I feel like this is going to be a doozy of a post! It’s also wayyy overdue: the recap for Sun Mountain 2017, my first ultra! Grab a coffee and settle in.
On Friday May 19th (6 days after we got home from Sydney), I met up with Jan and our friends Greg and Martina after a quick morning at the office. The four of us piled into Martina’s car and drove across the border to Winthrop, Washington. Our final destination was the Sun Mountain 50k for me, and 100k for Greg (!).
In few weeks before this, I finished my rural placement, wrote my CCFP, and traveled to Australia. It didn’t give me one spare minute to get nervous about this race, which I think was a really good thing, because it was the farthest I’d ever run, and pretty much the longest I’d been on my feet. (My only longer races were tri’s).
We stayed in a big house with some other Fraser St. Run Club folks, which was the best combination of advice from awesome trail runners and really good vibes. We arrived at the Air BnB a bit late (I was late leaving work + we had a long border crossing + Trader Joe’s stop) and made a quick dinner of stir-fry veggies and quinoa.
After eating I laid out my clothes. The weather was calling for 21 and sunny, with an 8 AM start in the mountains. I went with singlet (super old but tried and true) + Flow Y bra + Nike shorts, and a lulu long sleeve to start in. Add my Garmin, latest trail shoe choice and hat (Bondi beach souvenir trucker hat!) and I was good to go.
The race had three aid stations: mile 8.6, 17 and 25.2 (km 13.8, 27.4, and 40.5). The website didn’t have a lot of info about what would be stocked there, but people had told me that Rainshadow events are always really well done. I made sure to have Nuun in the second two bags (the heat!) and tossed in a few other things I thought I’d like to eat. FYI: The aid stations were great, and had watermelon, bananas, pretzels, PB+J rollups, chips, water and sports drinks.
I wrote out my nutrition plan on the plane from Australia – colour coded because what else are you going to do with 16 1/2 hours? The main strategy was to get 90-150 cal/h, using foods that I already knew I could handle (not gel). Along the right hand side of the page I noted things I wanted to have available from my bag at the aid station (extra hair ties, chapstick, etc). I ended up not putting in the fig cookies, but I did have some banana bread in there instead.
So Martina (who was 4 months pregnant and an actual superstar) got up early to drive Greg to the start line for their early 5.30 am start, then came back to the house so she could drive me to the 8 am start. I was nervous at that part – it was chilly and I was just overall a bit shaky.
The race got started in such a quick way! Everyone was kind of standing around (like in the photo above), while the race director, James, did a mini safety briefing. But then, in the same breath, he was like “ok and 3, 2, 1, go!” People just standing around the start line were all “yikes ok!”
For the first bit of the race I was just thinking “omg I’m running 50 kilometres today”. I did a bit of “omg what am I going to think about for the next 48.5 km?!” and a lot of looking around until I settled in around 5k. I came to the first aid station absolutely dying to get rid of my long sleeve. It was around 14 deg at the start line and probably overkill even to have worn it in the first place.
I knew Jan didn’t have access to a car and would only be able to see me at the halfway point and the end, so at the first station I found my drop bag, grabbed some food (another waffle and shot bloks) and ditched my top. This is probably where I made my biggest mistakes of the day. Early that morning, Kat (speedy trail runner, also friend) had told me to get calories in early. She knew that in the heat and hills I wouldn’t feel like eating late in the race.
To make a long story short, I didn’t eat much at all (2 waffles + half a package of chews) in the first part of the race. Things were going so well at the 25k mark that I thought I’d be fine. In the last 10k, I got nauseous and focused on getting fluids, but wasn’t really able to take in a much food.
From about 28-30km, I felt medium – until 45k, when I really just wanted to be done running. I was tired, hot, and my feet hurt. I really think that a major reason why I faded so hard was nutrition. I just didn’t get enough calories in. So, lesson learned! Eat early!
I don’t think I’ve ever really hit a true “low point” in a running race before. At 46ish k, I really just wanted to sit down on the trail. I was tearful and not thinking at all clearly about how I only really had 20 mins of running left to do. I couldn’t even recognize myself bonking a bit!
Jan ran out to keep me company for the last 3km, and seeing him really helped. I was so ready to have my first ultra done!
I finished in 6:03 (23rd F). I think I’m capable of something closer to 5:45 if I train harder in the trails and figure out nutrition, etc. It’s taken me a full five weeks but I’m starting to think that it’s maybe something I would attempt again :).
At the race, you don’t get a medal – it’s a stainless steel beer cup! It says “Sun Mountain 50 km 2017”. I totally love it – way more useful and cool than a medal.
The rest of the day was tiring but fun – we hung out at the finish line and ate amazing wood stove pizza + tons of snacks, beer, coffee and water. We waited for Greg and eventually ran with him to the finish line of his 100k race. I slept pretty well (I don’t usually after a hard race/workout but 65000 steps in one day will do that to you) and we watched a bit of the 25k race on Sunday morning before driving back home.
I’d definitely race this one again! Thanks for a fantastic first ultra experience Rainshadow!
PS I also got a really cool t-shirt as a souvenir, but no photo of it! Might be able to find it here.