By Tim Stroh, RD
Although the Plain 100 was born 23 years ago in Plain, WA, 2019 was the 20th event due to three years of wildfire cancellations. Fittingly, we also saw the largest registration and starting fields in race history this year. Additional stress was induced by a 25-mile tour of last year’s fire-ravaged portion of the course which revealed over 500 downed trees and entire portions of trail which were utterly unrecognizable. How would we get this trail cleared and runnable by race day?
The Plain Endurance Runs require that participants be self-sufficient for their chosen distance (100-mile or 100k)—there are no aid stations. The event is held on standard mountain trails with typical trail junction signs, but the course is not marked, requiring the runner to simply follow a map and associated directions or, in the current era, rely on someone else’s GPS track to guide you. While navigation can slow a runner as they choose the correct turn, it is not typically a significant challenge. The real challenge is carrying the food and gear you will need until you reach the re-supply point at Deep Creek. However, we have numerous Search and Rescue check points and we always know where runners are (even if they don’t), but participants need to rely on themselves and their abilities to get through this event.
Thanks to a relatively moist summer throughout the Pacific Northwest, the notorious “Plain” dust was all but non-existent. Our extremely capable USFS Entiat Ranger District trail crew, along with some Plain veterans (thanks Phil, Joachim and Joe), were able to completely clear the carnage from last year’s Cougar Mountain Fire.
Ian Seabury definitely brought his game and took advantage of the cool conditions, passing through the first loop (100k) and arriving back at Deep Creek in a very brisk 12:44. His quick turn out of Deep Creek also helped as he out-ran most of the nasty weather that was in store for the majority of the field, clocking the second fastest finish in race history in 23:40. Scott Martin had an excellent day and finished his fifth Plain 100-mile in 27:36 with a PR by just over 3 hours, while Timothy Gorbold followed in third at 27:43 with an even more impressive PR of 4 hours and 40 minutes. The first female finisher was the tough Rachel Baird in 33:24. In the 100k event, which constitutes the same first loop of the 100-mile distance, Arya Farahani led the men in 16:05, while the amazing Van Phan picked up the women’s crown in 17:19.
This year’s weather throughout the latter part of the weekend was quite spectacular by Plain standards. Seldom have we had rain during the race, so the stories of mud rivers running down the trail and near-torrential rains were quite unique. Huge kudos to all those who endured those conditions and pounded out a personal victory over the mountains.
The Plain Endurance Runs could not be safely conducted without the support of over 40 local ham radio operators and Search and Rescue communications experts. These folks are very dedicated to their craft and have huge hearts to support all wilderness users that it truly shows in their selfless dedication. The Plain event is able to donate over 60% of gross revenue to Search and Rescue Operations and local Puget Sound-based military/veterans transition group, Boots to Shoes.