Wy’East Wonder 50k
5 hours, 34 minutes. Last Thursday at work, I opened a blank sheet in Excel and broke it down.
Being the first year for this race, there were no past results to overanalyze. No Strava traces to troll. Ultrasignup didn’t even provide projected finishing times. The limited course info on GoBeyond’s website suggested it could be a good course for a PR; a point-to-point with a net downhill and (seemingly) no major climbs.
I knew the goal was aggressive, especially considering the substantial element of unknown with regards to the technicality of these trails I’d never run. Still, there existed in my heart, this little light that said, ‘I bet you can do it. You never really put it all out there, so what would happen if you did?’
Start to Gunsight Ridge (0 – 3.9)
Well, I guess I’ll see you guys around mile 20.
The race went out ridiculously fast. Wide forest service road; gentle grade gaining ~800 feet over the first three miles. Of the 150ish runners, I was in the last 15 or so, hanging with the course sweepers and nasal breathing along at 11:30 pace. Getting so much better at staying within myself, connecting with my surroundings, not giving what other runners are doing any stake in perception of my own effort. With each ultra, and especially over the last year, I’ve become more able to trust my training and execute my own race plan.
The weather was perfect for running; temps in the low 50’s, no wind, scattered clouds. Body more rested than she’s been in months, thanks to a full taper. Mind in a good place. Besides a shitty night of sleep before today, I really couldn’t have landed at this start line any more prepared. I let the early miles tick off and think about how nice the trees are, how damn lucky I am to do this.
I come into the first Aid Station within 90 seconds of my projected timing, saying hi to the volunteers and running right through.
Gunsight to High Prairie (3.9 – 10.7)
The single track starts just out from the first Aid. Woah, this is more technical than anticipated. Some snow. Then more snow. Boulder fields. And there are climbs… climbs that were certainly not indicated on the elevation profile.
A few 12:35’s a 12:56. Might be time to let go of expectations and just go with what the trail gives me.
A squirrely man with chicken leg calves keeps leap-frogging me and it’s annoying to the point where I just step aside and let him go, taking the pause as an opportunity to dig a rock out from under my right arch. Ran with an Aaron for a while. I swear, I meet more Aarons in life than anyone else. Nothing against all the Aarons left out there, but I’d really be fine with never meeting another one.
The VIEWS. Off to my right, a sheet of rain moves over the evergreens; gradation in color and shadow like one of the Elton Bennet’s hanging in my parents’ living room. To my left, Lady Hood, from Timberline up shrouded in clouds. Present in an immensely reassuring way.
Then the single track spits me out on another forest road, this one grinding up a ridge for over a mile, with a grade not unlike lower Burma. Its long switchbacks take me into the second Aid Station, and I’m thinking, ‘So, if the total gain in this course is only 3700’, are we getting it all in the first 10 miles?’
High Prairie to Aqueduct (10.7 – 20.5)
I’m somehow only 4 minutes back from my planned time into Aid 2. My GPS is showing shorter distance, however, so there’s that. Rather than dwell on either data point, I refill my soft flask and wonder if the guy eating all the Oreos will regret it later. A volunteer says congrats on making it to the high point of the course, and I actually think I said out loud, ‘are you sure?’ And a cute puppy!
Never fully stopping, I walk out of Aid 2, futzing to stow my hydration back into the front of my vest. A couple of girls come in hot on the trail behind me, and I step aside. One looks like she’s working much too hard for mile 10, but the other seems legit. I’d rather have them in front of me now, because then it means I’m in control and with great likelihood will catch them later. With 10 miles to the next Aid, I look forward to the runners spreading out and getting some solitude.
The trail gets switch-backy and then here come a few miles of unpleasant camber. Damn all the serpentine lines of this MTB single track, it’s impossible to get into a good rhythm. Where is the flow, and the dark place of mile 17. For whatever reason, 17 was dark at Chuckanut too. Like my mind is saying, well you’re more than half way, but there’s still a long way to go… and my body is saying, oh we can tell we’ve been running a while now…
Single track crosses a double track, one orange agility cone at the right corner where the trails cross. For a split second, my Cognitive Self asks, ‘which way?’ But my Legs haven’t slowed their cadence and I’m already continuing down the single track. Which quickly becomes narrower, rocky, and steeply descends. Cognitive Self pipes up, ‘well if this was the wrong way, it’s going to suck to climb back up…’, and we wrestle because Legs say just keep going. I watch the tenths of miles tick off and barter to give it another 0.4 before turning around. Then, the best orange agility cone in the history of orange agility cones appears, and Legs say, ‘see we were right, you’re such a worrier’.
18 and 19 feel better. Suddenly, at Aid Station 3, and back on projected time!
Aqueduct to Gibson Prairie (20.5 – 25.2)
Now it’s time to race. Play the counting game; how many runners can I pick off?
OKAY, yes. Vision closes in, focus and flow envelope me. This is my drug, this is the How and the Why. 10:02, 9:25, 10:05. Don’t look at the watch, just feel the trail and trust the Legs. Shoulders back, core strong. Do you wanna, do you wanna see my fire? Let’s close this thing.
11. In 5 miles, 11 runners get passed. At least I’m nice about it; always offering a genuine ‘good work’ as I reel them in. Chicken leg calves is one of them.
Gibson Prairie to Finish (25.2 – 30.6)
Holy quad mashing downhill please don’t fall… and wait, I’m SEVENTH?!
The final 5 miles are a blur of gnarly sharp switchback downhill, a few very close calls due to roots, rocks, and scree. I’m able to catch 6 more runners, all of whom look like they’re feeling each of the 2000’ lost on the way to the finish. Even though my quads feel it too, I’m happy and flying, and depending on where this finish line actually is, I may have just run my goal race.
all the feels
9:18, 9:31, 8:38, 8:43, 9:29.
Here’s the line and the clock, and I’m 5 hours and 36 minutes!!
pure joy at the finish
In the 48 hours since crossing that finish line, the satisfaction of putting myself out there, going for an aggressive and somewhat scary goal time, and succeedingcontinues to keep a silly smile on my face. I’m beyond grateful. Grateful for the people who support and encourage me. Grateful for the forests and mountains and trails for letting me play over their spaces. Grateful to have a body and mind that are strong, resilient to challenge, and never ceasing to find new limits. As cliché as it sounds, Wy’East was a breakthough (BREAKTHROUGH) for me. Chuckanut was too, in its own way, but this race feels even more special.
all about the headcount
Stoked to rest up, recover fully, and get back out there. I’m writing the next chapter, and it’s going to be a strong summer.
all about the hard (glass) ware