I ran the Sunflower “Iron”/Relay in the Methow Valley for the first time Saturday. This race is absolutely brilliant. The run is 21.7 miles or so, starting near Mazama and finishing with a steep descent through sunflower fields into Twisp. Details on the race are available at http://www.mvsta.com/, and I see they already have some nice pics up at their blog link on that site. There is just a terrific community spirit around this run, which is now on its 29th year. It’s also fun to drive 2.5 hours, and yet run into all sorts of friendly faces from the Bellingham Running Club who’ve made the pilgrimage, as well as friends in Winthrop.
The Sunflower course is a rolling one, not as hard as some of the ultra courses around these parts (about 2k elevation gain), but at a little higher altitude. It’s a fun course, very runnable with two fair climbs, and at 21.7 miles, it ends quick enough as compared to longer races. The Sunflower course is a Methow highlight reel, winding along the Methow River, up by Patterson Lake and Elbow Coulee, and through Ponderosa forests, over clear streams, and all sorts of other cool ecology.
As for me, what a difference three weeks makes! There were no sunflowers three weeks ago, Patterson Lake was frozen solid, and I was running awful. This time around, the hills were absolutely covered in yellow, with some blue, and there was no snow--it was a beautiful day. I ran better than the last time I was in the Methow, with none of the bronchial challenges from before. Not great, but better. I took lots of pictures during the first half, but then ran the second half at a steady clip. One point of REAL CONCERN, however, is whether or not the alleged sunflowers in these pictures are actually sunflowers. This has been a matter of some serious botanical discussion. Someone said arrowroot. My guess—a dwarfie sunflower. But I'm not sure.