Yakima Skyline Rim 50k – Preview

The Yakima Skyline Rim 50k is my second event of the year and takes place this coming Sunday (04/20/2014) in the Umatum Recreation Area up, down, over, and through the Yakima River Canyon in Washington. At around 9,500 vertical feet of elevation gain, this out and back 50k ridge course should be the hardest race I’ve attempted yet.

Let’s start with this – I’ve never run a race with 9,500 vertical feet of elevation gain. Actually, let’s take a step back – I’ve never even run that amount of elevation in a day. And actually, let’s take one more step backwards with both feet this time – I’ve never walked or ran 9,500 accumulated vertical feet in a week. So…I see no reason why this race shouldn’t go well. (Ah yes, double-negatives.)

For as tough as this race sounds out loud (or read on a screen), it has so far flown under the major national/global ultrascene, maybe perhaps because it isn’t the first place one thinks about when they think of Washington, or because it takes 2+ hours to get to or perhaps because it falls in line more or less with that other race with the unicorn emblem that just so happens to pull in ten or twenty (thousand) entries each year, but it’s certainly not because of the expansive wide open views of the surrounding landscape or the bountiful rays of sunshine or the playful snakelike Yakima River that cuts through the striking ridges or the down-home-old-school vibe of the race.

My goals for this race:
1. Make it to the Start Line. (This is always my constant first goal.)
2. Stay humble. Work on pacing and fueling strategies.
3. Make it to the Finish Line. (This is always my constant second goal.)
4. Embrace the moment. Breathe the air. Smile at everyone. Remember the experience.

So how will I stay humble and what are my pacing and fueling strategies?

  • Staying humble: I’m pretty sure 9,500 vertical feet of uphill will take care of this for me. And if that doesn’t, then the 9,500 of downhill certainly will. Respect the distance. This isn’t just another walk in the park. Or is it? Which leads me to my pacing strategy.
  • Pacing strategy: Hold back when it seems like I can’t. Then hold back some more. Hike/walk uphills. Work on sustaining running for downhill and flats. I’ve yet to run a 50k where at some point on the flats or downhills I’m not reduced to a crawl because of cramping either in my calves, quads, or hip flexor (and usually at least two of those at the same time and when I’m lucky all three at once.) I’m either under-trained (probably) or I’m going out to fast (or both) and with muscle fatigue, the cramping sets in. I usually run through it or walk it out, but it would be great to get to a place where my base is strong enough to outlast the onset of cramping.
  • Fueling strategy: Eat early and often. (Easier said than done). Finish off both my bottles before entering aid stations and have them open and ready to be refilled. Aim to consume ~250 calories per hour through food and liquids. Early in races this plan goes according to plan, but I find toward the end of races, the plan goes out the window and my eating and drinking plan becomes sporadic at best.

Without further interruption, Yakima Skyline Rim 50k hosted by Rainshadow Running.

Race Entrants:
134 entrants have signed up from seven states (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington) and two provinces in Canada (Alberta and British Columbia). Two people have finished the race 3 times, eight people have finished the race 2 times and twenty-one people have finished the race 1 time. The youngest entrant is 20 years old and the oldest entrant (but will not necessarily be the slowest) is 66 years old.

Elevation Profile (From Race website):
2014 Yakima Skyline Rim 50k course profile

Video Preview (by Project Talaria):

Race Description (from Race website):
“Come April you’re gonna be sick of the clouds, of the rain, of running through puddles and wet brush. You’re gonna be tired of being socked in and covered in mud. You’re gonna hate the dark, dreary days and you’ll be thinking summer will never arrive. Unless, that is you either live on the East side of the Cascades or you make frequent pilgrimages there. Heading East of the crest you can get a decent dose of Vitamin D and at least temporarily fend of the 9 month long winter blues of the Pacific Northwest. I know this because I’ve been there. It got so bad for me I moved to the sunny side.

For those of you who have not yet been enlightened or who are trapped for one reason or another on the wet(sic) side of the hill I have created a cure for your plight (though it’s only temporary). The Yakima Rim Skyline 50k is your savior when you need one the most. The sun shines there on that high open ridge line. It really does. Yes in April. There’s no mud either or wet brush that soaks you to the core. You can see forever and it feels good!

Sure the trail is steep and hard and relentless and has more elevation gain than any other race in the Northwest of the same distance but at least you can see where you’re going and where you’ve been. With each climb you’re rewarded with ever expanding views of the Columbia Highlands, the Yakima River Canyon and the Cascade Mountains including Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and the Stuart Range. Also as you climb in and out the Umtanum and Roza creek valleys you see the ecosystem change before your eyes. And the ridge running here is liberating and invigorating.

I’ve chosen each of my races very carefully and I love them all but this one stands out from the rest by allowing the runners to run moderately high (3500ft) in the mountains early in the year snow free and by being such a great escape of the seemingly endless of winter. Summer starts early in the Rainshadow… Why Run Anywhere Else?

There are three things that stand out in my mind about this race course: the open vista filled landscape and the elevation gain/loss and the ridges.  The 50k is an out and back on the entire length of the Yakima Skyline Rim Trail and the 25k is an out and back on the Rim Trail as well but with a turnaround at the halfway point in the Roza Creek Valley.

There will be three full aid stations (mi 8.0 15.5, 23.0)”

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