We camped at Big Pines Campground in the wind tunnel known as the Yakima canyon, the river was flowing chocolate brown so no fishing this trip just lots of pizza and exposure as the unrelenting cold wind tried to blow us to Yakima.
Sunday morning dawned sunny and only mildly windy. We ate, coffeed, packed up and headed to the start. At the # pickup I was disappointed to hear Sean Meissner was not running due to injury, along with other injured no shows Rod Bein and Jacek the Canadian. I was starting to feel confident. The call to go was shouted by RD extrordinairre James Varner, I went. Some guy with a mohawk went faster? Across the suspension bridge and up into the sage covered hills, straight up 2,300ft in 3 miles I chased Mr. Mohawk. I was wondering whether this was a new phenom or an overzealous newbie. I didn't have any choice but to chase him down. We peaked the first major climb and the two pieces of flagging and the metal post with the arrow said to go left onto a jeep road, mohawk went straight up the diminishing trail. I whistled, I yelled, I waved, nothing... I ran on. Minutes later he came bombing back down the trail and caught up with me. We chatted, he was a nice fishing guide from nearby who's name was Joe... Mohawk Joe. We rolled into aid station 1 together, then out. I gradually put some distance on him as we climbed the second ascent and started catching early starters. Aid station 2 was awsome as I got to see Bill Huggins and his boy Theo then Scott McCoubry working the station. After peak 2 it was a lot of rolling rocky singletrack and I got to see all the 25kers coming up their first climb. I hit aid 3 and the turnaround in 2:40 and saw Sean, Linda and Daniel Probst (I didn't talk much because I didn't want to get distracted and stay). Out of aid 3 one climbs up the rocky yuck you just came down. I was able to see Joe was about 10 minutes behind me and Mike Palichuk (sp?) was right behind him looking like he was out for a stroll. I powered on up and was able to see all the 50kers as they passed going to the turnaround. Then I started catching the 25kers, it was all rather social.
I loved this course. I love to climb, I love to descend, I love technical. I do not like flat. This course had no flat. This was my course and I was feeling it. I knew I was ahead but still pushed it like I was being chased. Up, up, up then down, repeat. The aid stations were perfect, the views were unbelieveable, the sun was shining, I was leading a race and feeling strong. Hold on, don't blow up. I cramped a few times, took extra Scaps and pushed on up, up, down. After Hardrock, no hill can surprise me with it's false summits. Yakima tried and the final hill just kept going but, finally, there was the arrow to descend 2,300ft in 3 miles, so I did, as fast as I could. I almost lost it into the creek once or twice by tripping but kept that fine line of control and finally saw the bridge peeking out amongs the brush, I crossed it and lumbered across the finishline in 5:28. I finally won a 50k and it felt awesome. There were only 9 25k finishers in before me. Mike came in for 2nd place 42 minutes later and Mohawk Joe 18 minutes after him.
Post race gathering was really festive. Burritos, beer, happy runners in all states of disrepair. It was great seeing Team Fleet Feet represented with Kathleen Eagan getting 3rd Women's , Allen felt bad but finished good in 19th and Van Phan completed this wicked 50k one week after running the Badger 100 miler. Many friends, many stories and some great pictures by Glenn Tachiyama and Matt Hagen. James Varner really knows how to pick a race site. This one is going to become a classic. I was proud to set the Course record for next year's runners to shoot for. I know I'll be gunning for it.