Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Run Like The Wind Half Marathon race report (finally!)




It's about time that I finally write this race report up. Spoiler alert: this was the hardest race I have ever run… and feels like it may have been the hardest day I have ever had. But I'm getting ahead of myself….

Wil and I decided to do this race on a bit of a whim. I had considered running my beloved Sage Rat Run again, but it's just that much too far to go, requires two nights away to "really do it", and, well, we ran it last year. So I started looking for another small spring race somewhere interesting. 

Run Like the Wind seemed like the perfect fit: the race is held just outside of Ellensburg -- an easy drive. It's also held at the Wild Horse Wind Farm -- a wind power facility. Long-time readers know how much I LOVE to run in weird places in the built environment. And the race was on a Sunday, which meant we could drive over on Saturday, spend the day kicking around Ellensburg, race on Sunday morning, and have a gentle drive home. Absolutely perfect.
Ellensburg was lovely -- we did some quality vintage shopping in the old downtown, followed by a couple of beers from Iron Horse Brewing and a great veggie pizza from Pizza Colin next door. And our super quiet and comfy room at the Best Western was just fine, thanks. 

One thing: in one of the shop windows, we saw a poster for the race. The tagline?

UPHILL. INTO THE WIND. BOTH WAYS.

Oh.

Up early-ish on Sunday, we went down to breakfast (WAFFLE MAKER!!!) and then packed ourselves up and checked out. We drove the 17 miles to Wild Horse, and I might have squealed when we first saw wind turbines. And when we saw more. And more. Squeeee. Turbines!

Here's what I hasn't really realized. Wind turbines are HUGE. HUGE I SAY.

Wild Horse photo courtesy PSE
We arrived to what felt like a brisk breeze -- and a very cold morning. One odd thing: the blades weren't turning. 

We got our very handsome shirts, our bibs, and our goodie bags, and then donned hard hats and safety glasses to go on a tour. We walked out to the turbines and I asked our guide why they weren't turning. She said that they only activate when the wind speed hits 9 mph. The average wind speed on the ridge was 17 mph. So what felt windy to us wasn't worth the blades turning. Uh-oh. 

We went into the base of one of the turbines -- did I mention they're huge? -- before heading back to the visitor's center. On the way we passed a blade that had been damaged in transit. Umm, yeah. It was huge. HUGE.

photo courtesy Redmond Library
The morning was brisk. And then, the blades started to turn. We made a race-day decision to wear our jackets, knowing we could just tie them around our waists if we got too warm. We didn't wear them very long, but I still think it was the right choice!

We had a safety briefing about the course… but the main thing was that we should follow the orange markings. Then we trooped outside to the starting area and looked around. A grand total of eight hardy souls were running the 30K. There were 28 of us running the half marathon. Not sure how many folks ran the 10K or 5K…  they started after us… and finished LOOONG before us. Oops, there's another spoiler…



The course started with a brief out and back on a partially paved road … the last road we would see for almost 10 miles. Then it was on trail… but not the trail I had expected. It was chunky rocks -- like what you see under railroad ties -- and it went up. Up. Up. 


As you can see, within the first mile, we had nearly lost sight of everyone else. It was gonna be a looooooooong day.

We eventually reached the top of the ridge (you can see we've gained elevation against the wind turbine). 


A few more rolling hills, lots more rolling rocks. 


And more hills. And more rocks. And no shade at all. But it was still super windy -- after all, we were on a ridge in a WIND FARM.


In the pre-race briefing, the race director warned us of a "brief, very steep descent" and asked us all to be very careful. See how the path Wil's on just sorta disappears? Yeah. It got steep. 


I'm not gonna lie -- I stopped taking pictures until we were past the steep part. Here's a more gentle descent into the valley.

Once in the valley, things leveled up a bit… and the path turned into a dirt road, with deep ruts and sunbaked mud… still awkward for this clumsy runner. 


But the sun was out, the day was fine, and Wil and I were pretty much on our own in a very peaceful place. So we just decided to enjoy our morning by gently moving along. See, I'm clumsy enough on a sidewalk… so rock like this is another accident waiting to happen:



In some places we had dirt underfoot -- but in those stretches, we tended to be on a narrow path with sagebrush grown up on either side. We imagined coming around the corner and surprising an elk. Or a horse. Or a cow.

I will say that the course markings were fantastic -- we only got a little confused twice: once where we joined up with the 10K course, another where we entered the "figure eight" for the first pass.

But there were plenty of water/food stops, each well stocked with "ultra kibble". So I had Skittles and pretzels and Coke and was super happy.

One part I disliked -- oddly enough -- was a 1.7 mile stretch along the access road… by the time we got there, I was so sore and achy and tired that I moved down it at a shuffle.

But eventually we recrossed the "figure eight" point, and were in the home stretch. Still, I was absolutely beat at this point. I honestly feel that this, for whatever reason, was harder for me than the Rim to Rim hike.

As we approached the visitor center again, we noticed a growing sound, a deep whooshing rumble … we were not far, elevation-wise, from the top of a turbine that was turning at a rapid speed. Pretty amazing.

Then, finally, we were close. We passed a group out on a wildflower walk and the guide told us we were amazing. We also noticed that, somehow, we were very very close to another runner. We popped out back on the access road a hundred yards or so from the finish. The other runner saw us and took off. We decided that  we didn't need to chase her down. (Thank heavens.)

Cowbells, whooping volunteers, and we crossed the line holding hands.

We managed to get missed by the photographer at the finish, but as we walked back to the visitor center, he caught this picture:


I think we're smiling because we were just so relieved to be done…

Because it took us almost 3.5 hours to finish, we had missed the post-race entertainment, food, and beer. Which was the only complaint I had about the race. The 5K and 10K finishers, along with the (much) faster half marathon and 30K finishers, had finished the beer and the vegetarian chili. But we got some soda pop and tortilla chips, so, well, you know how happy that makes me! And, eventually, one of the volunteers rustled up a beer for us, which we happily drank.

We took our obligatory post-race photo -- check out that gorgeous medal! -- and cheered for the remaining runners still out on the course.


For the record, here's my run… very little running at all… but lots of hills!


We went through Ellensburg again so that we could stop by Dick and Jane's Spot to see the pretty art:


and then happily came home, where I limped out to the hot tub. I haven't been so tired or sore… maybe ever. What's funny is that I didn't have any soreness in my running muscles -- just in my stabilizer muscles. For days and days and days. And even now I have a weird painful stab in my "toe-off" when I walk too quickly. Rest would probably help that… eventually.

Would I run this race again? Oh, gosh, please, no. But it was lovely, and a great day. The course was super tough, but very well marked and well supported. The shirt was pretty, and -- other than that they ran out of the promised vegetarian chili and beer -- everything was well organized. So if you love trail runs, and running in a strange environment, this race might be for you. 

1 comment:

John Forrester said...

I recently have enjoyed a marathon race and it was too amazing. But a person needs really much stamina to cross the distance.Before marathon, weather,wind,rain,humidity and many things are measured using cabled weather stations for official use and safety and all.