Monday, May 23, 2011
Sun Mountain 50km...(and the return to ultra distance racing)!
(A little foggy of a day but there were bursts of sunshine!!!)
As I drove into Winthrop, WA on Saturday afternoon, with 4 of my amazingly awesome girlfriends, I realized something...I haven't ran an ultra distance event since Western States last June. WOW!
(Me before the race: My LA SPORTIVA crosslites were the perfect shoe on a muddy day like today!)
As the above statement demonstrates, I took a bit of a break from ultra distance running. I have still raced: The dirty duo 25km, Coho run 14km, First Half 1/2 marathon, and the Phantom Run 19km, so it's not like I have stopped running/racing. I have merely spent the past 8 months seriously thinking about my relationship with racing and running long distance events. I have mentioned in previous blogs about being burnt out, wondering why I was doing this, and what it all meant to me. I think it all boiled down to where I was at in my life and what I really wanted out of my life in general.
There is no doubt in my mind that running is a passion, and trail running through the mountains, whether solo or with friends, is the icing on the cake. I missed it, I really missed it, and I now have a whole entirely new outlook on racing and running which I believe is a much healthier version of what it has been the last couple of years.
Ok, back to Sun Mountain. I decided a couple of months ago that I wanted to run Sun Mountain 50km. I had been doing a lot of long runs and I knew I was ready for it. In fact, I hadn't run a 50km since Chuckanut in 2010. An adventure buddy of mine, Shauna, was in town doing her Practicum for occupational therapy and I pretty much took the liberty of signing her up. Then I got Squamish locals Kristi and Gretel on board and Cathy jumped in at the last minute. That was it, the car was full, this was going to be one fun road trip.
Seeing as though it was a long weekend, we left Saturday morning @ 5:30am to ensure we beat the border traffic. The drive was smooth sailing all the way to Winthrop, with total trip time being around 7 hours (some pass was closed which shortens the trip to 4 hrs). We checked into the Virginia Resorts, which I highly recommend. For $69/night, you get your own cabin with 2 queen size beds! We drove into town and checked out all the local shops. We went into the outdoor store and were immediately attracted to these awesome Prana headbands. Within a few minutes we each bought one and decided it would be awesome to wear during the race, our new team gear!
After a quick small grocery shop for the mornings breakfast items, we went next door to an amazing organic pizza place (highly recommend). I had carbo loaded the night before on Pizza and new we were having it after the race the next day as well, so it was going to be 3 nights of pizza. I wasn't complaining as I really love pizza! We also shared an awesome pitcher of IPA that rounded out the evening perfectly. After dinner it was back to the hotel for some shut eye...
The race didn't start until 10am, which allowed for a more leisurely wake up. I had 2 pieces of bread with peanut butter, honey and 1/2 a banana. We drove to the start, diddled around for a while taking pictures and chatting with others. We witnessed a puker outside of the car beside us which was entertaining. He had been at a wedding the night before and didn't know he was running that morning. Great surprise!
It was finally time to tow the line and watch the kids fun run. Oh wow, these kids were cute and my friend Mel's boy won the race! Ok, so maybe he was the oldest kid there but still, he's fast like his mom! After that, James went over some important race details and then suddenly 5..4..3..2..1 and we (50km & 25km together) were off. I was really excited and just went with it. The terrain was simply, no roots and rocks, and twisted and turned on a gradual grade. I kept checking in with myself to make sure I wasn't going to fast. Most of the runners ahead of me were 25km runners but I felt like I was in control of my pace and breathing. I shortly caught up to a female ahead of me and never really knew if there were anymore until later in the race.
We wound our way up to the aid station at mile 8. I refilled my camelbak and was off again. We made our way up a logging road, where we split from the 25km runners. We went up and they went down but eventually our paths met up again at the bottom of the descent a few minutes later. I was super thankful to have some sort of downhill relief as we had been climbing steadily for some time but it was short lived. The middle is a bit of a blur but I started to feel really good and move super well. Eventually, the climbs ended and we were on some fun rolling terrain on the side of a mountain, think Way Too Cool 50km. I began to pass a bunch of runners and started closing in on some of the 50 milers. I had already passed aid station 2, where I refilled my pack again and grabbed some solid food, as I was already tiring of my gels. However, the combo of my quickening pace and trying to digest/chew a peanut butter and jam square did not sit very well.
There were moments of beautiful views, amazing sunflowers, and sunshine. I eventually got to this junction where we go up and do a loop and then return to the same spot and head down. This was an interesting part of the course and I was starting to tire a bit. My digestive system was pulling it's usual tricks and I started to get acid reflux, something I have been battling in most of my ultra distance races. I had to power hike some of the climbs but no one was catching me and I just focused on my body and doing whatever my body was going to give me on the day. After a nice downhill, we go to a road that lead to the final aid station. At this point we only had 6 miles to go. I downed some coke, had some banana, and was off again. In these last 6 miles you essentially go up one last long switchback climb to the top, turn around, come back down to a junction and turn right which takes you back to the road. The trail was not marked properly and people were kind of all over the place, taking different sections to come down and not coming out on the road in the right place. In the end, it all went to the same road so it's all good. This section was a bit of a grind for me but again, I just focused on my body, moving as best as I could and getting it done.
On my way back down, a gentleman directed me to go right. I ran down some switchbacks to a barbwire fence. The trail continued on the other side but there were also other trails on my left and right. Not knowing what to do I waited a couple of minutes until I saw another runner and we made a decision together. We walked up and over the ladder than went over the barbwire and made our way back to the road. I was surprised to know thtt there was only 1 mile to go and to be honest, I was pretty happy. My body felt heavy, sluggish, but I powered on and ran my best to the finish. I crossed the line 1st female, 3rd overall, in a time of 4:34, which I was super stoked about. Cathy, who had a super wicked 25km race, was there cheering me on, and not shortly there after Shauna came ripping in, placing 2nd female! It wasn't long before both Gretel and Kristi came in with huge smiles on their faces.
Overall, I am really happy to be back racing and just surrounding myself with other racers of all ages that inspire me to do what I do. I really went in with no expectations other than to test myself to see where I was at. Placing 1st was definitely a bonus because I scored this kick ass handmade mug, which served as a great eco friendly post race beer mug! It is clear I still need to get a handle on my nutrition because acid reflux is starting to become a little bit of a bitch (said with a smile). Looks like I have some experimenting to do.
Thanks so much James for putting on this awesome event and ladies, thanks so much for making this weekend one hell of a good time. There is just something about getting together with a group of ladies that is very energizing, inspiring, and motivating.
Alright, next up is Comfortably numb at the end of June and then onto Knee Knacker with a whole hell of a lot of adventures in between.