This month I took part in my second ultra trail race and it just happened to be my first 50 miler as well, Mary’s Peak 50. I’ve had this race on my schedule sense I ran the Hell of the Northwest trail race back in October of 2016 when Mike Ripley at Oregon Trail Runs said that he was going to add a 50 mile race into his already 50 & 25K Mary’s Peak trail race. I quickly scheduled it into my training calendar that I generated for the Grand to Grand Ultra and knew that it would give me some kind of idea where I stood on my training and if I was going to have to adjust in order to be ready come September.
If you’ve ever ran any of Mike’s races you know that they are challenging and with the exception of the top finishers overall and in age, you don’t get any token medals. What you do get is to say, “what the hell just happened and i’m glade I survived it”. Mike is an avid mountain biker and loves to torture us trail runners by sending us out on some of his favorite mountain biking trails which he has helped build. Mary’s Peak 50 was no different then the other trail races I’ve ran through Oregon Trail Runs; well organized, awesome volunteers and a tough course.
After picking up my race packet the night before the race, things started to get pretty real and I started to feel a little nervous about running 50 miles on a course that was going to be challenging. It’s not like I was running 50 miles on a flat course, no I was running a race on and around the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range at 4,097ft above sea level. To some that might sound like nothing, but to this valley boy who lives around 300ft + or – a few feet, its high elevation. I got everything all laid out and made sure that my drop bag had anything extra I might need, drop bags were going to be at aid stations 1,3 and 5 which are all in the same location but the trail would run through it 3 different times so I didn’t have to worry about making up three different bags. After I went through my checklist of things I would need and got them all organized, I found myself feeling pretty calm and knew that I just needed to follow my plan (slow and steady) and I would be able to finish the race. I’d love to be finishing high on the list, but I also recognize that I’m new to this sport and this sport is a different kind of beast then many other sports. You can be one of the best runners in the world and sometimes your day doesn’t go as planned and instead of being at the top, you are holding on just to finish; just ask Jim Walmsley how he felt when he was pulled from this years Western States 100.
Mary’s Peak 50 Elevation Map from STRAVA
The morning of the race I went through my normal routine and gathered up all my stuff and headed to the starting line. Bloddgett is about 45 minutes from where I live so I knew I could take my time without the risk of being late, and lets face it i’m ALWAYS early to the party anyway. After arriving to the starting/finish line, I checked in and dropped of my drop bag before returning to my truck to slip on my trail shoes and do a little dynamic stretching to get the blood flowing. It didn’t take long for the other runners to start piling in and start working on their pre-race routines and Mike quickly gathered all of us running the 50 miler up to have a quick briefing on the course. At this point I wasn’t nervous at all and when the horn went off I made sure that I was in the back so that I wouldn’t get caught up trying to stay upfront which would go against my plan of slow and steady.
The first 10 miles I choose to go with just a small water bottle on a waist belt to allow my body to warm up without a bunch of extra weight like my hydration vest that had a full blatter in the back and a bottle up front. I did this same thing when I ran the Sasquatch 50K last month and I found that it worked for me. Right around mile 10 is where we would have access to our drop bags for the first time and I wasn’t worried about having minimal water in the beginning because there was a water station at about mile six where I could stop and refill if needed, which I did. When I reached aid station #1 with our drop bags, I took my time looking for my bag and actually did a little stretching by sitting in a deep squat as I pulled what I needed out of my bag. After grabbing what I needed from my bag I also snagged a handful of salty chips from the aid station and jumped back onto the trail.
My body felt pretty good through the first half of the race and I felt like I had done a better job of staying on top of my hydration and calorie intake then what I did in my 50K. I made sure I stopped and took my time at every water and aid station which cost me some time, but my goal was to finish the race not win it. When I reached aid station #5 at mile 34 I still felt like I had some legs and boy was I going to need them because miles 40-46 turned out to be the hardest part of the race for me. I felt like I had a good grasp on the course and the elevation map, but sometimes it can be misleading. The 2 assents up Mary’s Peak look like they are the toughest sections of the race but a lot of the trail is switchbacks, so the grade or incline of the trail is flatter overall. Miles 40-46 were shorter in length and lower in elevation but were strait shot sections with no switchbacks. So when your a bit worn out and you’re thinking that you’ve already tackled the hardest sections of the trail, Mike is waiting for you at the last aid station to inform you that you’re going to be in for a treat.
I found myself at one point in miles 40-46 wondering if I was going to be able to finish and I actually sat down in the middle of the trail feeling sorry for myself. After about 2 minutes of being a baby I got up and finished that section and the last 4 miles of the race were pretty much all down hill. As I made my way to the finish line I started to think, “holly crap I just completed a 50 mile trail race” and Mike was standing there with a big smile on his face as he gave me a high five and said, “was I right about that part of the course”? I called him a sick and twisted man and made my way over to an area where I could stretch out before grabbing some grub that Mikes father in law had prepared for the runners. Mikes father in law has been at every race I’ve competed in through Oregon Trail Runs and he can cook a mean meal, so there was no way I was going to pass that up. Overall I was pleased with my performance and the fact that I stayed true to my plan.
I liked the format of another runners blog I read this month so I’m going to include it in mine. Here is a list of the equipment and items I hand in my race kit.
Click on each link to view each product
Hat–Patagonia “Duckbill Trucker”/ love this hat, light weight and breathable, soaks up the sweat
Sunglasses–Boston Bill “Single Vent Polarized”/ these are my new best friend, don’t bounce around and lightweight
Buff–Buff “Oregon UV Headband”/I don’t use this as a headband, but instead I wear it around my neck and soak it with water to keep me cool on warm days
Shirt– XOSKIN “2.0 Sleeveless”/ this was my first time wearing this shirt and I was not disappointed, stayed tight to my body, breathable and no chafing. Eager to try out the Pulse Compression Shorts
Race Vest–Ultraspire “Spry 2.0″/ love this lightweight vest, holds everything I need and more, has a small footprint
Hydration Belt–Nathan “Swift 10oz”/ cool little hydration belt, used this for the first 10 miles before switching over to my race vest
Shorts–SAXX “2in1 running shorts”/ these are my go to running shorts right now
Socks– Drymax Trail Sock “1/4 Crew Turn Down”/ Drymax socks are the best socks on the market in my opinion. You want your feet to stay dry and blister free, then get yourself a pair or two. I’ve logged over 600 miles wearing Drymax socks and haven’t had one blister
Shoes–Altra “Olympus 2.5″/ this was my second race wearing these shoes and I have no complaints. Big toe box, grippy tread and breathable
Skin Care–Skin Strong Skin Equipment “Slather”/I love this stuff, slap some of this on your undercarriage and nipples, you won’t be disappointed. Made for triathletes, so it stays on even when you’re soaked
Fuel– Tailwind/cant say enough about Tailwind, GET SOME!!!!
HOTSHOT/ if you’re cramping while you’re out on the trail,road,track; then you need this product. HOTSHOT saved my butt during my last three races. Without it I probably wouldn’t have finished.
Dried banana chips and dried mango strips/I usually carry one or both of these on my long runs, don’t have a specific brand