Sweeping at the Cascade Crest 100 Miler

On August 30, Finn and I - along with two friends - swept the last 20 miles of the Cascade Crest Classic 100 Mile Trail Race. It starts and finishes at Easton, WA, near Snoqualmie Pass. The last 20 miles feature several very difficult climbs and descents, incredible views of Rainier and other peaks, meadows, trees, streams...and dust. It's been a dry summer.

Our day started with a ride to the 80 miles aid station at No Name. Finn sat on my lap in the front of Michael and Tamara Cartwright's aging small pickup; I have bruises where his rear foot toenails dug into my thighs!

These aid stations are set up roughly every five miles along the entire course, to cater to runners' whims and needs for food and fluids. As sweeps, we're the last ones through, so the aid stations can pack up and go home when they provide us with whatever food and drink is left. These aid stations make this an ideal run to bring a dog on, because there's always water every few miles, in addition to whatever natural water we find along the way. Often some leftover turkey or PB&J sandwiches, too. The aid station volunteers completely doted on Finn and he soaked up the attention.

We got onto the trail shortly before noon. Our job was to pull all the orange engineering tape used for trail ribbons, and several glow sticks that helped runners navigate the route in the dark. Hundred mile trail runs take most of the runners 24 hours or more (the cut off for this race is 36 hours, I think; it started before sun-up the day before). Tracy Brown's holding several pulled markers. Finn's wanting us to keep moving.

The air was a little hazy from nearby wild fire smoke. Luckily, prevailing breezes blew it away from us, and I never noticed it as we made our way down the trail.

Tamara demonstrating her technique for carrying the pulled glow sticks and markers: a grocery bag tied to the cross strap of her water pack, like a bib!

Finn refusing to pose nicely at the top of a climb that opened up to a gorgeous vista.

A little better. This spot was at roughly 90 miles for the racers, ten miles for us. We's just finished climbing through the Cardiac Needles and up to Thorpe Mountain where there's a forest service lookout. I think at this spot we were at about 7000 feet in elevation. I'm amazed the racers can do this; even on our fresh legs this is a tough climb on technical trail.

Me and Finn, looking east, same spot. We just kept getting these awesome vistas. Oh, and did I mention we practically inhaled ripe huckleberries in several spots along the trail? Yum. Finn didn't seem to care for them. I was wishing Maia and Meadow were with us; Meadow LOVES huckleberries and has learned to pick them right off the shrub. Maia and Meadow have joined me sweeping this section at least twice in the past, maybe three times, before we moved to Idaho. In fact, several of the aid station people who come back every year didn't recognize me because I didn't have "the wolves" with me (and my hair is a lot longer)!

I took this photo of Finn actually lying in the trail primarily because I'm not sure I've ever seen him do this! I had to attend to business (pee) just off the trail (this was a section of trail cutting across a steep slope, so no room to move far off trail). Finn patiently waited for me. Usually, though, he would pace back and forth, investigate off trail nearby. Not this time. I began to worry if he was tired or overheated, as it was a warm day and our pace was slow taking down markers; we'd been out about three hours at this point and were just approaching the half way point of our 20 miles.

Later, I decided Finn was just being a smart herder and conserving his energy. He never showed signs of tiring, and in fact, when we got to a section of meadow with several stream crossings about 13 miles into our run, he would drink and lie down in the water, then spring out and dash about as if he was just starting his run!

We had a great time, spending just over six hours on the trail. What a wonderful way to spend the day!