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2015 Yakima Skyline 50K Photos
I'm publishing these notes only as a potential source of information for people who, like me, are newish to trail running and are happy just to complete some of these races. There are no Golden Rules that will guarantee success in a hard race but there are generalities that may point you in the right direction.
The Yakima Skyline Ultra is located near Ellensburg, Washington State which is about 100 miles east of Seattle and held in April - hosted by Rainshadow Running. I had entered this 50 km race as my third ultra after a dismal DNF on Mt Frosty the previous September as well as an excruciating 'Bonk' and near last place finish during the 2014 Sun Mountain 50K in May. The lesson I learned from Mt Frosty was very important - I was too heavy at 196 pounds to be able to complete a mountain ultra. I determined to lose weight and used a smart phone App called 'MyFitnessPal' to monitor my caloric intake; I was able to slowly drop 25 pounds by April 2015. This had a noticeable benefit to my knees, which had frozen on me on the downhill side of Frosty, but also increased my overall speed (from sluggish to merely snailish). I practised steep inclines during this time and adopted a more erect stance while power walking. The 2014 Sun Mountain experience taught me to never lose weight during the 2 week tapering period and to never, never, never hit the wall again! That meant pay a lot of attention to food and water during the event.
So, for this race, I stabilized my weight 2 weeks prior and I had developed strong legs with a better running/walking style. I carried a 3 L water bladder and a sun hat with neck covering. I used a Garmin Forerunner 310 XT with heart monitor and had a good idea what my cruising pace and power walking pace were going to be. I didn't know if the altitude (1300 to 3500 feet) was going to affect me as I train at sea level or if the temperature (23 C - forecast) would play a role. All my long runs were done in the 5-10 C range and were 4 to 6 hours - and always with better runners.
I had many questions about this race after I had paid my entry fee. I'm in my sixty's and don't have the ability/confidence to run downhill at any speed. Also, my body shape is very different from the rest of my running group - more of a bulldog then a greyhound. I researched this race and found Jay's video from the 2014 50K Race.
Jay's Video -2014 Yakima 50
I watched this a few times trying to figure out what had happened to him. He has other videos out about other races and obviously he is an accomplished endurance runner and is in good shape. Jay has an amazing attitude and I really appreciated that he posted his video. Leg cramps leading to full body cramps- is that even possible? I sure didn't want to go through that! It's in this same spirit that I write about my race because I found it hard to find information on this sport in general and this race in particular. I go into some personal details about urine because that's important to some runners.
I talked to other runners in my group who had tried the Yakima Skyline 50K in previous years and got good information. "Watch out for the rocks - very hard to run down." Not an issue for me as I can't run down anyway. The best info was from Des - "it's deceptively dry," he said. "It's high desert and you aren't aware of dehydration." I formulated my race plan and concentrated on the basics of every ultra.
1) Don't go out too fast
2) Keep drinking
3) Keep eating
4) Run to your own pace
5) Take care of your electrolytes
6) In addition, I was going to try to maintain a 15min/mile pace & shoot for an 8 hour Finish
The 0800 hr start was under a cloudless sky and about 4 degrees C. The forecast was for 23 C with wind gusting to 45 kph's so I was wearing shorts, short sleeved shirt, gloves and had a 'Foreign Legion' style sun hat. I started with 2.5 L of water salted with 5 NUUN tablets. I didn't bother with an aggressive start as I figured this race would have many elites that I wouldn't want to hamper. I ended up near the end and was quite happy to go with the flow up the first hill. After 40 mins I started to get warm so dropped the gloves and put on the hat. It took my group 1 hour to get to the top of the first hill. That's about 1/2 mile of ascent over 2 miles or a 25% grade. I was drinking and eating to a schedule I thought would be sufficient. 3/4 L per hour with extra sips whenever I was thirsty. Food was 200-250 calories per hour.
This race nicely breaks down into 4 x 2 hour segments between the Aid Stations, so I figured I should be at AS#1 in 2 hours, having used around 1.5 L of water. I now had 1 hour to make AS#1 which was about 6 miles away. I can run 6 mph on a flat road but should go a little faster downhill. The top of this first hill is a old jeep road and I found it hard to run. I made sure to take pictures of various spots along this trail so people could see what it is like. I made AS#1 with 5 mins to spare. The backside of Hill 1 is long and undulating until the very end which is very steep. I had used up most of my 2.5L of water so filled up with 3L and voided my bladder - always a good sign.
The start to Hill 2 takes you across a flat area that took me about 25 mins to cover before starting up. I reached the top at 3 hours so it wasn't as steep as Hill 1 and I thought I was on schedule to complete this race in 8 hours. There is a smaller secondary hill though and a very difficult/technical trail. At the 3'15" mark, I started to get passed by the leaders on their return. I was starting to lose some time here but made it into AS#2 at 4'20" - just before the cutoff and just after I had run out of water. I was feeling rushed and more than a little confused at this point and took 3 L of water but forgot to get my drop bag, which contained the other half of my food.
I felt ok but as I go over my Garmin stats I can see that I was starting to slow down at this point. At the time I was using my Garmin and doing my best to maintain my pace. A warm wind had come up and gusted quite briskly but didn't last long. I noticed that I was no longer sweating - not a good sign so I started taking salt tablets (S! Caps) and increased my water intake. By 5 hours in, I was getting nauseated and not at all hungry which I rationalized as being ok, as I was short of food anyway. You can not stop eating however, so I dropped my calories to about 150/hour. The nausea lasted about 90 mins or else moved into the background as I was developing a foot blister.
I ran out of water about 40 mins out from AS#3. I thought I was feeling relatively okay and I remember thinking "if I run faster, I'll get to water sooner" (lol). That, of course was just dehydration doing my thinking - I slowed down and tried to not get too excited over the situation. I made it to AS#3 at about 6'45" - 15 mins before the cut. Filled up with 3L's of water and voided my bladder - hmmm looks like orange/pomegranate juice - this is not good. I had gone 5 hours between doing this, which tells me now, just how dry/dehydrated I was getting. Aid Station #3 table liquid was limited to carbonated coke or orange pop which I wasn't too sure about. You don't want to try anything new in a race. Off I went up the final hill.
My legs never let me down but I could see my pace was slowly falling which is to be expected at this stage. Rather then try to achieve the 5 pm Finish Line cutoff, I compromised by setting my goal to a 5;30pm finish with room to compromise more if needed. On this very long slog uphill I saw people in distress, mostly with leg cramps. Some with stomach issues and some completely gassed. Long loud screams of pain from some unfortunate runner, cramping; lasted in my ears longer then their echoes off the canyon. I wasn't expecting stuff like that - but; like I said, I'm relatively new to this sport.
At the top of this hill was an unexpected watering station - I had some left in my water bladder so only took 250 mls from the community mug. I wish I had taken more, as I ran out again but was close to the Finish Line and don't think it had much impact.
For some reason I got my second wind about 1/2 mile out from the Finish. I may have been imagining it but I distinctly recall chastising myself - Now? After 9 hours? Where was it when I needed it? I think it was an adrenaline kick only to finish the day. I was really happy to see the back of the Trailhead sign that signified the end of the line.
For me, this was about completing the event with a respectable time given the tools I had to work with - and I feel I did that in 9.5 hours.
I drank 6L of water between AS#1 and AS#3 over 4.5 hours and was still very dehydrated. I used 15 S!Caps and although didn't feel particulary thirsty, my urine output suggested otherwise. That's the thing about dehydration - you may not feel it creeping up so I will always drink to a schedule. I know I would have been in trouble if this had been a longer race. Even so, I felt I could have gone on longer so this race has opened the door to a potential 50 miler for me on an easier course or more temperate clime.
If I were to run this race again, the things I would alter would be:
1) Try to be in the middle of the pack at the Start - save maybe 15 mins getting to the top of Hill 1.
2) Start with 4L of water at every opportunity
3) Drink .5L of liquid at every Aid Station
4) Remember to use my Drop Bag
Randy - Runner 13