- Trail Race
Wow, what a race this was! I can remember growing up in England and learning about Mount St. Helens in my geography class. I can remember thinking "One day, I'm gonna go there". So, when I found out there was an ultramarathon that circumnavigated the great volcano, I was in.
I signed up online well in advance, but then had to wait ages to actually run it. Finally though, the time came. I was a little worried about what the conditions would be like. I just had no idea. Usually, I am familiar with what the terrain is likely to be like in a race, but on this occasion I just didn't have a clue. I'd also heard that the year before, temperatures had soared above 100 degrees!
I packed what I thought was best and crossed my fingers. It's a long drive to the start, which isn't too far from Portland. I'm coming from Vancouver, BC, so it definitely took all day. The plan was to camp the night before in a resort about 20k from the start. We planned to get there in the afternoon, but didn't end up arriving until well after dark. That was fun, putting up the tent in the pitch black!
I actually got a migraine on the way down and almost turned back home after Sandra made her required stop at Trader Joes. We decided to push on though and I'm glad we did.
I picked up my race package on the morning of the event. You had to carry a list of essential items at all times and couldn't check in until you'd proved you had them. I like that... helps keep it safe for everyone. I wish they'd asked to see my spirit 'cause I had tonnes of that on race morning! i just couldn't wait to get going.
There was no danger of dehydration on this occasion. That 100 degree weather was far away somewhere else. Instead, it was overcast and a little cold. Perfect.
The race begins with a steep climb up to the main trail, which we would follow for most of the day. There were several wasp nests on the trail and I ended up with more than a dozen stings. Very painful! The terrain varies greatly, although it's mostly exposed with little cover. It must have been awful when the temps were high. There were big boulders to run across, sandy slopes and plenty of loose lava rocks. Pretty cool.
The aid stations were great, considering everything had to be hiked in. There was plenty of water and lots of little treats to keep the spirits high.
I wasn't over the moon with my time of just under 8 hours, but some of the terrain was quite difficult to navigate. I ran 5.5 hours at Chuckanut, earlier in the year, so that should give you an idea of how much slower this course is. Plus, I stopped quite a bit for photos, which can really eat into your time!
There were no medals in this one, but we did recieve a nice drinking glass with the race logo on it. So far, it's still in one piece, so that's good!
At the end of the day, I can't recommend this race enough, especially if you do most of your racing in the Pacific Northwest. The scenery at Mount St. Helens is just so different and it really does feel like you're running on Mars at times. If you don't mind travelling, or live close by, give it a shot. I guarantee you'll love it!
For my full review, including photos, check out my blog: http://hills4thrills.com/blog/activities/race-report/2015-volcanic-50/