Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Washington's Toughest 50K: Yakima Skyline

James and I prepare rebar signs for the race course
 I feel like I have done enough ultras in Washington to award Yakima Skyline Rim (YSR) with Washington's "Toughest 50K" label.  I have run this course 3 times, twice as an 'out and back' (31 miles) and once from the 15.5 mile back to the start/finish (15.5 miles) to mark the course with James a few days before the race.  What makes this race tougher than most trail races in WA is the overall elevation gain/loss of 10,000 +/- feet and the especially narrow and rocky single track trail.  The course is almost entirely up or down.  Where the trail is tough and demanding it equally rewards runners with incredible open views, amazing geologic landscape, the Yakima River, sounds of chirping birds, smell of sagebrush, and often brilliantly sunny weather.  Washington Trails has a description of the park here.
50k course profile
YSR is Rainshadow Running's 3rd race in a series of 12 races this year, a big jump from last year's four races.  This was one of the races that I was most excited about in the WA Ultra Series, but as the race neared, my excitement lessened.  I had a really bad cold that lasted for several weeks in late February and ended in antibiotics.  This felt like a bit of a setback as I had been planning to get in some good mileage during this time.  By the time I felt well enough to begin running, I was 2 weeks away from Chuckanut 50k, and I felt like I should taper my training a bit to have enough energy to race well.  After Chuckanut, I got sick again!  My symptoms were pretty similar so I got on antibiotics right away and only struggled with a persistant cough and chest congestion for just over a week.

Something about getting sick and taking time off from running diminished my motivation.  Only temporarily though, and as YSR appraoched I decided to continue to train all the way up to the race.  I have always disliked tapering for races, and because it was so early in the season it seemed like a good idea to try to keep my mileage high.  James and I marked the course two days before the race (on Friday) running from the race's mile 15.5 to the finish, a good 15.5 miles at an easy pace, and carrying rebar arrow markers, a good arm workout!

Saturday was another full day of volunteering for the race.  I spent most of the day shopping for race food and supplies then cooking huge batches of chicken, onions, rice, vegetables, and potatoes.  The food was prepared for the after race meal and the potatoes for the aid stations.  We also picked up the kegs from a local brewery.  There was a lot to do, but with all the help, we were all done by dinner time and a group of us hung out eating pizza, before getting a full night's sleep.  What a nice change from Gorge Waterfall's two hours of sleep!  

Brilliant East side sunshine greeted me race morning!  The sky was perfectly clear.  What a incredible bit of luck considering that all week the forecast had called for 40% chance of rain!  Temperatures at the start line were in the 30's, but quickly rose during the run.  It felt like they reached the low 70s by the second aid station at mile 10 (about 10am).  The course as tough as usual, but I wouldn't have traded being out there running those trails for anything!  It was fun to run with friends and really nice to have aid stations since every other time I ran this course I was lacking in food, water, or both.  
Candice running the section between mile 10.5 and 15.5.  Photo courtesy Glenn Tachiyama.  To purchase his photos visit his website at: http://www.pbase.com/gtach/running
By the halfway point I was feeling more tired than I had hoped.  My legs felt deeply fatigued, and I fought mentally to push them up the steep hills.  The downhills were no trouble, I cruised down them catching up to runners who passed me on the uphills.  By the last aid station on mile 26 or so I was running all by myself.  I could see runners behind me far in the distance and runners far ahead of me.  I slowly caught up to some of the runners in front of me, a few who were in the 25k.

The last 5 miles dragged on!  How did I forget about all those little up and downs?  By this point in the race my legs were tired enough to notice even the most gentle slopes.  Although my legs were tired, they were not sore.  I felt pretty loose and finished strong cruising thorugh the very steep last 2 miles.  I finished in 7 hours 36 minutes, a full hour slower than my run at Orcas Island 50k, but I think that this race is THAT much harder than Orcas!

 A video I took on the day we marked the course showing the flooded Yakima River

Here are some pictures of James, me and the course that I took on the day we marked the course.  I didn't take my camera with me for the race, so I don't have any pictures from race day. 
King of the Hill: James on the YSR near what will be aid station 2 at mile 10.5
Near Aid station #2, mile 10.5 and mile 20.5
Rebar course markings
train passes by the Yakima River, close to the YSR trail where it dips down after the first major descent (around mile 7)

Orange ribbon marks the barely there trail
some flowers on the course and my Inov-8 315's.  I wore them for the race, they were great!
James carries a backpack full of rebar signs

It's warming up!!  Isn't he cute?!

We spent a good amount of time on the hillsides throwing rocks off the trail.  It took us 6 hours to run/walk the 15.5 miles.  Boy, I get all the good views!
More incredible views
River is muddy and swollen from flooding

finished course marking!


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