- Race: https://runsuperseries.com/ancient-lakes 
- Where: Ancient Lakes, WA (near Quincy, VA)
- When: April 10, 2021
What I loved
- After years of running in VA, this was my first taste of racing in the PNW. And because of the pandemic, it was my first race in over a year. I was excited to get back to what’s become a big part of our life, weekend races that allow the entire family to get away, and that we did. We spent the weekend in Crescent Bar which was our first time leaving Sammamish since we moved last summer. Even if we had to take necessary Cv19 precautions, we made it work. We stopped for lunch and coffee in Ellensburg as we made our journey east along I-90; we rented a condo in Crescent Bar that let us experience the Colombia River; and then spent most of our time at Ancient Lakes with my race on Saturday and Nicole racing the 25k distance on Sunday. The condo wasn’t much but the boys thought it was the coolest thing ever. Oh to be 6 and 4 again.
- This was not the type of racing I expected when imagining life in the PNW but it was fun. I mean, any day of running, no matter the elements, is fun to me. This was on the “dry” side of the Cascade mountains where it’s very desert like and where many from Seattle escape to find some sun. Ancient Lakes itself is a set of small lakes at the head of a flat bottomed, cliff ringed valley, locally called a “coulee.” I had never done any type of desert running so this was a very nice change of scenery. I enjoyed the high ridges above the valley, the low sagebrush, and traversing along the Colombia river. All would have been perfect if not for the 30 mph winds we faced for most of the day.
- The course is 3 loops to be completed once, twice, or three times for the 50 milers. Each loop was roughly 4-7 miles which meant it was a ~53 mile day for me. The loop format allowed me to sharpen my mental game as anyone knows me understands my 4 loop goal. Each loop was indeed similar but had enough differences to keep the day interesting. Nicole later asked how I did “that course” three times but I enjoyed the unique mental challenge this format presented. I found little ways to get more efficient as the day went on. Like running hard out of the start/finish area that I had to check into 8 times. Or knowing which sections to push the pace and which sections to stay within myself. And then managing foods and fluids was a bit easier because I was always ~an hour from returning back to my supplies bag.
- The few climbs really weren’t that bad so this was a lot more running (or shuffling) than most of the races I tackle. I found the few climbs on each of the respective loops provided a chance for me to slow down, take in the area, and appreciate the surrounding beauty. Then it was back to heads down running with 30 mph winds hammering my face. Good times.
- I ran hard. I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been running but I’ve gotten pretty loose with my mileage and have indexed toward having fun and less towards putting in the long runs week in and week out. Life these days is just a bit busier and I’d rather enjoy the miles I can run than force myself to run when I have other priorities. So I didn’t know if it would be 20 miles of fun and 30 miles of suffering, something worse, or just maybe, a good day. I noticed early that my hamstrings were a bit crabby and that I had the energy but didn’t quite have the legs. These days are fun because they become an exercise in grinding out miles without getting injured. I settled into an early pace and was consistent as the day progressed. I focused on what I could control, drinking and eating and having fun. And when I set out for that last loop, I knew I could break 10 hours if I pushed myself. I finished in 9:59 for a new 50 mile PR and was really happy that I worked hard in those last miles to get across the finish line before the 10 hour mark.
What I learned
- Strange to say but I’m getting smarter. Instead of eating “in a little bit” I ate in the moment when the thought occurred. Instead of saving food for later, I consumed more calories with each meal. Instead of chugging a Red Bull late in the race, I ate food and drank electrolytes. For all the racing I’ve done, I tend to make these events harder by just not eating enough so on this day, I did the opposite. And I could feel the difference with very few if any low points. I think this helped me stay consistent throughout the day and hammer those last few miles to beat 10h. I was also smarter about sun protection. I looked a bit goofy but I wore long shorts, long sleeves, and kept a buff over my head. I thought I’d still wake up the next day a bit pink but no sunburn! This made a huge difference in my recovery as I was back running two days later.
- I really need to back off the strength training the week of the race. I tell myself this each race and then days before the race I find myself lifting heavy things. I think this was the cause for my crabby hamstrings. I guess the point is, if I’m strength training to improve my ultra running then maybe I should give myself a chance to reap these fruits. So yah, still room to improve on balance training vs rest.
This write up is short so I’ll end with some pictures..