Thursday, April 26, 2018

Yakima Skyline Rim: Take Three

By now I think everyone knows how much I love Rainshadow Running’s Yakima Skyline Rim 25km. Every April, I look forward to heading over Snoqualmie pass where it is 38 degrees and snowing and descending the other side into sun and 60 degrees. It is quite magical, really. Plus, the drastic change in scenery – the lack of trees, massive rolling hills and clouds of dirt and dust – is a welcome change after feeling so soggy after a particularly wet and rainy PNW winter.

The 25km is on Sunday so we left Bellingham early Saturday morning in the hope of catching the finish of the 50km. We made it to the finish line two minutes before Mike Wolfe came in with nobody in sight. We took our lunch and hiked up the trail a bit to cheer and take pictures. We got to see the veterans, my Trail Butter teammate Yassine Diboun and Seven Hill’s Phil Kochick, as well as my La Sportiva teammate Kaytlyn Gerbin who ran with focus and determination to crush the course record. All the 50k-ers deserve a hearty “Well done!” after navigating 10,500 feet of climbing in extremely windy conditions.

La Sportiva 25km & 50km sweep with Kaytlyn!

After the race we headed to the AirBnB, which our friends so graciously invited us to share with them. We usually stay at the Ellensburg KOA, but I am so thankful to have had a warm bed to sleep in before the race as the morning low was in the low 30’s.

When I woke up in the morning and went to the bathroom, I looked down at my foot to see a gnarly looking bruise over the top of my 5th metatarsal. “What the hell?” I thought. I had no idea what I had done. I don’t remember dropping anything on my foot or any kind of trauma that would leave such a mark. I was just hoping that it wouldn’t hurt during the race or be so bad afterwards that it is something serious.

We arrived at the Umtanum Recreation Area an hour before the start to have enough time to do all the pre-race things. The day’s weather had the promise of perfection – light wind, sun and mid-50’s at the finish. I’m sorry 50k-ers!

Leading the conga line in the first mile.
I didn’t really have a pre-race strategy going into the race. We have been focusing on consistency and steady workouts rather than really hard efforts that have left me drained and injured in the past. The first year of the Yakima 25k, I went out too fast and about died coming in. The second year I went out much slower and felt a lot better on the return but was over a minute slower. Super-stud Ladia Albertson-Junkans was signed up to race the 25km but decided to withdraw as she is preparing to throw the hammer down at the inaugural Silo District Marathon in two weeks to get an OTQ. With Ladia out of the race, my goal was just to try to win, without really focusing on a time goal.

After James gave the pre-race briefing and reminding us all not to die, we were off and awkwardly running across the Umtanum suspension bridge as is went up and down from so many legs crossing it. I actually felt kind of dizzy when we got off, you know that feeling after you get out of an elevator or off a plane?

Anyways, the top guys took off and I looked up and saw the bright green of friend Josh Vander Wiele’s shirt in the distance. I was on the back of the chase pack train for the initial climb and then towards the top I took the lead. When we crested the top at 3 miles, the guy beside me said, “you’re in fifth place,” and I responded with, “so are you!” We worked together on the undulating service road until making the left turn at Doug McKeever’s (favorite) aid station on to technical single-track. The decent down to Rosa Creek aid station is a doozy. Even though I lubed up my feet based on past experience, I still felt the burn of friction from sliding on the loose ground.

Finish line feelings.
The out and back nature of the course allows us to meet and greet all the runners at the turn-around. This is one of the reasons I love this race so much. Trail races are often so lonely, but on this course, at least for a couple miles, you get to experience the camaraderie and enthusiasm of the race. I felt stronger than I ever have on the net-uphill return to the finish and was able to really push the final technical decent back to the suspension bridge where Tad was waiting to run behind me across it because #anxiety. 

I made the loop around the perimeter of the parking lot and made sure to slow before crossing the finish line for my revered James Varner high-five. Last year, I nearly pulled his arm out of the socket as I dragged him with me almost to the buffet line. For an embarrassing documentation of this, look back at last year’s report.

I ended up first woman and 5th overall with a time of 2:28:50, 40 seconds shy of my 2016 CR. Full results here

After running the 25km three years in a row, I think next year, body-willing, it will be time to step it up to the 50km. Oh boy. Double the fun, right?

James, me & the awesome print.
As always, I want to thank James and the entire Rainshadow Running team and all the volunteers for making every race such a special experience. From the food, to the beer to the music – the atmosphere is unbeatable, and I am so grateful to live in the PNW and to have the opportunity to take part in these events.

Tad and I were not ready to leave the sunny-side of the mountains quite yet, so we decided to camp out the following night. We usually sleep in the car, but the Orange Tiger wouldn’t start before the trip, so we had to take the Prius which meant sleeping in a tent. I froze my ass off. We woke up to 32 degrees with ice on the tent. We got up before 5am and booked it to Starbucks for warmth and caffeine.

The temperatures rose quickly, and it was a comfortable 60 degrees for our hike/jog. My foot was significantly worse and was causing a lot of pain for the first time. (Luckily, now a couple of days later, the coloring is better and no longer causing pain.) What a freaky thing!

You know it was a good weekend when you step in the shower and a plume of campfire smoke smell is released and you let out a little scream from all the cuts and scrapes you acquired. I think I finally got all the dirt out of my nose… three days later.

Trying to hide how sore I am the day after.

Up next for me is the Smith RockAscent 50km in three weeks which I am so pumped about. I have yet to experience the gorgeous trails of Smith Rock or a Go Beyond Racing event, so I am really looking forward to it. I am still trying to kindle a love for the 50km distance so maybe this race will be enough to light my fire.


  1. Maria, you knocked it out once again. Yes, twice the fun for the
    50 km!

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