Short version: I made a deal with the devil to have my last run for a while in a gorgeous stunning location, and even though sections of it were unbearably painful, I ran with a friend, and spent just over 6 hours coming to terms with the fact that I was indeed injured, and would have to stop running. But it was a beautiful place to run!
All week I was nervous. Not to say that I’m a pro at running ultras or anything like that, but let’s be honest, there’s no reason to be nervous going into a 50K that is known for it’s beauty, not for it’s hardness. Unless of course you’ve been fighting a foot injury for months, and it’s been getting worse recently…
Yep, that was me. In fact, earlier in the week, I had a full on breakdown and almost cancelled on going to Sun Mtn. I found myself overwhelmed by fear and emotion, and this voice in my head screaming “I don’t want to go!!!!!!”
I can’t remember the last time I cried like that, and it wasn’t rational, it wasn’t mature, it was a little girl’s tantrum. And I don’t blame Jay for just kind of looking at me like I was crazy…
Thankfully, I have some wonderful friends, and one in particular that I don’t mind looking like an absolute irrational idiot in front of. And she happens to give some of the best pep talks…which we know Jay sucks at.
So, after having my meltdown, I realized that as long as I was ok with DNF’ing, and I was ok not “racing” if my body didn’t let me, that whatever happened would be fine.
And furthermore, after blogging about not feeling ready for the race, my friend Dave tweeted back to me that worst case, “we” (as in him and I) would get swept off the course, driven back to the start early, and be hanging in the sun drinking beer waiting for others to finish. My favourite part of the tweet? The fact that he automatically said we.
Having someone you can count on to run with is like a security blanket. Thankfully Dave is excellent at pacing people, and staying with them when they’re struggling. We’ve ran shorter races and runs together when one of us (usually me in the last 6 months…) has been struggling, and we’ve stuck together, helped each other along, and finished together. 50K is a long way to run with another person, and I can’t say I’ve done that before, except for the night time 50K, where 10 of us started together, and 10 of us finished within 10 mins from each other in 3 smaller groups.
So, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to stick together the entire race, but it sounded like a good plan, and comforted me knowing I could count on him. 7 of us rented a little rustic cabin in Winthrop Washington, and we all headed down on Saturday. Shea, Melissa, Jay and myself all have our Nexus cards, so we had planned on road tripping together. The 4 of us always have a great time together, and my Rogue is a good fit for a weekend away with friends.
On the way down we stopped by Kim’s to pick up Jay’s newest camera toys, Lulu outlet looking for deals, and Fred Meyer for groceries. By the time we hit the State Route #20 out of Burlington, it was getting close to lunchtime, so we stopped in MarbleMount at this old railway car that doubled as an all day BBQ place. Yum! It was a great choice for lunch.
We actually blew right past the cabin, and landed in Winthrop, which was such a quite little western town. There’s this random sporting goods store, that was half awesome and half claustrophobic. It probably had double the amount of stuff it should’ve had in it, and it was hard to move around, and there was just stuff everywhere. But, amongst the mess, there was tons of great deals, and Melissa and I both went shopping, again.
While the rest of my cabin napped or went for a run, I headed down the highway to visit some of the guys in their cabin. Shooting the shit with James, Tom, Karl, Jeff, Julien, and Bob helped to calm me down a bit, and lightened my mood.
Dinner time back at our cabin, we had lamb wraps, which were super yummy. Wraps seem to be an easy meal to cook and enjoy at out of town races. After dinner it was time to get organized for the next day…pack my drop bag, put out of my outfit, and post race clothes… And then it was bedtime. Dun, dun, dun. I didn’t sleep very well. Who does the night before a big race?
The race was a super late start of 10am. I did NOT like that. It’s too late. Especially with the heat in the Methow Valley. But, it did give us tons of time to wake up, eat, and head to the start line, and then to also socialize at the start with all the people we knew running the race. I had a goal to take a pre-race Vancouver crew photo, but we missed a few people – it’s hard to organize that many people!
Seen above – Kim, me, Karl, Bon, Dave, Deavah, James, Tom, with Melissa, Shea, Muuku & Bramble in front! Another complaint – only 1 bathroom at the start! Anyways, time was passing sooooo slowly before the race, but I was ignoring my nerves, chatting away. Pre-race notes, and then it was time to run…shit!
As Jay wished me good luck and gave me a kiss, I found myself overtaken by panic. Tears rushed to my eyes, and I was terrified to start the race. It was a good thing I had my ridiculous sunglasses on and nobody could see the terror in my eyes.
Luckily we started right away and I didn’t have a chance to fully lose it. I just started running, following my friends. I distracted myself with the beauty of the start of the course, and with chatting with Karl, who I haven’t seen much of lately, and I just adore him. I hoped that Dave would follow my lead, and he did, as we weaved among runners and tried to find a good pace.
Karl took off ahead after a couple kms, and I was displeased to find that the field had spread apart, and so had the single track trails that was keeping a nice train of runners chugging along, moving together as a train.
Right from the first few steps, I knew I was screwed. I knew my foot was not okay. It was between a 2 & a 6 on the pain scale, it was never totally pain free. A bad sign from the start. The slight uphills that were runnable seemed to hurt me the most, and the pain chart would spike up around a 6, which made it really difficult to run. Dave and I alternated running and walking, and we came to the first big hill of the day, and we started getting passed a bunch, and I decided to talk my way through what I was feeling.
So, I started to tell Dave that it hurt, and that maybe I should drop. But, I got a few words out, and got choked up.
It’s less than 8 km into the race, and I’m debating quitting. I want to DNF. But, I never have before. My foot sucks, but it isn’t unbearable, yet. And by dropping, I feel like I’m admitting to being injured. And by admitting it, I can no longer keep running and ignoring. Just not an option. Admitting it seemed like the ultimate shame and betrayal of all my running plans. Slamming a door shut on Colorado, on Utah, probably on K3.
There’s no guarantees on getting this foot fixed, and admitting injury is like going to jail in Monopoly. You just have to sit there and watch everyone else get to play around you.
I felt like I had two choices; I drop and give my foot some rest, and then continue doing what I’ve been doing – you know half assing my training and racing, or option 2 I keep running and finish off this race, knowing that it’s going to be not only my last race for a while, but also my last run for a while, period. Neither option sounded like a good option.
Really, I wanted to just stop moving, go curl up in a ball, cry, and then wake up and realize it was all a bad dream. But how far back do I go? I’ve still experienced so much over the past 8 months, despite the injury, that I can’t say I wish that all didn’t happen and was a dream.
Anyways, I was dejected, and ready to just quit, figure it out later, when we came across Jay at the top of this not so steep hill. It’s funny to see all of the pictures of our friends that Jay captured ahead of us. They’re all smiling, and running. And then there’s Dave and I…
Look at Chloe flying!
Her race recap can be found here.
The best part of running with Dave is that I could stop and start running as many times as I wanted, and he’d pick right up at whatever pace I was moving. It was a bit like having a shadow, and that was so comforting.
I went straight to Jay, and while Dave went off into the bushes, I tried to vocalize and decide my next move. Jay told me to make it to the top of the hill before making any decisions. I’m not sure why I listened to him. I was so uncertain of what I wanted to do, and what was the right choice. But, off we went.
And for the most part, the next section was better for me, the foot stayed around a 2 most of the time, spiking occasionally, but for the most part, it wasn’t terrible. Dave and I came up to the first aid station, and I felt better than the first time I saw Jay, but not really sure of what to do yet. We’re about 13K into the run, and after grabbing a bit of coke, and checking my water level, we headed back out on the course.
It was at this point, that I noticed this cute dog in the back of an SUV. I said hi and asked if I could say hi to their dog. And then I decided that a hug from this dog would totally cheer me up. Yep, sure did hug a random dog during my race. This is so me.
You know what is so Shea and Melissa? This awesome shot mid race. Love these two!
Up the road we went, running a bit, walking a bit, just listening to my foot and not pushing it at all.
Tight turn and up we went up a steep climb, and then down a fun downhill. Weeeeee! We had just ran into Angel on the trail, and it was great to see a familiar face. Anddddd my foot seemed to fell okay on the downhill, so off I went down the trail. Popping out at the bottom, we start to climb back up and that’s when we ran into Jackie. Poor Jackie was a bit of a walking zombie. Both Angel and Jackie were running the 50Mile, and there was total contrasts of each other. Angel was feeling strong and flying along, whereas Jackie was in a bit of a death march. I tried to cheer up Jackie, tell her some stories, drag her along with us, but she was really struggling. Down another fun downhill, where I run into Jay, and let him know that Angel and Jackie are right behind me.
Angel takes off in front of Dave and I, and as Dave and I come across a beautiful meadow, we decide to stop and take a few photos.
The next ~10K ticked by fairly uneventfully. We ran, we walked, we chatted, and before we knew it, we were at the midway aid station, also named Homestead, but it wasn’t a terrible steep hill, like at home, phew.
I decided to change my shirt, got my water filled up, and grabbed some more Clif Shot Bloks, and while changing, I somehow lost my sunglasses, but didn’t realize until we were half a k down the road. Ooops. Leaving this aid station, Dave pointed out that my dog friend was at the side of the road again. I went in for a hug again, and learned that my dog friend’s name was Pickle! Yes, Pickle! What a great name! Just his name made me smile.
Too lazy to go back for my sunglasses, we continued on without them. I was glad to have a fresh tank top on, and I felt relatively ok. My foot was basically behaving to the point of being able to run on it, but I wasn’t able to push the pace at all, and I was having to take more walking breaks than usual, especially on runnable uphills. Annoying, but I was still out there running in a beautiful place on a beautiful day.
One of our favourite memories/moments of stupidity that we often like to recall when suffering is the infamous night time 50K. If a trail isn’t marked very well, we say oh well, at least it isn’t pitch black, foggy, and pissing rain…If your stomach is queasy, well, at least you didn’t just eat a maple bacon donut and climb 3K straight up. Etc, etc. It was an insane night, but there’s tons of good memories that came out of it, and one of them is the friendships made, like Doug! Doug is one of my favourite people that we’ve collected along the trail, so we just had to stop and take a FOX picture just for him!
There was much more forested areas then I was expecting during the race, and during the next section, we saw a runner come out of the bush from the right, and figured out this was the doubling section. Soon after, we were passed like we were standing still by Kim, who was running her first 50K, and flyinggggggg!
It was nice that 50K & 50M runners had different coloured bibs so we knew just where other runners were at. We hit the turnoff to go up to the top of Sun Mountain, and started to climb. This climb was fully exposed, but there was quite a bit of wind, so we were keeping cool. We didn’t actually know there was a lodge at the top, until we looked up, and it was this beautiful building that looked like it was just floating on top of the mountain. At least we knew our destination now.
This section of climbing was pretty decent on my foot, so up, up, up we went. The closer we got, we would hear sporadic cheering from above. We hit some stairs, and Dave made a joke about treating it like the Grouse Grind, and then how he never thought he’d say something nice about the Grind, especially during a race.
We made it to the top, but no one was cheering for us. I didn’t really understand why there wasn’t an aid station there. It had road access, a big parking lot, and seemed like the perfect place to have aid. There was an unattended water fountain tap that was labelled as a water station….ok…
We passed a couple more people, slowly reeling them in as we continued our race. The next section was beautiful, and Kim had told us Jay was up on top, so we were expecting to see him, and then we came around a corner and I spotted him on a bench. While waiting for us, he got some stunning shots…
You’d be hard pressed to argue that this isn’t an absolutely stunningly gorgeous place to run. That’s just obvious.
And look, Jay even spotted a beaver! Beaver Tom!
Before we knew it, we were back in the forest, and down this trail that didn’t feel like a trail, and then spit back out to do the bottom section of the loop again. It felt longer the second time through, and my foot was back to hurting pretty badly. Wah.
We hit the turn off finally, and headed out on new terrain. Some random switchbacks of climbing, and looking below, I first saw Jackie gaining on us, and looking like she was alive again, yayyyyyy! And then looking back a little bit further we caught our first glimpse of Sarah, who was running her first ever 50miler. She looked strong and in the zone.
Just a little bit down the trail, we came across the last aid station of the day. We were told about 5.5 miles to go. Which meant the course was short, which we’d heard this course could be anywhere from 45 to 51 kms. Not a big deal, except when you’re hurting…
At the aid station, I re-filled on water, had some coke, and waited for Sarah to pull in so I could give her a big hug and tell her how amazing she was doing. I left the aid station with Jackie, with Dave saying he’d catch up in a minute.
There was a short nasty section of trail that was super overgrown and rough, and then it started to climb. I knew that there was a climb at the end of the race. I knew that our elevation numbers weren’t where they should be, but I didn’t realize we’d be going all the way up another mountain, and then turning around and heading right back down.
This is what happens when you don’t really research upcoming races and go into them a bit blind.
I decided that I was going to try and stick to Jackie’s ass like glue. She’d done this climb before, and was a stronger climber than me, so I just focused on following her feet. Dave was right behind me, and up we trudged. At one point, we had to actually climb a step ladder over a fence, and I had to laugh. I was lucky and glad my legs didn’t seize up on me….they hate stairs or steps that late in a race. I immediately chugged some salt pills, water and bloks, just to combat it, if they decided they were angry at me.
As we climbed, I saw some neon yellow compression socks ahead of me, and sadly knew it was Shea. I knew when I saw him that he was likely having another Yakima race, i.e. puking. I was right, he was suffering as we passed by, wished him well, and made sure he didn’t need anything.
And then it was time to climb the last section, an out and back straight up. To be honest, I expected it to be like at Yakima, so it was over before I thought it would be. As we climbed, Deavah and her friend Jess were heading back down, and it was fun to exchange high fives with them. The best part of out and backs is seeing friendly faces, encouraging other runners along, and feeling that great trail vibe.
At the top, I expected to have to sign something, or give our number to a volunteer, but nope, no one there. So, back down we went!
I let Shea know where the top was on the way down, and as we headed onto the downhill of the mountain, it was tough. My foot hurt (it was up to an 8), I had a side stitch, my left hammy was threatening to seize, and I was just starting to really fall apart. It was a fun downhill, but I just couldn’t push my body to move any faster, just too much pain in my foot, and in general, I just felt done. As we got to the bottom we were passed by both Jackie and Sarah, both looking strong, and pushing towards the finish.
We hit the road, and I knew we had to run a little ways on the road…maybe just less than a km, some flat, some small incline, but it was getting unbearable to me to run.
So weird for me, because normally this is where I can smell the finish line, and I’m like a horse heading back to the farm, I’m just able to dig deep and pick up the pace, and finish strong. Instead, I was walk/running, suffering, and DONE.
Thankfully, I didn’t start crying, I just started whining, to which Dave told me I was allowed to whine and complain, but I just wasn’t allowed to stop moving forward. Fair enough.
This next section ticked by so slowly. It changed into an uphill trail, and I couldn’t run any of it. We got to chatting with a really nice girl who swore more than a trucker, every second word out of her mouth was the F word, and it was funny to laugh along with her and curse the stupid idea of ultra marathons. Hah.
As we got closer, we could hear cheers, so I started running when I could, walking when I couldn’t, and finally we turned around a corner and I spotted James in front of me. I screamed JAMESSSSSSSS! I always get so excited to see my friends during races. Unfortunately James hadn’t had a good day, and had cut the route short, and was just heading to the finish line. Sad.
I could hear the band now, so I picked up the pace, turned the last corner and headed into the finish. Always a treat that James, the RD is there for high fives for all runners at the finish line.
But, as you can see, I was done. I looked to my left, and the first thing I spotted was Gary Robbin’s beard, so that was where I headed. Talking to Gary, Jay then materialized and jokingly harassed me for going to see Gary first. I couldn’t help it…the beard just demands attention.
I was in a ton of pain, and just wanted to sit down, but knew as soon as I was down, I was down for the count. Karl came over for a finish line hug, and for some reason as soon as I saw him, I got more emotional. Apparently Karl makes me cry?
Some advil, ice, and a place to lay down, and I was glad to be done. The good news about the race, was that I basically had 6 hours to get used to the fact that I needed to quit running for a while. To think about it, and basically come to peace with it a bit. Of course I wasn’t happy about it, but I felt like I had come to grips with it, and was at least in a better place.
With my ultra runner friends as witnesses, I made the commitment to not run for a while, and figure out my foot. Most of all, I admitted that yes, in fact I was injured, I did have a problem, and that I couldn’t live in a world of denial and ignorance any longer.
For the most part, our friends all had great races, but there was a few casualties. I was probably the worst long term, but Shea had spent a good portion of the race struggling and puking, Jamesers had to DNF, and Bob had to find some private woods if you know what I’m saying…and not only did he find some woods, he also found a random cabin on Sun Mtn who’s dumbfounded tenants let him use their bathroom. Classic.
In the 50Miler, Matt pulled himself at about 45 km, Jackie and Josh both had really low points, but both finished super strong.
In the 50M, Sarah crushed her first 50M, Chloe was ON FIRE and came in 4th, absolutely flying through the course, Angel had a killer strong day (and probably my fave race recap of the weekend…)and Julien and Craig had strong races. Busy day out there to say the least.
How do I feel about it? That’s a really really tough question to answer right now, and I don’t think I honestly have an answer for you.
I do feel like I learned a lot during this race, and that is always something I like to feel. One of the most surprising things for me, was how much less sore I was the next day, then I normally am. Normally, all my leg muscles are sore. I have troubles sitting down to pee, my RMT massage is always painful, and that soreness is just expected, it’s just how hard I push my body, and I like to feel that pain. So, on Sunday night when I didn’t toss and turn from soreness, or have to limp to the bathroom, and when I woke up Monday with barely any pain, I have to admit, I was disappointed.
There’s a huge difference between running 50K and racing 50K. That seems so simple, but I never ever realized it until now. If you can run a race casually and easily, the recovery time is going to be easier and shorter, and you’re able to do more races because of this. Duh.
But, it never clicked because I’ve never been the type to not push my body, to not race myself, and to not give it my all. So, I never understood the difference. I’m glad I learned this. But, I also felt cheated waking up Monday, and I would’ve cancelled my RMT session on Tuesday if I could’ve. I didn’t feel like I deserved it, or that it was really necessary.
I guess that’s one positive that I can take out of this…even though I wasn’t able to properly train, even though everything has been a bit half assed, my conditioning was still up to running 50K, and my body, except for my foot, was happy to oblige my request to run for 6+ hours. Weird.
The race itself? It was good. I like the Raindshadow Running vibe – I like the band at the finish, the atmosphere, and the laid back attitude. There was a couple things that weren’t as great…the pizza wasn’t as good as the pizza made on site at Yakima that we loved and kind of expected again. The other finish line treats disappeared before we got any, like cookies and pie, and we weren’t even at the back of the pack. There was only 1 washroom at the start/finish area. Ehhhh, I think a few portable toilets would’ve been a really good investment.
And the race itself? Well, the location and the trails were stunning. The course was pretty well marked and we never got lost. The aid stations were fully stocked and good to go. I still think there could’ve been aid at the top of Sun Mtn, and maybe a bib check at the top of Patterson, but nothing crucial.
All in all, it’s a race I would definitely recommend, and I will hopefully be back to actually race it one year, as I think I could’ve had a really strong race out there.
Jay’s photos can be found here.
My stats : 6:16:43, 110/163 overall, 45/73 females.
Full results can be found here.
I don’t think there’s much else to say. It wasn’t an overly mentally taxing race, I don’t feel like I was out there pushing and competing at all. I can’t be disappointed in myself, because I know my foot wasn’t up to running any faster, and that being said, I have to be proud of the finish, and proud of not quitting.
And a couple days past…well my foot is hurting more than it has without running, but I’ve got appts booked, and I’m really paying attention to where and how it hurts, so that I can be a good patient.
Of course I have to say a big thank you first and foremost to my personal sweeper Dave, it was great to have you by my side. Secondly, to Jay and my other friends for their support, it means the world to me to know that I’m loved and that so many people support me. Thirdly, to my readers and randoms who’ve come out of the woodwork to offer their support, I can never express fully how much it means to me to know that you come by my little corner of my internet, to not only read my stories, but also to reach out and comfort me. The comments and messages you’ve all sent mean so much to me, and help me make it through this tough uncertain time. Thank you all so much.