July and August of this year I have some incredible adventures planned. For training, each month, I plan to have have a big stepping stone training goal along the way. March: Issy Alsp 100M. Planned out a few years back by George Orozco, only five people have finished the route taking you through the high peaks of North Bend and the foothills of Issaquah. I expect this year will see a lot more attempts, so I’ve included a “trail conditions” report at the end of this for those people giving it a go.
Part 1: North Bend peaks (first 50K)
Stuke Sowle met up with my crew, Arya Farahani, and me at Mailbox and we started at 6:43am Wednesday morning. Clear days and highs in the 60s awaited us; couldn’t have asked for better weather. Mailbox was a great start to the day, with a 2:10 round trip, admittedly a little fast probably. After meeting up with Arya again at the car, I made good time through the Middle Fork and up to the base of Teneriffe. Arya was at Teneriffe TH and I reloaded for the next 14 mile rough section. This was the only portion I had never been on before, so it was exciting to bag a new summit on the way. There was a lot more snow on Teneriffe than I expected and it slowed me down quite a bit (postholing to the summit!). Thankfully there was one set of footsteps to follow since I hadn’t been there before. Coming off on the road for the next three flat “road miles” turned into a slow hike dealing with the six feet of snow. Felt quite good to finally run again once I descended out of the snow and met Arya at the turnoff to the Talus Loop Trail, where he had hiked in a few things. Climb up Si
was uneventful but fun, still feeling pretty good. And you can’t go up Si without nailing the Haystack (condition dependent), even if it’s not part of the route! After coming down the old trail, I definitely underestimated Little Si. After the three big peaks, Little Si seems so easy in my mind, but it definitely still took a good effort to bop over to it when you’re already so close to crew access at the TH. The first 50k took me much longer than I expected, and I definitely had underestimated just how hard it was! Thinking about it, half of the overall IA100M elevation (13000′) was in the first 25 miles (to the top of Si). That left 13000′ for the next 75 miles…..on tired legs. I would recommend this first 50k section to anyone, it’s a great run in it’s own right!
I scarfed down a double quarter pounder, strawberry milkshake, and a piece of pizza from Van Phan (three previous IA100M finishes and the women’s FKT holder!) at Little Si and took off for six flat road miles to Rattlesnake Lake. Will Thomas joined up and regaled me with tales of trails up Rattlesnake Ledge (his old backyard, virtually) while we climbed.
The Lost Hiker
You never know what you’re going to stumble across when you head into the backcountry. That’s part of the excitement. I never expected to find a lost hiker on the top of Rattlesnake Ridge. Around 11pm, I’m rolling downhill at a good clip when I hear a voice shouting out in front of me. After hearing about the crazy dude who built a bunker on Rattlesnake Ridge and then killed his family, I was a little wary at first of other people out in the middle of the night around here. Finally I made out he was lost. He introduced himself and explained he had started hiking at 4pm from the north side, got caught out past dark with no headlamp, food, or water, shorts and a tshirt, and a dying cell phone. He tried sticking to the trail, but lost it and made the good decision to stay put instead of wandering around more and travelling farther
away from the trail. I found him maybe 100′ off the trail where he had decided to “bed” down for the night and wait for morning. He would have survived the night, but it would have been one of the more miserable nights of his life probably. I didn’t have an extra headlamps I could give him, and he was in no condition to run, so I had to figure out a way to get him down to his car at the north TH. The problem was, the IA100M route cuts off the ridge awhile before the TH, and I really didn’t want to add another 1000′ to my elevation total. Thankfully Arya and me talked it out and we figured out the plan for Arya to climb up to us and escort him down, and I would walk the hiker down the next two miles to the intersection. It all worked out as planned, and the hiker kept apologizing and listened with attentive ears as I explained the “ten essentials” to him.
Part 3: The long night and day
Usually the night portions are my strongest. I enjoy running at night, the cool air, the dark deep woods surrounding you. But lately I’ve just been a sleepy putz during nights. The Hwy 18 connector takes you through some goat trails and confusing twists turns. Arya, Ryan, and Maudie had the best aid station waiting for me with glow sticks, party music, and lots of candy. Right before and right after are river crossings, so I knew I would be wet for the next couple of hours. Maudie joined me for the next 14 miles, which turned out to be my worst. The section started off with some excitement as we crossed Deep Creek. During my scouting trip, I slipped in the calf deep water multiple times and was soaked head to toe. I was much more cautious time crossing, and then heard splashing and screaming from Maudie behind me. Assuming she too had slipped, I turn around to see if she’s okay. What I see is Maudie sprinting towards me screaming “Salmon!! I stepped on a Salmon, it’s coming for me!” I look into the water and see a two foot long salmon flip flopping around right where she came from. I wouldn’t believe this if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes…..
The rest of the run to High Point was a blur of sleep deprived fogginess. I kept asking Maudie if I could sleep, just for one minute, and she kept saying no. My legs felt fine, but I just could not stay away. I turned into a zombie on my feet, falling asleep while walking and wandering off the trail only to wake up as I stumbled into the woods. After an impromptu dance party at the summit of East Tiger, we got a lot of good running in to keep me awake to High Point. The sleep monster kept attacking up West Tiger 3 and into the wee morning hours, despite a 15 minute nap in the back of Arya’s car at High Point.
The next morning and afternoon turned was mostly uneventful as the sleep monster faded into sun and I was able to run again more. Tiger, Squak, Cougar, all went quite well as the sun warmed me up and old/new friends came out to do some miles with me. Will Thomas came out again, as I met some future IA100M runners including Jay Leahy, Scott Hodukavich, and Tracy Brown. Arya got some miles out with me too on the Cougar Loop! I really started to enjoy myself again once I was fully awake and really appreciate how everyone had came out in droves to support the run. It says a lot about our trail and ultra community here in the PNW. It still amazes me that things like this fun challenge are right in my backyard, and so easy to take advantage of. When I lived in Iowa, this would have been the best run of my life; now it’s a stepping stone the two huge projects I have coming up this summer.
I ended up with a time of 31 hours and 17 minutes, which is the longest I have ever been on my feet during a run. Admittingly, I thought I would be a few hours less, but things happen. I am still quite pleased with the time and the effort, and happy I felt good during the whole thing! I couldn’t have done it without Arya crewing me every step of the way, or without Maudie during those rough overnight sections.
Part 4: Trail Conditions
I had scouted out most sections of the route previous to the run and that paid in huge dividends. There are so many trail intersections that can trip you up in Tiger, and the Hwy 18 corridor is not terrible, but hitting it for the first time in the dark after 50 miles would be pretty harsh. If you do nothing else for scouting, park at the north side of Rattlesnake, run up the ridge, down the powerline sections to the Raging River, and through Tiger to High Point and get a car shuttle back to Rattlesnake. It’s a 20 mile run that is the most crucial for navigation in the dark.
Granite Creek was in great condition, easy navigation and no blow downs. The Mountain to Sounds crew has decommissioned the old trail that descended from Granite Creek Trail back to the Middle Fork, and is building a beautiful new wide path that is a pure joy to run down. The trail was “closed” at the bottom but had no signs up top, and they didn’t seem to mind that I was out on the trail. Coming up the Sitka Spruce Trail is one of my favorites. Sun is hitting you on a beautiful little ridge as you climb.
Still about six feet of snow on Teneriffe; it will slow you down for sure. However, I still don’t think microspikes or an ice axe would have helped any (I didn’t bring any). In relation to the whole section, it’s such a short period you would want to use them, it’s not worth carrying them.
There are a lot of mountain bike trails just off Rattlesnake Ridge to navigate through. Raging River was about mid thigh deep; poles would have been nice to have. Deep Creek right after the Raging River isn’t as deep, but filled with ball bearings underfoot and incredibly slippery. Also the trail has eroded away and there’s a six foot drop off to jump into Deep Creek. Trail is pretty overgrown with thorns coming up out of Deep Creek onto Tiger.
Trails the rest of the way in Tiger, Squak, and Cougar were in great condition, just hard to navigate with so many intersecting trails. There is one spot in Cougar on the Deceiver Trail where the actual trail veers off the .gpx data from Caltopo. Right near the finish, the old route to High Point has been closed so there’s a small detour on the Swamp Trail there.