Sun Mountain 50K Race Report

Race: Sun Mountain 50K

Runner: Rohit Eipe

Race Date: 05/18/2024

Location: Winthrop, WA

Result: 9:57:12.9

Strava Activity Link:

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

  1. Scenery – the mountain vistas, meadows of spring flowers; the area makes me want to leave the city and retire there!
  2. Trail conditions – generally pretty easy trails without too many roots or rocks. The course is singletrack trail for most of the race, with some wider sections.
  3. Aid stations – while they could be better by having consistent items at each aid station and publishing precise lists of what to expect ahead of time, the aid stations were well staffed, well stocked, and full of friendly race support. Having drop bags at each aid station made it so that I could changes socks often, change shoes for road and trail sections, carry less food and water with me, have my specific preferred fuel – so kudos to the race folks on organizing these well and getting everything right here.
  4. Weather – it was pretty wild at altitude, which made things harder, but it was cool and generally good running weather… plus the hail certainly made for a good story!

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

Overall race organization – the organizers of the Sun Mountain 50K and the weekend’s other races changed the course after months of my (and probably many other folks) emailing them to understand what the course was, which meant I didn’t know what I was training for. Eventually they added 10 miles of pavement – which I had mixed feelings about personally given I was expecting a trail race. I’m so used to road running and was looking forward to the added challenge, but those extra pavement miles made the race much more doable for me in the end. I could see this being very annoying for other folks set on a trail run too.

Weather – I got hailed on at altitude for about 6-7 miles, which in fairness we were warned about. In the end, it was actually kind of fun, but I can see how this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You also can’t control for that though.

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

Definitely the weather! There is always a huge variation based on altitude primarily, and May is also shoulder season so it could be hotter or cooler depending on the year. For me, on the day it went from sideways hail to light/heavy rain to sunny and baking sun: basically all four seasons in one day!

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

Finishing – I’d DNF-ed at a 50K 7 years prior, so for me this was a grand f-u to the universe and I’m stoked to have finished! Spite is the best motivator!
The scenery was also a highlight, as I mentioned about. The town of Winthrop had a really nice vibe to it as well.

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

Use the drop bags and carry less stuff! And for me, using poles was a good tool to take a ton of weight off my legs and made it possible to finish, so others could consider that too.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I think I left a fair bit of energy on the table. I ran the last mile or so quite fast in the end, so I really should have sped up more on the road downhill at a bare minimum. I’d say the same for the gentle trail downhills: I should have pushed harder on those.

Also, my watch was in a mode that auto-paused the workout while I was at one of the aid stations for a good 7-8 minutes, resulting in a difference between chip time and my watch’s timing. I need to turn that feature off for races.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The course is mostly single track trail, but, based on permitting difficulties, it looks like road sections may continue to be a part of this race in the future. While for the 50K or 50M this isn’t such a big deal, it is a bit of a downer for the 25K if you end up running 10 miles of road and only 5-6 miles of trail. Be mindful that the aid stations are well spaced out, so use them. And remember that the weather can vary a lot based on altitude and luck of the draw!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Very much so, one of the nicest courses I can remember!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

I didn’t think the Sun Mountain 50K course was super difficult, but there was a moderate amount of elevation for the distance. The singletrack trail meant you had to pay attention somewhat. There were very few steep sections, and even those were relatively mild.

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

Yes – except for the months leading up to the race with the permitting and course mess.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I’m at the back of the pack here so I have no idea!

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.

Hotels and Airbnb’s probably fill up quite quickly, so book early.

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

Good on the whole, but they could be improved by publishing precisely what will be at aid stations ahead of time and sticking to it. I did discover peanut butter and pickle wraps, which were weird and delicious!

Weather and typical race conditions

As you’ve read above, expect widely varying weather! There could be snow and hail at the higher altitudes, and rain is very likely at some point.

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

Poles are good but not really necessary. And I feel like pretty much everyone was running in the Hoka Mafates, so perhaps a shoe worth checking out for this race.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not this year based on the big changes to the course, and there was no racer crew support. This was a huge bummer.

How’s the Swag?

Not great. T-shirts were available for purchase but I didn’t buy one.

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

I’d give the Sun Mountain 50K 4 out of 5. It could be 5 with better organization.

Looking for your next goal race like Rohit? Check out this article: “How to Choose your next Goal Race“.