2014 Plain Race Stories

What an Experience

September 16, 2014 at 8:51pm - Noe Castanon Mendez

The 2014 Plain 100M is now in the books. What it seemed to be my last chance of the season to finally get a 100M finish ended having a different story.

This race attracts runners who love challenge. 100 miles on a very technical and unmarked trails in the remote mountains of the Cascade range in Washington state. 20,000 ft elevation gain, 36 hours, and only one aid station at mile 60. You have a map and you at your own, no crew, no pacers. Carrying enough food and supplies for 60 unmarked miles and replenish your water from the streams. That is a journey!

To make this long story short at about mile 32 a fellow runner who's name is Don and I got lost, we ended up running 5 extra hilly miles at the Tye Ridge, consequently our water supplies were depleted, we were at the top of the mountains and it was getting late. Finally, after 3 hours we found the right path and few miles later a stream of water, this is at about mile 36. But at that moment Don was already dehydrated, he kept falling many times, fortunately I was prepared with Nuun electrolytes. I shared food with him and salt caps, he said that he just needed to rest, was feeling very weak and he was running only the 100K consequently he needed to breathe. Ok, I left him to catch some time. After that we had to run a 10 out-and-back miles on a very dangerous path called the Mad River Trail, that trail had some very dramatic drop offs, rocky sections who reminded me the Engineer trail of the Hardrock course, you fall, you are gone!

Hours later when I was coming back from that out-and-back trail I saw Don who was in his way to that point, looking completely sick, leaning on his left side, clearly sign of dehydration. - He cannot be here, I thought, this section is extremely unsafe. - Noe, can I stay with you, I feel very dizzy and weak. I responded immediately - Of course, let's go together. He was not really walking, he was dragging his feet making a great effort to put one foot in front of the other and some times losing the balance of his body, like having vertigo. It was already dark and everybody was gone, that was a single, rocky and narrow trail, so there's not much I could do, just escorting him and make sure that nothing worst happens. Moving at 50-55 minutes/mile and taking breaks. - That was Ok, no rush, I said! We were in the middle of the forest, very remote area and there were absolutely no one nearby, just he and me.

At about 2 am. the temperature dropped down dramatically (probably to the 20's) when suddenly Don lost the control of his balance and dropped off to the cliff. - OH NOOOO!!!! I yelled very loudly. At first I thought that he had hit on any rock or he was on the river or he was dead. NO, he was trapped on two fallen old trees very close too the abysm. That section was very steep and he was like 20 ft down from the trail. Has he a broken bone? Or maybe is he bleeding? He was responding to everything I was asking so I tried immediately to rescue him.
I don't deny that I was also afraid to slip and cause a tragedy, my shoulder is not completely healed from a surgery and I still don't have much strength, so slowly I went down grabbing my arm on some branches, grabbed his hand and start pulling him from the area. - Don, you need to be strong and help me, I said. - Come on, little by little he was moving and finally I got him to a safe spot, what a relief!

I couldn't believe this, his body was shaking and was sweating, he was in fetal position like an unprotected child, in silence. I immediately checked him to see if everything was ok, thanks God he only had bruises and few blood on his knee. He was there, quiet. At that moment I couldn't hold my emotions and I said I silence. - If those fallen trees weren't there he would be fallen to the river, probably dead. It was hard for me that moment! After a couple minutes I grabbed Don's hand and I said, - Dan, I will stay with you until the end, I will not let you alone. We were miles away to the next checkpoint and it was very cold so I shared my jacked, hand warmers and the rest of my food with him, he was doing everything I said. - Noe, but what about your race. - No Dan, I'll be ok, my race can wait, you are more important, so we kept on moving, his speed was fading but moving. - Hopefully we get to the check point soon, I thought, we ran out of food and Don had no signs of feeling any better. Finally after four hours we reached the Maverick Saddle check point. They had medical and radio, they were waiting for us. Immediately he got attention and first aid. I felt relief, That was good! Then, another volunteer told me, - I'm very sorry to inform you that you missed the cut-off time, consequently you are out of the race. - Oh well, another DNF, I said. That is ok, Don is safe and that is what it matter the most. So, they transported us to the finish line, that was almost 7am, our races were over.

Later I found that many runners were dropping out from the race. The course is brutal and still was freezing so I stayed a few hours to get warm in the car and get something to eat before to leave the park and be ready to go back home.

I post this not to get attention or get nice comments, this was a reality. The Plain 100M is not a joke. This is one of the reason this race has very high dropped rate, one little mistake can have big consequences. Great support and help from the volunteers and RD, here you don't get fame or belt buckle, just the pride to run one of the toughest and beautiful courses in US.

Thanks for reading it.

Noe Castanon Mendez





PLAIN 2014
A race report by Ray Siegrist & Hideko Opperman

The first loop for us was rather uneventful. We didn't pull our maps once and didn't need to refer the directions of the unmarked course of the 62 miles that lay in wait. Our first year and Hideko's  5th 100 of the year. A Grand Slammer respectfully.  The only weird event to happen was that of a lost runner coming up Maverick Saddle road as we were going down. She had a very strong ascent and was hard to understand. One thing for certain she was going the wrong way. Two runners behind us came along and turns out one knew Spanish which she spoke.  The 3 of them headed off down the road into the darkness trying to set the record straight.  Then she could not keep up and dropped off the pace, she was once again running by herself. As we neared Deer Camp I began to hear music. "Now what?" I said to myself.  Turns out these two guys are camping and have blaring music going and a huge roaring bon fire (a burn ban was on) There they stood on the side of the road drinking beer watching us. The girl apparently and rightfully so had a bad feeling and waited for us before passing. On the way past one of them said "you having a good time?" my reply was "we would not be here if we weren't."

We made it to Deep Creek cutoff with a 2 hour 15 minutes cushion.  Around 4:00 am is when things got crazy. I began to hallucinate. I was hearing children through the tress playing and laughing, the shadows cast from my headlamp looked like bears, and I smelled bacon and eggs.  The smell seemed so real I asked Hideko if she smelled it too, but of course I was out of my mind and her eyes said it all. I was so tired that I could barely walk. I started sleeping while waking and stopping to rest my head on my poles. Even though I wanted more than anything to curl up in a ball and go to sleep on the trail I did not dare because it was so cold, the temp was in the upper 20's and we were still in our shorts with jackets on. Once daybreak came we felt better, but I was a long night, Hideko asked if I was going to quit. I said no way and proceeded to run up the hills. (What was I thinking? I wasn't, that was the problem)

Fast forward to Chikamin Tie (the second time cutoff).  I started doing the math and realized that if I did not run hard we would not make the cutoff of 10:00 am. So I took off at a sprint down the trail to get to the uphill of Chikamin Tie trail. I then ran hard up the trail running a good 90% of the entire trail. (Which by the way seemed to go on forever as does all the trails in this epic run.) I got to the top and pleaded with Search and Rescue to trade my number for Hideko's and allow her to not be cut while leaning on my poles gasping for air. This race was not about me. It was all about her getting the Slam.  I told S & R at the cutoff that she was not that far behind. She came up at 10:15. She came up and said that she gave it her best shot and I could tell she was disappointed.  I then told her she was still in!! Then we were off.  Sometime earlier (miles earlier)  Hideko developed a bad blister on her right little toe and I could tell by the way she walked that it was really hurting her, but you know what? She never complained not once. She is so mentally tough and strong that way.  She maybe only 5 feet tall and weigh 97 pounds but she is as tough as nails.

We make it up the trail about 3 miles and sadly she is done. We sit down for a while and let it sink in. Then we start talking about how we are going to get out. Up or down? If we go down chances are good no one will be there, it's a dead end dirt road not maintained very well, plus when we did reach it we didn't know how far it was to the main road. If we go up we are going in deeper to no roads at all, but more dirt bike riders. We decide on up. We are not ready to spend another cold night in the woods. We make it another slow mile when we hear a motorcycle coming up the trail from below. Yes!  I wave him down and he stops feet away from us. I look at the front of the bike and low and behold it's a US Forest Service Ranger. What are the chances? I just shake my head and smile. Safe.
He calls dispatch, the signal was in and out with his radio so he has to go up the trail for better reception. He comes down and tells us to go back down the trail and meet Search and Rescue at the dirt road. On the way down I ask Hideko, "are we on the right trail?" her response is yes. It's funny how a trail can look total different going in the opposite direction. That would soon bite us again. On the way down I foolishly deicide to leave her to meet S & R as not to keep them waiting and wondering where we are.  I reach them and tell them she’s not far behind. Only she takes far too long and I start to worry. Some other dirt bike riders show up on the road and we ask them if they can please ride up and check on her to make sure she is alright. I listen to them thinking they won't make it too far up the trail before they run into her. Not so, they ride out of ear shot. I know now something is wrong. I dump my pack and sprint back up. One of the riders comes down, says he found her and she was a mile up the trail. The other tells me she seemed disoriented, and going up the trail instead of down. I'm on my high horse again up the trail, finally I see her and she just loses it.  She was really scared. Turns out she too thought she was on the wrong trail because it was taking so long to get back down. She ended up going down and back up couple of times.  What a day.


Due to a brutal fire season in Washington State the Plain 100M /100K was in jeopardy of being cancelled up to the last week before the race. Through the efforts of the race committed ( Christina / Tom ) and the USFS we were able to modify the course using almost 80% of the original course, still keeping the difficultly level very high and allow runners from four countries and eleven states to get the full Plain experience. Below is a letter I sent to the USFS thanking them for their assistance in the most difficult fire year.

Cascade Running Club puts on one of the most difficult foot races in North America. The Wenatchee River and Entiat Ranger Districts is where the course is laid out and the race The Plain 100 M/ 100K is held. The same exact course has been used for 18 years and covers 106 miles (approximately) of trails in both Districts. People from as far away as South America and 11 states were scheduled to travel to Washington State for the race in September 2014.

The 2014 version of the Plain was in jeopardy from the time the Mills, Duncan and Kelly Mt Complex fires started. I was in almost daily contract with Patrick Herman in the Entiat District to get up dates that allowed me to create alterative courses depending on the fires progress. He was truly interested in assisting me and I greatly appreciated his help and not making me feel that my daily calls were a disruption to his day. They might have been but he never treated me as such.

Kevin Smith of the Wenatchee District gave me very valuable guidance in how best to handle my difficult situation, assistance with getting my Special Use Permit and basically leading me through the process. Again Kevin always treated me and my many questions with the upmost professionalism and never considered what I was doing as a trivial concern in light of the greater scope of the forest fires and closures.

I also talked with many others in both Districts offices and to a person they all went the extra mile to assist me in getting everything done that needed to be done, without creating undo huddles for me. Every phone call or request was directed to the correct person without fail. I don’t have all their names and I wish I did however Kelly Underwood who assisted me in making my payment for the events SUP said she would make sure that the Districts knew how much we appreciated their assistance.

Lastly I want to thank the wilderness Rangers who patrol the back county on motorcycle. Mason and Mike have always been a great help to us and in this year’s event gave assistance to at least two race participants that were either off course and just wanted to confirm their current locates. Without the help of all the motorcycle Rangers there is no possible way that the back county trails would be as safe as they are.

To close I just want to say THANK YOU. Everyone in public service should take a lesson from your two districts on how best to get the job done and still make the general public feel they matter.

Tom Ripley / Christina Ralph
Cascade Running Club
Plain 100M / 100K



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