Sunday, July 29, 2018

2018 Mt Spokane Vertical Challenge 50k

Woooooohoooooooo!!!! This course has everything. Epic mountain views, steep climbs, steep sends, and did I mention fresh huckleberries within arms distance of the trail!? And that's just the course. Trail Maniacs always put on a great event with excellent aid station volunteers and plenty of post race food and beer. You guys rock!

Let's dive into the 50k race from my perspective. I came, I ran, I won. The End. Ok, I guess more occurred than just running and winning. At the start, my legs were ready to go so I let them shake themselves out. Quickly gaining a gap on the feild, the reality of a hot lonely day began to set in. Mt. Spokane looked like a golden pyramid as the morning sun streaked down its flanks. I pushed the climb up Quartz Mt and made a mental note to reserve the fire lookout for a future night of fun with friends but partying would have to wait. There was still a lot of race in front of me and the heat of the day was already making things difficult. Working my way through and stopping for fluids and gel at the Nova Hut around mile 14, I started to think that the day may turn out really well. With added confidence I began to push and get some speed up for the massive descent down to Bear Creek lodge.

Holy people! As soon as I reached the start/finish, a large mass of humans clogged the race. The 25k had just begun. I screamed as my legs began to turn over. "Heads up!" "On your left!" "Move!" I think I made  exactly zero friends as I dodged and weaved through the back of the field of this newly started race. Eventually, I settled in with a few fast minded individuals and did a quick mental check. Am I in first? Probably. Fluids? Good, water on the head and lytes in the shed. Food? Salted caramel gu is sooooooooo goooooood. Stride? Loose and fluid. Attitude? Let's catch every person in my way!!!! I filled my bottles and ate some banana at Bear Creek aid. Looking up I knew the real work of this race was staring me right in the face. 

Dammit Dave Hill lived up to its reputation. Steep, hot, and oh so much fun! Picking off a couple 25k runners put a pep in my step as I continued to climb up and up and up. Eventually the hill relented and a smooth singletrack took over the trail to bring us into Shang-rila aid station at Smith Gap. I don't know if it was the smell of bacon or the fact I had been on my feet for 2 and a half hours, but as I was reading one of the signs adorning the course, a tiny stump decided to grab my foot and hurl me to the ground. "Screw you, stupid stump!" Luckily no real damage was done so I restricted my retaliation to juat a few epithats and quickened my pace into the aid station.

Holy bacon! The smell, the look, the taste. While my mind wandered into a bacon filled orgy, my stomach reminded me that bacon is not a super food and salted caramel gu has been working well so why gunk up the works with salted pork product? After grabbing a couple aspirin from a volunteer I set off up Kit Carson minus bacon and determined to get this thing done. Soon enough we picked up a side trail taking the race over to the wildflower infested grasses of Day Mountain. My mind started to get ideas of stopping for a picture, laying down in the grass, and taking a nap. Man that sounds good! Luckily a 25k runner hot on my heels kept me honest and in the racing spirit. He's out here running, why shouldn't I? Surging on Kit Carson road I got a time check, 4 hrs in with just 6 miles to go. Lets finish this thing!

After dousing myself with water, the last major climb was right in front of me. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, that's all I gotta do. That and not die. The sun seared into my shoulders and back with each aching step. Every mantra I've ever heard began to flood my brain. "Run like the wind!" "When in doubt, run uphill." "No pain, no gain." Little by little the summit of Mt Spokane got closer and closer. A new ski run meant the few pockets of shade that existed on this climb were broken up by long stretches of treeless, sun baked trail. Keeping myself wet was the only way I could mantain a decent pace up this brutal ascent. Finally, I topped out, filled my bottles, and began bombing down to the finish. There was little I could do to keep my legs from flailing in every imaginable direction. Honestly, I didn't care. Future injury be damned, I was getting down NOW!!! And so I did. Dust flying, swerving from one side of trail to the other, and before I knew it, the bottom. Ahhhhhhh, now I just have to crusie back to the...  Wait, what!? Why does the race go up there!? There's another hill? What!? No, no, no. I already went all the way up. I don't wanna. As I started a lovely pity party for myself a family enjoying the bounty of huckleberries reminded me why I'm out here. The pain is temporary, the memory lasts forever. Do I want the memory of this race to be being picked off on this final, tiny climb. I think not. Keep pushing, you're almost there. With a new found attitude, I gave everything I had over that final stretch and sprinted through the finish. ~5h5m, 1st place. Thank you Dave and all of the great volunteers. I will never forget the pain and joy that was this challenge.             

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