Sunday, October 2, 2016

Baker Lake 50k

This year's Baker Lake 50k was rainy, and the rocks and bridges seemed a little more slippy than in recent years. I came across one runner, somewhat dazed, who took a spill on a bridge. They seemed ok, despite. The beautiful 14.5 mile single track trail along the side of Baker Lake is filled with log bridges. I'm guessing there's at least 60 of them on the trail.

It was a hard day to figure out what to wear. It wasn't raining at the Early Start, but the forecast called for some showers and middling temperatures. Of course, weather forecasts are little less sturdy when it comes to mountain trails. Microclimates and rainshadows, etc. I went with a short sleeve tech, plus a Nathan pack stuffed with a Patagonia Houdini. I really like the Houdini, and it came in handy on this day.

About 4.5 miles in, as I approached the water jugs at Maple Grove, I rolled my right ankle, AGAIN. Research indicates I may have "chronic ankle instability" from years of hiking and trail running. It hurts really bad when it rolls hard, which happens a little too often these days. At times, the ankle feels unhinged, which is why I might start calling it my Trump ankle. This race puts you out there a bit, with no real aid between the out and back, other than the jugs. I love that--it's part of the reason its my favorite--but caution is called for.

I carried on, but I was never the same after the roll. I ran with a single trekking pole, which gave that side of my body support, but also wore me down over time. The trail was beautiful, as always, with maybe a little more leaf cover, and more wet than in recent years. Mt. Baker was obscured by the clouds. Threat of rain and sprinkles turned to steady light rain as the day went on. I took too long to get the jacket on.

The turnaround is anticipated for miles, and always gets a big smile. The bridge over the creek is a big one, with crystal clear water below. I didn't see salmon. The half mile out and back to the turnaround is open, flat, and an opportunity to say hi as people pass, going back again. Nice to see Ryan out there. At the aid station, John B. filled my water pack, and I loaded up on S caps and Stingers. In and out in 3 minutes. But those were wonderful minutes, with a number of hellos and smiles to friends.

The slog back was slow, a few minutes slower per mile. I didn't have the endurance, and my right ankle couldn't really pick up the foot. No stride. It was also mentally draining, watching every step so closely. The rain got heavier. Many passed me.

I know the turns and landmarks well, anticipating them, staying patient and steady. Three climbs to the Noisy Creek sign. A long stretch to Maple Grove, with a few key turns and overlooks on the lake. Maple Grove, and I was out of water, basically toast. A stretch to Anderson Creek. Cross the log bridge, carefully. Then that final climb out to the road, which is always a few minutes longer than you'd like to think. The Road. The Dam. The Finish.

Despite my ankle struggles, I ran a bit faster than I have the past two years. That's not saying much, but my recent running, diet, and fitness efforts have brought some personal improvements. I hope to build on this. This race has found a special place in my heart. This was my 13th finish. The first week in October has meant Baker Lake for over a quarter of my life now.

Thank you as always to Skagit Runners. Terry, Delores, Toi, and all others. Thanks to all my long friends and acquaintances that share this trail with me. Great to see Stanley, Marlis, Bandur, Adam, Al, and so many others. This is something we share.

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