Finally! Lucca has been raving about (and running) the Cutthroat Classic for years telling me how scenic and fun it is and I finally got to do it.
ASIDE - for the ultra crowd, it's always on the same weekend as the Cascade Crest 100 so you can go long or you can do this. :)
It was a perfect day and I had a a great race.
The start is pretty early so Shelley and I drove to Winthrop and stayed with my sister the night before. And need I say it...? THANKS SHELLEY FOR ACCOMPANYING ME ON YET ANOTHER EVENT WEEKEND!
The morning of the race they bus you out to the start and then you run from Hwy 20 where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses it up and over Cutthroat Pass and down to the Cutthroat trailhead at Cutthroat Creek. Five miles of up followed by six miles of down. It's fast!
I had been told by numerous people that everyone wipes out on the descent. Because of its length, this event attracts lots of runners with much less trail running experience than most other trail runs and I bet the fact that folks are flying down a trail when they are tired contributes to the accidents as well.
They start you in waves five minutes apart. I think you can self-seed in the waves (I chose the 2nd wave and Lucca chose the 3rd), the purpose is to prevent congestion on the singletrack. This is great except if you are racing, you might not see all your competition...
I started with Luke Astell, a good friend of Lucca's. He's about my height and weight and also rides and runs and it was awesome to have company. We hung together for most of the climb and then perhaps one mile from the top I started to ease ahead. The climb was not as bad as I expected, perhaps I was saving myself too much? No regrets, I did not want to hit the descent in full-on oxygen debt.
The summit is a ridge/spine and you run across maybe 30' of flat trail and then drop down the other side. Up here were a couple of photographers and spectators and race crew to make sure you went down the Cutthroat Trail and didn't head north on the PCT. From what I recall, this is the only intersection on the entire run. I managed to scoot past two more people just before I hit the descent.
The descent really is fast. Not because it's super steep, rather because it is a moderate slope and you can freaking haul ass. There are a lot of rocks and roots and little steps/drop-offs so the footing is 'dynamic' and I had my eyes glued to the ground in front of me. Your speed is determined by how much you want to apply the brakes and how confident you are in your footing.
I like descending and on a good day I'm above average so I went for it. In short order/the first mile I had hauled in two or three runners and I kept right on going.
The one and only aid station is at mile six so one mile down the descent in a clearing on level ground. I had a hand-held bottle so did not need to stop but when I blew by here I was thinking, "Shit... that's just one mile of descending"? I had been going pretty hard and eased off the throttle just a tad after that.
But I still kept passing people - what a blast! And after a bit I started passing people that had taken a digger. Even at the front of the race there were several, some were jogging, some were just walking. I saw blood on knees, shins, elbows, etc. Ouch.
Early on in the descent there was one guy up ahead. I said something like, "Can I get by on your left?" He didn't move. So then I said, "Can I pass on this next switchback?" and still he didn't do or say anything. He was one of those guys that runs with his elbows way out to his sides so he was taking up lots of space. And he was breathing like crazy! I ended up just forcing myself past him on the next switchback and as I left him I yelled, "Thanks!" People...
With two miles to go the trail flattens out quite a bit. It's still a descent but just barely and you need to push if you want to go fast. Flat running is my weakness but I tried not to slow down too much and to pace myself so I wouldn't blow before the finish. I think I only passed one person on this section and I did lose focus a bit but no regrets, I wanted to have fun.
The finish kind of sneaks up on you if you don't know the trail. I did start to hear voices so figured I should speed up and then suddenly you are at the bridge over Cutthroat Creek and there is the finish.
I had a great run! And I didn't fall down! Shelley has been (justifiably!) worried about me lately as I keep injuring myself. Ironically, I got a nosebleed with about 1.5 miles to go. Picture me running along, trying to go fast and also trying to wipe my face off every few seconds. When I crossed the line I had blood all over my face and hands so of course Shelley thought I had fallen down face first but luckily I was fine. By the time I rinsed off my face the bleeding had stopped and I was presentable again.
Lucca and Luke both had great runs and they didn't fall down either. :)
What's more, my friend David Longdon showed up as well for his longest run to date!
Good times for sure. I would love to do this again and hopefully go a bit faster on the climb. After I finished I figured I had done pretty well in my age division but it turns out some guy in the 1st wave beat me by 30 seconds. Who knows what would have happened if we had been running together but it's fun to think about. Regardless, I'm stoked with my time/placing especially since this is just my second race this year!
I wasn't sure what shoes to wear today...? I wanted light and it was a short run but I was also worried about the descent. In hindsight I picked the perfect pair. At the finish I felt super with no body issues at all.
Here are all the pictures and video.
|Breakfast||5:00 AM - bread, almond butter, water, banana|
|Workout Food||30 min before start - shot of Hammer Gel|
race - bottle w/2 scoops HEED
|Time of Day||8:00 AM|
|Weather||maybe upper 40s at the start (it felt chilly), 70 at the finish, dry, calm, sunny|
|Course||The first two miles are a very gradual climb and some of it is even flat, the last three miles of the climb keep getting steeper but it's all runnable. The first four miles of the descent are FAST and the last two flatten out significantly so you need to push again.|
|Results||2nd - 50-59|
19th - Overall
|Equipment||Brooks PureGrit 2, Garmin Fenix 2, Ultimate Direction Fastdraw Plus|
|Clothing||Injinji Run Original Weight Mini-Crew, Brooks Infinity 3" Split Short, Brooks singlet, Headsweats Visor|
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