It’s been years since I’ve last ran a Rainshadow running race. They are known for putting on incredible events in some of the most beautiful areas of the Pacific Northwest like Beacon Rock State Park: waterfall central that is along the Colombia River Gorge, Oregons Coast town of Yachatas, Orcas Island among just a few. When the opportunity arose to travel back to the PNW to run a race of theirs I had yet to experience, needless to say I couldn’t wait to sign up.
The race is located on the Eastern and very sunny side of the North Cascades right outside a small town called Winthrop. The course offers great mountain trail running early in the year with endless fields of beautiful wildflowers, snow-capped peaks of the Cascades in the distance and a mix of stunning single-track and some fire roads to make up almost 8,000ft of climbing within those 50+ miles.
After running UTX 90k in Guatemala the transition to running, well, running consistently was a bit difficult. Focusing on less mileage and more vertical gain every week to now the complete opposite took some getting used to. I’d like to think my training and build for this race was pretty consistent and my body felt great, for the most part. Just a few weeks before the race I strained my left foot and despite feeling as though I could still run on it, I decided to give it a rest in order for it to properly heal before the big dance. I felt as though being healthy going forward was more important than solidifying my training for what was supposed to be my training race for an upcoming 100 miler this summer.
Race morning began like you would normally imagine: wake up way too early thinking you’ve missed your alarm to only find out you still have another hour or so and repeat until you finally just get out of bed and make coffee.
In Washington right now the sun rises around 5:30 making a 6am start time pretty fabulous. The sun lit the trails while the wildflowers sparkled under its rays. It was going to be a beautiful day.
The race began with a slight downhill before a turn on a single track that took you up a trail and over some of the neighboring hills. The conga line quickly started once the single track showed the slightest sign of climbing. Eamon and I giggled at the thought of walking this section when this seemed like anthills compared to the climbing in Guatemala. But we trekked on.
When I think of my day in its entirety, I find that its slightly blurred between being extremely thankful to be running in such a beautiful area and upset that I was running at all. It only took a few miles before my foot began to hurt as I went through the motion of bending it. I decided to slow my speed with the idea that it would mitigate any more pain, but unfortunately it just got worse. I continued forward, talking to whomever I was able to run with for a few minutes or just using my Jaybirds to listen to music in one ear (Jaybirds pro FOR THE WIN-lasted the entire race+had extra battery life). I have never listened to music during races, but I knew that I would just dwell on the pain if not distracted.
In previous races I have had issues with my electrolyte intake. It’s either I’m not taking enough or I’m taking far too much and both result in cramping. Today was no different. I wanted to use this race to find some sort of balance, but what I eventually found was myself on the side of the trail holding onto my left quad as the entire leg seized up in a orchestra of cramps-the finale being my foot. I focused on my breathing and slowed my run to a mere jog after that. Any time I felt as though I could start running at a faster speed my quad sang a little melody of cramps as a reminder of what it could do.
I found myself spiraling down a dark tunnel, upset that I couldn’t run the way I had trained nor felt happy. Why did I sign up? Why am I putting myself through this suffer fest? I continued on my cruise control effort while other runners passing me and trying to stay positive. During this time I decided to hit rock bottom-the ground I mean and give it a good hug as my body completely seized up. I laid there for a few minutes focusing on breathing and slowly moving everything in order to get up. My foot decided it would stay stiff and not bend-it definitely hurt. Ba-humbug as I think of the excess of electrolytes I’ve taken that resulted in my body screaming now-definitely a learning lesson.
I continued in my dark thoughts of why running might not be for me, why am I even excited to run 100 milers, what was I thinking? All questions you ask yourself while in the suffer fest. As I pass the water only station and begin the next climb, I think of all my past efforts this year and how terrible I’ve felt in each of them, yet here I am! As I near the top of the climb and continue over the ridge, a carpet of wildflowers cover the entire mountain side while the snow capped cascades dance in the distance, I think of all the other things I could be doing at this moment. I quickly snap back into reality. Yes, there is a plethora of different things I could be doing at this moment yet there is only one thing I want to be doing: running right here, right now. I find myself smiling despite the pain and laugh at myself; days like today help me appreciate the better days of tomorrow. So I slapped the negative attitude right out of me while singing "Don’t stop me now” by Queen while embracing my cruise control speed to the next aid station. I apologize for anyone who had to deal with my high pitch screeching I call singing.
Continuing forward, I focus on one step at a time and begin to enjoy the process. Yes, maybe I was in discomfort but it was bearable. I knew I’d have ample time to recover and get back to training but having these experiences and adapting is such an incredible thing. I had pretty much the worst cramps, I missed a turn and added a good mile and some to my day, my foot stopped functioning properly but I still consider this a win of a day. My god was the landscape just breathtaking, the volunteers incredible, and the day just beautiful, but everything in between was the best part of the journey.
Every mile of this race was an experience of the greatest growth. A reminder that not all goals end the way we hope but they most certainly shape us into a better, more powerful version of ourselves. It takes time, but learning not to fear the end result, rather choose to be courageous in every aspect of the journey and still going for it-the goal. Maybe I didn’t get the day I wanted, rather I had the day I needed. A reminder that even after 5 years of running I, too, am constantly learning. A day filled with exploration, searching, finding and achieving new ideas that will make me a better athlete in the future. A lot of things that are the most rewarding I find are very type two fun, right? They’re not necessarily fun when you’re doing them, but I feel a lot more growth and fulfillment from it afterward and I think those lessons play well into being able to continue to push and grow in future endeavors.
Thank you Rainshadow Running crew for yet another memorable day. Either way, it was a beautiful day to experience some trails I wouldn’t have seen otherwise! Thankful everyday for a body that lets me travel and see this world with the people I love. So many friends ran Sun Mountain and had different days, congratulations to each and every one of you for even just toeing the start line. You are all incredible!
As I sit here resting post epic sports massage(Thank you JULIO) and recovering while listening to the rhythm of the sound of rain outside, yes it does rain in LA, I’m filled with gratitude toward the weekend. Perhaps I’m not out running as I’d like to be but this time allows me a reflection process of what lessons I learned and the moments I gained from this past weekend. Experiences I hope to use as a tool to better myself for the upcoming months.
The countdown begins, 5th on the wait list for Angeles Crest 100 and after 5 years I’m pretty stoked to get to race on that course again.
OK. Question for you:
What is your go to songs that pump you up in a race?
What do you find works for you to balance electrolyte issues. (When it’s really hot out).
Help a sista out and leave a comment :)
Till next time!