I now have by second 100 miler under my belt. My last 100 miler was the HURT100 in 2003. After that run, I was a complete mess. My hydration was non-existent, I didn’t know what to do with electrolytes, and I never grasped the importance of eating. Even though I finished the HURT100 in 2003, I was mentally and physically drained by the effort; I even had to go to the ER the next morning to receive 5 liters of fluid. I contemplated never running another 100 miler again.
In May 2007, I was on a training run with Jeff Huff. He mentions that he is going to do the Plain 100 in September. (I had heard about this run previously from Don Fallis, but I dismissed it because I didn’t want to suffer like I did back in 2003.) Jeff was looking for someone to join him on the run because he said this run is better when you do it as a team. I immediately thought to myself this would be a great opportunity to learn from one of the HURT legends and become an ultra-runner again.
The format of the Plain 100, for those who are not familiar, is an unsupported unmarked 110 mile course through the Central Cascade mountains. You get 1 drop bag at 60 miles. This means everything you need to survive you must carry and you must also be able to read a map and not have any hesitation about drinking water from a mountain stream. Runners must check in at Search and Rescue stations throughout the course to make sure that a bear or cougar hasn’t eaten you along the way.
The HURT contingent for Plain 100 would consist of Jeff Huff, Luis
Escobar, and me. We would later pick up Les Mignery, who in 2005 got
lost a mile before the finish with Bob Murphy and did not finish. I
was very fortunate to be running with these 3 guys. Each of these 3
guys brought something important to the race. Jeff Huff finished this
race in 2005 and 2006. Jeff’s understanding of the course would make
the rest of the team’s run so much easier. Luis is a well known
experienced Ultra-marathoner with many difficult races under this
belt. Les Mignery is an avid outdoors man and really strong uphill
The first half of the run, Jeff’s superior knowledge of the course was
absolutely essential. He told us exactly where to turn and when to
fill our water bottles. The only thing we had to do was follow Jeff
and success would be ours. The course matched up well with my
strengths the first 20 miles. It was pretty much all uphill. After we
hit Klone Peak the next 12 to 15 miles was completely downhill. By the
end of this descent I had developed a severe pounding in my left knee.
The pain was so bad at one point, I started to think to myself that I
was going to have to drop from the race. At the end of this long
descent we had to climb about 4600 feet in 6 miles to the top of Signal
Peak at about 6800 feet.
I never moved so slowly up a climb before in my life. My knee was
screaming for relief. Jeff knew I was in great pain and offered me
some ibuprofen. Many of you know that I am anti-ibuprofen due to its
effect of kidney function in ultra-runners who are not well hydrated.
I had to put my understanding of the side effects aside and go for some
much needed pain relief. I felt the ibuprofen wouldn’t cause me
problems because I was urinating about every 30 minutes up to the time
I took the ibuprofen so I was pretty certain I was going to be fine.
Eventually, the pain subsided at about mile 40 and I was ready to
conquer this course.
Jeff, Luis, and I all ran well from the top of Signal Peak until we
reached our drop bags at mile 60. We complete the first 60 miles in
about 16 hours. Over this first 60 miles I consumed 20 packets of GU,
6 servings of mashed potatoes (thanks Marion, they worked great), 24
ounces of Ensure High Protein, 140 ounces of GU2O, 140 ounces of
Succeed Clip 2, and 90 ounces of plain water. This worked out to about
5500 calories. All these calories allowed me to stay focused and
mentally alert for the second half of the journey which was about to
After changing shoes and socks, lubing up the chaff prone areas,
borrowing a patella tendon knee strap from Luis for my sore knee,
brushing my teeth and putting on some cold weather gear for the long,
cold evening to come, we moved forward. Within a 1/2 mile of leaving
our drop bags, Jeff began to get sick. Jeff insisted on continuing to
go though and so we went. Jeff showed some really strong character
throughout the next 20 miles. He was in such pain but he wanted to get
the rest of us through the nighttime portion of this run.
Luis and Les caught the sleep bug so we needed to stop twice for sleep
breaks. I had this problem when I did the HURT100 in 2003 and I was
determined for this not to happen to me. To prevent it, I took a
caffeine pill at our drop bags and switched my GU from Lemon-Lime
(Caffeine Free) to Chocolate (Contains Caffeine). I was completely
wired during the nighttime portion of the run.
We eventually made our way to Chikamin Tie at mile 80 at 8 a.m. Jeff
decided that he could no longer handle the discomfort of the nausea and
vomiting and decided to turn in his number. We had lost a lot of time
during the evening and would have a lot of running to do to make the
cut off. The race director told us that if we wanted to finish the
next 30 miles before the 36 hours cut-off that we would need to run all
the flats and down hills. That was scary to me since my legs were
starting to get really sore. To make matters worse, we lost our
navigator to illness. I was beginning to feel a bit nervous.
Luis, Les and I reluctantly left Jeff at Chikamin Tie and began the
next segment of our journey. Everyone says the second half of the
course is far easier. I think they are correct although it is still
difficult because in our case we were tired and sore so it felt just as
difficult to me.
Les told Luis and I to run ahead because he needed to use the side of
the trail. He said he would catch up later. Unfortunately, we
wouldn’t see Les again until the finish line. After climbing out of
Chikamin Tie through the scree mountain we reached the top of Alder
Ridge. I miss read the map and thought that we would only have to go
4.5 miles to the bottom once we hit the top of Alder Ridge. Boy was I
After Luis and I ran down the ridge non-stop for over 1 hour I started
to worry about how far the ridge really was. Well, it turned out that
this down hill was over 11 miles long. Half way through the downhill
Luis and I were both exhausted from all the downhill pounding from the
past 30 hours so we decided to walk. We eventually made our way to the
bottom of Alder Ridge where we got turned around a bit. Luis and I
eventually agreed on the direction we needed to go and began the last 8
miles our journey.
I was started to get nervous about making the cut-off and pestered Luis
to start running. Luis ran really fast for 20 minutes straight. I
thought I was going to pass out from the pain I was feeling during this
run although I knew we needed to do this to finish on time. Well after
we finished the 20 minute sprint, I looked at my clock again and
realized that I was only adding 2 hours to HST instead of 3. We had 1
more hour than I thought. Luis didn’t seem upset that I made him run
that hard unnecessarily although he later teased me about my time
At the end of the 20 minute sprint we found ourselves at Goose Creek
Campground (I think this is where Bob Murphy got lost previously).
Luis and I wandered around there for 10 minutes before I realized after
looking at the map that we were looking for the trail on the wrong side
of the road. We found the trail and we were off to the finish.
Luis and I walked the rest of the way. We both could have continued
running although we really wanted to finish with Les so we walked
really slow and Luis gave me a history lesson on the origins of
ultra-running in the US. We also stopped several times to clean the
dirt out of our shoes. Unfortunately, Les never caught up.
We crossed the finish line at 34 hours and 49 minutes. But we both
waited anxiously for Les to finish. We were all quite happy when our
final teammate finished at 35 hours and 27 minutes.
The special thing about Plain is the Team concept. You don’t have to
be apart of a team, but it’s certainly easier and safer to have someone
out there with you when you are trying to conquer the Cascade
Mountains. I was fortunate to have 3 great guys out there with me
during this adventure. Every one of them, Jeff, Luis, and Les,
contributed something to my successful finish and I will be forever
grateful to them for their help.
There are many lessons I learned from this run. Nutrition is key. I
ate so much better on this run than I did in HURT100 2003. I consumed
nearly 8000 calories throughout the run and I urinated every 30 minutes
during the first half of the course and at least every 60 minutes
during the second half. I also know the value of a Patella Tendon
Strap thanks to Luis, and how important it is to have some small
survival tools with you such as a pen knife (I had to use Les’ knife to
scrape the dust out of my shoes).
All in all, I had a fantastic time and I hope I will have the
opportunity to share the joys and challenges of the Plain course with
other members of HURT in the future.
I now own a much coveted PLAIN 100 rock and I am now an
ultra-marathoner again. THANK YOU, JEFF FOR REINVIGORATING MY LOVE FOR
"Run or Get Fat"