rolling through the north cascades–baker lake 50k

I’d had lots going on this month. 

There had been some unpleasant stuff going on with work, and I was feeling like I was at a crossroads.  Real life was busy too, looking at colleges with our eldest daughter.  Lots to think about.  The good news was that I had plans to run the Baker Lake 50k.  This event put on by Terry Sentinella had been on my list for several years.  The course rolled through the the woods along the lake, in the shadow of its namesake Mount Baker.

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coming back across the river, photo by takao suzuki

Stirred up by some of the stress I’d been carrying, I didn’t sleep well the night before.  Morning came earlier than usual – after a simple breakfast, I started the hour-long drive to the start.  Thankful that the race was a small, low-key event – I relaxed a bit on the way.  I was confident about covering the distance, although this would be my longest run since late July’s White River 50 miler.  The day’s run would mostly be a retreat of sorts, a chance to step back and get some needed perspective on things.

We started on time under an overcast sky.  We wended our way up over the dam, and embarked on the trail that would take us out 14 miles to the turnaround.  Three miles in, we crossed a creek along a big log put in by the forest service.  We were about ten to twelve feet above the creekbed.  It was kind of fun on the way out, but much more interesting on the way back when my balance didn’t feel quite as sure.

The first of only two aid stations was at mile 5.5.  Simple, but functional – it was self-serve, water-only.  I took a minute to top off my bottle before continuing on.  As we rolled through hills, we sometimes ran along a steep dropoff of several hundred feet into the lake. 

The roots and rocks kept me paying careful attention to the trail in front of me.  But around mile 10, my mind had drifted a bit, and I took a hard spill, bruising my ribs and right quad.  Along the way, I managed to turn both ankles a bit too – making any lateral movement on these joints painful.  I’d feel this the rest of the way, but plodded on.

I reached the turnaround at Hidden Creek almost exactly three hours in.  I was pretty sure that the trip back would be slower, so didn’t feel pressure to work under the six hour mark.  This was the second of the two aid stations, and it would be ten miles before I got back to the other one.  I drank a bunch of fluids, and ate a bit before headed back.

I wasn’t going fast, but I felt pretty good.  I felt more calm than I had in a while, and just took it in.  This was the goal for today – relax and enjoy the miles.

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photo by takao suzuki

Right around mile 22, a group of three overtook me.  The young woman running in front apparently felt pretty intense about the run.  Each time we’d approach a climb, she’d grunt out loud.  On the downhills she’d growl.  It was interesting.  I was okay with it when they passed me at the aid station with 5.5 miles to go.   While there, she picked up one of the gallon water jugs and chugged directly from it.  I didn’t see whether she finished all of it, or simply put it back for others to share.  You don’t see that happen too often. 

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photo by takao suzuki

The final two miles were tough.  I’d reached the point of counting down, and was ready to be done.  As we exited the trail with about a mile and a half to go, I fell into a nice conversation with a woman named Simone, who shared a story about her grandchild, and how she finishes each race with a cartwheel (yes she does).  It was a nice pick-me-up as we crossed over the dam, and headed back towards the finish.

I crossed the line just under six and a half hours.  I rested for a short time at the finish, then changed into some dry clothes and headed back to Burlington for some crab shooters and brisket.

I’ve been running distance for years now, and still haven’t quite figured out how to carry over lessons learned on the trail into real life.  Can’t stress about things we don’t control, just work on making the things we do control or influence better.

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