We fielded a brigade of Cascade Endurance runners for last weekend's Yakima Skyline 25km and 50km trail races, and instead of summarizing the day on their behalf we've turned the mic to them to report on the experience. We're proud of all our runners, who pushed their abilities at every level in this grueling event!
Ashley Gateless (50km)
(ed. note: Ashley choose the narrative perspective of an interior monologue, providing a refreshing bit of creativity to our blog)
So this is UP....and up...and up, matched by down, down, down, such is a day at the Skyline 50k.
(insert brain thought) "What I wouldn't give for a little down hill right now (insert steep decent) ooof what I wouldn't give for a little up hill right now (insert mega climb)"
From start to finish be ready to feel the burn, in your quads, the calves, on your neck, and shoulders, and your legs, arms, and ears. It was a hot one, the kind that tricks your senses with a light breeze as you traverse the ridge.
This is a suffer filled course, and you definitely earn your miles. (mental notes below)
Get out fast, early, there is a bottle neck at the bridge less than 1/2 mile in as the leaders will control the pace heading up mega climb #1.
There is a steep (loose sand and rock) decent into the first aid station (8ish miles in)
You get a pretty flat section after the aid station, now is a good time to gain some ground if your legs are up for it, as your are headed for another long climb.
Watch your footing the last mile before the turnaround, you wan't to let it all out, but one wrong step could be very unpleasant.
Request a re-spray of sunscreen at aid station, your skin will thank you later.
Get stoked that you are over half way, everything you just came DOWN....you now have to go back up.
Don't let the false summits fool you....there is most certainly more UP.
yes, you are still on the fire road, keep moving.
Get stoked and finish strong when you make the last turn onto the trail home.
DOWN, DOWN, DOWN, watch your footing as you go.
Turn up the heat after the bridge, it'll be over before you know it!
Jennifer MacCormack (50km)
This was my fourth time on the Yakima 50K course and it did not disappoint! Yakima 50K is well known as one of the hardest 50K’s in the state - I would argue it is the hardest. You start the race with a big climb, making several thousand feet of elevation gain in under 2.5 miles. Knowing this, my plan was to warm up and find my rhythm to the top. I knew that there were three more climbs in my future so this wasn’t where I was going to make or break it. Mid-way up this ascent, you turn your head a little to the right and are smacked in the face with an outstanding view of the Stuart Range. It always makes me happy to see it!
The ridge went pretty quickly for me and it was the first part of the course where I was going to see how well my training efforts at faster downhill running got me. The ridge heading out is a beautiful run, full of views in all directions and a general downhill trend. After the water station at mile 5, you start a few miles of intense downhill running to Roza Creek aid station. This was where I would know how much my current efforts to go faster downhill paid off and it did. I kept a fast turnover, body leaning a little into the hill, and my eyes settled 10 feet ahead. I trusted my training and let it go and to my surprise I was moving much faster than I ever had on this section. It was pretty awesome. I can’t say it feels all natural yet but I am getting a lot more comfortable with it. I did pass a few people, too. Generally, I pass people on the climbs and get passed a lot on downhills so this made me smile!
The climb after Roza Creek is a tough one and it’s long. This is where I typically turn it on and I did, revving up for a few minutes and getting into a consistent stride that eventually helped me pass several people on the way to the top. I really like climbing and sometimes I can get lazy but when I get my head into things, I love the feel of pushing upward. I also am very grateful for strength training since it’s put more of the work in my butt. I was getting fired up for the next big descent to Buffalo Road aid station. This is a BEAST of a downhill and one of the most technical descents I’ve done. It’s single track and littered all over with fist-sized volcanic rock that loves to move with you. You need to be quick footed, focused, and agile. The whole looking 10 feet ahead is critical here and it’s something I had never done in the past so usually I was quite slow in this section. The abridged version of my descent goes something like this: I rocked it! I ran the entire time, kept my focus, my feet moving, and my sight set in front of me and not below. I passed more people on the way down and sort of wanted to do a fist pump but that seemed reckless and obnoxious. No one knew that this was a huge achievement for me and I wanted to be supportive of other runners, not a jerk. That descent was the result of my smart decision to finally get Alison as my coach. The first time I met Alison was at Angel’s Staircase 25K where I saw her fly down the from the top at mind boggling speed. When I was deciding who to go to for coaching and Alison’s name came up, I remembered that run and decided if anyone could help me improve my downhill running, it would be her. Woohoo!
At Buffalo Creek AS, I aimed for a brief and efficient refueling. I was doing pretty well with my nutrition so added more Gu’s to my front pocket, ate a few banana pieces and orange slices, a ¼ of a PB&J, and then proceeded to rapidly chug a few small cups full of soda. That was a stupid decision since 1/ 2 mile later all that carbonation was cramping my stomach a little. I knew it and just had to deal with it. The climb back up was slower than I wanted it to be as I tried to settle my stomach back down and this was aggravating because it is the easiest of the climbs on that course and I usually move pretty well on it. Oh well, lesson learned.
I think by the time I reached the first summit (there are sort of two here), things were getting better and since I knew where I was and how much more I had to go until the next big descent I was able to pick it up a little. The descent down to Roza Creek is a fun one and a good place to gain some time. I passed one runner who decided to sit on the side of the trail and enjoy the view of the river, which indicated to me that his quads were shot since it’s not uncommon to see runners fatigue here. He seemed fine otherwise and I wished him the best or the rest of his race. Crossing over the flat valley to Roza, I was able to douse my cap in a small stream to cool my head a little, which felt great. Roza AS was another efficient in-and-out operation minus carbonated beverages since I had to go into the final climb with no issues. Woofed down another round of banana and orange slices, pulled out the last two lemon Gu’s from the back of my pack and moved on.
The final climb is huge, steep, and relentless. Think you made it to the top? Nope. Try again. See that little person who looks to be at the ridge? No, he’s not. And he just discovered this and is now standing there looking down at you feeling cheated and exhausted because it’s not the ridge. This is pretty much how it is for a few miles but the views are awesome. Wild flowers in yellow, purple, red, pink, white all over the place, the Yakima river below winding its way around the mountain you’re trying to get up, Mount Adams to the south, blue sky everywhere, a gentle breeze to offer some relief, and then Glenn Tachiyama waiting to take a photo capturing your effort and perhaps despair. I was feeling pretty good by the half-way point of this climb and hammed it up for Glenn. That photo will either be very cool or very ridiculous. I decided to target the two guys ahead of me to pass and started moving. After 5 minutes, I passed one and then another. By the time I hit the water station on the ridge road, I passed four more people. I didn’t want them to pass me so I picked it up on the road, which is no longer this great, downhill trending section but one where you keep seeing uphill sections and try to figure out where the hell the turn is to head downhill. I have run this four times now and I still can’t figure out why this seems so far away. I picked up my running on the flats and downhills and tried to push a little more where I could on the uphills. The final uphill to the turn off was when I just ran and gritted it out, knowing that once I made that right turn, it was a 2 + miles of steep, curvy downhill. That downhill was another success and I never got scared and I never stopped to walk on the rockier portions near the end.
Before I hit the flat that leads to the bridge, I knew I was over 50K. I also thought the finish would be right after that bridge until two guys told me “you’re almost there, just follow the arrows!” The arrows had me run a lot more than I wanted and through parking lots to a new finish that was closer to 32 miles instead of 31. That part was a little sucky but a finish is a finish and always great!
If you haven’t figured this out yet, the big deal of this race for me were the downhills. At first I was disappointed that I didn’t have a faster finish but I think I did well and the course was longer so I feel pretty good. Yes, I could have been a little more aggressive on the climbs but that I can control. The downhills, though, were always a point of frustration for me so this was a great race because the gains I made in training were evident.
Until next year!
Christie Summers (25km)
The day started off great, warm but not too warm, with a nice breeze. I took it slow and easy going up, stepping off to the side once or twice to let my pounding heart calm down since I knew it was going to be a long day and I didn't want to burn out in the first few miles. I made it to the turn around point in just under two hours, which was right on time, since I was trying to beat my 4:05 time last year. I was feeling great at this point, but noticed that I wasn't at all hungry, which seemed odd since I eat all the time, so I grabbed a few orange slices and headed back out.
On the way back up to the ridge, I started feeling nauseous and told myself I really should eat. I tried a bite of granola bar, but that didn't go down well. Gummy bears? Nope. Banana chips? No way. My stomach at this point was all gurgly. I stopped and walked for a bit and tried to figure out what was going on. Too much water? Not enough water? Do I need to pee? I never did solve the problem.
Gurgly tummy aside, my legs still felt pretty good, so when I reached the turn in the trail to head back down, I decided to just have fun and go as fast as I could. I love this part of the course and was happy to be passing people so late in the race.
I knew I was just a few minutes behind my time last year, so as I neared the end, I started going as fast as I could. I came sprinting across the bridge (which only added to the unhappiness in my stomach), and then, um, why isn't there anyone watching from the other side? Where the heck is the finish line?!? I asked someone I saw who waved vaguely off to the side. That confusion kind of knocked me down and I started walking. I had no idea where I was supposed to go at this point and, after sprinting, I had nothing left and was feeling kind of pissed off that they'd moved the finish line. At this point, I saw Alison, who yelled at me to run, so I did a half-assed jog the rest of the way. Finish time: 4:10.
I'm still not sure why my stomach hurt that day, and I wish I hadn't gotten in a bad mood at the end about the moved finish line, but it was really a gorgeous day and I had a great time hanging out with everyone!
Sharon Hendricks (25km)
The Yakima 25k was such a different animal for me - can we get a switchback up on those hills for the love of my calves/glutes?? (I was so thankful for every squat and lunge you had me do the last couple months!) It was dryer which kind of helped with my asthma issues. I felt strong and drove hard all the way to the turn around, but when I tried to get back into that zone on the hills back to the start - I didn't seem to have a lot to push with. If it weren't for the fact that Wendy was so close behind me she could pat my fanny, I probably would've taken it even slower. She went around me at the water station and that took the wind out of my sails for the rest of the climbing. I'm glad I never stopped to take a break on those climbs.
I'm also pretty happy with the way I ran over the rocks. Not perfect by a long shot, but up until recently those loose rocks on the ridge would've slowed me almost to a walk. My ankle did really well - just a couple medium rolls.
Today I am SUNBURNT. But hey - I'm not nearly as sore as I was expecting. My hip flexors are the sorest and if I sit too long they take about five steps to get moving properly.
Mentally -- well that's always another battle, right? I accomplished my goals, but now that the results are in I see I'm middle of the pack as usual - it has always been hard for me to accept being an average runner.