HERE’S A RACE REPORT FROM STEIDL RUNNING ATHLETE COLIN MITCHELL ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCE AT THE 2019 WY’EAST WONDER 50 MILE:
Waking up race morning I felt a jumble of emotions course through me, excitement, nerves, fear and oddly, confidence. As I donned my race day attire, laced up my shoes, and did a last check of my gear, I realized 6 months of intervals, hill repeats, and “easy” runs had prepared me both physically and mentally for my first 50 mile race.
Boarding the shuttle to the race start, it was obvious everyone around me was going through the same range of emotions and were coping in different ways. Many people were quiet and reserved, inwardly reflecting, but a few were boisterous and chatting. I found myself on the reflective side as I visualized how it would feel to cross the finish line. Thinking through all the decisions I would need to make to ensure a successful race and repeating the words Trisha said the night before, “Be patient, be strong and be relentless.” Before I knew it, the bus pulled up to the start line and the nerves crept back into the pit of my stomach.
After a few deep breaths and a quick bathroom stop, I took off for my warm-up run. It was incredible how quickly my nerves faded away once I started moving. It was easy to convince myself this was just another run, one more to the hundreds I had completed over the last few months of training. By the time I returned to the start I was excited to see how far I could push myself. After a quick race report from the organizers, we queued up, counted down, and were off. As simple as that, the race has finally started.
I knew the first 20 miles of the race had the majority of the climbing, so I exercised patience, following the lead of the runners around me and walking some of the first steep hills. As the pack started to thin and my legs warmed up I found myself running at longer and longer stretches. I constantly reminded myself the day had only begun, so I kept to whatever pace felt natural, slowing through the climbs, flowing through the flats and declines. As I got into a rhythm my mind went blissfully blank, relishing the sights and sounds of the Cascades, loving the feeling of movement in my body, and downing a gel each time my wrist buzzed. As the miles ticked off, I began to get excited about seeing my family at the aid station.
Passing through the aid station at 20 miles I felt in control of the race, my legs felt great, my stomach was behaving and I was enjoying the experience. My family helped me through the aide station in what felt like moments, restocking my gels, filling my water and spraying me down. I left the aid station with confidence, with little understanding of what the next 30 miles had in store.
Just before the next aid station at Mile 24, as I guzzled the last bit of water I had in my pack, I realized how hot the day had become. Being a heavy sweater the heat started to make me nervous. After I refilled at the aid station, I made a mental note to to try and conserve water, but the next thing I knew, I was out of water again. I quickly realized a battle against dehydration had begun as I consistently failed to stretch my water between aide stations. As my body started reacting to the dehydration, I felt my mental fortitude slipping. My legs started to feel heavy and the gels made my stomach feel like I swallowed a cannonball. Luckily, Trisha’s words to be relentless were key to pushing myself through the discomfort. Taking occasional walking breaks to lower my heart rate and reset my body enabled me to keep moving towards the finish despite the growing fatigue.
As I staggered back through Mile 40 and saw my family again, it was like having a reset button. It is incredible how much their encouragement rekindled my energy and gave me the strength to finish. It helped me remember this race was about pushing myself and enjoying the experience of what I was capable off. I took off with confidence that I could finish, but fully aware that it would be painful. The last few miles of the course were completely downhill as the trail dropped from the ridge line to the valley. I kept reminding myself that if I was strong enough to make it this far, the last few miles would be nothing. As my legs slowed I kept wishing the next turn would reveal the finish. As my legs gave their last gasp, I rounded the final bend and emerged into the finish clearing. Crossing the finish line, I couldn’t believe that I was finally finished. With my head still reeling from dehydration and exhaustion, it took a few moments for reality to set in, that after months of training I had final accomplished my goal, I had completed a 50 mile race. Though my body and mind felt completely depleted, I couldn’t help wonder if maybe next time I could go just a little bit further.