Monday, May 26, 2008

North Bend to Vantage, Or Thereabouts

This weekend I did NB2V, sponsored by Shawn L. and family. NB2V stands for North Bend to Vantage, which is 108 mile jaunt total, on an old railroad grade trail, named the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Later, it is called the Iron Horse Trail. John Wayne wasn’t a pioneer in any sense that I know. Re-routing was necessary this year, because of avalanche danger on the trail at Snoqualmie Pass. So, the start was moved back, and after 19 or so miles in, participants had to catch a ride over Snoqualmie Pass, to start again at the Fire Station in Easton (start/finish line of the Cascade Crest 100). This made the official mileage for the event 90 miles.
My crew was Kaitlan and Dick, Shawn’s sister and boyfriend. I don’t know if they knew what they were getting into, but they were absolutely terrific. We loaded up the vehicle with a cooler and a few different bags of shoes and clothes. I would meet them at pre-arranged locations—they had their directions, I had mine. The splits varied widely—anywhere from 5 to 19 miles.
The run started at 6:30 AM Saturday morning. I’d say there were about 12 runners, and then some bikers. Maybe 7 or 8 runners were going for the whole distance. Long runners included Arthur, TC, Ray G., Shawn L., Tim L., me, Ryan from Klamath, Jane H—that’s probably it. There were a bunch of bikers, but once gone, they were gone gone. The crews were equal size to the runners, so in total, 25 or so participants, maybe.
It didn’t take long for everyone to spread out. I never saw the fast people after mile 3, but I heard second hand via cell phone reports about their adventures. The first 19 were up through the Snoqualmie Valley—slight upgrade of a trail, usually covered, lots of railroad trestle crossings. I ate a Subway sandwich—cold cut combo--and a potato, with salt.
At McClellan Butte, I caught a ride to Easton with Dick and Kaitlan. Easton was hot. Really hot. I don’t do well with heat. I went with a Seattle sombrero, shades, and a paint can full of sunscreen. I looked like a dork. 11 miles to the next stop. I got killed by the sun, despite my best efforts. Even if you’re not burning, the sun seems to just drain the blood out of the arms, the face, and the stomach gets tight—sun is tough. Next time—popsicles, or otter pops. Ray, Jane’s husband, parked his trailer halfway, which was a saving grace for aid in this leg. It was all I could do to make the next aid station, at South Cle Elum.
I hung out in Cle Elum for 45 minutes, trying decide if I should call it a day at 50k. I was ready to drop, physically and mentally. The next leg was 18.6 miles with no aid, and my left Achilles was feeling awful—a real injury risk. Still, I switched shoes, walked around a bit, chattered with the crews. Finally, I said whatever, filled three bottles, and set off. It’s an ultra running thing.
As it turned out, the next 18 went great. The goal was to make it to Thorp, at a meetplace near the I-90 Thorp fruit stand. Life got easier. The sky clouded up, cooling things off a bit. I shuffled to country. The trail continued to be flat, passing over and by the Yakima River on occasion. There were horses. There were cows. Sage, dandelions, and gravel. Endless gravel. I also had some ranger danger—this friendly ranger drove up, sweeping the trail, and he told me I needed to get off the trail, as the “park” (all 108 miles of it?) closed at dusk. He had Ryan in the front seat—no room for me. I was mentally out of it (48 miles in at this point), and so I told him all about my plans to go to Vantage, and said there was a bunch of us doing the same thing. Duh. Not my brightest moment. He looked at me funny. Still, he let me finish the leg, as long as I'd then cease and desist. Agreed. He drove off.
When I got to Thorp, I really didn’t know what I was going to do---it’s been a long time since I’ve played dodge the cop. It was an even 50 miles at that point, so stopping had plenty of appeal. My crew was again awesome. Dick said not to believe the ranger---the ranger was just doing his job, and he probably didn’t really care. Spoken like a 20 year old. I decided again to chance it, and maybe dive into a bush if I needed too. Off I went. It got dark. The next stop was Ellensburg. The rain, which had begun earlier, started falling harder. There was a long white bridge, a skunk, and dogs barking at me. I could see for miles on the flats, I-90 in the distance. Sometimes I’d pass a house and see a television on, and it looked so nice inside. The rain was getting cold.
At Ellensburg, Kaitlan and Dick were again out of the car in a flash, encouraging me. Finishing had to happen now—only 30 some miles to go! I knew I’d get through it, one way or another. After a potato and a Frap (Frapotato?), I was off, hiking with Ray G. for a while. (Ray bought Haggen Daz in Ellensburg—few trail ultras go past two 7-11s.) I kept my light off most of the time, as it wasn’t really necessary. The rocks on the trail got bigger, and my feet were blistering, big toes and heels. Farmland on both sides of the trail. Rain getting heavier, Marmot Precip activated. The next meetup place was Kittitas, maybe at 1 AM. I kept wondering how/why my crew could put up with this silliness. I did bring them dvds to watch (including “Happy Feet”), but I don’t think they watched them.
Kittitas was a blur. After Kittitas, things got blurrier. It was pouring rain, and there was lightning, and it was 2 or 3 AM, and I had been at this for 20 some hours. I started hiking into some hills, real coyote country. The instructions said we were supposed to make a turn to cross the freeway, before the railroad trestle that crosses I-90, as the trestle is impassable. Ray G. even pointed this out to me, before leaving Kittitas. Even so, somehow I missed the turn—I was looking for a white gate, and kept going three miles, almost to the I-90 trestle. I shouldn’t have missed the turn, and I should’ve figured things out sooner, but I was out of it. My Achilles was tight, I was peeing within a minute after drinking anything, and I felt slightly feverish. Finally, I sat on a rock, read the instructions, sucked it up, turned around, and hiked back. Three more miles, out of the way.
Finally, I made Army West, the final meetup place, and the Crew. I decided to call it there, at mile 75 for me, TOD 5:15 AM---a self-imposed cut-off. Sometimes you gotta know when to say when. If I had kept going, I’d probably still be going, or maybe vulture meat. I know I could’ve made it—I can always make it, but nothing about continuing made sense. I feel really good about it.
Afterwards, we drove over to the Vantage parking lot. Arthur was in already, but we got to see Tim and Shawn finish. Ray finished, I’m sure, but I left a little before that. We all walked and talked in a fog, having been up all night. Kind of had to be there. We were all whupped. Another do-gooder ranger came by, and after some not-so-stern questioning, he let us go in peace. Jon drove me back to North Bend, and from there I made it home on caffeine and moxie. Sometimes small is better, and I don’t think it gets much better than a shared challenge like this.

The Crew

The Runner

The Race Director

The Speed

The Overlook

The Sights


Andrew Taylor said...

Came the other way by bike from Thorp to Cle Elum and saw several (all?) of you chugging up the trail in the late afternoon. We'd met a member of your crew/relay runner in South Cle Elum in the morning and were amazed by the whole enterprise.

Congratulations to all.


Jon said...

Good to know you made it home! I don't know about you, but my sleep clock is still a bit wonky since that weekend...although I'm sure it doesn't help blogging at 2am when I was putting together my post.

And Concrete to Winthrop? How long is that?!

shawn said...

"Small is better"... I like the way you finshed out your report. It is definitely meant to be an adventure among friends and nothing more official. Any more people and the Ranger Danger could have been the end of us.

Thanks for being so good to Kaitlan and Dick - they REALLY had fun and thought you were the cream of the crop.

I saw the same lightning you did - as I huddled under a tree, totally just making it from one napping spot to the next. The whole time I kept expecting you to come across me hiding in the bushes and kept looking for your light. You made a smart move...I was cursing myself for not turning around with Tony.

It was fun hanging out afterwards too...the best part of it all for me. So, thanks for being there and sharing the weekend.

So, I'm thinking we could have NB2V Presents Vantage to Spokane! (or C2W?) I hear the trail continues on the other side of the river. Sound fun? Not yet?

Hope you are recovering well. See you soon!

King Arthur said...

Great post! I love that last picture. Sometimes all you see is what's right in front of your feet.

Backofpack said...

I met you on the trail - we were the ones going 19.5 that day. (I'm Michelle, the, um, slightly older than 22 year old one). Sounds like you did great! When we left (Steve and Bob, Sydnee and I) you were in your new shoes, testing out the Achilles. We wondered whether you'd go on, so glad to hear you did! Congrats on a great run and a great report!

GotLegs! said...

Scotty, nice report. I read through everyone's report and it's interesting to see from each set of eyes. I ran with Arthur and Shawn a couple of times and our views during the same run/same part of the course is quite different. All good ... it was ALL good!

Hope to see you out there soon!