(photo credit to Glenn Tachiyama)
Any race that involves those awe-inspiring stop and smell the roses (wild flowers) moments are good in my books. The HWY 20 drive up east through the Cascade Range is absolutely beautiful. The town of Winthrop, Washington is a hidden gem (as was the resort we stayed at "River's Edge Resort"....a definite gem!). This was my third "ultra": my first was the 2012 Kneeknacker, followed by the 2013 Chuckanut 50k, and the upcoming endeavor being the White River 50 mile in July. My goal was to race in under 6hrs and without injury seeing as Kneeknacker I was in the depths of Iliotibial Band syndrome and Chuckanut I pulled a hamstring the week prior.
I entered this race a month or so ago after Chuckanut 50k. With a leisurly 10:00am start I approached Sun Mountain 50k with my standard "I-have-no-idea-what-I-am-doing-and-wish-I-took-the-time-to-research-the-course" approach. Coming from my background of rowing very competitively on the national team, having a race plan memorized down to the every stroke, and with a definite plan saturated with precision - I have swung to the other side of the pendulum and now just love simply being out there moving one foot in front of the other. Thus far I find my I-have-no-idea approach so very fresh and exhilarating.
Sun Mountain 50K was undoubtedly up to par; we could not have asked for better weather. The sun was warm but the wind was a crisp and cool northwesterly. The race organizers are awesome...highly organized but very laid back at the same time. It had rained throughout the week but only a few mud puddles were to be hopped. The majority of the course was a dirt, very non-technical single track with rolling terrain. The 1200ft first climb was only existent on my heart rate monitor, I could not get my heart rate below 180 for the life of me, then realized after the fact why.
As per the norm, the group around me were full of positivity and strength that somehow osmotically pulled me up the hills and pushed me down (I still right suck at downhills). The race literally flew by for me (since this was the first time I set my GPS on miles...felt so much shorter!). My only hitch was the last 1200 ft climb up Patterson (an out and back climb up a steep, highly exposed. mountain-hill where the crew leading and coming back down gave us this look of sympathy while muttering some words of strength). The race was an expected definite challenge with 5000ft of elevation gain but the "oh-gees" moments are those I live for. I exceeded my expectations with a time of 5:38:37 and 14the female overall. To boot, there was the most delicious beer at the finish line! Definite stars in my books!!
Without injury (well...2 days later I am still using my arms a lot, and downstairs are entertaining - but much better than the last). I am actually starting to love not being all that good at something and the challenge ahead to get better. Can't wait for the next....