On one random day back in the spring I was on an 8 mile run and it was going really well. Two days later I went on another run of 10 miles and it went well too. It got me thinking, “I should do an Ultra-Marathon.” I like to see how far I can push myself. Now let’s fast forward.
The Cle Elum Ridge 50k start was 8am in the morning of September 2008. Melissa and I stayed at a ghetto hotel room in Ellensburg. Melissa and I got in late the night before from Bend. We stopped off briefly at Starbucks to get Melissa a coffee and me a muffin. I probably should have had more; this will make sense later on. The race is actually held on the outskirts of Cle Elum, Washington. You drive for miles out a 1 1/2 lane road until you reach a small campground that is used more by dirt bikes than anyone else. It was a different feeling doing a race with so few competitors. There were about 110 people signed up for the race. Melissa was not running this one, she thinks I am nuts for running this far.
As the race was about to start it was still a bit chilly out but forecasted to be a great day. No clouds and upper 60’s, I cannot complain about that. At the start there were about 80 people ready to go. If you felt that you could not complete the run under the time cut off of 8 hours, you could start an hour earlier to give yourself some extra time. Standing around at the start I realized many people had done ultras before. The course was a 50k trail run. The first mile was flat to slightly downhill followed by a mostly uphill 16 mile stretch and a 14 mile descent back to the finish. There was 3832 ft of climbing on the course and an equal amount of descending.
At the start of the race I got the impression that most of these people were quite a bit faster than I was. We started on the flat first mile at a fast pace that surprised me figuring we had to run 50k on the day. Once we hit the hills though that all changed. All I tried to do was keep my heart rate low and to run the downhills, flats, and slight inclines. When it got too steep, I walked like most everyone else. I actually felt really good on the uphill sections; I was passing some people and ended up in a group of three. Feeling pretty good about this I stayed with them up to the aid station at mile 14. There they had some snacks to grab, side note: Pringles are amazing after 14 miles of running!! I kept on chugging along and was starting to feel a bit tired when I got close to the top of the ridge. This did not concern me much as I figured it was all downhill from there, it would be easy! Boy was I wrong.
At mile 17 we reached the top of the ridge, it was awesome, with views of the Cascades and Mt. Rainier to the south. The beginning of the descent was really steep and right there I knew I was in trouble. This was not going to be as easy as I thought. The descent caused my lower back to ache and made it hard to take a deep breath. I started to get passed by all the people whom I passed going uphill. As I kept going I had to take some small walk breaks which started to turn into larger walking breaks. It was a beautiful descent, minus the occasional motorcycle rider that cruised up the trail with reckless abandon. One of the best moments I had was when I reached the major stream crossing. The cold water invigorated me for a bit and I was able to run again.
After the stream crossing I ran to the mile 22 aid station. Another side note: Pringles are also amazing after 22 miles and so is Mt. Dew! These never tasted so good. From here on I was able to coax myself into running segments of a quarter to half a mile between breaks. My whole core was really aching now. I kept meandering along until I reached a point at about 29 miles where there is a short uphill stretch. At the top of this I was able to imagine the finish line as being close so I started running a bit more. That and being passed by two more people I decided I would not get passed again! I kept running and I was able to hear the finish line which only gave me more energy to finish strong, and that is what I did. I sprinted the last 100 meters or so until I hit the finish. Time ended up at 7 hours and 9 minutes. Not quite my goal but I made it. I even won a prize of a Nathan Hydration pack!
After finishing I could barely walk, I thank Melissa for putting up with me and getting me food and drinks, I was so spent. The food afterward was awesome though. A great spread from a local deli. The food started to kick in and I limped my way slowly back to the car. We had a 6 hour drive home. Thank goodness it was Saturday. On the way home we stopped at Dairy Queen in Ellensburg, to get a well earned Blizzard!! Crazy thing about the post race food and the Blizzard, I actually started feeling good again. I raised some questions; did I suffer because of lack of core strength or not enough nutrition? I think some of both. I think I will have to try again to find out! Maybe a 50 miler, Melissa still thinks I am nuts. Thanks for reading, as always your mileage may vary.