My first ultramarathon – went WAY way better than expected. Yeah, it hurt. Yeah, 18,00 ft (seriously) of elevation gain and loss is a lot for the knees. And yeah, I had a fantastic time. Particularly afterward. The course runs basically up and down two mountains – one on the east side of highway 410 including the Ranger Creek and Palisades trails, one on the west side of the the highway including the Suntop trail.
The east side (aka start) went out, and as usual I felt boxed in on the trail. It didn’t take long until everyone was walking up switchbacks, but then when the big steep climb was over, I was able to start jogging again. I quick stop at the corral pass aid station for some watermelon and I was passed by a few women (check out Glen Tachiyama‘s awesome photos: I’m on page 5 wearing a black tank top (how original) and my favorite gray janji capris). Back onto the trail for the (kinda brutal) descent. After conservatively opening it up, we passed back by the start where one of the volunteers informed me and my new racing buddy (didn’t get her name, but she followed me down the first descent) we were maybe 11th and 12th?
I was… tired. Because, you know, we just ran 30 miles of hills. And my stomach was starting to rebel from all of the gels I had so diligently eaten (because food is really, really important to have, even when you don’t want to eat it). We took off into the woods for the climb up the Suntop singletrack, and I felt worse and worse. I shuffled along, watching my friend disappear into the distance (but still passed a few people who had crashed/were taking a breather).
Again, more switchbacks until the summit. The whole race was cloudy and cold – not great for the typical gorgeous views of Rainier, but good for running! I grabbed a long sleeve shirt, swapped out my shoes and socks (best. idea. ever) and made a NEW friend (a guy named Tyler, I think?) for the pounding descent down the Suntop fire road (again, check out probably my favorite race photos. I look so happy… page 16).
We chatted for a while, then suffered in silence for a while, and finally hit the last aid station before the sneaky slightly uphill singletrack back to the finish line. I think this is where Tyler took off (I made another stop at the pit toilet and ate some gummy worms), but I quickly made another friend, Mark (maybe?) who had traveled from Portland and wanted to chat. I was kinda struggling, so I let him do most of the talking. We would be close, then he’d take off, then I’d take off… eventually, he stopped at a stream to grab more water and I kept going. Little did we know… we were probably 200 yards from the final turn onto the road leading to the finish!
Knowing the end was in sight, I ran the last half mile on smooth, mostly flat gravel towards the line where we had started… and nearly didn’t turn in time. The finish line was a few hundred feet to the side of the road, while I thought I was done. At least I didn’t go too far – I realized my mistake when I saw the streamers lining the finish chute. I crossed the line, was handed a finishers glass, and thankfully found a chair to sit in.
The results? The race cutoff time was 14:00 hours. My anticipated time was 12:00 hours, with a stretch, if-everything-goes-perfectly goal of 10:00. I crossed the line in 9:25, the 13th woman (and 5th/15 in my age group). Far from my best finish, but one of the ones I am most proud of. And so happy to be done!