Race: Baker Lake 50k

Runner: Elizabeth Carey

Race Date: 10/05/2019

Location: Baker Lake, WA

Results: https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=64422#id1246103

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2765828135

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

1) Scenery: Fall in the forest was on full display
2) Chill vibe: Small, low-key race
3) Location: Close enough to Seattle to enable a day trip

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

There was only one aid station, but since I carried almost everything I needed, it sufficed. Despite being a wimp while crossing countless wooden bridges, which were slippery from rain and muck, I almost fell a few times.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

The awesome mushrooms growing along the side of the trail!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I jumped into this race last minute with little to no 50k or course-specific training, so took the first half out conservatively. The out-and-back trail lends itself well to this approach. I picked up the second half and had a blast trying to reel people in while intensifying the effort. I really enjoyed the camaraderie, views of the lakes with a few splashes of yellow-orange trees, and the fun rollers and poppers along the course. Given that the single-track trail is neither very technical nor verty, it was a relatively welcoming — aka not intimidating — environment.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Know that on-course support is limited and carry what you need between 0-15ish and 15-30+ miles yourself. The aid station and volunteers at the halfway point are great. You’ll find self-serve water stops at a few other points along the course. There’s an early start if you are worried about hitting the cut-off.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Don’t trust the forecast—we lucked out with the weather big time and therefore dodged cold downpours! The pre-race morning was chilly so it was nice to have some extra gear options packed.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

While not extreme or severe, the Baker Lake Trail (which you’ll be on for most of the race) is a rolling single-track with some rocks, roots, bridges, creek/water crossings, and mud (if you’re lucky). It is lively and not the type of trail to just, say, zone out on. It includes lots of little hills which I heard one racer call “death by a thousand paper cuts,” but I didn’t think it was that bad. Also, the first mile or so is on paved and gravel road and, boy, do people take it out way too fast. It’s nice to get a good position before the left turn onto single track, but the trail and geography lend itself well to passing on the left.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

This pretty course winds through old-growth forest and includes scenic bridge crossings as well as views of the beautiful blue Baker Lake.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

No, for a trail ultra it’s not tough. If you’re new to trails or ultras, it’ll be challenging no matter what. This would be a great first 50k course for anyone considering dabbling in the distance.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

This is a well-organized race.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

The small field included a few fast runners but it wasn’t deep. Quite the range of abilities were on display—and that’s the cool part of an out-and-back: everyone sees (and hopefully cheers for) each other!

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

This was a great last-minute race to enter. Online registration closes about 2 days before race day, and the entry fee was a mere $60. Driving from Seattle, Bellingham, or surrounding areas is feasible day-of if you don’t mind an early start. Free camping is available at the campground where the race starts and finishes, too!

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

The sole aid station has standard fare, including Gu Roctane, water, and assorted snacks. Pack your own fuel if need to eat more than once every 15 miles (that’s most of us :).

Weather and typical race conditions

Plan for some rain, clouds, and/or sun. It was about 46 degrees when we arrived at 7am but warmed up quickly and hovered around 60 by afternoon. During the race we got some mist and fog, but also sun! Typical PNW!!

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

While not necessary, trail shoes with good tread were key for me, especially since the course was muddy and slick. I wore a vest with 2x 16 oz bottles and carried my own bars and gel-type-items, and had more than enough. I should’ve worn a more minimal vest, but am glad I didn’t go with just a handheld. I wore a rain shell for the first few miles, but warmed up quickly.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Friends can drive to the halfway point, but that’s the only accessible spot for spectators.

How’s the Swag?

I didn’t order a tee shirt, but my friend (who set a new women’s course record of 4:29) won a teddy bear for placing first.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5 stars for this race — just don’t expect any frills.

Elizabeth Carey is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Elizabeth, check out her coaching page.