05/17/2014 – Sun Mountain 25k – Mazama, Washington
A course with a little bit of everything including blue skies and wild flowers, the looped 25k race traversed through 2200 vertical feet of rolling summer trails on Sun Mountain in the beautiful Methow Valley. With climbs both runnable and literally breathtaking, mountain range vistas and meandering hillsides cascading into the valley, and hundreds of people scattered along the trail we finished where we started with pizza pies, cold tasty beverages, and stringing lively music by The Pine Hearts.
If you’re looking for the video, scroll all the way down to the bottom.
The fourth event of year for me and just a week removed from a Methow Valley trail marathon, there wasn’t any specific race training happening with the few runs I did manage to get in more for continued upkeep and maintenance of my base.
One week earlier we made the exact same trip and not much changed, so to borrow from the last race report,
“The Methow Valley is a quick 3 hour drive from Seattle coming over the North Cascade Pass and a beautiful one at that, but it’s still 3 hours so we left on Friday after work to make race morning not so painful. The drive up north on I-5 is nothing to write home about (except apparently I am doing just that), driving an hour through Everett and Tulalip, then turning east onto Highway 20 as you reach Mt. Vernon. From here the transition from fields of tulips to the low rumblings of foothills leads past the sleepy towns on the banks of the Skagit River and past the three dams – Gorge Dame, Diablo Dam, and Ross Dam, all built in the 1920’2-50’s – that make up the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. Power generated from these power plants accounts for nearly 20 percent of all electricity used in Seattle, 140 miles away. Squarely in mountain territory now, it’s a constant up to Rainy and Washington Pass where the snow accumulated from the past winter has been plowed to the side of the road. Every mile we drive, the snow inches higher until we’re driving through a two-lane bumper bowling alley with snow reaching up past the top of the car, orange snow wands barely poking through and signs completely buried. Cresting a notch in the pass, the view east splays open, the road descends, and just as quickly the snow recedes, the temperature rises, and we’re clipping along to a clear black night sky speckled with stars seen only in the tranquil beauty of the Methow Valley.”
Not sure if 10:00am starts are the norm for 25k’s, but if they are then maybe I’ve been signing up for the wrong distance for every race! A full night’s rest and a stop at the Mazama Store for their always delicious veggie breakfast sandwiches and a cup of joe and we were off for the 20 minute drive to the race start at Patterson Lake on Sun Mountain. We showed up an hour early (it’s better this way for everyone) and check-in was a breeze – bib 335.
Everyone gathered around, inching closer and closer to hear the pre-race briefing from the race director, James Varner of Rainshadow Running, but with all the background chatter of 300+ runners, most of us in the rear couldn’t hear anything except for, “We can’t hear you,” and “What did he say?” The rules of the trail though are fairly simple, almost like grade school; be nice to others, say please and thank you, for most of us it’s as simple as following the person in front of us, but for the fast ones (not me) you might need the ribbons to show you where the trail is, don’t cheat, if you drop it pick it up and have fun!
We tried to shuffle closer to hear, but not too close to the front of the pack and all of a sudden those in front of us were hooting and hollering and the pack started to move forward. Uh, I guess the race had started. Good to know. I started my watch and the slow procession took shape from five abreast to three to two and finally pinching down to the inevitable single file march stretching a mile long.
Aid Station 1 – Thompson Ridge – Mile 0 to 8.6
Not sprinting off of the start line to get out in front of the peloton, will get you stuck in the back of a very long line on a single track trail. If you’re fast and actually have a chance to win, that’s bad for you, but I’m not fast and I’m so very far away from winning, so no big deal for me. In fact I even encouraged it. It made me go out slow and gave me the opportunity to pass lots of people which is always a nice feeling.
Slogging along the entire southern bank of Patterson Lake, we finally pushed to a slightly wider trail which offered the first chance to open up the legs even though it was slightly uphill. Everything was runnable (although I didn’t) except for one bugger of a hill toward the end of the race.
Running past wildflowers, open mountain vistas, and green meadows is an absolute pleasure that anyone would appreciate.
Coming up to the first (and only aid station) a gracious kid volunteer met me 100 feet away and furiously asked everyone if they needed more water. I said yes and gave him both my bottles and continued running past him wondering if he was going to be able to actually make it to the aid station before me. He didn’t, but it was ok as I stopped to pick up a few chips and by the time I had stuffed my face, he was standing next to me smiling holding both bottles, full of water. Perfect. With that I thanked him and was on my way.
Mile 8.6 to the Finish
Contrary to the elevation profile it is not all downhill for the second part of the race. In fact it’s still uphill for the better part of a mile or two after the aid station. Sneaky, although doing a bit of research of race reports from past year clued me in to the discrepancy and so I was not surprised. We gained more elevation before taking a sharp right hand turn to a classic James Varner hands on knees hill although thankfully this one was short and sweet and almost over before I had a chance to get into my hiking rhythm.
Downhill after that through more single track and turning up a doublewide track before emptying out onto another downhill service road. We passed a few mountain bikers and eventually turned again to single track passing photographers sprawled out on the grass snapping photos. Best be running here. And smiling.
The last mile to the finish is a put the petal to the metal all downhill twisty turny affair back to the start/finish line. Crossing the final road, we turn and burn down the last slight hill flanked by streamers funneling us into the catch basin of those who finished before us and those waiting for their friends and family to finish and of course James standing at the finish line waiting to congratulate you.
What’s the best way to end a little jog in the mountains? Well by eating some hot East 20 Pizza pies, imbibing with some cold local Twisp River Pub tasty beverages, listening to The Pine Hearts and cheering in the remainder of the runners. The smiles on runners’ faces as they see the finish line glow brightly and after they get their congratulatory James high five and they see they’re friends and family the smiles only grow. With cowbells, hooting, hollering, cheering, and clapping, the energy is contagious!
Lessons (Re)-Learned. What went well? What could be better?
- Run a race of a distance you’ve never run before and when you finish = automatic PR!
- Running without a pack for the first time in a long time felt good, but there are upsides to wearing a pack – it secures your shirt in place so it doesn’t move around. Free to move around shirt + no tape or lubricant on nipples = chafing and pain when you take a shower.
- One 20 oz handheld water bottle is adequate for 7-9 miles (distance to an aid station) at least for a 25k.
- Starting off toward the back of the pack isn’t all that bad (for me anyway). Kept my pace in check. And I got to pass a bunch of people throughout the entire race (200+!)
- I could get used to late(r) race starts.
- I need to buy some The Pine Hearts‘ albums!
- Trail runners are the nicest group of people you’ll ever ‘compete’ against/with.
Final Race Goals Recap and What’s Next?
I had four main goals for this race…
1. Make it to the Start Line.
2. Don’t get hurt. I have something a bit longer planned in two months.
3. Make it to the Finish Line.
4. Be gracious and thank every volunteer I encounter. Soak in the sun. Smile.
Goal #1 – I love that so far I’ve been able to check this goal off my list every single time.
Goal #2 – Didn’t even roll an ankle. 50k in 4 weeks. Something a tad longer after that.
Goal #3 – PR! That’s easy when it’s the first race of this distance I’ve ever done.
Goal #4 – I tried to thank everyone I could, even some people who weren’t even volunteers. It’s easy to smile when you’re running through beautiful landscape.
Next up is a short recovery, avoid injury, and keep training, then we’re off to Utah for what should be a warm (hot?) Bryce Canyon 50k!
- Arcteryx Motus Crew Shirt short sleeve
- The North Face Long Haul shorts
- XCCU Unisex Experia Multi-Activity micro mini crew with COOLMAX fiber
- LaSportiva Helios trail running shoes
- Amphipod Hydraform 20 oz Bottle
- Suunto Ambit 2S
- Garmin ANT+ Heartrate belt
- Sony HDR-AS15 Action Cam with waterproof housing
- (ring, car key, and license in a zip lock bag – in case I get hurt, can’t talk and need to be identified)
Fuel used – (not consumed in parenthesis)
- Veggie and egg sandwich on a bagel from the Mazama General Store- ~650 calories
- Coffee – 12 oz coffee with cream and half and half- ~25 calories
- Banana – 105 calories
- NUUN Active Hydration Tablets – 16 oz – ~5 calories
- Hammer Nutrition HEED Drink Mix – one single serving mixed before and drank during race – 20 oz – 100 calories
- Aid station electrolyte – 16 oz – ~100 calories
- Aid station water – 8 oz – 0 calories
- VFuel Gel – single serving – one each of peach cobbler and maple bacon – 100 calories each – total 200 calories
- Potato chips – small hand full – ~30 calories
- (VFuel Gel – single serving – vanilla and fudge brownie)
- SaltStick Plus Electrolyte Salt Capsules – consumed 2 – 0 calories
- Veggie pizza – 2 slices ~625 calories
- Beer ~ 150 calories
- Calories burned ~1,403
- Calories consumed pre-race – 785
- Calories consumed during race ~430
- Calories consumed post race ~775
- Average heartrate – 153
- Max heartrate – 171
- Time in heartrate zone 1 and 2 – 0:07
- Time in heartrate zone 3 – 0:40
- Time in heartrate zone 4 – 1:39
- Time in heartrate zone 5 – 0:01:30