Yakima Skyline Rim 50K is one of Rainshadow Running’s races that people tend to talk about as being one of the harder races for that distance. This is mainly due to 3 factors – the elevation gain (3000 meters), the rocky terrain, and the exposure to sun (we come back to each of those in a bit). The decision to sign up and let Yakima 50K be my season-opener for 2019 was easy – get some much needed Vitamin D after the Canadian winter, enjoy some nice single track with stunning views of the canyon and Mt Rainer, and enjoy all of this with a bunch of fellow runners from Canmore. Done deal!
The months leading up to Yakima, my training was very inconsistent due to an injury in my calf (don’t know what happened). Since mid-February, I was battling with a very tight calf muscle that pulled on my bone, scaring the shit out of me and bringing back those memories from my stress fracture. But, I am growing a little wiser and so, I got my little helpers (aka physio, sport massage therapist and chiro) involved earlier than usual; although it did not make for rapid improvements either. My physio gave me multiple IMS treatments which, every time, left me hobbling for 2 days while the other two minions tried to get rid of scare tissue that apparently was present. I was still running (often on painkillers which is admittedly not advisable) but no consistent mileage was possible as some days felt okish while others were just rubbish and too painful. Thus, I was not too optimistic about racing well…and tapered more extensively than usual. At least for once I was well rested for a race, lols.
My running buddy Adrien and I road-tripped down to Ellensburg in Washington state where the race took place. The evening prior to the race, we went for a little shake-out, scouting the start of the race course. Thanks to that, I knew I would want to get ahead of the pack as early as possible because of an early bottleneck (who doesn’t like a cold, fast start…). It also made me appreciate how technical the race would be; think large boulders, sharp rock fins and hairpin turns within a narrow, rutted single track and obscured by bristled sagebrush. Yay, all the scratches in the world! Scouting out the initial portion of the first major ascent left me huffing and puffing, and seriously questioning where my fitness level was at – but I also knew that it was too late to change anything about that. So, dinner for the winner – food is always a solution 😉
Race morning was pretty standard, up at 5:30am, breakfast (toast with peanut butter and banana), prepping the race vest (I would go out with 2 full bottles of Tailwind, carry another 3 empty ones with powder and 4 Xact bars – that’s it; no drop bag), pooping and off into the car. Bib pick-up was only possible in the morning prior to the race, so Adrien and I aimed to be at the start at 7am for an 8am start. Lining up at the start line, some proper looking speed-and-mountain legs around me got me well intimidated and I slowly shovelled backwards in the pack. As usual, Adrien shouted at me and ordered me back to the front – I decided that the 3rd row is all my confidence was able to manage.
The start was, well,…chaotic. The clock count down malfunctioned and so the guy at the mic decided to suddenly shout “GO”. And off we went! At least, it left me so perplexed that any kind of nervousness and my thoughts of whether I need the loo again were immediately gone;-) Within the first km, runners approach the bottleneck, a suspension bridge which is only wide enough for one person. Not wanting to get stuck behind a long train of hikers, I went out quickly with the lead pack. After the bottleneck, runners are then greeted by the first major ascent. The course is an out and back with four major ascents, each approximately 650 metres over 3-4k. The first ascent offers the runners stunning views of Mt Rainer and the Cascades off in the distance, and of course a nice leg burn as well. Topping out after the first climb, the course begins a long rolling summit traverse along a rocky jeep road. Rainshadow running does recommend wearing shoes with rock plates (strongly agree) but this did not spare my feet from getting properly beaten up during the race due to the rocky, hard trail. I settled into my pace, being in first female place, but this, of course, means nothing in the first few K’s with a long way to go. While filling up my bottle at the first aid station at Roza Creek, the 2nd and 3rd females (Kristina Trygstad-Saari and Jenny Quilty) overtook me – bugger, bugger. Taking some crisps, stuffing them into my mouth, I tried to stay hot on their heels, slightly annoyed I was not allowed to stuff my face for a bit longer;-)
On the second ascent, Kristina Trygstad-Saari, who would later go on to win the race and set a new CR by 5 sec, started to pull away. Despite gunning out early, I readily agreed that it would be foolish to get caught up in someone else’s pace early on, especially as I knew that my training had not been solid. I stayed behind the 2nd female ascending, waiting for my chance to overtake. Towards the top of the second ascent, I seized a moment and overtook, just in time for the downhill section. The second descent is a hard and rocky one to Buffalo Road, the turn-around point. It included two near missed falls due to catching my toes on various rocks; of course I was seriously impressed and amused by how I was able to catch myself. Wow! Everything else would have been rather painful…While descending towards the turn-around point, the fast guys were ascending back up. “Hey Justin”, who told me he was scared that Adrien would catch him 😉 But yes, I was thinking to myself “where the heck is the Frenchy?”.
I got to the turn-around point in 2:51 hours, feeling strong but also knowing that the increasing heat (the sun was out) and the sustained technicality of the trail would take a toll on my already battered feet. And then there was the Frenchy shouting…Adrien, who had shoe issues (rookie mistake of taking unworn shoes out for a race), had decided to wait for me at the turn-around point so we could run back together. But apparently my facial expression was more like “What the f** are YOU doing here?”. Lols. Climbing back up the same very technical ascent, Adrien and I encouraged others that were making the hard decent. Seeing people in their 50s, 60s and 70s tackle such races and persevere in a more graceful way than I might ever do (I like a good pity party in my head) is simply inspiring! I hope I’ll still be able to run and explore like they do when I am older.
At around 30K, the blues began to set in. Due to the heat and probable dehydration, nausea kicked in. Adrien didn’t feel much better so it was silent perseverance. Popping a salt capsule helped my stomach to settle a bit and so I was able to keep drinking. Nevertheless, the rocks got to me. The technical, rocky and hard trail tried my stabilizers and blistered my feet. They felt like they were in terrible shape. And it was hot despite a nice bruise along the ridge. Joyfully anticipating the descent towards the finish line, it wasn’t joy that overcame me during this final downhill section. It was blistering pain (Ouch). Adrien and my vocal outbursts reminded me a bit of a beat-box composition – Ahhh, Uhhh, Shit, Arrrgghhh, Dam’nit, Ahahahaa, Uhh, Umpf… And then, we crossed the finish line together for the first time (well, he sneaked in 1 sec before me…never trust the french!).
My finish time was 6:19:24, 30 mins behind the female winner but still good enough for 2nd female place, followed by Claire Johnstone in 3rd. And surprise, my calf held up and did not give me any grief. A huge thanks to Rainshadow Running for putting on a fantastic race with a great after-race vibe due to unlimited pizza, beer, soft drinks and live music for everyone. Everyone! Definitely worth its money! A huge thanks also to all the wonderful volunteers supporting each and every runner. And to RunUphill for some nice pics and kitting me out with some ace gear.
Speaking of gear, here is my race day kit:
Shoes: Inov-8 Trailroc 285
Shorts: Rabbit catch me if you can
Bra and pants: Runderwear