Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sun Mountain 50K Race Report

I get a a forest campsite slightly north of Mazama, Saturday afternoon. I'm set up by a creek, completely out of cell phone service. Peaceful, quiet, and surrounded by the beauty of the Methow Valley. I'm sure there are words to describe it, but I'd rather just throw in a photo.

Does this need a caption?

The 50 milers started early, and the 25 and 50K's go at 10:00 a.m. My initial goal is to take it slow from the start, but there is a bunch of single track at the start, and the last thing I want to do is end up behind the handful of overzealous 25K runners who start to burn out 3 miles in on the single track (pretty much me, two years ago). Get in with the top quarter of people or so? Sure.

I push it to get by some people that aren't moving too fast, but fast enough, and settle in. Thus begins a climb to the first aid station that is a gentle uphill, but I'm able to run it. What a difference a year makes, as last year this climb killed me. So I maintain a steady climb, and don't stop. One guy, sans waterbottle, and a lot of hair, comes roaring by. Regardless of the race he was doing, he was moving. I can't help but wonder how one gets that fast.

I stay with a runner for awhile and we have some good conversations on ultras. How to train for 50 milers. The Western States 100 lottery. Training plans. Long runs. Back-to-Back (B2B's) long runs. I eventually leave her about a mile before the 8 mile aid station, and at this point I'm starting to feel a comfortable groove. Fill up at the aid station, grab a gel, back to some flat forest road peppered with cars, families, volunteers, and kids. I make sure to give some kids high-fives, because it reminds me to keep this fun (and I'm a dweeb). As these races progress and people spread out, I'll have plenty of lonely running, so I try to take advantage of the populated parts when I can.

Running Tip: Carry a handful of these in a plastic bag for EVERY RACE. You'll thank me later.
I have got to go. Not go fast, but go. Last aid didn't have a porto. I'll hold it to the next aid, maybe they'll have one there? Downhill begins. I like downhill. Bowels don't like downhill. This may have to happen sooner than later. More downhill. I'm starting to pick up my speed. This probably needs to happen at the next fork in the road. I'll go down the trail when theres a fork, head the way you're not supposed to go, find someplace serene to do work. I'm content with plan B. More downhill. Crap. This has got to happen now. Thick forest single-track, and nowhere with an easy exit. Can't wait. I pull an immediate left into some less dense forest, bushwack about 30 or 40 yards through some shrubs, find a tree, and do work.

Back on the course. I cruise into the second aid station at mile 17 and I'm feeling pretty good. My legs are the least tired they've ever felt at this distance, and I'm happy about that. I'm saving them for the Patterson Lake hill climb over the last 6 miles. There's a brief climb up to Sun Mountain Lodge that involves some power hiking, and eclipses to the roar of the lodge's air conditioners and fans. I run through the parking lot, and have a couple guests tell me I'm crazy. (My stay last night was 12 bucks and I fell asleep to the sound of a creek. Yours was how much?)

Cloudy, but pretty nonetheless.

Nothing interesting is happening now. Legs are doing alright. Stomach is fine. The course is rolling. I'm rolling. Plenty hydrated, as I'm still sweating hours in. Eating enough. One guy passes me after mile 20, but he's moving so fast there is no way I'm catching up to him. Time to enjoy the gorgeous views of the Methow Valley. It's me versus the clock now.

A patch of dirt road and then the final aid station before the climb. I meet up with someone I met at Yakima Skyline, who is doing the 50 mile, and we get the time from a volunteer. 6 minutes to 2:00 p.m. I've got 66 minutes to run a little over six miles. About half is all uphill, but I think its only slightly over 1,000 ft of climbing. My legs are tired, but I want it. I want to break five hours. Bad. Water filled, gel gulped, and two salted potatoes down the hatch. Move.

Patterson Lake Hill? I'm not sure of the name, but we ran up and down it.
The last half mile.  My legs are toast now. As they should be at the end. I'm happy with it, I've run my race the right way for once, not overexerting myself too early, and just now getting dead legs. Pushing with all I've got left, through the trees I can now see spectators and some giant blue inflatable thingy. The finish. I'm happy with what I've done. The clock comes into view.


I've just missed breaking the five hour barrier. Crap. I mean that quite literally. It was the crap. If I hadn't crapped, potentially would have broken five hours. I finish with a chip time of 5:00:12 and good enough for 12th place. I shake the Race Director James Varner's hand, and thank him for the good course. I wish I could say more. Like how much I appreciate what he does, how much I love this sport, and what it's meant to me, but every breath is precious at the moment, and I'm slightly discombobulated. Moments later I sat down with some running friends, had beer and pizza, and got back on the road. Content.

Pre Race Meal: Apple (FIBER), Two Granola Bars (FIBER), Almonds (FIBER).
Pre Race Music: Funeral for a Friend, Saves the Day, Chevelle, Bush, Finch, Chemical Brothers.
Post Race Food: Pizza, M&M's, Pale Ale from Methow Brewing.

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