Mt. Rainier Asked us to Leave

I feel like trail running is all about having a conversation with your natural environment, whether it’s a mountain, plateau, steppe, or even, a desert… It’s just a few moments, or more likely, several hours, where we get to learn about said mountain, not at all too different from when someone invites us over for dinner. At that best of times, it opens up to you, and you to it, you have a great time together, and you begin to understand one another.

Other times, you fight.

For Mt. Rainier and I this past weekend, our first conversation was like getting kicked out of the dinner party.

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The plan for the 3 Day Funathon was stellar, we were going to circumnavigate Rainier on the Wonderland trail, and the best part of all was our team set-up, Adam organized this amazing “crew” team who were on board to help us move camp to the ~50k running destination each day. That meant, no need to pack light enough to run with a pack, or run with the [still heavy] pack, and no need to pay someone else to mule our shit around. It meant there was more money, and room, for fine wines and craft beer, and a fun group of people to form a trail party.

Of course, Rainier was the star guest of the party, but he (for some reason masculine) didn’t feel like partying I guess, because we were kicked out by the first evening of our 3-day funathon.

runners rainier

the runners, people who enjoy 50k as a vacation day

The day started around 4:45am, then we flung ourselves around the first 35 miles of our route, from Longmire to Mowich Lake. While most people were running in a fairly chill demeanor, I decided  to smash back the miles more steadily so I could hit up the camp party more quickly. Adam suggested the route taking 12 hours, which I decided to disregard, favouring 9. I couldn’t wait to hang out with our crew!

The minute I get back we are being evicted: Mt Rainier is starting a fight. Our crew had gone on a 3 mile run to Spray Park, and one member was seriously injured. Search and rescue was being notified just as I arrived home from my run. Rainier didn’t want to play, it wanted us the hell out. For the next 14 hours stretching through the night we helped search and rescue transport our amazing, courageous friend to another party scenario– an ambulance, then a hospital room with disco ball.

crew rainier

our crew on their run to Spray Park!

What happened?! A friend of ours, who is a trained mountaineer who had just climbed the whole damn mountain a few weeks earlier, went a few feet up loose rock off-trail to reach a ledge, for the endless quest to get a better picture. The three other crew girls waited below– they knew she was trained and capable. But within a few seconds trees were moving above, there was a faint noise in the air, and our friend appeared on the ground above them– with a huge, fright-inducing head laceration… We learned later that her bag strap got caught on the tree, at the same time as her left foot stepped on unstable rock, sending her flying down rock with several touchpoints. Ouch.

She was conscious, but it was tricky to access her up on the ledge, and due to the deep gash on her forehead, people weren’t sure whether she had head trauma. Two stayed on the scene to administer first aid, and one crew member ran back down the trail to get more help.

That’s precisely when I arrived, all gleeful from my run, and ready to party! This state of mind proved very useful, because apparently we were just getting a rescue party organized.

getting dark

the mountain was becoming dark as the accident escalated… scary mountain!

There was no cell reception in Rainier, so we were lucky that Mowich Lake had a backcountry ranger around. Even though he was off-duty, John and his poor girlfriend radio’d and alerted Tacoma Search and Rescue, who deployed their “A Team”. As all seven people came in from the run, we sent out troupes to the scene to deliver warm clothes and food, until the Tacoma Search and Rescue team came and elevated the whole situation, about four hours later. Unfortunately darkness came and slowed things down, and the operations of getting someone into a “litter” (human wheelbarrow) and then hauling them up and down technical trail– are quite slow.

We were so lucky … that there was a ranger around with a functioning radio, that our crew members at the scene had wilderness first aid training with basic supplies on them, that we had tons of warm clothes and food because we were camping, and most of all, that we had a big team full of smart, selfless people, many of whom were trained in hospital or wilderness first aid settings. Due to allof these things we managed to get our dear friend out and into a Seattle recovery party, without head or spinal injury, and instead with broken ribs, nose, and knee issues. Party (intense party!) injuries. She’s the most courageous person I’ve met, and the Rescue team declared her their favourite-ever rescue-ee.

Many things were learned this trip, like how a 3-mile run can escalate to 14 hours of rescue, how a daytime sunshine run can become cold, rainy, and dark, andhow the resources of people and gear involved in camping provides the best safety net for an adventure. But most of all, I learned the exponential awesomeness of the community I am part of, the twelve people I am so lucky to call friends. I saw each person rise to the occasion; running any number of miles, giving an endless amount of skills, clothes and food, and sacrificing whatever it took to the higher purpose of the rescue party. Thank you to Aggie, Broeck, Callista, Megan, Jarad, Adam, Tim, Angel, Jeff, Andy, Vivian for being who you are. 🙂

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So, Mt. Rainier kicked us out. We were only slightly disappointed, because we had someplace else (more awesome) to be: we took our crew to the hospital in Seattle, and that joint totally welcomed us– disco-ball, man-in-unitard, tutu-wearing, Snoop-Dog-impersonating, and all…

Broeck + unnamed male wearing pink unitard, delivering hospital spa treatments

Broeck + unnamed male wearing pink unitard, delivering hospital spa treatments

the disco ballroom

the disco ballroom

ummm.... yea....

ummm…. yea….

… time to

1> get wilderness first aid! (If you’d like to take a course with us this fall/winter (2013) in the Vancouver / Seattle areas, email me to get looped in.)

2> donate to your local search and rescue! (If you’d like to come to an event we’ll be hosting in Seattle to support Tacoma Search And Rescue, email me!)

3> pack as though you’ll be out for 10 hours with one other person

4> only hang around really smart people you love and trust in the backcountry

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The Traveling Tutu: Pacing Angel to the Classiest Cascade Crest 100 Miles

Until last weekend, Angel was a friend of a friend. She was this courageous, ballsy woman I had met who was training for her first 100-miler called Cascade Crest 100, even though none of us were ready to face that distance yet. I didn’t know her very well, but I could tell she was one of those people I would make fast friends with, and so I implanted myself into her existing plans. At the Yakima Skyline 50k in April, I told her I’M IN! before she asked, and she assigned me as extra hands to her crew.

Two weeks before the race, Angel’s 2nd pacer, Shamai, decided to get a super-awesome boyfriend and go on the trip of a lifetime river-rafting down in Grand Canyon, which left Angel pondering what to do. She needed someone who would

a) have nothing better to do, ie, no plans in the Grand Canyon,
b) celebrate missing a night of sleep, and;
c) love the idea of running 32 miles with her through the night,to the finish.

She knew I would be up for this kind of nonsense in a heartbeat, and I was. I was stoked, beyond the level of excitement I feel before my own races! I was going to join the dream team of Aggie, Tara, Annie, and Broeke, and I could not wait!

At 6pm the crew/pacer dream team descended upon the mile 47 Olallie Meadows aid station, where we set up a costume-filled dynamic circus-like environment. While runners came in to get fresh perogies and bladders refilled by the awesome Scott Sports crew, we gave them a good time with a hoola-hoop show, led by Annie in her camo onesie and her light-up hoola hoop. A perfect Saturday night!

Annie rocking the hoola hoop party

Annie rocking the hoola hoop party

We did a little show with our hoolas for Angel, then she was off to tackle a supposed section with ropes, and a legendary 3-mile railway tunnel.

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Aggie decides that we’ll have a traveling pacer outfit. She would wear the rainbow tutu for her 20 mile trek with Angel, and then I would get to wear it to delight her, and all other trail champions we meet, for the last 32 miles.

At Kachess Lake, mile 68, Angel comes in looking strong! I’m impressed with how normal Angel looks, even though other people have weird glazy eyes, etc. She looks beautiful! Aggie gives me the colourful tutu, I put it over my gold shorts, and away we go.

race-kit-ready

race-kit-ready

Angel was strong like a champion for the entire 32 miles. She could laugh and smile, and boy could she power up the hills! Honestly, I wouldn’t have climbed any faster on my own short training runs. She could tell stories and listen to mine, even though she was 70, 80, 90 miles in! Inspired by her recent trip to El Camino in Spain, she would eat beautiful chocolate croissants every 20 or so miles, she had fresh baguette sandwiches from her favourite Seattle bakery, and she drank coffee and orange juice. She could happily chat with other runners, most of whom could not chat back. For the 10 hours we ran together, Angel was graceful and happy. Witnessing her beautiful style of nailing it made running a 100 miler look fun (and delicious). Thanks to Glenn Tachiyama, you can join in our moment rocking up Thorpe Mountain!

rocking up Thorpe Mountain, around 85 miles!

rocking up Thorpe Mountain, around 85 miles!

With four-five miles to go, the last aid station came with our beautifully decorated crew. No, Angel did not want salty chips or food, she wanted her pink unitard, which was key to overcoming the ugly highway stretch toward Easton. (She changed into it within eight minutes.)

the dream team

the dream team

We picked up Tara, and the three of us approached the highway like this:

this is was 98.5 miles looks like!

this is was 98.5 miles looks like!

With one mile to go to the finish, my work was done when the pacer dream team surprised us on the side of the road, dressed in full (and different) costumes. This was the scene.

Annie and Aggie guide us into Easton!

Annie and Aggie guide us into Easton!

And this. I can’t help but share this!

just want to make sure you get all angles of the pink unitard!

just want to make sure you get all angles of the pink unitard!

Together, we ran Angel in to her first 100 miler finish, a colourful 26-hour run that inspired everyone she encountered that day to find that beautiful balance, between 100-miler hard work, and mega, colour tutu, LED light, pink unitard fun.

highlight of my summer!

highlight of my summer!

It’s a sliver of what Angel and crew are capable of, and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for us…!

If you’d like to read more about our running + hoola hooping adventure during CC100 weekend, let Angel take it away here, and this blog post by super cool trail clothier Run Pretty Far. Also, Angel’s husband Tim also ran and smashed it, and he wrote an excellent recap over there. Next year here we come!