Monday, October 8, 2012

Baker Lake 50

*Mount Baker - Southern Aspect from Start/Finish Area
Lately I've been staring at our local mountains in awe. Likely because the air is crystal clear and the sun is low making them extra vibrant and spectacular. On a day free of valley smog, I've always felt this way about Mount Baker and often wondered about the terrain just beyond it. 

My late, half-assed, registration into the Baker Lake 50 answered that question this past Saturday and has left me wanting more. The race route took racers up the south side of Baker Lake to the mouth of the Baker River through thousands of ups and downs and twists and turns. The elevation gained and lost was unassuming until the return trip home. Every little hill became a fight after 40k and the red-shirted Portlander in front of me was the carrot I needed to get it done. We pretty much ran the entire race together.

Race start was 8am so I rose from the tent to sip my smoothie, nibble a bagel avec Pocket Fuel and light a coffee fire in my ass under lantern-lit cold and darkness. It was uncomfortably perfect. Being a self supported race, I packed two Salomon Advanced Skin bags. One was for the first 25km and the other for the drop zone and route back. In hindsight, a work of genius. 

In a bit of a daydream we wandered through the camp site discussing the day ahead. We had about 10 minutes to lay down our drop bags, yak with fellow racers and get moving... so we thought. The moment my drop bag hit the back of the pick up, I heard the RD shout, "GO!". A quick, "What the f#*k?" came out of mouth and off I went in last place.

*That's me third from the right in last place leaving the start line at 7:56am
Quickly I snaked my way up toward the dam crossing to immediately slow and stare at the ass end of Mount Baker. I hadn't seen it the night before because we arrived in the dark. After a quick look, my good friend Graem and I started making our way through the pack where we eventually hit what we'd come for: SINGLE TRACK HEAVEN. 

*Heading west along Baker lake back to the finish.
Not being able to help it, I let my legs roll immediately and left my rookie friend in the dust. He had never run anything this long before and I figured he was being smart and settling into a comfortable position. I was anything but comfortable by the time an hour had gone by. My right hip flexor started yelling at me and the toes on that foot went to sleep with the occasional lightning-type pain shooting through them. Being in the middle of nowhere, my only choice was to continue to the turn around and drop out. I've never dropped from a race in my life and I had a little over an hour to come to terms with it. Permanent damage wasn't worth it. A gorgeous landscape in all new terrain and I was wallowing in self-pity. Things couldn't have gotten worse...until they did. My "first time ultra runner" buddy, Graem, comes on to me like a train, yaks me up a bit and plays on through. Again, "what the f#*k!?". I was already into my 50k pace and I knew I was doing it right so I let him go. "Rookie mistake", I kept reminding myself. I ran about 100 meters behind him and two others to the turn around at which point I dropped my Advanced Skin pack, saddled up another and was gone. He later said he looked up from his own transition mess and I had disappeared.

My foot and hip flexors hadn't gotten any worse by this time, I think because I focused hard on my technique immediately after being run over by my buddy. I made sure to shorten my strides, stand tall and really engage my glutes to be as efficient as possible and avoid loading my hip flexors. With things being no worse, I had no choice but to continue my race. Now I was running scared though and I fought the entire way back to avoid another mental beating by Graem. Having left the turn around with a great runner from Portland named Todd was a blessing. We pushed and towed until about 48km at which point the wheels came off my bus and I entered survival mode.

Todd took 5th place by about 1 minute and I settled for a, not too shabby, 6th place in a time of 4 hours and 40 minutes. Graem had made a mistake in running by me early on and finished in 5:32. Nonetheless, a damn brilliant time for a first timer.

Again my Speed Cross III's treated me right as did my Fast Wing Hoody and Advanced Skin packs. My splits were 2:19 and 2:21. Unfortunately the first 3/4's of my return trip was a touch too fast and I paid for it with a 2 minute positive split. Super proud of my overall time though. A perfect way to end my season.

*Thanks to Solana Leigh (Klassen) and Hubby Photographer for the pictures.

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