Teanaway 100 Miler
As a side note this is my 200th post and my nine year anniversary of blewskersmiles, thanks to everyone that reads my ramblings.
Apryle and I awoke at 2AM on Saturday September 17th 2022 and made our way to the western slopes of the Teanaway Mountains. On the way to the starting line Apryle and I spotted 3 elk near the house in Ravensdale, 1 bear in Rosilyn and 3 Mule Deer in Ronald but that would be the last wildlife I encountered for the remainder of the day. The race started from the Salmon La Sac Sno Park at 5AM under dark skies with temperatures in the low 40s. Over the opening miles I ascended Salmon La Sac Road which is a gradual gravel forest road. I settled into an easy pace in a small group which included Troy Haeseler, Casey Dierck, and Kristen Casey. We ran our way out of the darkness as we climbed the road and were treated to views of Mount Rainier to the southwest. I reached the first aid station at mile 6.5 (5150 feet) in 1:15:33 and stopped briefly before merging onto the Sasse Mountain trail. The trail ran along an exposed ridge with frost topping the grass bordering the trail.
I topped out at 5750 feet and turned left onto the Jolly Mountain trail before going back down hill. At this point I was joined by Casey and we began to chase down Troy who was up the trail. After I made the right onto the Jolly Mountain Spur trail, the path grew narrower and steeper. Then the trail punched upward once more, we descended down to Paris Creek and eventually turned left onto the Paris Creek trail which made one quick punch before diving down to Big Boulder Creek. Most of this trail went through dense forest dominated by firs and pines with vaccinium and other shrubs ranging from ankle to hip height. At this point in the race Casey and I joined Troy and we all ascended the Boulder Deroux trail while Carl Koopmans joined our group. This ascent was beautiful as we gradually ascended the primitive trail through the valley. We had excellent views of the surrounding scree slopes as well as the lush riparian creek bed at our feet.
The Boulder Deroux trail merged into the Fortune Creek Loop trail, which was more like a forest road. Our group of 4 ascended to the Gallagher Head Lake aid station (15.6 miles 5711 feet) in 3:38:00. Then Troy and I took the lead on the long forest road descent on the Fortune Creek Jeep Trail (along Fortune Creek). This forest road was quite runnable but also had about a dozen stream crossings. We bombed downhill letting gravity assist us as we remarked about how beautiful the course was shaping up to be. Troy and I reached the low point on the descent (18.9 miles 4,155 feet) and began our ascent of the Van Epps trail. This climb started as a wide gravel road but then after we made a left turn onto the North Fork Fortune Creek trail the path became very narrow and overgrown.
The temperatures were rising but a layer of cloud cover shaded the sun and I continued wearing my gloves, which is a rarity in the Teanaway. By mile 21 we reached Lake Ann Trail (5781 feet) and made a left and continued climbing to the Van Epps aid station (21.1 miles 5903 feet). After reaching the aid station in 4:55:09, Troy and I continued onward after a very brief stop. The Lake Ann trail featured the most beautiful scenery we had witnessed all day. In every direction there were steep scree slopes as we ascended out of the bowl. Lake Ann was the centerpiece of the bowl and added interest to the landscape with its deep blue color. Though the landscape was dominated by shades of gray and brown, it was punctuated by deep green Larch and burgundy vaccinium. The wind howled through the bowl and produced jolting gusts as we neared Van Epps Pass. Just before we reached the saddle, Casey and Carl rejoined Troy and I and we became a quartet once again.
The pass topped out at 6559 feet (23.4 miles) and after 5:33:17 of running, I was feeling surprisingly good. I took the descent fairly easy, which means Troy must have been taking the descent very easy as we followed the North Fork of the Teanaway River down to Esmeralda Basin trailhead. The Lake Ann trail merged into the Esmeralda Basin trail around 24 miles in and continued losing elevation until reaching North Fork Teanaway Road at mile 27.3. Once on the stone road, the slope lessened slightly to the Iron Peak aid station. The four of us reached the aid station (28.3 miles 4093 feet) in 6:22:42 and I stayed for a few minutes to trade out packs and refuel. I was very excited to see Apryle (first aid station with crew access) there and she made my pitstop very efficient. I left the aid station solo and began the steep ascent up the Iron Peak trail.
I knew Carl and Casey were not far behind but I decided to continued my tempo rather than wait. I think in a 100 miler it is important to continue moving forward at all costs. I always prefer ascending to descending, especially after pounding my legs on a 4.9 mile plunge in elevation. The Iron Peak trail has about 50 tight switchbacks and climbs up a very dusty trail that snakes up a fairly narrow ridge. It is a strange trail that feels exposed yet forested at the same time. I topped out on El Dorado pass at 6207 feet (31.3 miles) in 7:21:08 and then began the moonscape descent of the east side of the pass. The trail down the east side was kind of gravely but also had plenty of sharp rocks to slow the pace even further. The trail mostly followed but also zigzagged across the headwaters of Beverly Creek and my surroundings eventually transitioned from moonscape to sparse forest.
I passed by some campers who told me I was in first, which meant very little to me since I was only a third of the way through the race, but I appreciated their enthusiasm and support. Carl caught me shortly after I passed the campers and that started the next chapter in the race. We continued down the Beverly Turnpike trail all the way to the Beverly aid station at mile 35.4 (3801 feet) 8:07:03. After a few minutes at the Beverly aid station, we began the ascent up the Bean Creek trail which gradually climbed up through the Bean Creek drainage. The Bean Creek drainage is a beautiful stretch of trail, and even in the summer the creek bed still has some running water and the surrounding hillsides are dotted with pines and spent wildflowers. At mile 37.3 (5250 feet) the trail turned hard right and the tight switchbacking climb towards Earl Peak ensued. At this point Casey caught up with Carl and I and we all topped out on the ridge at mile 38.3 (6205 feet) in 9:14:34. We dropped a few hundred feet to the headwaters of Standup Creek and then ascended again to a high point before dropping down to the Stafford Creek trail.
On this descent, Casey did not match the pace and I also fell a little behind Carl as we followed the Standup Creek trail to the Stafford Creek trail (mile 41.2 5171 feet). The Stafford Creek trail followed Stafford Creek and was a much more runnable grade. This is a very special trail to me because it was the first Washington trail I ever hiked (to Navaho Pass) when visiting Apryle in August of 2014. Also this was my fathers first big mountain summit (Navaho Peak) and first half marathon back in August of 2019. When I reached the bottom of the descent (mile 45.1 3282 feet), Carl was there and we jogged the slightly uphill Forest Road 9703. Forest Road 9703 follows Bear Creek to the Miller Bear trailhead and aid station. When we arrived at the aid station I was greeted by Apryle with another pack change, John Maxwell, Aaron Long and Scott Sowle who helped me get refueled.
After a few minutes Aaron Long and I hit the trail and Aaron helped me hold a solid pace on the lower reaches of the Iron Bear climb. This was maybe the hottest part of the day, but it still felt fairly chilly and it was freezing by summer Teanway standards. This trail was heavily vegetated with a dense canopy, which was a welcome change to the sparse and dry slopes I had been running over since Van Epps Pass. We paralleled Bear Creek along the Iron Bear trail until mile 49.8 (4614 feet) when we reached the Teanaway Ridge trail in 11:32:28. The first highpoint on the loop was at the junction with County Line trail (mile 51.6 5487 feet) and we heard reports that we were only about 10 minutes behind Carl. The trail went slightly downhill before reaching the highest point in the loop around mile 54.4 (5896 feet). Aaron was a great pacer, he was diligent to be sure that I was eating and drinking enough and kept the conversation lively and motivating. We skirted along ridgeline after ridgeline towards the setting sun before we finally began our descent of the Miller Peak trail (mile 55.3 5873 feet).
Around this time I was starting to feel very tired and for the first time in the day the gravity of the situation was beginning to set in. I knew what the latter 45 miles would bring and how my body typically responded to the dark hours of the race. However, Aaron and I managed to hit some good splits as we paralleled Miller Creek back down to the aid station. Upon reaching Miller Bear trailhead (mile 58.8 13:50:06) I was in good spirits, I was greeted by Apryle, my dad, John, and Scott again who helped me get refueled and set up for the night shift. Unfortunately I learned that my next pacer Chris Gregory could not make it, but fortunately Aaron Long agreed to pace me for the next 10 mile segment.
We all had a good laugh when my dad told me to go back up the Iron Bear trail as we jogged our way down Forest Road 9703. As we began the gradual ascent of Stafford Creek trail I had to turn on the headlamp in order to illuminate my path ahead. The temperatures began to fall but I had a difficult time thermoregulating so I actually removed my jacket and gloves I had just put on at the aid station. The climb was slow going and because I was not generating much body heat I had to stop atop the ridge to put my gloves and jacket back on at mile 65.6 (6339 feet). At this point I had weathered several low points that Aaron helped me through and we learned that Carl had not really put too much time into his lead, so that raised my morale. However, even with the easy descent of Bean Creek trail, I did not have the legs to keep a decent pace.
I was in really bad shape when I reached the Beverly aid station (mile 69.8 17:31:36), I was unable to consume sugar without having a reflex to vomit. My eyes were glazed over and I was more ready to sleep than climb to El Dorado Pass. On top of my already low morale, two more runners came into the aid station and quickly went back onto the trail and just like that I dropped to fourth place. After a few minutes of eating as much salty and fat dense food as possible, Apryle and I began the arduous ascent to El Dorado Pass. The trail was mostly wooded, but it was too dark to really notice anyway as we made our way up the switchbacks. It is safe to say I hit my lowest point of the Teanaway 100 and maybe any 100 miler during this stretch of trail. On three occasions I simply laid down on the trail in order to recharge and rest my eyes. However, after my third time doing this Apryle made me sit there and eat 3 gels back to back to back and tell her “Im going to finish this race”. I was not very enthusiastic but I ate the gels and recited her mantra.
We went over the top of El Dorado Pass (mile 74.1 6240 feet) in 19:33:07 and I actually felt recharged cresting the high point. We broke into a light jog and by the time we had the Iron Peak aid station in our sights I was almost running. I may have even enjoyed this descent as Apryle and I tried our best to rap various Eminem songs on the way down. When I reached the aid station (mile 76.8 4237 feet 20:15:24), Casey (who passed me on the way up to El Dorado Pass) was sitting by the fire and appeared to be having issues with his anterior tibialis and I told him my advice was to push through it and deal with it later (seems he agreed). After refueling I hit North Fork Teanaway Road with David Sadowski, my third and final pacer. I knew that when I left this aid station I would be finishing the race, because I had no option of dropping because it was the last aid station with crew access.
It was David’s first pacing experience and I am very grateful that he waited for me even though I was 2.5 hours late. It was a quiet night and the mood of the aid station was very subdued, I was determined but not overly enthusiastic. We hiked up the road and trail with purpose but not with the same vigor that I had going up the other side of Van Epps Pass earlier in the race. David had a great knowledge of the geology of the area and kept the conversation going even though I did not contribute much to the topics. I tried my best to ingest calories but midway through the climb I tried a salted watermelon gel and instantly threw up (mile 79.7 21:27:24). I proceeded to throw up a few more times in rapid succession until I fully emptied the contents of my stomach. I instantly felt better and was able to move more quickly, but I know that it would fade if I did not consume more calories. I pushed my way to the top but was passed by Casey yet again and we saw two headlamps behind us as well. I reached the pass in 22:31:20 (mile 82.2) and moved fairly slowly down the other side to Lake Ann. Fortunately it was not nearly as windy or cold as I thought it would be. We reached the Van Epps aid station in 23:16:26 (mile 84.2) and I tried to consume as many salty foods as possible while I warmed myself by the fire. The sound of raindrops hitting the cloth tent seemed deafening but after stepping outside I could barely tell it was raining.
Our trail out of the aid station was a stark difference to the last 7.4 miles, the landscape transitioned from rocky slopes with sparse tree cover to damp forest with infringing vegetation. The light rain continued as we descended the narrow winding North Fork Fortune Creek trail. My shoes became fairly damp from the water soaked vegetation and periodic creek crossings. Due to the nature of the trail and the state of my ankle musculature I mostly walked down the hill. We reached the Fortune Creek Jeep Trail and made a left turn onto the forest road in 23:58:07 (85.8 miles). It was a slow trudge up the steep forest road and we kept seeing things that disappeared as we grew closer. As we topped out on the climb near Gallagher Head Lake it became bright enough to turn off the headlamps and I felt renewed with the new day. We reached the final aid station of the race: Gallagher Head Lake aid station in 25:26:03 (89.8 miles).
Casey and another runner were sitting in the aid station when I arrived and I sat for just long enough to take in some calories before hitting the ground running. David set a good pace as I bounded down the Boulder De Roux trail passing two runners. Unfortunately I missed my left turn onto Paris Creek trail tacking on .6 miles and about 11 minutes. I was a little discouraged but kept the tempo high and ran back up the hill to the turn onto Paris Creek. At this point I passed Casey and the other runner that passed me on the wrong turn, putting me back in fourth place. Then finally after ascending a crazy steep hill I passed the two runners that passed me at the Beverly Creek aid station about 9 hours earlier. At first I did not realize that they were in the race, but David told me I had just moved back into second place on the course. I was elated but almost felt like it was not really happening, that I must be dreaming while sleeping at the Van Epps aid station. He assured me that it was real and that we were really on course about 93 miles into the race.
I ran purely on a burning desire (because I was not taking in many calories) to catch anyone in front of me that could be caught . I assumed Carl had put too much distance on me at this point, but I told David that I was going to leave it all on the course and pour every last ounce of energy I had into the race. After a few more punches in the topography, the Jolly Mountain Spur trail led me to the Jolly Mountain trail (mile 97.2 4767 feet 27:24:44) and I knew it was all downhill from there. As we descended along Salmon La Sac Creek, I looked back and saw Scott Martin closing in on me. At that point I told David to go in front and run as fast as he could and I would try to match his pace. We ended up running an 8:30 average mile over the final switchbacks down towards the Cle Elum River. I looked back occasionally and it appeared that we gapped Scott and I closed the final flat section at 6:30 pace into the finish (101.24 2525 feet 28:02:10). I think my entire crew was surprised to see that I had rallied over the final part and brought myself back into a podium position. Overall, I was disappointed because I had much higher hopes but I was proud of the effort I put forth and happy that I did not give up.
After a third place at Cascade Crest in 2021 and a second place at Teanway in 2022, I hope 2023 will be my year to finally take the top step in a 100 mile race. Thank you so much to my crew (Apryle and Walt) and pacers (Aaron, Apryle, and David) it is safe to say that I would have not finished the race without all of you. Thanks to Brian Morrison for the vision and all the volunteers for putting on an excellent race. This was certainly the most rugged and beautiful hundred mile race that I have participated in to date.
30748 vertical feet