What did I learn on this race? Only red neck runners get a heart rate monitor sun burn.
One of the nice features of this race is the total lack of warm up with a transition of 200 flat yards over the bridge across the river to a 5km, 2300′ climb that takes you to the top of the first mountain. I ran this way too fast hitting 97% maximum heart rate. This is about the worst thing you can do in an ultra as it’s impossible to hold that kind of effort. Whatever, I thought. I deal with that later.
At the top, I was rewarded with views of mountains all around and perfect blue sky. Mt Rainier stood out to the west. I traversed the ridge and had fun dancing my way down a rocky, well overgrown piece of single track all the way back to the river. On my way up the second mountain, I could see forever and a few guys chasing me about 300 yards back. We played, closing and opening the gap for a long time. As I descended to the river for the turnaround, I could really feel the heat. It was 25 c and I’d been running on snow all winter. The sun pounded on my back as I returned up the mountain for my third climb.
At the top of the climb, I dunked my head quickly in a filthy stock tank and a runner passed me. Determined, I re-passed him and gained the lead again but he stayed behind me until I lost sight of him on the way down the next hill. I crossed the valley bottom and on the transition up on the last climb I looked back and Adam Hewey came out of nowhere and flew past me on a very steep up slope. I climbed after him, redlining in the punishing sun.
Here and there between the sage and the open grass, a few flowers were blooming. The landscape was barren and beautiful but I didn’t lift my eyes to look at the top of the mountain. I needed my little zone of comfort. Serenity in the 12 feet in front of me and a buffer from thoughts of continuing the climb at pace. If I could only reach the river at the end, I’d dive in it and all this heat would instantly vanish in the cool water.
I made my way across the top of the mountain running into many people from the 25km race and some tourists. I caught the winding trail down and about half a mile in I snagged a foot and hit the brush at breakneck downhill speed. Back up as fast as I could, I kept heading down into the steeper terrain onto the rocky sections.
I sprinted the bridge and crossed the finish line in 2nd place with a 5:36:04.
The technical trail, beautiful terrain and massive climbing make this race sensational. Rainshadow running puts on a great event.