Yakima Skyline 25km: Busting the Rust (& my butt)

Rainshadow Running’s Yakima Skyline 25km is usually my 3rd race of the year, but this year it was my first and acted as a “rust buster” as I haven’t toed the start line since my debut 50-miler in November. I had a nagging knee injury since late summer that would not let up until just recently. It seemed to have healed overnight, but the reality is it has been months of acupuncture treatment, chiropractic adjustments, cutting back on training, avoiding high intensity workouts and a whole lot of patience that finally seemed to do the trick.

Race day coincided with Easter Sunday. What better way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus than with my own rising of sorts? I joke but feel so grateful to return to racing in time to participate in one of my favorite events. There is something very magical about the exposed, high desert mountains on the eastern side of the cascades. Such a stark contrast to being snuggled among the evergreens with views only if the sky decides to open. That, and the ambiance of a Rainshadow Running party can’t be beat.

We camped the night before at the Ellensburg KOA, which is literally right next to Thorp highway. I fell asleep around 8:00pm to the soothing symphony of semis, motorcycles and exhaust snorts. The morning was chilly, but Tad keeps it cozy by starting a heater in the tent, a fire and stove for making coffee.

Warming my  Trail Butter , my pre-race breakfast, by the fire

Warming my Trail Butter, my pre-race breakfast, by the fire

The day was warming quickly and by the time I lined up for a 9am start, I was already sweating. Last year I held on to hand warmers for the first two miles. This year, I had to try not to drink all my water during the warm-up.  It was going to be a hot one! Before the countdown started, I turned to give my trail sisters Jenny and Elisa a hug. (They both ended up having a super strong day!)

We start out by circling around the parking lot and then crossing over a suspension bridge that funnels into single-track. If you have never run across a suspension bridge with 30 other runners, I highly recommend it. It is the wackiest, most disorienting feeling because as you step down the bridge comes up to meet your feet. It feels bizarre.

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Since I’ve run this race so many times, I am familiar with what my splits are usually, and for the first 3-mile ascent, I was about 5-10 seconds off a mile. No big deal, but I could tell the way my body felt that it wasn’t going to get any easier. As the trail leveled off, the field spread out and I was running alone with just a glimpse of blue bouncing up ahead of me.

I looked forward to Doug McKeever’s water station at ~5.5 miles. I stopped quickly to give Doug (who has been stationed on top of the mountain all weekend!) a hug and when I started running again couldn’t find the left turn that heads down to the river. My confusion was caused by Doug moving the aid station a bit closer this year, so I was thrown off for just a second. I soon found my way and was glad I wasn’t losing my marbles so early in the race.

My left heel started burning from the steep friction of the downhill at 6 miles. I thought I lubed up good enough before the race, but I must have missed a spot. To get a blister so early just shows how aggressive this course is.

Glenn Tachiyama, the photographer, was stationed at his usual scenic spot. I managed to stay upright for the photo, but as soon as I passed him, I fell and busted my shoulder. Stunned for just a second, I jumped up and felt no pain so tried to get the wheels going again, but my heel was burning so badly. I slid down to the Roza Creek aid station, and as soon as I made the turnaround, I fell again. Oof.  

Okay, time to get it together! At least the net-uphill return trip would give my heel some respite. Cheers from the runners coming down the hill always lift my spirits and I tried my best to encourage them back.

Trying to land on my toes!

Trying to land on my toes!

The last 3-mile descent I wasn’t sure if there was any skin left on my heel and I was running way forward on my toes. The initial part of the decent is so steep, unless you stop running you have no control. I was wind-milling my arms screaming on the outside and praying on the inside that I would somehow stay upright. I bet it looked hilarious and wished Tad was there to get it on video.

I knew I was well over even coming close to my best time, so I just ran it in without being super aggressive, running very awkwardly to try to ease the pain on the bottom of my foot.

I finished up 1st female, 7th overall. Full results here.

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I met James with a high-five and wood-fired pizza, beer, and live bluegrass music was waiting at the finish line.

With Rainshadow Running Race Director James Varner

With Rainshadow Running Race Director James Varner

And because I think it’s funny, if you want to see me almost knock James down when I came through the finish in 2017, click here for a classic series of embarrassing photos.

While it was my slowest finish to date, the fact that I was able to run without pain and have no pain after the race is all I could ask for. Big thanks to Active Points Wellness and Align Chiropractic for making this possible.

I was incredibly sore the following two days, but feel I am bouncing back quickly now which is a good thing because I am going to run the Ginger Runner’s inaugural Tiger Claw on May 4th.  It’s only 3,000 feet more climbing than Yakima…

One thing is for certain: my feet will most definitely be properly lubed!

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Maria Dalzot