Sara training for the CCC
Last month at the White River 50 Mile Endurance Run I met Sara Malcolm, a talented trail runner with an infectious smile. While I stressed about attempting my first 50 mile race, Sara looked strangely calm and collected.
After chatting for a minute, I found out why.
White River was just a "training" run for Sarah. She was preparing for the Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run, her first 100 mile race.
Cascade Crest (or CCC, as the veterans call it), is a brutal 100 mile race along the Pacific Crest Trail that begins this Saturday, August 28th.
The course includes over 20,000ft of elevation gain and requires runners to strap on head lamps as they run through the night, often finishing well into Sunday.
Recently, I met with Sara to learn more about her training, goals and fears as she attempts her first 100 mile ultramarathon.
[Q & A with Sara Malcolm]
How did you get into running? [SM] Well, I think I ran my first race when I was in 3rd grade (it was a 1/2 mile I believe), but I didn't really start running consistently until I was probably 18. I started running to stay in shape in college and eventually began running 5ks and 10ks here and there. I ran my first half marathon in 2007 and my first full marathon in 2008 so I am still really new to long distances.
I really enjoy the longer distances for the challenges and changes in scenery that they provide. I love running a race through a new city and getting to see all of it or running trails over a couple of mountains. It's amazing to see the ground you can cover. Additionally, there is very supportive and friendly community that partakes in the marathons and ultramarathons around here.
How did you prepare for your first 100 mile race? [SM] Not enough. Ha. I did spend a lot more time on the trails this year. I tried to run on trails at least once or twice a week to get better acquainted with the terrain that I would be running on. I had an injury earlier this year so I wasn't able to ramp up my mileage like I had hoped, but I did get in some good long runs. In addition to several 20-30 mile runs, I ran two 50 mile races, a 50k, and a few marathons. I put in more consistent hill work and worked on strengthening some weak muscles. I also did a couple night runs to get more comfortable running in the dark.
Did you learn anything new preparing for this course and distance? [SM] I learned (and am still learning) the importance of fueling. It seems the longer the race, the more meticulous you need to be with your fueling (at least in my case, everyone is different).
Your body can only absorb so many calories while it's burning them, so you are in a constant state of trying to keep up. If you get too far behind you can get into a tough spot. I guess I've also learned that you just need to keep moving. It's easy to lose time and momentum by hanging around at an aid station too long.
Because of the length of the race, you will likely run a part of it at night.
How do you feel about attempting your first 100 mile race? [SM] I'm nervous, but not about the terrain and running with a headlamp, but about animals and noises in the dark. That makes me a little uneasy.
What do you think the best parts of the course will be? And the lowest? [SM] I think the PCT will be really nice. I'm also excited to take in the incredible views from No Name Ridge and Thorp Mountain, but I think this will also be one of the more challenging areas of the course. It's in the last 20 miles and there is some serious climbing... so maybe it will also be a low point. I really have no idea where the mentally rough patches will come, but I know there will be several. The plan is to just keep moving; putting one foot in front of the other.
What type of support will you have on the course? [SM] I might have a couple of drop bags, but my main support will be my crew (my husband and my dad) who will meet me at a few spots and my pacer (a friend who will run the last 50 miles with me). My mom will be there at the start/finish and probably worrying the entire time in between. I grew up in the area so some of my extended family might make it out to the finish as well.
Do you have any goals for the race? [SM] The goals are to finish under the cutoff [32 hours] and to have a good time. Since this is my first 100 miler I feel those are challenging enough, yet realistic.
Do you have any tips for people who might be thinking of registering for a century race? [SM] I volunteered at the race last year and it got me excited. The course, the volunteers, the RD [Race Director], the other runners... all amazing.
So I thought about it for a few months and got a better sense of the training it would take. On paper it seemed doable so I planned to sign up. My plans were derailed a bit when I got a stress fracture earlier this year. Depending on the recovery I still thought it might be possible. The race fills up pretty quickly so when the time came to send in my registration, despite my injured state, I just did it. I knew if I hesitated I wouldn't get in. I figured that if I just signed up I would make it happen.
However, this was all dependent on my injury, so the contingency was that I survive a couple 50 milers first. Even though I have been training for it all year, I didn't really accept that it was going to happen until I finished White River 50 last month.
If you are thinking about doing a 100 miler, try to see one in action first. I feel quite inexperienced and naive going into this one and if I had more time I would definitely volunteer and/or try to pace at more races. The more exposed you expose yourself to it, the more you learn, and the better off you are. I would also run more races in the 50 mile to 100k range. I know it is a big goal, but goals aren't supposed to be easy. I would say be realistic, but don't shy away from the challenge.
Thanks Sara for your story and tips! Good luck this Saturday. I'll be there cheering you on!