Return to the Rim

from The Journey of a Thousand Miles

It was a cold and rainy Saturday morning about a month ago in the throes of the PNW late winter, and I was dragging my feet trying to get out the door for my run. I started watching Rainshadow Running race videos and dreaming about the sun. I made a split-second decision to sign up for both the Yakima Skyline Rim 25k and the Sun Mountain 25k. Not only are these races an escape to a sunnier, dryer land, the timing aligns perfectly with my build-up to the Mont Blanc Marathon on June 25th, all about a month apart.

One of my self-improvement goals this year is to work on being more comfortable being uncomfortable. With this in mind, Tad and I camped out the night before the race. If you told 10 years ago Maria that she was going to camp outside in the cold the night before a hard race she would have laughed in your face while booking it to the nearest Holiday Inn. The low was a cold 39 so we slept in the back of our Explorer on a platform Tad built, but also pitched the tent for changing and stretching in the morning. Tad fit the windows with Reflectix Insulation which helped keep it warm and prevented light from coming in. We blew up the air mattress which made it comfortable, but only left 6 inches above us when lying down. I wish I had a video of us crawling out of the car at 1:00am to go to the bathroom. Other than feeling a bit claustrophobic, it was cozy and comfortable until about 3:30am when the temperature really dropped and I still struggled to keep warm.

Leading up the first climb.

I ran the Yakima 25k last year so this time I knew what my legs and feet were getting into. This race is noted in my brain as one of the hardest trail races I have ever run with almost 5,000ft of gain in 15 miles. The weather this year was much cooler and the trails less dusty which made racing condition more pleasant, though James still required each runner to carry 40 ounces of water.

Side note: We went to the course two weeks ago to get some sun and instead got rain, 60mph winds and the type of mud that sticks to your shoes in 50 pound clumps.

There is no crew access due to the remote nature of the course. Tad started up the climb about 20 minutes before the start so I only saw him in the first mile and then at the finish. But I knew I wasn’t going to be alone out on the course. I knew Doug McKeever was going to be stationed at 5.5 miles providing runners with water and encouragement. I knew Glenn Tachiyama was going to be taking pictures up on the ridge. I ran into Paige Patillo at the Ellensburg Starbucks race morning so I knew smiling faces and high-fives waited at the Roza Creek halfway aid station (and Tad screaming from across the river, watching through his binoculars).

It seems like I was surrounded by friends for the whole race. The out-and-back course allowed runners coming down to cheer on runners coming up. The cheers and encouragement from my fellow racers were so appreciated. I tried to return the good juju, but I got to the point where I was breathing to hard a wave or thumbs up would have to suffice.

Last year I started out very aggressively and paid for it on the return trip. I kept that in mind this time and used the first 2,100ft climb essentially as a warm up. I felt so much better on the return and was able to run all but the extremely steep sections. I passed the 4th place man heading back up and spotted the 3rd place man up ahead. I worked on reeling him in the whole way back. Not until the finish did I realize it was Sam Naney, husband of my friend and former La Sportiva teammate Alison Naney.

I was so deep into “race mode” I totally forgot to let up at the finish line for my high-five from James! This series of pictures embarrassingly highlights the intensity of my finish. Sorry for almost dragging you straight to the pizza, James!

I can always tell how good a race was by how terrible I feel after. I felt pretty terrible after this one with the headache kicking in on the way home. This morning, I can’t make any sudden movements without something cramping. It was a good day.

Full results here.

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