May 17, Saturday
Sarah and I woke early after a day of shopping Friday near Seattle and hit Starbucks before driving 3.5 hours across the North Cascade Highway to Winthrop. We stopped several times to stretch our legs and arrived at the River Run Inn around noon. Our cabin was ready so we checked in, dumped our stuff and headed into town for lunch and exploring. We immediately fell in love with both our cabin at River Run, and the town of Winthrop. We were pleasantly surprised when we stumbled into Winthrop Mountain Sports, where I managed to buy 3 pairs of Merrell minimal running shoes and Marmot jacket for my son and I (combined). What a jewel of a store, if not a bit chaotic. Then it was back to the cabin for a 2 hour nap (what a treat!) and then into town for a pre-race Mexican meal that was just perfect.
The night before the race we spent almost an hour prepping our drop bags and getting all endless paraphernalia ready for race day. It was to bed by 9:00 and I actually slept well that night!
|All my stuff, ready to go...|
Sunday morning dawned clear and bright, with a projected high of 19C. We were up early, had breakfast, starting drinking water to pre-hydrate. We arrived at the Chickadee Trail Head at about 8:45, giving us ample time to check in and get ready for a 10:00 start. The 50 milers had started at 7:00, so there weren't that many people there when we arrived. I must say that right off the bat this race had such a relaxed atmosphere. I'm not sure if that is characteristic of all ultra-marathons, but the Rainshadow crew created a super mellow, well organized race environment! Within 2 minutes we had our race numbers and shirts and the spent over an hour mentally prepping and in the potty line up.
Topic of conversation under our breath in the line up: HOKAS! I have never seen so many marshmallow shoes in one place. The Hoka One One trend has not really hit Canada yet, and I hope it never does. I may be blasted by many on this one, but as a physio who heeds the research, I was floored at the number of people standing 3 inches taller on platforms who planned to run on the trails for the rest of the day. I just don't get it, but I'm obviously in the opposite camp...nearer the guy wearing the Tarahumara sandals further up the line. We ultra-runners are a diverse lot that's for sure.
The first 1/3 of the course was a slow gradual climb up to the first peak. The first aid station was at 13.85K and I didn't leave anything there in a drop bag. I carried all my race fuel, but I did replenish my water supply there. It was pretty warm even at 10:00 when we started and my plan was to take 1 Succeed salt cap every hour. By 1:30 into the race I realized I would need more as I was already feeling the hint of nausea that I now know precedes the need for salt. Thank goodness for that horrific training experience because at least now I know what the warning signs are. So I ended up taking 2 salt caps/hour which meant much more water consumption too.
Out of the aid station there were a few more ups and downs before a loooonnnngggg stretch of downhill single track that felt so good! The wild flowers were so spectacular along the course in this stretch, but I only pulled my phone out to take 2 pictures before the half way mark.
We reached the second aid station earlier than I expected which was a nice surprise. It was supposed to be at 27K but came at 24K on my GPS at about 2:50 into the race. My body had been feeling great up until this point, but my right big toe was feeling pressure. I thought it was my sock, and took off my shoe to tug the toe of my sock down a bit. I had my older shoes in the drop bag just in case, but thought that the sock adjustment would fix the situation. I had only run about 100K on my new shoes and thought they were broken in enough, but I later realized they weren't. I replenished my snack supply, filled my hydration pack, sucked back 2 orange wedges and continued on. A few K out of the aid station I realized my toe wasn't better with the sock fix. It wasn't bad then, but I questioned that maybe I should have changed shoes.
Then we started heading up the second peak which took us up absolutely gorgeous sunflower meadow covered hills to the Sun Mountain Lodge. The lupins were out too, which made for views that a phone pic just can't show properly. I was carrying my phone at this point so I could keep track of mileage better, and take pictures with ease. I had had it plugged into a small external battery pack for the first half of the race so that I didn't run out of power.
The last aid station came upon me MUCH earlier than I expected. It was supposed to be at 40.5K and my GPS read 36K when I arrived. I would much rather have it come earlier than later, that's for sure! The guys at the aid station said that everyone was commenting about how their GPS's were off that day. I was pretty dry by this time and for the first time ever I drank Coke during a run. It was all that looked appealing to me at that point. I again filled up with water and pulled out my head phones preparing for the final 10K with another mountain to climb. At this point my stomach did NOT want food. During training the Oskri coconut bars had worked well, but let me tell you - in the heat when they have melted to oil and your mouth is dry - they don't go down very well. Never again. I still forced myself to eat but it wasn't easy!
Right out of the aid station we started to climb up above the lake. As we got higher I gazed longingly at a boat ramp and pictured jumping off it onto the cool lake. I thought we were almost at the top, and questioned a turn that the flag tape made me take. I stood there puzzled for quite a while - not wanting to believe that I still had to go up. And up. And up.
|Starting to climb the final peak. Race central at the far end lake on the left of the picture.|
|Still going up. Can you tell I'm tired here. Taking a lot of pictures.|
|There was actually quite a bit of forest running but I didn't take any pictures of that. Boring.|
|My dreamy lake is getting farther and farther away. Isn't the race supposed to be almost done?|
|Up and up and up we go. I'm climbing hands on knees at this point.|
|At the top of the hill in the picture above we see this sign. Thank goodness!|
|The final downhill|
and then we took this selfie:
I am satisfied that I ran a close-to-perfect first race. I ran the race in thirds, followed my fueling and hydration plan, didn't bonk or get hyponatremia (4L+ water and 10 salt tabs total) and was still smiling after the race. My only regret is that my shoes were not broken in enough. I now know that older, almost trashed shoes are better than shoes that are still too stiff for 50K.
|The finish line - so low key!|
Sarah ran a stellar race. She was 2nd in her age class (by 22 sec) and 5th woman overall. Despite all her "I'm not going to race it," "I'm not sure if I'm serious" chatter, I knew that she wouldn't be able to hold back and proved once again that she really can kick some ass out there.
The post race party was almost the best part of the day. The band was just right, there was great pizza, it was sunny and warm, and everyone just hung out for hours after. Probably because none of us could get up out of our lawn chairs! LOL If this race if indicative of ultra-running culture, then I'm hooked. If there was an awards ceremony, then we totally missed it. If there were prizes and draw prizes (which I think there were) again we missed it. No big announcements. We didn't know who won until the next day. People were out there simply for the love of running, to complete the race. It was so grass roots, so laid back. I LOVED IT!
I have heard quite of bit of buzz about prize money and drug testing in some of the bigger races. I hope that this sport stays small for as long as it can. I really think I have found my niche. I will never win any of these races, but I really don't care! Even the people who finished after the 8 hour cut off still got huge cheers and had the RD there to greet them. This race reminded me of what the tabloid track meets used to be like as a kid. You got a pat on the back simply for coming out and that was enough.
I competed against myself and I won.
What's next? I secretly signed up for the Squamish 50K a month ago when they opened up a few more spots. So I guess I'm going to do that. Why not? I'll probably lose my big toe nail before then and then it won't hurt anymore :)
PS - Sarah and I stayed to volunteer for the clean up, then headed for more Mexican food and margaritas. That night my legs did not want to be still, which meant for a very restless sleepless night. The drive home was done tenderly, and I actually used the elevator on the ferry going down 1 floor (shhhh!) but today the only thing really hurting is my toe. A bike ride and a hose down on my swollen feet felt soooo good after work as did time just spent sitting in the back yard with my family. A few more days of rest and it's back at 'em!
Elevation gain: 1790m
Salt: 10 S-caps
Fuel: 2.5 Fruitsource Bars, 2 Oskri coconut mango bars, 2 dates, 3 orange wedges, 4 oz Coke, 1 Gu gel, 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
Shoes: Mizuno Wave Ascent 8