My previous ultra’s had been goals that were well planned out and well prepared for. After doing Gorge in April I wanted to see how my fitness was in the 50k distance and run a race sort of as more of a training race. I had bought a Rainshadow entry to any race at a silent auction benefiting National Parks earlier in the year and after Gorge decided I would use that entry to jump into the sold out Sun Mountain 50k. We had been up into the Methow valley last year and were keen to get back into the area to hang out for the weekend so the Sun Mountain race was a good fit.
I didn’t do much specific to the race in the lead up, partly because it wasn’t a hardcore goal but also due to work load in the weeks leading up to the race. I planned out my nutrition and decided to try racing with just a hand held instead of my usual race vest.
The race started at 8am on Saturday. It was a very casual race briefing and pretty much before I knew it there was a brisk countdown and we were off. About four people went out pretty strong at the start. One guy, Ricardo, was going super fast and looked the part so I just let him go, too hot to handle. Another guy looked like he was going too fast for himself so I was happy to let him go and see him later. I had no intel on the other two, but as with the leader was quite happy to race my own race for before making any moves. The course dropped from the start down to the lake, and then followed along the beside the lake which was a very pleasant start. The trails for most of the day were very smooth, great for newcomers to the sport. I headed along in 5th for a while, going a bit faster than I would like but nothing that would throw the wheels out later. A runner came up and we chatted for a bit which was good for getting the heart rate down. Turns out that not only was he running for the finish line, but also running for government. We chatted about immigration, which appears to be what I talk to many people about. I really should organize getting some podcasts to distract me at the start or races. I need to work on my mental game. Nutrition was going well, using chews in this early part of the race.
Through the first aid station I was in 5th. The aid station was well crewed and there were a lot of spectators also. This is a great race for people doing their first 50km as it’s easy for crews to get to all the aid stations. I saw 4th leaving the aid and worked up to slowly worked my way up, taking the spot as we went off the forest road and back on to trail. There was a brief up hill before the most technical part of the race which was a steep downhill mountain bike trail. After the technical part the rest of the trail to the next aid was pretty smooth single track with some forest road. The forest was nicely spaced pine trees and a lush green floor providing beautiful surroundings to run through. It would actually make great orienteering terrain but that’s a story for another day. I didn’t see any other races until the next aid. Coming out of the second aid I spotted 3rd. I should say that I my nutrition plan was 300 calories/hour all of which I carried with me, so at the aid stations I was just putting my pre-packed tailwind into my bottle then filling it with water. There were some gates on the course and I could use the squeak of a gate to time that 3rd place was 40s in front of me. The trail twisted a lot through this part and I didn’t catch sight of him again to the ascent to the lodge. He was power hiking so I went for hybrid run/hike and worked my way up on him, taking 3rd before the stairs. The course passed the lodge and then went out along a nice ridge line, with views to north to the mountains. There were a lot of people around the lodge providing great support and a cold water tap at the tennis courts was a real bonus. This part was out and back so I got a look at 1st and 2nd who were both looking good. On the way back I filled up my water bottle with plain water which I used to douse myself a bit and get some plain water down as a change from the sweet tailwind. Back down the hill and then a short section to the last aid station where Celia was volunteering. Again I filled my bottle and got accurate timing from Celia that 2nd place was 2:57 away.
I went for the hybrid run hike again for the ascent, this time up Paterson Mt. It was a bit harder to keep pushing with my heart rate staying around 180bpm the whole way up. I caught sight of 2nd and passed before halfway up. Again there was an out and back for the top section which told me that 1st was still moving well, and we shared some hearty encouragement, “You’re looking great dude,” “Dude you’re looking sweet as!” #shaka. I was feeling crap but still moving at this point. The views of the surrounding valleys helped! I hit the turn around and downed my last gel. For the descent I pushed as much as possible, which was getting a bit tough. Side note, Celia beat me by a minute on this section when she went for a long run the next day. She’s a down hill monster!
I received encouragement and reciprocated for the 100km runners who started earlier in the day. By the time I got to the bottom I really wished I’d studied just the end of the course more so I knew what to expect when I was feeling the worst. I kept pushing as much as possible as the trail climbed up the same trail that we started down on earlier in the day, heart sitting at around 190bpm now. I pulled up in second, 4 mins down on 1st.
All in it was a really fun race, and my favorite 50km so far. It’s great for beginners because the trails are easy and you can receive a lot of support along the way. It’s also a great race if you’re more experienced. It may look like an easier 50km as there isn’t a really huge elevation gain and the trials aren’t too technical, however it’s because of this that it’s a tough race as it’s tempting to head out too fast and cook your legs. I’m already looking forward to coming back next year and being on the over end, following around and cheering for some awesome runners! Big thanks to Rain Shadow running for putting on another great race!
Bonus: Checking out Highway 20 on the way back to Seattle.