mountain to the French Cabins aid station. The descent just pissed me off because I felt like the trail gods knew that my knee hurt, and they just wanted to keep compounding the challenges. What’s the matter with those guys?

After taking it out on my pacer for most of the drop, we finally arrived.

88 miles in – 12 more to go.

Is this White River?


This 6-7 mile section was awesome. Next to the PCT sections, it was the most runnable; but besides that, the trail was gorgeous, old-growth-like blow-down with lots of rushing water and a cinematic, prehistoric feel.

I love trail like that. I appreciate the sport most during these times as opposed to marching up gravel jeep roads.

I was able to find some legs (and some kahones), and finally start to run again in bits and pieces.

Since it was rolling with a soft surface, I sucked it up and actually gained a lot of time over what would have happened had I walked it in totally. It felt good to run and for awhile there, I looked like I was coming back all the way.

But a nasty, 1.5 mile technical descent to the last aid station would hammer the knee to a point where I had to do the falling-walk thing again to endure the drastic grade into that last aid station.

Physically, arriving at the last aid station just switched my body off almost completely.

I knew I’d finish – time goals were gone a long time ago – so now, it was just getting there, and Vic’tah and I set off for the little town of Easton, Washington.

5.5 miles to go…


I was so pitiful.

Disappointed in yourself kind of pitiful.

Head bobbin, feet shufflin’ pitiful.

Vic’tah tried to get me to run. I’d shuffle 25 yards, and just shut-down.

“I can’t do it, man”, “I’m done.”

I was looking forward to finally getting to the long, straight road into Easton. I thought for sure I’d be able to kick it in and finish strong.


The road ate up my hips (?) and I found myself just hobbling. Bad knee, terrible blisters, painful chafe (frontside and backside) and now, a little hip action to keep things fun.

A broken man.

Standing and staring at 29:44

Christian finishes the 2009 Cascade Crest 100-mile trail race

I ran the last 100 yards in the most pain I’ve ever felt running ultras.

I heard Charlie call my name and say, “and coming all the way from Georgia…”, and I knew it was finally over.

I finished.

And even though I was sweating my time the whole race, I came in well under 30 under hours, taking over 9 hours off my first 100-mile race, and with a beat and battered body that had to power-hike a majority of the last 27 miles.

What a race!

What a beast of a course!

What an experience all the way around!

What a helpful crew, phenomenal pacer and great group of runners!

Everything that I experienced over that 100-mile adventure, that 29 hours, all came rushing into my brain at once and I almost passed out…

…right there, under the finish line banner.

I just sorta’ stood there. Wobbly. Looking at the clock.

A couple of others grabbed me, put me in a chair, plunked my feet in some cold water, covered me with a blanket and fed me some soup and fluids for a good hour.

And, there I sat, watching other runners come in, some needing medical attention, but most with giant grins on their faces and a thick ol’ belt buckle held tightly in their dirty hands.

I slept with my belt buckle that night.


The learning chapter

So, what did I learn in this one?

Here’s the advice I would give anyone who is considering this race:

  1. Go easy on the very first climb to Goat Peak. You’ll hear this a lot but if you’re like me it might take some reinforcement. Here’s your reinforcement. It’s hard and it never ends where you think it ends.
  2. Early in the race, the best spot to make up time, or put a little in the bank, is during the early PCT sections. Once you enter the PCT, the trail is rolling and gorgeous and fast for about 15 miles.
  3. Expect many challenges. You get your money’s worth – Cascade Crest throws a little of everything at you over the 100-mile race course including:
    • Very long climbs & descents
    • Very steep climbs & descents
    • Bush-wacking
    • Just enough road to hurt
    • Gravel jeep road
    • Lots o’ rocks
    • Sketchy obstacles (the log over a stream towards the end of Trail from Hell could have killed me if I would have slipped)
    • Hot sections
    • Cold sections
    • Scree running
  4. The second half of the race is really, truly harder than the front half. Take heed or ignore – but it is.
  5. Run with a long-sleeved, windbreaker type jacket, tied around your waist. You never know when you’ll need it at higher elevations, and at night, it makes all the difference in the world.
  6. It gets dark early, and light late in those mountain woods. Bring extra batteries for your headlamp.
  7. In my opinion, you can run this race with two bottles. I was glad I chose not to wear, and did not have to lug, a hydration backpack.
  8. Take a least some time to absorb the scenery. The PNW is incredible and the Cascades take it up a notch.

Thanks Charlie.

Thank you volunteers.

Thank you Vic’tah and Patrick and Betsy and Jon Yoon …and anyone else that touched me through this experience.

That’s the thing about 100s – it’s hard to do without others – and it’s an “experience” much more than a race.

September 19, I go for 101 miles.

Full speed ahead.