Race: Mt. Si 50 miler – http://www.mtsirelay.com/ultras.html
Runner: Matt K
Location: Snoqualmie, WA
Results – 7:55:12 3rd Overall
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
First, the race feels like a fun, small, old school event. I like that you can just focus on having fun and running a good race. Second, the ultra race passes through the relay exchange points several times. Seeing and hearing the relay-ers cheer on the ultra race was a a lot of fun and a big mental boost. Finally, I liked the course route itself. While the scenery wasn’t always the best (see below), the out-and-back nature made it easier for me to take the course in bite-sized chunks and reduce the total amount of logistics and stuff I needed to keep in my head. Made things easier on crew too!
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
The only part of the race I didn’t love was some of the scenery. Most of the first 8 miles are on trails through suburbs, and in a few places you pass close to or look down on I-90. Not a big deal, but the rest of the scenery is the foothills and so beautiful that the blemishes stand out.
Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race
There’s a relay race going on simultaneously, so you get to see and talk to new people often, but it’s also easy to get sucked into a group running a very different race.
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
The highlight for me was definitely my even pacing. Given that this was my first attempt at the distance, I didn’t know what to expect and had a hard time staying conservative in the beginning. At the turnaround I was 7th overall and decided now was the time to start slowly reeling people in. A big contributor to being able to catch other racers was my limited time in aid stations; my wonderful crew got me in and out every time in around 30 seconds. As a result I caught two of the four runners at aid stations.
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
Pacing is critical in this race; the first half is all gentle uphill and the second is all gentle down. You need to be conservative enough in the first half to avoid blowing up, and then you can race the whole second half.
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
Mostly, but with the blemishes noted previously.
Difficulty – is it a tough course
This was my first 50 miler, so I don’t have a frame of reference, but the course seemed easier than many trail races. The course is an out-and-back with the whole first half a gentle uphill that keeps you working but is totally runnable. The second half is much easier to push a faster pace. The downhill is gentle and doesn’t blow out your quads.
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
I heard of others having a bit of confusion, but I thought the race was executed well. Pre-race info was thorough, aid was well stocked, and the course was clearly marked. I didn’t use drop bags but it appeared they were there on time and easy to find. I was also near the front of the pack, so it’s possible mid- or back-of-the-packers may have had a different experience.
The field was composed mostly of locals. Past years have had some fast times, but the event generally doesn’t attract well-known names.
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.
Signup is simple on www.mtsirelay.com. Neither the 50 mi or 50k sold out, though the relay did after a few weeks. I chose to stay in nearby Falls City (North Bend is also good) the night before to make the race morning drive shorter, but driving in from the Seattle metro area is totally doable.
Aid was standard grub (chips, potatoes, pretzels, cookies, gu) but was well stocked. Stations were 5 – 8 miles apart which was nice. The only oddity was a missing water station at the turnaround according to pre-race info, but that section was short and I didn’t really need it.
Weather and typical race conditions –
Weather is typically 40 – 60 F, and rain is 50/50. For my race the weather was the high 40s and light rain the whole time.
Be warned that in the foothills the temperature tends to be about 5 degrees colder than online forecasts.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
The course itself is all wide rails-to-trails with medium to big gravel. I wore more responsive shoes since I was in “race mode” and I think a cushy shoe would save some wear-and-tear on your feet.
Otherwise aid is roughly 5 miles apart with stocked aid stations and 3 drop bags along the course so gear is pretty straightforward.
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
Not particularly. All but the McClellan Butte aid station were open to spectators, but the Garcia aid station required a 1 mi hike in, and there wasn’t much time to drive between aid stations. My crew ended up missing me at a station and skipped another because there was no way to make it in time.
The finish was a small gathering of people and vendors in the parking lot. It was enough to get me rested and fed for the trip home, but it wasn’t like the more elaborate finish-line parties like you see from Rainshadow Running. People generally didn’t seem to hang around long after finishing.
Awards for the top two in each category
– Men’s Open (under 40)
– Women’s Open (under 40)
– Men’s Masters (40+)
– Women’s Master (40+)
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
Now this score isn’t as bad as it sounds. 5 stars is reserved for one-of-a-kind events like Western States or Hardrock. 4 is then for fantastic races that are just a step below that. The Mt. Si ultra is a solid race that doesn’t require a lottery and makes a great stepping stone for the distance. I recommend it, I just don’t think it’s one you’ll feel the need to race year after year.