Monday, October 8, 2012

Baker Lake 50K (IV)

No Words needed.

Ahh good old Baker Lake 50K. This was the first “ultra” I’ve ever run.  The first year I ran it without having run past 15 miles in quite a few years, but figured what the hell I could survive. And I did in a pretty slow time but it was so fun to play on the trails. Every little sound I heard back then -being the newbie I was – scared the crap out of me, whether a  bird flying through the brush, or squirrel in a tree, I thought was a giant bear or cougar getting ready to pounce on me. Now I could care less for the most part after seeing those in past few years, although snakes can still make me come close to the world high jump record if I see them unexpectedly on the trail.  Although everyone laughed when the RD sent us off with a “Don’t feed the bears” warning it’s been in my head ever since thanks to him.

I ran this again in 2009 after just getting back into running after racing bikes for a few years, then in 2010, but  not 2011 because I was in the midst of a downward spiral and was broken in lots of ways besides just running, and then 2012 came and I’ve been running a butt load of miles at times but only raced once so far this year – and it was just a tiny race but the trails were super fun and got a bottle of a wine for winning which a friend of mine enjoyed. Baker lake feels like coming home again, home to why I love running trails, and why I love running in the first place. Yes, I want to run fast, or at least to the best of my ability on that day, and yes, it’s more satisfying to finish toward the pointy end of the pack, but in all honesty I just love being out on the trails, lost in my own thoughts, with a glimpse of Mt. Baker in one eye as the sun reflects off Baker Lake with the other. Serene. Peaceful. The only noises I hear are the my laboring breath, the animals scurrying around me, and my footsteps dancing in and around the leaves and rocks of the beautiful single track as I propel myself forward. A slow time or poor weather would never diminish the peace and gratitude I feel while being able to run in the setting.

So 2012 was my 4th Baker Lake, and the weather was picture perfect. I like to run across the damn as part of the 2 mile warm up I like to do to wake myself up and eek out the stagnation from the drive up north, and to get the chill out of the withering bones I possess. Coming back across the damn Mt. Baker was shown in my own personal postcard setting. Breath “takingingly”beautiful. After all, this is my first Baker as a 40 year old. So I do all the usual pre-race junk, and start to make my way to the line and then I hear the started dude say, “20 seconds.” I thought there were a few minutes, but I’m excited to get to the single track. So off we go, myself, Adam and Todd are pretty much by ourselves. Adam slowly pulls out a gap and disappears and Todd and I start talking, and talking a lot. It makes the time go by quickly, and the next thing I know we see Adam coming back toward us after the turn around and we are just about there. A couple minutes of cruising 7:00 pace and we’re there as well. I fill my bottles and chug a bottle of Nuun I had stashed, Todd says he is taking off because he is already done, and then I’m off. I ran pretty quick for the next 6 miles, and never did see Todd again, but not because I didn’t try, he was just running faster. Adam is long gone. And I am alone on the trail which is quite ok with me. I started trying to do math in my head and was just hoping for a sub 4:30, and figured I was on track for that. It was just such a peaceful run on the way back, the encouragement of the early starters is always welcome when our paths cross,  and it’s nice to see an occasional person now and again just to say hi and see the enjoyment or pain (but will later turn to accomplishment guaranteed) on all the faces of everyone there. Because really, we are all there for different reasons, some run for their own mental clarity, to accomplish a goal, to lose weight, or so they can eat donuts, because they are tired of the road and the rat race road races are becoming, because they like to hike and this is kinda like that, or simply because they don’t know they are supposed to do anything else.  There are a million reasons why people run, but the bottom line is you don’t run 31+ miles unless you love it and the feeling it gives you when you are out there.  I went through the marathon in 3:45 so I figured sub 4:30 was easy enough. I was a little worried at one point as the fatigue started to set in and my ass felt larger on each little rise,  but I always knew I had it. I was still running downhill well, except for my trip and slide into 2nd base, but eventually popped out on the road with 10.5 minutes left to run the 1.5 miles to the finish. Knowing it was a little downhill I felt ok. So I just cruised in and made it with 11 seconds to spare. But thoroughly enjoyed myself once again. Running baker is always a special  - it is perhaps the most perfect 50K in Washington. I can’t wait to run it a 5th time next year.

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