Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sun Mountain 50k race report: Running in the Methow Valley

Driving into and over the North Cascades really psyched me up for adventure running this summer:

I spent a day and a half in Winthrop relaxing before the race. It was always pretty cloudy, intermittent rain showers and never over mid-60s. All I could do was hope that the weather held for Sunday. With a 10am start for the 50k (and the 25k as well), it meant everyone would be running through the “heat.”

Sunday morning. 6:30am. Not a cloud in the sky. Uh-oh...I know I’m not a good warm-weather runner.

Starting off it was pretty packed in for the first mile or so. 260+ people combined started for those two distances and 50 yards after the start it went right to tight double-track and single-track trails. At mile two the 50-mile runners (who started at 7am) joined the course and I immediately recognized Dave Swoish from his blog (he’s run pretty much all the races I’m running this year, so I've been snooping on his reports for a few months…). Good to meet him and congrats Dave on throwing down an 8:21 50-mile time!

About a mile later I recognized Adam from Victoria. We ran eight miles on Chuckanut together and probably spent 24 miles together on Sunday. If we weren’t right next to each other chatting, I think we always were in sight.

The incomparable Glenn Tachiyama:

Adam on the right, around mile 3.
The wildflowers were incredible, literally growing over the trail. With views of the North Cascades mixed in as well it truly is a beautiful course.

I started eating pretty early on (around mile five), but things just didn’t go down that well. The temperatures probably were mid-to-upper 60s and quickly getting warmer. Any type of semi-solid food (Bloks, chopped-up PowerBar) just felt hot and gross in my mouth and heavy in my stomach. At the first aid station (mile 8ish) I had some M&Ms (the insides were already melted), an orange slice and refilled my two 8oz flasks with electrolyte drink.

Aid one to aid two went really quick: started out with a couple of steep but short climbs and then a long steady descent with some rolling track. We mostly were in the trees and it didn’t feel that hot. Adam and I ran this entire section together and both remarked how quickly the first half of the course went. I think we came in to the station at mile 15.5 or so in 2:26.

Food definitely was not sitting well and I was just getting calories through electrolyte drink and some EFS liquid shot. After this station I think 10 of the remaining 14 miles were in the sun. After traversing the north side of Sun Mountain we did a three-mile loop up the northeast side, across the top, down the west side and back onto some rolling single track we’d just done. The climb was pretty steep and a real grunt. Luckily there was water on top and I refilled my flasks. I also completely soaked my hat in cold water, put it on and couldn’t feel any water at all. It had to be in the mid-70s and felt much hotter in direct sunlight.

Coming into the last aid station (about mile 24) I was starting to feel pretty gassed. I had some ginger ale for my stomach, another orange slice and grabbed some Gu, as well as refilled my flasks again. The Gu was a refreshing tropical-mango flavor, but was the temperature of fresh espresso. I had to suck it down in four small efforts. 

The last climb of the day was the single largest one: Patterson Mountain, about 1,100 feet over two miles, but which includes a half mile of flat trail in between the first initial climb and the last big push. I felt much better here than I did on the shorter climb up to the lodge. I pushed on a bit from Adam and it was encouraging to hear from descending runners that it wasn’t much further.

Got to the sign at the top, turned around and hit the gas, relatively speaking.

Coming down I told Adam he was almost there and saw Dave not far behind, on his 46th mile. Exchanged high-fives and continued descending as fast as I could.

Lots of switchbacks that did not seem like a very direct route down the mountain…arg.

Glenn was again lurking in the bushes:

Descending Patterson Mountain, mile 27.
About a mile from the bottom I went to clear my nose and it came out blood. Not a drop or two but full on blood. I felt like I’d been clearing my nose more than usual (maybe from the heat?) and I think combined with the dry air it just wore away some skin and I had a full-blown bloody nose. It was dripping down my lip, into my mouth, onto my chin, on my shirt and hydration vest. I kept wiping it away with my hands and soon enough it looked like I’d just slaughtered some forest animal and devoured it raw. I only had one wet tissue which I didn’t think would do too much to stop the bleeding and there was no way I was going to stop running. I used to get a fair number of bloody noses growing up, so it didn’t seem like something worth stopping for. My quads felt worse than my nose! 

After another mile or so by the time I got down along the paved lake road it had stopped bleeding. I can only imagine what the cars driving by thought had happened to me or the elderly hiking couple I passed in the last mile of trail before the finish (which is uphill; ouch!). Kinsey (who got 2nd woman in the 50-mile) passed me here, and we commented on my bloody face and her bloody legs from a fall early in her race.

I finished in 5:13:51, 25th place overall (full results). My lower face was pretty much covered in blood, I think, (surely someone must have a photo?!) but I was pretty happy/dehydrated/tired. I faded a bit on the tougher second half of the course, but given the heat (for me at least) I feel pretty happy with the day’s effort. I cleaned up my face with five wipes and hoped I didn’t look too bad anymore…

Dave finished up his 50 miles and Adam came in a few minutes later, followed by GregH, who I spent some quality post-race time with.

Thanks to James and the Rainshadow Running crew/volunteers for putting on a great, laid-back run. It felt more like a friendly event rather than a competition (for someone in the middle of the pack, at least). The course had a lot of varying terrain and was really well marked (maybe one turn that if you had your head down you could have gone by). My only thought is when the weather is warm, like it was, 10am feels late to start.

Congrats to everyone who ran any of the distances.

Thanks to Adam for being great running and social company all day and to Karmen, Adam’s girlfriend, for bringing me cookies when my legs didn’t want to walk!

GregH: I’m scheming up adventures in the Cascades and can’t wait for White RiverJ

The nitty gritty:

Pearl Izumi Trail N2 shoes
DryMax Trail Run socks
Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek vest (one-liter bladder, two 8-oz soft flasks)

Because of my stomach I got nearly all of my calories through fluids:

One package (6 pieces) Clif Bloks
Two small bites of a PowerBar
Three orange slices
15 M&Ms
One Gu Roctane (Island Nectars flavor; besides its temperature the taste was surprisingly refreshing!)
Three oz EFS liquid shot
Three salt pills
~40 oz of water
~48 oz electrolyte drink (EFS at the start, Gu Brew from aid stations)
One (or two?) Dixie cups of ginger ale
One Dixie cup of Coke

I got a liter of liquids back in me before I started trying to eat real food, and even then it was at a slow pace. I started to feel a lot better an hour later.

And that was my 2013 Sun Mountain 50k!

A few additional pictures from the weekend:

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