Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sun Mt. 50 mile 2013

     The old west town of Winthrop, in the North Cascades, is absolutely lovely. I walked the boardwalk, visited the mining museum and shot a man just fer snorin' too loud. Then I slept in my Soccer Mom Mini Van and got up plenty early to run the Sun Mt. 50 mile.
     Race director James Varner told us "If you come upon a cow who doesn't want to move, just give it your best cowboy 'Hyah!'" Minutes later we were running down a dirt road. I chose to try out the Scott Kinabalu Trail Shoe for this race as a test to see if it could beat the Montrail Fluidflex for my Hardrock setup. Scott McCoubry was kind enough to send me a pair so I flew the Scott colors. The Kinabalu is, in my opinion, a great trail shoe, light yet stable, good tread without being over built. In my previous outings I noticed this shoe performed great on technical and soft trail but was stiff and awkward on road or hard pack trail. The first few miles of Sun Mt. was awkward until we hit a cattle fence.
     The race was on and a guy in orange shot past me on the dirt road leading to the cow meadow at about mile 3. He hit the fence, the meadow and was met by about 100 black cows, calfs and bulls. I was 50 feet behind him when he "Hyahed" and the cows began to Moooove. They ran with us, they ran by us, we were in the middle of a black cow stampede. Dust, hooves, water bottles, a deafening chorus of angry mooing, Glenn Tachiyama taking pictures, more cows, more noise of legs and beef pounding the meadow, finally the trail rose above the melee leaving the front runners exhilarated and a bit weary as the lowing died off in the distance as the next gate opened and clanged shut.
     Sun Mt. is beautiful, wildflowers populate every view, deer bound by and birds of every ilk sing songs and place bows in your hair as you dress for the ball. I was pushing through it at a faster pace than I thought prudent. I was running my race but trying to keep tabs on the guy in front of me. I knew the race was a fast track with only 7,000ft elevation gain. I didn't want to leave anything on this course. I wanted to suffer. I wanted to see where my fitness lay for my Hardrock training. I was pushing hard with a reason. If I won the race or not, I was on a mission seeking knowledge. Then it got hot out. The clouds burned off, the trail became more exposed, my hat found my hand, the small stream crossings became head wash stations.
     I hit my 30 mile doldrums at about mile 25. I got cranky. I was doing loops of winding ski trails with no other purpose than to add milage. I got to mile 27 aid station and must have looked like I needed a diaper change and a nap. Instead I had watermelon (my happy food) and some PBJ's which I stuffed in a pocket for later. My mood started to change. I could feel the malaise peeling away and I hit a good rhythm. I rolled into the mile 35 aid station feeling good, motivated. They said I was the first person to visit. Wha? I said what about Orangeguy? They said no, I was the first. Hmm? He must have either dropped or gone off trail. I took off even more focused for the last 15 miles. It was still hot but my hydration felt right and my fuel of PBJ and WaterH20 was doing the trick. I felt light and fast. I picked it up, I wanted to suffer remember? The miles clipped by until the last aid station. They said all I had to do was ascend Pattterson Mt., descend and the finish was about a mile after that around the paved lake. I filled a bottle and hit it. The climb was immediate and slow. My race goals were: Finish, Test , Break 7 hour, Win. I had about 1 hour 10 minutes to cover the last 6 miles. Seemed doable to break 7 and win. I trudged on up that exposed, sage dotted, stupid mountain. It wouldn't end. I got to the first, second, false summit. There was a sign, go up to the top to the turnaround. Two more false summits and I got to the turnaround and did. I headed down. About half way to the sign I saw Colin Miller in second place coming up! Shit! He's a stout runner and he looked solid. He probably got a good look at his reflection in my dinner plate eyes as I sprinted by. The race was ON and there was 2 miles to the finish. I screamed down that trail. I blurred past Glenn T.

photo by Glenn Tachiyama
I got to the paved road around Patterson Lake and sprinted. One mile should be over in less than 7 minutes. I ran hard, my head was light. I got to a trail and thought just up and around the next bend. I slowed slightly at the incline. Another turn, no finish line. I will not get passed in the last mile. Another turn and... nothing. My legs were done, my head was no longer attached and the trail was swimming. Next turn, nothing. No crowd, no cars, nothing. I could feel my resolve slipping but remembered my goal of leaving it all on the trail and I kept churning my legs. Eventually, my eye caught a flash of metal in the forrest, then a sound, more sound and I gave my last push up the hill to the finish and victory. 6:49:08 a new Personal Best at the 50 mile. I was cooked. Candice put a chair near me and I was sucked into it against my will. That chair had me velcroed to it for the next half hour. Colin came in ten minutes later. He said he didn't give chase because he's running SanDiego 100 in a few weeks and wanted to save his legs. I said, "you could have told me on the mountain!" Actually, I'm really glad he didn't. I would not have pushed as hard if I'd have known. 
     My conclusions from Sun Mt. 50 were this: Scott Kinabalu is the shoe I'm going to wear at Hardrock this year. They are too good on tricky technical and supportive enough to make it the full 100. I may have the Montrails in a drop bag at mile 60 just in case. The Methow valley is amazing and worthy of a much longer visit. I'll take cows over cowbells at a race every time. My fitness is right on track. Winning my first 50 miler was celebrated with a jump in the lake and a long drive home before the I5 bridge fell into the drink. Thanks to Rainshadow Running for the fun race, to Scott McCoubrey for the excellent shoes, and to my beautiful wife and kids for allowing me the adventure.


  1. I enjoy reading your race reports. They are chock full of sharp examples depicting life on the trails- and HUMOR! ~jane

  2. Nice report. So many moody cows!! I was ready to zig zag if one charged. I took a bad wrong turn early and was forced to drop. I hated dropping this race as I had a good day there last year on the 50k route. Great run
    , it was a bit toasty and you went out hard. Sorry I wasn't able to hang in and possibly squeeze an even harder effort out of you.
    -Orangeguy aka Brandon Sullivan