Friday, May 25, 2018

having your ultracake: a sun mountain race report

just desserts for me, thanks.
"you get the run you deserve."
~the running gods

this bit of ancient wisdom is mostly (but not entirely) true.

i mean, pheidippides probably didn't deserve to literally die after running his first marathon. 

but you could make a case that he got the run he trained for, warranting a metaphorical death.

ehh, maybe the wisdom is more applicable to less momentous events.
coming off an injury and slowly rebuilding my fitness base, i was pretty well prepared for the sun mountain 25k. 

trouble is, i was signed up for the sun mountain 50k.

the upside of being undertrained for this (or any) race is not being burdened with unrealistic expectations (like finishing).

the last couple weeks before sun mountain my biggest concern was the forecast, which called for temperatures to approach those on the surface of the sun.

"what do i own that i can wear for a broiling-hot day on an exposed course? nothing! i mean, i guess maybe this paddling hat, and this billowy white tech t-shirt, and these sunglasses (obsessively re-checks forecast) and these bottles of sunscreen..."
race day dawned cool and cloudy (thank you, running gods). the forecast for bright sun and relentless heat moderated in the days before race weekend, which made packing much easier.

the starting area at patterson lake cabins was filled with friends and smiles and hugs and handshakes. it almost seemed a shame to break up the festivities by starting the race, but james is gonna james, which means he's gonna start races. (he did give us a few extra seconds beyond the scheduled 8 a.m. start, which was nice of him.)

"this way, gents!"
this year's course was a reversal of previous years~~climbs up patterson mountain and to sun mountain lodge were front loaded, rather than late in the race, which i appreciated.

after conquering those burly climbs, the rest of the day would be a piece of cake! (the kind of cake that's physically draining and emotionally debilitating. a multi-tiered ultracake.)

somewhere between mile 4-5 i took a good, hard fall on a completely innocuous section of trail. one moment i was cruising along enjoying my morning, the next i was on the ground, head downhill from my feet, doing internal diagnostics to see if i was injured.

i wasn't. but i did spend the next couple miles minding every step and marveling at how often falls happen where there's least reason to fall...
watch your step, please.
the scenery this day was spectacular. low clouds laced the gaps between ridges and valleys, wildflowers bloomed gaudily, and hillsides were cloaked in green. even the mosquitos came out to see the sights and encourage runners to hurry along.

historic note: i've run and volunteered at sun mountain several times, and have never been so warmly welcomed by so many mosquitos. summers in minnesota could take mosquito lessons from this day in the methow valley.

entomology note: eating lots of garlic the night before a race does not deter ravening mosquitos. apparently they like it as much as we do.
where was i? oh, the race.

coming out of the lodge aid station i ran within shouting distance of my friend kay for a long stretch of miles. i'd run ahead for a while, stop to take photos, she'd pass and run ahead for a bit.

the pace was comfortable and the miles rolled by until just before the thompson valley aid station (mile 22.5). that's when kay casually suggested she'd likely drop there.

two weeks removed from a finish at the miwok 100k, her knee was giving her trouble. the flats and downhills were not a problem, but the uphills were clearly painful.

with a lot of year and a lot of miles ahead, it was a good tactical bail.

which immediately made me think of doing the same.

"i exceeded my training five miles ago," i thought. "do i really want to walk it in for the next nine miles?"

i did not.

textbook example of how quickly and quietly one can decide to drop.

at thompson valley the volunteers were scrambling to tend to runners while fending off the involuntary blood donation swarm.

i was ready to be done, but for some reason i stood there refilling my bottles and stuffing my face with peanut m&ms. 

"i'm thinking of dropping, as well," i said to kay.

"don't do that," she said.

a couple minutes and another handful of m&ms later i said, "i need to get out of here, or i'm going to drop." 

"yeah, don't do that," kay said again.

i nodded, turned, and headed out.

"see you at the finish."
"yup, see you at the finish."

and that's how quickly and quietly one can decide not to drop.

the road out of thompson valley is a two-mile incline that i walked at best-possible speed. leaving the aid station i really did believe i'd be walking it in, but at the top i discovered i could run again. go figure.

over the last 10k of the course i ran the downhills and the flats, and hiked-with-purpose on the uphills.

it wasn't a formula for speed, but it was a formula for a finish, which by now was the only thing left to do.

he: "i need a shower and a nap."
she: "yes, yes you do."
the last two and a half miles or so the sun came out, and i joined a small group of runners on a gorgeous trail along patterson lake. keeping up with them became my near-term goal, which helped expedite a high-five with james and a double high-five with liz at the finish-line.

in the aftermath, with a couple days rest and having eaten all the food, my legs feel surprisingly good. i expected my quads to be trashed from the many downhills, but that never happened.

in sum, i didn't get the run i deserved...i got much, much better.
thanks, as always, to my friends at rainshadow running. near or far, your events feel like a home away from home with good friends and family. cheers.
sun mountain 50k


156/244 (overall)

12/19 (M 50-59)

hoka challenger atr 4

song stuck in my head the entire time: "harlem shuffle" ~ rolling stones