Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sun Mountain race report - My first 50 miler

So here I was at the starting line of the 2014 Sun Mountain 50 mile run. The first Rainshadow Running event I would participate in, after hearing so many great things about the organization, the different events and how they are all very awesome and unique. This was also to be my first ever 50 mile race. I wasn't going to have any excuse either if things didn't go so well. I knocked off all my long runs and training weeks as planned. I knew all my gear and had plenty of familiar race food either on me or in both my drop bags along the way. For more information on my race food choices check out Keep Your Nutrition Simple. There were two things on my mind leading up to the race though. Would it be hot on race day in the Methow Valley? I hadn't trained much in the heat simply because it was much cooler at home in North Vancouver during my winter and spring training runs. Having to run longer than I ever had before by about 30 Km was also intimidating to say the least.

The morning of the event was cold enough for the water on the side of the road to have frozen over. There was not a cloud in the sky though. Racers would have a chance to experience running in the near freezing cold at the beginning of the race, scorching heat towards the end and everything in between.

If you like single track, wild flowers and wide open spaces you will looooove the Sun Mountain race. The course is advertised as fast with just over 7000 feet of climbing over the 50 mile distance. There are indeed a lot of runable sections in the course (which will leave you knackered due to a lack of change of pace). Beware the finish though. One of the toughest climbs of the race is coming in the last 10 kilometers of the course with the finish line teasingly in sight in the valley.

Events and thoughts throughout the race:

  • Sharing the first half hour of the race with James
  • Hearing about the lady two places in front of me who allegedly saw a bear and wondering how I could have missed it
  • Arriving at the first aid station (at just under 11 kilometers) in about an hour flat and wondering if that might be too fast
  • Marveling at the seemingly endless sea of wildflowers and crossing a number of cow gates
  • Running by a vastly unimpressed cow in the bush and hearing a bunch more mooing just below
  • Sneakily passing Michel as he steps out of line for a moment
  • Arriving at the second aid station after about 2 hours and still wondering if my pace should be more conservative
  • Catching up to Mike on the first bigger climb and running with him on-again off-again for the next 35 odd kilometers
  • Stopping to sit down on a ledge to fix my sock and empty my shoes just as Mike catches up to me again
  • Enjoying the energy and help at the 3rd aid station while sorting out the contents of my first drop bag
  • Merging with the 50 k runners and being happy to have some more people around me again
  • Chatting with Carlie and Mike as we gradually climb and wonder when it might get steep enough to warrant a walking break
  • Having to find a bush to enjoy a few minutes of solitude and to work on my isometric squatting
  • Keeping it steady until just before the 5th aid station where I run out of fluids
  • Receiving an absolute rock star treatment at aid station 5, including a refill of my hydration bladder and bottle
  • Realizing 3 minutes later that I was so busy stuffing my pack with the contents of my second drop bag, that I actually forgot to have any food at the aid station
  • Wondering if the curled up checkered pile I nearly stepped on was one of them snakes I heard about or just a turd - deciding not to check though
  • Trying to convince my stomach that continued food consumption is necessary if continued swift(-ish) forward movement is desired
  • Soaking my new favourite race accessory - my arm warmers - at the fountain on sun mountain
  • Also feeling smug about keeping my watch covered with the other arm warmer, only checking for time elapsed once at every aid station, at least until after the last aid station (this is a habit I will most likely continue since it keeps me from checking how much time elapsed every 5 minutes)
  • Realizing after passing the last aid station that there is one more long steep climb left (should have done my homework better before the race)
  • Realizing the climb is longer yet after reaching a pump which I mistook for the peak
  • Still keeping it together on the way down the mountain and on the road back to the start finish area
  • Coming to the trail that my kids were covering for their 1 k race the day earlier
  • Starting to tear up as I realize that I am less than 1 kilometer away from finishing my first 50 mile race
  • Crossing the finish line, high fiving James and spending the rest of the day (and most of this week) feeling pretty good about myself

I had the pleasure of spending three nights in Winthrop for the race with my family and friends and I loved the Methow Valley, the vibe and venue of the race, the happy volunteers, the flawless organization and my overall experience. Thank you to everybody who helped to make this event happen and congratulation to all Sun Mountain participants.

This is 2013's official race video, which is pretty much what got me to sign up for the madness in the first place. Once you watch you`ll see why.

Sun Mountain Race from Steven Foreman on Vimeo.