Race Report: Mount Si 50km
I’ve been struggling with injury since I terribly sprained my ankle at the Chuckanut 50km in 2015. The recovery time and the fear of re-injury had me grappling with the very idea of racing, or even just running ultramarathons.
The motivation and drive just weren’t there anymore. I spent a lot of race time engaged in ‘down talk’, constantly thinking, “Why am I doing this?”, “What kind of crazy person runs ultramarathons?”, “Ugh, I hate this”, and “Man, I just want to stop.”
I had lost the passion for my sport and couldn’t seem to find it again.
“I kept my game face on, and have a blue ribbon to prove it.” Source: Mount Si 50km Relay & Ultra Runs
Mount Si 50K
Well, this past Sunday, Ryne and I headed down to the Mount Si 50km in Snoqualmie, Washington. It’s a race one or both of us has run every year of the past eight. I have raced it and crewed Ryne while he’s run it. I know it intimately and know it is a fast course. In fact, I have my 50km personal best on this course – as well as a previous win.
I decided to go fast. My previous PB was 4:34:04, so I aimed for sub-4:30. Race morning dawned; it was crisp and cloudy. I had slept well the night before and felt good, relaxed and mentally chill.
The Start of the Race
There was no “5, 4, 3, 2, 1!”, just a “GO!” and off we went. I had planned to run at a comfortable pace the whole time, instead of going out like a shot at the start, so we loped off at what felt like an easy clip. From the start at Snoqualmie Elementary, you run through town, over a bridge, and then loop back over a second bridge onto the Snoqualmie Valley Trailway.
It’s an old rail bed, now a crushed gravel path. The first 10km is flat before steadily climbing up 1,000ft over the next 15km. A short downhill to the turnaround before you grunt back up and then a nice, long descent and flat back to the school. Ryne ran in front of me for the first half. I had him in my sights and didn’t let him get more than 50m ahead.
With determination, I did not look behind me. I didn’t want to know how closely behind the next ladies were. During that part, I kept telling myself the race isn’t won in the first 25km; it didn’t matter if I got passed later. As I ran I would often repeat my ‘strong and steady’ mantra in my head.
“Strong and steady, focus, you’re running well,” I’d say over and over again.
The moment I started to feel a niggle in my hip or in my ankle I’d say to myself “Nothing hurts, you’re running well,” instead of focusing on and inflating that little discomfort. It worked. “Smile,” I said when I could feel myself gritting my teeth. I smiled. At the 10km, I was still in the lead. “Okay, wire to wire,” I thought.
The Gentle Climb
Now we started the gentle climb. I’m the first to admit I’m not a strong climber, but this is gradual and completely run-able. I refused to let myself walk.
“You got this, strong and steady,” I repeated. I ran into the 16km aid station in the lead and grabbed a quick sip of electrolytes. From here, we turned onto the Iron Horse trail, which had more rail bed. I enjoy this section because it has a number of old trestles that span creeks and have ponytail waterfalls gushed behind them; it’s really quite lovely.
By this point, it had started to rain. I ran the short downhill into the 25km turn-around aid station. There, I grabbed some chips before walking back up the hill, munching away. The good and bad part about an out-and-back is that you can see just how closely your competition is. I knew I was in the lead but was nervous to see how hot on my tail second place was.
Taking The Lead
I headed up the hill with nobody in sight. We hit 1km from the turnaround with no ladies in sight. Then, it was 2km with no one else in sight. I was afraid to jinx it.
“I have at least a 4km lead,” I breathed to Ryne, who I’d caught up with at the turnaround.
Finally, we saw a woman coming up the hill. She was struggling, so I knew that a 5km lead was more-or-less safe unless I completely bonked. At this point, I started smiling. I knew I still had work to do, but I had a large, safe buffer. It lit a fire under me and I picked up my pace, dropping Ryne.
I pulled into the aid station at 34km and grabbed some more chips, walking out. I couldn’t see Ryne behind me but kept on running. At this point, I lost my focus a bit. I let myself think I’d won already and so slowed up the pace to alleviate my hips, which had begun to ache. By the time I hit 10km to go, it would be very tight to break 4:30 let alone my 4:34 record.
“Just keep moving,” I told myself.
I looked at my watch and thought my pace was 5:05/km which thrilled me, only to get dejected when at second glance it actually read 6:05/km. “It’s okay. You go this. Strong and steady,” I repeated again.
The Final Stretch
When I hit the bridge with 2km to go, I knew I would be over my PB. But, I didn’t care. I had run steadily and there was no way second place could have caught me. I crossed back over the second bridge and ran down the streets of town back to the school.
I think I startled the race organizers. There was no ribbon to run across, no announcement that I was the female 50km winner, it was just me, with my right hand making a number 1′ sign and a smile on my face as I won my second Mount Si 50km, 6 years after the first.
I kept my game face on, and have a blue ribbon to prove it.