Teanaway 100: The Birth of a New Beast

There’s a new beast in the Pacif­ic North­west ultra-run­ning world, and it’s wait­ing to chew you up. The Tean­away Coun­try 100-mile run offers more than 30,000 feet of ele­va­tion gain to crush your spir­it, then 30,000 feet of descent to take out your quads. The ele­va­tion chart looks like a car­dio­gram of some­one hav­ing a night­mare. We met up with Bri­an Mor­ri­son, the Tean­away Coun­try 100 Race Direc­tor to dis­cuss the 2017 inau­gur­al run­ning of his mas­ter­piece, as well as what’s in store for run­ners next year.

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First, What Is Tean­away? What Should Run­ners Expect?
While the course descrip­tion on Ultra­Signup jok­ing­ly refers to Tean­way as “a walk in the park…a very, very hilly walk in the park,” let’s be clear—Teanaway will chal­lenge you. It will try to break you. It will very like­ly F you up.

“It’s amongst the hand­ful of hard­est 100s in the U.S,” Bri­an said, com­par­ing it to Hardrock 100 in Col­orado.

On the flip side, Tean­away is ful­ly stocked with 13 aid sta­tions, 4 bag drop spots, and more vol­un­teers than run­ners, ensur­ing you will be well tak­en care of. Also, the course offers vis­tas to col­or your dreams for the rest of your life.

“I would put it up against any­thing I’ve ever seen in terms of beau­ty,” Bri­an stat­ed mat­ter-of-fact­ly.

The out-and-back course begins and ends in Salmon-La-Sac, with a small lol­lipop loop at the turn­around point. The breath­tak­ing views include Iron Bear Loop (at the turn­around point) and Lake Anne, which Bri­an described as “the pret­ti­est spot on the course” and “like some­thing out of the Rock­ies.”

While the views atop the var­i­ous Cas­cade Moun­tains are bound to daz­zle, run­ners must also remain aware of the course mark­ers, and some gen­er­al nav­i­ga­tion knowl­edge may come in handy. Bri­an relat­ed that when he and a friend orig­i­nal­ly scout­ed out the course, there were many times they could not locate the trail with­out a GPS because “The trails exist only on green maps. The for­est has tak­en the trail back in many places”—particularly in the first and final 15 miles of the race.

Bri­an said a lot of the old-school run­ners in the race this year praised the course, while some of the younger and new­er run­ners described those miles as “f‑ed up.”

teanaway country 100
Tean­away Coun­try 100, Pho­to by Takao Suzu­ki

As the Race Direc­tor, Bri­an iden­ti­fied course mark­ing as “above all else, the thing I want­ed to get right.” He described the del­i­cate bal­ance of ensur­ing there are enough mark­ings so run­ners do not wan­der off course and end up need­ing search and res­cue, yet “I want run­ners to feel like they’re out in the woods. Nobody wants to see a free­way of rib­bons down the trail.” Bri­an admit­ted that bal­anc­ing the expec­ta­tions of the old­er-school run­ners, who are accus­tomed to min­i­mal course mark­ings, and the new­er gen­er­a­tion of run­ners, who expect the reas­sur­ance of mark­ings in reg­u­lar, fre­quent inter­vals, is a chal­lenge.

This is one of many rea­sons Bri­an opt­ed to keep the out-and-back style course, when the orig­i­nal plan was one large loop. The shape of Tean­away changed after the Jol­ly Moun­tain fire in Eas­t­on, WA in 2017 burned parts of the course, and the USFS insist­ed the race be re-rout­ed until they could prop­er­ly sur­vey the dam­age to the land. This change also reduced the num­ber of land per­mits needs for the race to just one; anoth­er rea­son Bri­an plans to keep the new shape of Tean­away.

This Looks Pret­ty Damn Hard—It Must Be For Expe­ri­enced 100 Mil­ers Only:

While this course is not to be tak­en light­ly, Bri­an insist­ed that it could serve as someone’s first 100-mil­er if the indi­vid­ual is prop­er­ly pre­pared. There is actu­al­ly a cer­tain advan­tage to new­bie naivety—so long as that new­bie is well-pre­pared, trained, and men­tal­ly tough as nails.

“There were plen­ty of first 100 mil­ers out there who had great days,” Bri­an said about the inau­gur­al Tean­away run­ning, before his smile grew and he added, “Just ask Bran­don Bene­field. It was his first 100—and he won.”

76 run­ners start­ed Tean­way this past Sep­tem­ber, and 51 peo­ple fin­ished for an impres­sive fin­ish­ing rate of 67% con­sid­er­ing the unre­lent­ing course and chal­leng­ing weath­er. “The peo­ple who were fin­ish­ing noon and after­ward on Sun­day expe­ri­enced rain, snow, and wind at the high points,” Bri­an explained. The tem­per­a­tures were in the low 30s—cold enough for snow skiffs—in the high­er areas of the course. Sep­tem­ber in Wash­ing­ton is a wild­card for weath­er, with pos­si­bil­i­ties rang­ing from heat in the 80s to snow.

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What lead Bri­an to Cre­at­ing Tean­away Coun­try 100?
Teanaway’s his­to­ry is woven tight­ly togeth­er with Brian’s per­son­al run­ning his­to­ry, which stands out even in the eclec­tic niche of ultra-run­ners. The cli­max of Brian’s run­ning career occurred at West­ern States. Per­haps you’ve heard of it? It is the old­est 100-mile trail race in the U.S., and some argue in the world. It is the race all ultra-run­ners dream of and few ever get the chance to par­tic­i­pate in.

Bri­an won it in 2006. Kind of.

Bri­an was lead­ing the race by more than ten min­utes when he stepped onto the Plac­er High School track to run the final lap and score a win that would inevitably launch a pro­fes­sion­al ultra-run­ning career. In the final 100 meters, how­ev­er, Bri­an col­lapsed. He got up under his own pow­er, but col­lapsed almost imme­di­ate­ly once again. “I felt like my legs were just….gelatinous,” he told me, his eyes get­ting big­ger as he searched his brain to recall the expe­ri­ence. Bri­an said he blacked out at that point and doesn’t remem­ber any­thing between falling the sec­ond time and com­ing back around in the tent after the fin­ish line. He had been helped up by his pac­er and wife, and the three of them walked across the fin­ish line—still in first place.

How­ev­er, hav­ing not crossed the line under his own pow­er, Bri­an was dis­qual­i­fied and did not go down in the books as the offi­cial West­ern States 2006 win­ner. Brian’s gut-wrench­ing expe­ri­ence with West­ern States is doc­u­ment­ed beau­ti­ful­ly in the run­ning film enti­tled A Decade On, by The Gin­ger Run­ner, Ethan New­ber­ry.

Bri­an returned to West­ern States with a vendet­ta in 2007, but end­ed up drop­ping 30 miles in due to ill­ness. “I had a virus going into it, which was prob­a­bly due to over­train­ing.” In 2008, he showed up again ready to duke it out, but the race was can­celled due to a for­est fire. In 2009, Bri­an made it 62 miles in before drop­ping due to stom­ach issues. It seemed it just wasn’t going to hap­pen.

In 2010, Bri­an stepped away from West­ern States and run­ning 100-mil­ers to focus on his store, Fleet Feet Seat­tle, and start a fam­i­ly with his wife. It would be 7 more years, 10 years after his seu­do-win, before Bri­an returned to West­ern States. In 2016, Bri­an final­ly com­plet­ed the race under his own pow­er, although the race had not gone smooth­ly and it was a long walk to the fin­ish. “Feel­ing that West­ern was off my back, got me excit­ed about the 100-mile dis­tance again.” Bri­an was start­ing to think about putting on his own race.

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Why Tean­away?
While Brian’s run­ning career start­ed in his ear­ly 20s mere­ly as a means of get­ting in shape in order to sum­mit local peaks Mount Rain­er and Mount Stew­art (you know, the small WA peaks) with his Uncle Bill, he soon real­ized there may be some­thing to this run­ning stuff. “I was more into climb­ing than run­ning, but I was bet­ter at run­ning,” Bri­an laughed.

Sum­mit­ing Mount Stew­art in 2002 was Brian’s intro­duc­tion to the Tean­away region. His uncle had a cab­in in the area, so Bri­an start­ed vis­it­ing more often, climb­ing and run­ning in the Tean­away region. Over the next few years, and after his mul­ti­ple West­ern States dis­ap­point­ments, Bri­an “was just feel­ing burnt out on that dis­tance. I was in love with the notion of a 100-mile race, but felt like I need­ed to pull back from run­ning it myself.”

By 2010, Bri­an had decid­ed he want­ed to put on his own 100-mile race—and he knew just the place. At his uncle’s cab­in, Bri­an start­ed study­ing green maps and piec­ing togeth­er a poten­tial loop course. “When you look at a map, there was a giant chunk of land south of the Enchant­ments that was not being used for any­thing,” Bri­an explained. The Tean­away region is most­ly State land, oper­at­ed by the Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources in con­junc­tion with the Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife.

The project got shelved when Brian’s son was born lat­er in 2010, but his fin­ish at West­ern States six years lat­er revived his moti­va­tion to make Tean­away Coun­try 100 hap­pen. In the Sum­mer of 2017, “I decid­ed to do every­thing nec­es­sary to get Tean­away done by 2018,” Bri­an said.

Great! How Do I Sign Up?
Tean­away is open now for reg­is­tra­tion via Ultra­SignUp for Sep­tem­ber 7, 2019. Require­ments of the race involve 8 hours of proven trail work, as well as some ultra-run­ning expe­ri­ence. Rac­ers must have com­plet­ed at least one 100-mile race ever, or one 50-mile race with­in the past three years. These qual­i­fi­ca­tions are pret­ty gen­er­ous, Bri­an admit­ted, stat­ing he may tight­en the time­line on the 50-mil­er in the future. Acknowl­edg­ing the extreme ele­va­tion gains and loss­es of Tean­away, Bri­an said he is also will­ing to con­sid­er long-dis­tance hik­ers who have not com­plet­ed a 50 or 100 mile run in the past. If some­one with exten­sive hik­ing expe­ri­ence wants to try the race, they can con­tact him to be con­sid­ered for entry on a case-by-case basis.