This race was a huge turning point for me. My perspective on many things was changed: long solo car trips, steep terrain, rocks, the unknown, warm temperatures, open spaces.
Just four days before the race, as I was ending a run in Shevlin Park in Bend in an open, sunny area, I found myself wishing the sun would go away. I was already warm. I am not a fan of warm temperatures or sun when running. I am partial to trees and shade and cool weather. It was then that it hit me: Yakima Skyline would have no shade. I’d have to find ways to stay cool from the get-go. As soon as I got home, I e-mailed the race director: would ice be available at the aid stations? Though he hadn’t thought of that, he said it would be a good idea since temps were going to be in the 70s and sunny on race day. I started making my hot-sunny-weather running plans. Since the overnight low would be in the upper 40s, I would start the race in my lightest tank top, shorts, visor, sunglasses. Race morning, I applied 70spf sunscreen liberally and methodically. I filled my hydration pack with both ice and water. I put a wet hand towel in a ziploc bag of ice in my drop bag (a small soft-sided cooler), along with spray-on sunscreen for quick reapplication, and the usual nutrition supplies.
|Suspension bridge across the Yakima River|
When I got back to my hotel, I was inspired to write the following:
giant undulating folds of brown, gold, green
bolts of rich crushed velvet draped over the topography
|The beginning of the first climb, and the only shade on the course|
I was hiking as strong as I could, putting distance on a fellow behind me, and gaining on a gal in front of me. The higher up we went, the more awesome the views. I stopped to take in the views and snap some photos. The climb got steeper and steeper, headed straight up the grassy hillside. I thought about the words “easy, effortless. Glide up the hill.” Hey, that’s better than continually telling yourself how hard this is. When the climb was less severe, it actually seemed easy. Perspective change: compared to this climb, Pilot Butte is nothing. Gray Butte is nothing. Black Butte is nothing. I have a new perspective on steep; a new yardstick by which to measure a climb; a new reference point to remind myself that when I something is difficult, it’s not as difficult as this thing that I’ve already conquered.
Every time I felt my fear of heights and open spaces begin to kick in, I stopped and slowly looked around. It was OK. I was OK. It was beautiful, and I was a part of it. It wasn’t so scary after all. I started noticing as much as I could. I heard what sounded like thunder but knew couldn’t be. I turned around to see distant large plumes of “dust” arising from the desert. Ah yes, the military firing range. Appears they were blowing things up today. I’d never seen that before. It was really cool. I noticed a lot of poop on the trail, likely coyote poop. I saw cool bugs and large iridescent orange-winged beetles. I heard a loud “whoosh” and saw two huge birds nearby flying into the wind. I’d never heard the sounds of bird wings plying the air like that. I smelled the Lupine blooming on the ridge top, heard happily chirping birds. And this was all in the first few miles.
I passed the lady in a green long sleeve shirt and long tights(!) before we crested the first climb. She said her legs were done. I thought, Lady we’re just 2.5 miles in, this is the warm-up! Soon after, we reached the rocky, rolling road at the top of the ridge, she passed me, and was gone. I’d see her later though. The fellow behind me passed me too. I’d seem him later too, but not faring so well.
|The first climb, an uber-steep section|
|3 miles of running this rocky, rolling-hill road along the ridge top|
|The faint trail between the first aid station and the steep descent back to the river. It was along here I smelled the Lupine|
|Part way up the 2nd big climb|
Just as the trail seemed to level off and skirt the side of the ridge, I came upon a woman at an intersection who pointed me onward up the hill to the second (also the fourth) aid station at about 10.5 miles. The barely-there trail followed what appeared to be an old fence line up to the top of the hill. It was on this last climb to the aid station that I noticed the balls of both my feet were beginning to feel hot and irritated. I had never had this issue before, but then I had never experienced climbing and descending like this before (not to mention along with very rocky terrain) and my foot was probably moving around differently in my shoe than it has before. I decided this was one of those “mind over matter” things I’d just have to deal with. Before long though, the terrain changed a little, and the discomfort went away.
Along this short out-and-back to the aid station, there were several people headed down as I was headed up. I was excited that there were so many not very far ahead of me. This extra little climb on the way back would not be fun, I thought. On my way down, the lead men were on their way up the second time. They were in twice the distance that I was. Wow. That just blows my mind.
|Ridge running with supreme views!|
|Dam on the Yakima River|
Headed down the last long, brutal, rocky descent to the turnaround aid station, lots of people were headed back up for the return trip. Many of them did not look good. It was now early afternoon, and the day was heating up. I was thankful for the constant light breeze. I kept on trucking, even though I knew I was gonna be pulled from the race. I was excited to catch up with and pass a few more people. Whether or not they’d given up mentally not did not matter to me. I kept running and fueling as if I would be allowed to continue, until I knew for sure that I was not allowed to.
About 10 of us who has missed the cut-off time were hanging out at the aid station. (The race had 110 starters and 88 finishers). A couple of people were talking all negative about the brutal climbs, and about just when you were excited to be able to run some downhill, you couldn’t because it was also so steep and rocky. I didn’t want to hear their negativity, so walked away. I milled around and stretched until the aid station was packed up and we were loaded into several vehicles to be shuttled back to the start/finish. Frank, one of the aid station volunteers asked if I could make it up the hill to his car. I just laughed inside my head thinking, “Dude, I feel great. I could run up this hill. Just because I’m at the back and didn’t make the cutoff doesn’t mean I feel like crap.”
|Post-race cooling off in the Yakima River with friends Darla and Chris Askew|
Because I did this race— in the process overcoming doubt and fear, and gaining new perspective— I know now that I can do anything. Yes, this day was a blessing. It all depends on what you chose to focus on. I wouldn’t change a thing.