Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Return to Sun Mountain

What a weekend! Dave and I celebrated our fifth anniversary on Saturday, which is pretty amazing especially considering that we were "living in sin" (as my dear Grannie B would say) for over four years before getting married and because my previous relationships were more likely to be counted in weeks rather than months or years so hooray for us and hooray for love. Marriage is the best endurance event ever! Okay, enough of the mushy, gag-inducing stuff...

Gettin' hitched at the finish line of the Peach City Half Marathon.
Dave and I also had the opportunity to run Rainshadow Running's Sun Mountain trail races in Winthrop, WA this weekend. Sun Mountain was my first ultra way back in 2010 so it holds a special place in my heart. (It also prompted my first ever blog entry.) That year, Dave and I both ran the 50k race and had planned to again. However, after a quick recovery from the Vernon Dirty Feet 50k two weeks ago, I made the last minute decision to run the 50mi this year. (Dave ran the 50k again and not only shaved over 17 minutes off his previous time but also took first place!)
From 2010: Nervously awaiting the start of our first ultra.
Having just re-read my 2010 race report, the most striking differences between the races would have to be the weather (cold and wet in 2010 and hot and sunny in 2013) and my attitude towards walking hills. I seemed really bummed out about it three years ago coming from a road running background when you just don't walk...ever. Now that I'm a trail running veteran (ha ha), I actually look forward to some power hiking breaks as it's a good time to get in nutrition and stretch out the hamstrings.

It's also interesting to note that I'm still using the same Nathan hydration pack which now is stained and has holes in the mesh pockets where hungry mice have nibbled through to get at my gels, but is still totally functional.

Tiptoe through the tulips...or lupins!
Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama
I've done five 50 milers now and Sun Mountain has been the best one for me by far. I felt calm, relaxed, strong, in control and happy the entire race. I'm kinda a spazz so for me to achieve any one of those emotions for more than five minutes at a time is remarkable but to experience them simultaneously for seven hours and 19 minutes is virtually unheard of.

My stomach didn't act up. Heck, I didn't even make a single pit stop in the bushes. Everything just went really smoothly. Within 15 minutes of crossing the finish line, I was downing pizza and beer - a pleasant and welcome change from my usual post-race nausea and vomiting. 

The only negative thing I can come up with (and it wasn't easy to do) is that I felt a bit lonely out there. I didn't see another runner from the 50mi race after about 35k in and, other than a handful of 50k runners who passed me late in the race, I was alone out there. Fortunately, the course and views were exceptionally beautiful and there were plenty of bright and cheery volunteers and wildflowers along the way to distract me.

She'll be coming 'round the mountain (Patterson) when she comes...
Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama
Huge thanks to James Varner and Candice Burt of Rainshadow Running for another memorable day on the trails (and for the post-race East 20 pizza and kegs of beer)! Full results for the Sun Mountain races can be found at Ultra Signup. And check out the official Sun Mountain race video by Steven Foreman and photos by Glenn Tachiyama.

I'm taking a bit of a break from running now before I begin my preparations for the IAU World Trail Championships in Wales. Bring on the bon bons and soap operas! :)

Going, going, gone!
Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The North Face Dirty Feet 50k Race Report

If someone asked me to design a race course that not only played to my strengths but was also stunningly beautiful, I don't think I could do much better than The North Face Dirty Feet 50k course in Kalamalka Park near Vernon. With long, runnable climbs and fun, flowy descents that were more interesting than technical, this race was perfect for me. I even encountered a big brown bear along the way - how cool is that?!

With the 50k race starting at 7am, Dave and I decided to drive our new VW van Betty White up to Vernon on Saturday to camp out. This was partially for practical reasons and partially because we wanted an excuse to take BW on her first road trip.

Our drive up valley went smoothly and we tootled around a bit once we got to Vernon trying to decided where to camp for the night. After checking out a few forest rec sites and one rather unappealing private campground, we ended up at the lovely Kekuli Bay Provincial Park located on Kalamalka Lake.

Here we are...Dora, Dave, me and Betty White
We relaxed for a bit, had an early dinner and caught up with our friend Neil who was doing the Dirty Feet 25k race (along with Dave) and was camping nearby. Then we set multiple alarms for 5am and went to bed. I had an okay but not great night of sleep, which isn't uncommon for me before a race, and awoke before any of the alarms went off. Getting up at the crack of dawn isn't so bad when the day breaks as beautifully as it did on Sunday.

As I dug into a steaming bowl of oatmeal, I admired the clear blue skies and listened to the cheerful chirping of some little birdies. It was very peaceful and I had a good feeling about the day. Having recently had a couple of blah weeks of running when I struggled to mentally and physically commit to my training, I wasn't sure how I'd make out in the race, but in this one happy moment, I knew that it would be okay. Whatever happened.

Once BW the VW was all packed up, we headed to the race site. We were running a bit late so I had to forgo my warm up. Oh well. The race started with nearly 4k of gentle climbing so I bypassed warm altogether and went right to hot and sweaty. I went out with the lead men at what I felt was quite a conservative and comfortable pace. By the time we started descending, I was in third place and held that position for the duration of the race. (I finished the race in second overall so either I got by one of the lead men without noticing it or someone dropped out. I'm still not entirely sure what happened.)

The 50k course was two laps of the 25k course and there were two substantial climbs per loop followed by sweet, single-track descents. There were few flat sections of the course - it was very rolly polly, swirly twirly and tons of fun! And the views - wow - just amazing! Every direction you looked, it was picture worthy. (See for yourself on the BC Race Review website.)
Photo credit: BC Race Review

Photo credit: Furlan Fotography
Fortunately, much of the course offered some shade because it was hot..really hot. I'm guessing high 20s and maybe even in the low 30s. I had packed along some salt pills and thank goodness I did. I think I would have been in serious trouble otherwise. Even after taking all my salt tabs and as much eLoad as I could get my hands on at the aid stations, I still felt pretty dehydrated.
I wasn't even close to a negative split for my two laps, but I felt like time flew by on the second loop and before I knew it, I was cruising down the finishing chute and then, after a brief stop to grab some food, I continued down to the lake for my first - brief - dip of the year. Ahhhh...so refreshing!

Now I don't want to cherry pick my races and I don't expect to love every trail I run, but it feels really good to find a course that you're excited about on a day when you're feeling good and conditions are favourable. That doesn't happen every race so I really value the times when everything falls so perfectly into place.

For more info on the Dirty Feet trail series (plus all that good stuff like results and upcoming events), go to their website: www.dirtyfeet.ca.