Tuesday, October 08, 2019

A study in contrasts: Baker Lake 50k

"Ha ha, the joke's on you!"
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

~ Charles Dickens, clearly writing about ultra running
Halfway through the race, the Baker Lake 50K was shaping up to be one of my best 50Ks ever. 

Until it wasn't.
I'd heard mixed reviews about this event, ranging from faint praise to "Pacific Northwest classic!" [Spoiler alert: it is excellent.]

The trails around Baker Lake are a celebration of PNW terrainrolling, runnable, occasionally technical, and ferally fun. The views are nonstop—mountain, river, lake, and fall colors laced with cobwebby clouds.

It was the perfect stage for a day of tomfoolery on the trails—running with a good friend, jabbering endlessly about life and work and politics and the future. The first 15+ miles flowed by like, "Hey, feel free to do this all day if you want."

Hahaha! Those miles lied. 

The NEXT 15+ miles quickly and unexpectedly turned petulant, like a two year old up way past his bedtime. My stomach, ingrate that it is, abruptly scorned my efforts to keep it happy. Even the ritual chewing of the S-Caps was met with disdain. This behavior continued through the rest of the race, just because. 

In the meantime, I rammed my knee into a fallen tree. This can happen during a trail run, and honestly I didn't mind picking the sharp little tree-shard out of my flesh. But the immediate swelling and stiffness? That was uncalled-for.

"Why do you run through
these woods? Nothing good
will come of it!"
I'd be fibbing if I said these little setbacks weren't beclouding my sunny demeanor. By mile 27 I was not having the best of times. On a day that was as near-perfect as October PNW running can be, this was a shame and a travesty. Inexcusable, really. And yet, there I was, shambling about like a bridge troll, just wanting to be done.

Tsk. Pitiful.
Full disclosure: it wasn't all bad. I encouraged other runners who were having struggles of their own. I shared some naproxen with a woman whose hips were giving her fits. I stopped to take photos of some amazing scenery and picked up litter when I saw it. It helped.

The miles, still stubborn, eventually gave way, and soon I was crossing the Upper Baker Dam, less than a mile from the finish.

And while I had hoped to roll in under six hours, my finish, race-wise, wasn't as disappointing as I convinced myself it would be.
"And yet I have had the weakness, and have still the weakness, to wish you to know with what a sudden mastery you kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire."

~ Dickens, again on running, probably
Baker Lake 50k


56/140 (overall)

4/16 (M 50-59)

Hoka Speedgoat 3

Song stuck in my head part of the time: 

"We got the beat" ~ The Go-Go's


dpc said...

You did the Baker Lake 50k! Would have aced it without those setbacks. Ah, oh well. You never know with trail running.
I did it 4 years ago. Really liked the terrain. Ran out of water on the way back, stopped to drink out the supplied water jugs which had been placed on the trial via canoe. They still doing that? That water saved me.
I camped there night prior to race, should have camped the night after. Food and beer were supplied. Was shamed to return to Seattle and care for elderly dog. My only regret from that day.
Great time of year to run, as the threat of heat (my enemy!) is minimal. Glad you finished. Maybe we'll do it again.

spaceneedl said...

I had forgotten you ran Baker Lake! I also car-camped there the night before. Much more convenient than driving up early.They still canoe-deliver water to the course--I helped myself to a couple bottles-full on the way back.

Lovely course, and I'd be thrilled to run it with you, any time! How's the rehab going??

Always good to hear from you.