Saturday, December 12, 2015, I completed my first 50K at Deception Pass with Rainshadow Running with 4,000-4,5000 ft elevation gain. I probably could have picked an easier race for my first 50K, and actually had originally planned to do Echo Valley at the end of May or Taylor Mountain 50k in June, but decided against that because of the heat wave and put my 50K off to December. (I have a volume depletion disorder and heat has a pretty big impact on that.) I heard Deception Pass had amazing scenery, I had never gotten to run these trails, and Rainshadow Running puts on incredible races and post-race parties.
I made the mistake staying at the bunkhousing. My assigned cabin had no heat, so I moved on over to a guys’ cabin, but half the guys were snorers. My other choice nearby was a cabin that smelled like kerosene which I moved over to in the middle of the night cos I didn’t think I could sleep in the cold cabin with no heat. I still couldn’t fall asleep for hours. I probably got about 3-4 hours of sleep. I think if I had slept in my bed and driven up, I would have had a better chance of getting a good night’s run. While the dinner provided by Deception Pass Park Foundation was delicious, it went right through me the next morning. It wasn’t exactly normal pre-race dinner foods, root vegetables, chicken, Caesar salad, and squash. I had a hard time getting my breakfast down due to my stomach not being too happy with me.
The race starts from the parking lot through the road to a single track trail. I started far in the back figuring I am a slower runner and that would be better. But, with the number of racers, it piled up for a few miles until everyone really got into their paces. With the first loop around Cranberry Lake, you come back through to the parking lot where you started. Some people tossed some clothes at the parking lot (jackets, gloves, or hats) after warming up, but I held onto mine figuring with the weather we’d be facing, I would want my windbreaker, gloves, and hats, and could pull them on and off as I needed them, which is what I ended up doing most of the race. Except for the end, when I was just cold and kept everything on the whole time to the finish. It was about 45 degrees, lots of wind, and on-and-off drizzle and rain.
Then we headed along North Beach and came up a steep cliff to the roadside to cross the Deception Pass bridge to the Lighthouse Point Trail, Pacific NW Trail, and above Pass Lake. At mile 8, my legs felt sluggish and I had an asthma attack. Thank you to the volunteer who walked with me when I was having the asthma attack and yelled at me to eat every hour when I said I felt like crap. This freaked me out because it was so early in the race. Here it was all season I trained for this, and race day was going terribly. She told me to keep going. I kept going. There were many times until mile 21 I thought I was going to DNF. I was almost 2 hours in and hadn’t eaten anything. Actually, I really kind of screwed myself nutrition wise. I had only 1 honey stinger and 1 gu on me. I didn’t stop at the 5 or the 7.5 mile aid station because I get in my head that I shouldn’t need nutrition until mile 10-13 or so, which is ridiculous. The few minutes after I took down a honey stinger, my legs and whole body felt better. I had left the rest of my honey stingers and Gu’s in my drop-bag at the mile 14.6, 21.4, 28.2 aid station. And I should have known I would not bother trying to find and open it up.
In this section, you do also have oncoming traffic with the faster runners making their way back on the lolly-pop loops. It feels a bit disorienting sometimes on the route when you see your friends, and you’re unsure how far ahead of you they are, but I imagined they were all quite a bit ahead of me since they were probably going to finish in 5-6 hours and I was looking at 7 and 1/2 hours. There was a massive tree down blocking the trail at one point. I had to hoist myself up onto and over it. There were periodic down trees and branches, but this was the largest one.
Then you head back over the bridge to Goose Rock Perimeter Trail to head up the summit, which is a steep steady climb for .8 miles. I passed one of my bunk-mates and another runner after checking with them that we only had to do Goose Rock one time. It was time to haul ass. But, my watch still said it took me 22 min to get up Goose Rock. This was freaking me out for the cut-off times. About a mile before the 14.6 aid station, you pass through the Comet Bay Environmental Learning Center where the bunkhouses are. I was almost out of water so I thought of stopping in the kitchen there, but figured I could make it to the aid station.
At the mile 14.6 aid station, my camelbak was empty and I had it completely refilled and dumped my electrolyte powder (Hammer Heed) which I thankfully kept on me in it (this is critical for me since I have a volume depletion disorder). Crammed a bunch of gummy bears down and an orange slice, and grabbed half a banana. At this point, one of the race officials was there and I asked how I was doing on time and if I’d make the cut-offs. He said I’d have to keep up a 13-14 mile pace to make it at this point. I thought there was no way I could do that, but decided to go for 21.4 and see where I stood after that.
I made my way for the first loop at Hypos Point on Whidbey Island with my friend Sean heading back to the aid station to check in for his 2nd loop at Hypos Point. About the 2nd mile into it, you head up a fire trail that has a steep climb, I had to walk. Then it’s pretty flat for a while. It had been raining for a while, so there were some pretty muddy sections. One section about 3.4-4 miles into the loop, has these little wooden raised platforms that were starting to sink into the water and mud. Then you hit this straight-up completely slip-and-slide muddy section to get up to another fire trail. I had to hold onto the surrounding ferns to keep myself from sliding down into anyone behind me and to hoist myself up. My friend Sean came up behind me on his 2nd loop. I said to him, “I think I’m going to DNF”. A girl on the course who was also on her first loop heard me and assured me I had an entire hour to do the remaining 2 miles on the first loop to make the 21.4 mile time cut off. I ran into the volunteer who helped me earlier and she was so excited I made it this far. I got back to the aid station to grab more gummy bears for nutrition. Another woman who got there the same time as me, said “that part of the trail was hell, why do we have to do it twice?” I heard the volunteer say, “at this point, it’s all in perspective.” To which I thought, really there was just that one section of mud where you have to hoist yourself up and one muddy (but flat) section that really sucked. Everything else wasn’t that bad.
Heading into my 2nd loop at Hypos Point, I got a second wind. I know in Marathons, the later miles are my sweet spot. And it seemed to be in this race, miles 21-31 were my best miles. At mile 25, I was hungry, but I remembered I packed sweet potatoes in a baggy in my camelbak (baked chopped in little chunks with salt, pepper, and cumin) and they totally did the trick (don’t know why I didn’t remember that earlier). For the rest of that race, I ran the #&@* out of that race. I walked a little, but I mostly ran those last 10 miles. After finishing up at Hypos Point, you head back on the road to the Comet Bay Environmental Learning Center to Deception Pass State Park and the North Beach Trail again back to the parking lot. My friends Carol and Scott were there to cheer me on and greet me. I was so happy to see them and so happy I finished, I nearly cried.
I finished in 7 hours and 26 min. I know that’s slow to many others, but I am really proud of myself. That was hard. And I did it! With all that wind, rain, and mud. And yes, there were incredible views and cliff sides.
Then the pain in my ankle and calf came back, which I felt after Seattle Marathon 2 weeks prior. 22 races this year. It’s time to take a break and fix my right side. But, I am happy to say I am now an ultra runner.