Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Race Report: Gorge Waterfalls 50K

Flying at mile 29ish

I would like to start this entry off with giving the biggest shoutout possible to photographer extraordinaire Glenn Tachiyama for capturing, on more than one occasion, the exhilaration and pure joy I (and several hundred other runners) felt over this past weekend! Because of his talents and devotion to the trail running community, I get to continue reliving my favorite moments, as well as share them with people in my life. Thank you, Glenn, for who you are and all that you do!

So. Have I mentioned recently how much I love this sport? Thank goodness for all the lessons learned (well, relearned, or truly hammered home, at least) at Orcas this year. At this weekend's Gorge Waterfalls 50K in the scenic Columbia River Gorge in northern Oregon, I started more toward the middle of the pack, and took my sweet time warming up over the first few miles. Please, universe, let me remember this pearl of running wisdom in my races from here on out.

Due to some last minute trail closures and crazy late-season snow, James had to revise the course multiple times in the weeks leading up to Sunday - ultimately, the revised course featured less elevation than the original one, and may also have been a bit short of a true 50K. Throw in a flat tire on the race supplies van on race day morning, and I'm sure this one was a bit of an RD's nightmare - but for the runners, it was quite a dream! Tons of beautiful waterfalls, well marked course, aid stations with awesome volunteers, yummy finish line food, and as always, a fantastic community and overall vibe. Thank you, James and Candice and everyone else who helped make this happen.

Anyway, the revised course played well with my current strengths - a lot of twisty, technical trails but with long, relatively flat sections, and only two really sustained climbs.

A decent section of flat road in the middle of the course also undoubtedly shaved some minutes off my time. I hit the halfway/turnaround point in exactly 2.5 hours, which is more than a little ridiculous, given that my previous 50K PR was 5:35, run on a far flatter course. I did slow down some on the return, but felt pretty darn good the whole time. I had some great conversations with other runners out there, many of which continued at the finish line party afterward.

The out-and-back nature of the revised course (versus the original point-to-point) actually turned out to be pretty cool, because I got to see some of the pack-leading rockstars like Max King, Ian Sharman, Stephanie Howe and Jenn Shelton...Oregon runners, represent! This was my first ultra run outside of Washington state, and though there were plenty of familiar faces there, it was fun to run alongside so many new ones, too.

First Glenn sighting, mile 10ish. So excited to see him, I leapt skyward to make a fool of myself :P

I tried some new things this race. I ran with handheld water bottles instead of a hydration pack - YES. I consumed significantly fewer calories than past races, but my fueling regimen (see "Race Recap" notes below) seemed to do the trick. I probably could/should have started drinking/eating a little earlier in the race than I did, but overall, my stomach and energy levels did great - no bonking, no cramping, nothing - woohoo!

Loving life (Photo by Glenn Tachiyama)

My only troubles were my feet, which got thoroughly soaked from the sloppy, muddy trails and several shallow waterfall crossings. Compounded with some very rocky sections, my feet - which typically don't give me trouble at all - were in some serious pain toward the end of the race. I wasn't able to rip down the downhills as fast as I usually do. Fortunately, the extra hill training and strength training I've focused on the last month or so paid off on the uphills; I could feel my legs were far less fatigued on the climbs this time than they were at Orcas. That felt GREAT. I shall run more hills.

With Tom and Elodie at the finish line. I wouldn't be where I am now in the world of trail running without these two wonderful souls!

I crossed the finish line in just under 5:15 - a PR for me of 20 minutes, although with the likely shorter distance, not entirely sure it counts as a PR. Nevertheless...very satisfied!


Average weekly mileage in 8 weeks leading up to race day: 40 miles + sporadic cross-training (cycling, snowboarding, yoga/strength)

Peak weekly mileage: 71 miles

Longest single run in training: 29 miles

Race Day Breakfast: Green smoothie, boiled egg, cup of coffee, and a few squares of dark chocolate

During the run:1/2 packet of Perpetuem (carb/protein beverage mix), 3 GU's, a few Endurolytes (electrolyte/salt tablets) and 1 squeezable packet of almond butter


  1. Very cool, glad you had fun! Just a little correction, the popped tire was actually on the truck, not the trailer, otherwise we'd have left the trailer and gotten to the start a lot faster. Anyway...details... :)

    1. Well, thank goodness trail runners are a laidback bunch :) And what's half an hour anyway? You guys pulled off so many miracles making this race happen, given all the circumstances. I think everyone had a blast on Sunday. THANK YOU!

  2. Ahhh Yitka, soo nice to see your great blog. Definately a reflection of your great attitude that I got to enjoy when we ran together for a significant part of the course. It was fun! hope to see you again soon! Once I get my video together, I will post it on my 'blog'... or the FB page.

    1. Woohoo, it was great running with you, too! For as long as I could anyway...congrats on maintaining a really solid pace throughout the second half! Very inspiring :) I'll keep an eye out for your video when you post it. Hope to see you out on the trails again in the future!

  3. Hey Yitka! Good to meet you during the race and you have a sweet write up. Love the photos that Glenn got of you, they made me laugh every time I scrolled through and saw them. FYI...my feet were killing me too, which has never happened before.

    See you at another race! Happy running until then!

    1. Hey Krissy! It was great meeting you, too. Glad you enjoyed Glenn's photos :) They've kept me laughing for long after the race as well! What a fun, silly and beautiful day it was out there on the trails.

      Hope to cross paths again soon!