April 25, 2012
Ok, maybe this title is a tad strong. I have had a couple of days to recover from the hardest run I think I have ever undertaken in my many years of running. I wish I could say that I kicked butt at this year’s Yakima Skyline Rim 50K, but all I can say is that I had my butt kicked. It’s crazy too. I mean, I went into this run feeling strong, rested and confident. What I found was a course that climbed to the heavens but was hotter than hell. The views were fantastic, the aid stations complete and the other runners better than nice.
What kicked me? Well, the first spanking was mile 2 & 3, where we climbed some 2,000+ feet, straight up. This wasn’t one of those switch backs that winds up the side of a mountain. This is like in the famous miner climb in the Klondike region of Alaska.
See the miners braving the cold climbing this mountain?
See the runners braving the heat climbing this mountain?
See how both the miners and the runners all look like ants, making their way up the trail? See where I am going with this. I am not going to bring up the fact that many of those miners died a most horrible death.
Once at the top, one could see all the very cool volcanoes that we have here in Washington and epic views of the Yakima River, which in this picture is way down where we started.
Do you see the river way the frack down there?
Candice Burt, co-race director, was up on top taking pictures. I begged her to allow me to drop out right there, but she told me that I had to keep going. She did take a picture of me, but as you can see, I wasn’t smiling.
Clark at the top of the first climb
As soon as I caught my breath and felt as though my heart wasn’t going to explode I began to run, yes, run, across the skyline and around the rim. The heat of the day was building, which was adding to my challenge. About 5 miles or so I headed down some steep terrain to the valley floor and across a most ancient or nearly ancient lake bed. Soon, I was climbing again. I, at this time, was running with another runner from the Island, Kristi, we started up another very steep, 2,500 feet or so. After about a million false summits, we finally crested the top and were notified by a trail volunteer that we need to go even further up to the second aid station at 10.5 miles. Once there we met our friend Susan, who was volunteering. She ensured that we had all the fluids and food that we needed and then kicked us back down the hill.
Kristi and Susan at 10.5 mile aid station.
Before the start of the race, I asked James Varner, Race Director and all around nice guy, which Brooks trail shoes, the Pure Grit or the Cascadia would work best. He thought about it for a second then said “well, it’s a little rocky, so maybe the Cascadia would be the better choice.” As I was heading down from aid station 10.5 to the main trail I thought about what James had said. ”A little rocky” would be like saying Bill Gates had “a little money”. There were rocks of all sizes and shapes, some hiding rattlesnakes. I wore my Cascadias, which did a good job in protecting my foot, but I did catch a rock and bruise the outside of my right foot. I was now running/walking with a slight limp – sort of like Chester from the Gun Smoke days. Maybe not that bad, but close. I was also having some stomach issues as well. Might have been the heat, might have been a hydration issue, but whatever the reason my tummy was not happy.
Kristi took off like a bunny and I began working my way to the turn around at mile 15.6 and it’s cut off of 4.5 hours (this event was an out and back). I kept looking at my watch and soon realized that I was not going to make the cut-off time, which was totally OK with me as this race was a planned training run for the my 50 miler quest at Sun Mountain on May 20. With this relazation, I backed off and took it easy. I enjoyed the sun, took in the views and encouraged the other runners who were on their way back to the finish line.
Although I knew I would not be finishing this year event, I was one happy camper because I knew that I didn’t have to run back the way I just came. All those steep climbs and descents would need to be dealt with in reverse and I was happy not to have to do that. About a mile from the 15.6 aid station I was meet by some running buddies heading back as sweepers and by my wife, Shelly, who was volunteering at the aid station. Together we walked to the 15.6 aid station. When reaching the turn around, I was met by Kristi and some other runners who didn’t make the cutoff and were waiting for rides back to the start. An hour later we were back where we started and drinking beer. Ah, tasty cold and refreshing beer. James sure knows how to put on a nice post run feast.
Nice Folks at Aid Station 15.6 - The Turn Around or Head for Home
Here are some things I learned from this experience:
- Just because I have been doing some serious training, it does not mean that I am ready for any race/event. I was not physically prepared to tackle the Yakima Climbs.
- Heat. Training for heat is important, which means I would need to travel away from the Island to do so.
- Really study the course maps with elevation. I didn’t. If I had I would have noticed the 1500, 2000, 2500, 3000, and 3500 numbers along side the graph.
- I also need to figure out my tummy issues.
I would do this event again. In fact I am already thinking about next year. In order to run it, I would need to travel to places, like Yakima, to get the serious hills training in.
We were warned that snakes could be out on the course, but I didn't see any. This photo taken by Candice Burt.
Run Happy, Run Hard and stay cool.