This past Saturday, May 20th, I finished Sun Mountain 50K. It was my 2nd 50K and I felt it was a lot harder than my 1st, which was Deception Pass 50K. Unlike my 1st 50K, everything went well before hand. I was well-rested even if I had to get a massage the Thursday before to work out some muscle pain in the back of my lower hamstring, upper calf, and tendons on the side of my right knee. I got a full night sleep because I got my own hotel room. And I had no stomach issues. I’d say that was all a win for getting me to the start. I was using this race as training for my 50 miler in July, Mt Hood, and plan to do another 50K or trail Marathon, Echo Valley on June 11th.
The race started pretty quickly. One second I’m talking with friends, and the next they’re announcing we’re starting the race. I started out with my friend Katie, also part of Seattle Green Lake Running Group / Green Lake Ultra Group / Green Lakers. We had planned to run the race together and trained together some beforehand since we’re the same pace. My friend Ram who I met at Deception Pass 50K and is also part of the same running group(s) was out there too who was also our pace so I was happy I might see a familiar face along the course. I started out behind Eivind who’s also in our running and Seattle Green Lake Triathlon Group, and is a crazy Iron Man. He was chatting away, but I kept getting separated by people who’d get ahead or behind him, and they kept asking, “Are you talking to me?” Or “Is he talking to himself?” And I’d explain, “He’s talking to me. I’m way back here now.”
Aid Station 17
Katie and I ran the first 10 miles together which were gorgeous and easy to enjoy because they were a gradual uphill leading into a section covered in sunflowers and lilac flowers with majestic views. We saw Emily Ann at mile 5 who handed off potatoes to Sean earlier and snapped some awesome photos of us, “trail sisters”. At some point I remember saying “This is like running in heaven.” After the 8.6 mile Aid station, once we got up in a mountain bike trail, I lost her on the way down. I found it funny they kept putting us on the mountain bike trail options labeled “hard” instead of “easy.” As if we weren’t going to strain ourselves enough that day. Once I got to the bottom, I waited for Katie awhile thinking she’d catch up. I started walking up another semi-steep but gradual-ish incline. A lot of people were walking up it, but I found it runnable. I was hoping I’d see Katie again. I had a couple women ask me if I were ok cos I kept stopping and looking behind me. I explained I was waiting for my friend and they said you might not want to wait alluding to the time and cutoffs. So I started running again until I got to aid station 17. This section of the race and up to mile 19 I found went so quickly and was the easiest part of the race. At aid station 17, I did notice I was starting to get blisters from my sock on my right foot. I had ran with these socks before but most of my training was in wet muddy trail runs vs. dry dusty dirt trail runs so I didn’t really account for how that could rub in your shoes and socks and cause blisters though I did put Glide in between my toes and the insides of my soles (I got a few toe blisters when training and found this worked). I didn’t put any extra socks in my drop bag at that aid station though. I decided to take my socks off, brush the dry dirt off them, put a bandaid from my pack on my pinky toe and put them back on and hope for the best. I left Katie a message at some point — though I don’t know why because we didn’t really have any reception out there — to ask if I should wait for her at aid station 17 and then again at aid station 17 that I kept going. This was also why I made the decision at this point to fill my camelbak bladder with half electrolyte water at the aid station and half water plus 2 scoops of Hammer Heed. I thought if my brain’s not working quite right, I’m at risk of getting dehydrated plus it was getting hot and I have a volume depletion disorder. It definitely did the trick. Best decision made.
Miles 19 – 24: Sun Mountain & Out and Back
Hitting mile 19, we started our climb up Sun Mountain. Except I had no clue this was Sun Mountain. (I really should have studied the maps and course more. It’s funny on my Garmin data, it doesn’t look so bad.) Because I thought this was Patterson Mountain, I really hauled ass thinking this was it and got up there pretty quick. Eivind passed me on the way down and said, “See you at the finish!” This set a bad expectation that I wasn’t far from finishing or the rest was easy. There was a group of guys in bright colored wigs running the water spigot so I ran my head under the cold water to cool off. Then we headed out for an out and back bumping into runners going the opposite direction. It felt like it went forever when it was around 1.5-2 miles out. On the way back I saw Ram and told him the turnaround was in about .4 miles. I still held out hope for seeing Katie, but didn’t so at this point I thought she must have dropped. There was an older man who stopped at a bench and removed his shirt who Katie and I ran with earlier in the race. He was having a hard time and said, “I might pass out.” I got him to get going again and tried to crack some jokes. I said, “I can’t wait to get back to the lodge to the spigot. Then we can say, “Spigot me!” He started laughing and made it back the lodge. I didn’t see him after that so I assumed he dropped. Going back down Sun Mountain I got passed by people who were walking on the out and back. I had a hard time running down some sections and got the worst cramp in my side. I started clutching it in my hand to help ease it. Then I got back down to the bottom where Jordan from SGLRG was volunteering and directing traffic. I’m sure he could tell I was struggling a bit.
Aid Station Mile 25 to Patterson Mountain
Then we went onto a woodsy section. I didn’t see any trail markers for a while and got scared I missed a turn or something so stopped to look at the map. A woman came up to me in a yellow shirt who I kept piggybacking the race with since aid station 17. I had mentioned to her before I lost my friend, and at this point I realized I’d been running 15 miles by myself. She said this must be the trail because she didn’t see anywhere else to turn so we kept going and soon we saw a trail marker. Before I knew it I was at aid station mile 25. A volunteer there told me I had 10 minutes before cut off. The blisters on my right foot had multiplied and I had fresh socks in my drop bag and another bandaid. I just said, “Give me 2 minutes, and I’m out of here.” After trying to stick a bandaid on and changing my socks, I stuffed ice cubes down my shirt and in my hat. Then I was off to misery…. err I mean Patterson Mountain. In my head I was thinking, 6 miles to the finish, it must be all down hill because we must be that high up and that far away from the finish. Boy, was I wrong. There was no way I could run miles 25 – 29. It was all up, and sun exposure. In hindsight, my watch data tells me it was 88 degrees at this point and the race average was 76 degrees. Yeah, that was a bit brutal for us Seattleites. I’ve run a trail marathon in 86 degrees in CA and it wasn’t easy so I think that’s why my body was like whatever, we’ve done this before, let’s just get this done. We hike up to around mile 26 and get to the ladder going over the barbed wire fence to keep cows at bay. Then just kept climbing all the way up to Patterson with that giant box at the top and a great view of the Cascade Mountains. I took a photo of it because I wanted to prove I made it! And then ran down to where Glenn was taking photos around mile 29.
To the Finish!
The next mile was a fairly steep downgrade and a bit rocky uneven ground. Some parts I had a difficult time running and started walking. When I got down to the road crossing, I didn’t feel too well and decided to walk too until I was about .5-1 mile from the finish. I thought about jumping in the lake there. I think everyone did. And then I shuffled my way in to the finish where my SGLRG buddies were cheering me in. I was so emotional because although this was not my first 50K, this was my hardest, and this was actually the hardest race I had ever done, even harder than Half Iron Man training. As I went through the finish line, I said, “This was the hardest *bleep* thing I’ve done.” (Pardon my language.) I started crying and Katie and Ram gave me big hugs. I was happy I finished! Emily Ann was amazing and asked if I wanted anything. I said some electrolytes and food. She brought me a glass of Nuun in water and a giant plate of mostly fruits and veggies which was exactly what I wanted actually. Ross was clicking away with photos and talked to me a bit about the race and having people to train with who are our pace. I was a bit worried about having photos of me being so emotional, but you know what, I’m proud of my accomplishment and happy to have shared it with friends. I know I am not a fast runner or a super lean runner, but I am a very determined runner and I know based on my history, I can pretty much get through anything. I am resilient.
I did take so many photos along the run. Some are posted here.
Time: 8:10:37 (for perspective, Deception Pass 50K took me 7:20:26)