Monday, October 7, 2013

Baker Lake Ultra Trail Runs 2013: An Ultra Family Reunion

This weekend Angel and I camped out at Baker Lake, where we raced the 50k and watched the 100k finishers roll in throughout the evening in the first year of that longer event.  It's a generally low key race, but it's one of the classic low key races, so it drew runners from a bunch of different states and Canada.  A 24 year old kid from Clinton, WA named Kurt Warwick won the 50k in what appears to be his first ultra, and the first woman was Emily Morehouse from Bellingham, also 24 and also in her first ultra.  It's good to see a couple of good young WA runners winning that race, because as is now becoming the custom at Washington races, a couple of Canadians from North Vancouver came down and won the 100k - Colin Miller won the Men's race and our good friend Alicia Woodside won the Women's while also taking 3rd overall.  Much more badass than any of them though was the DFL finisher, Barbara Macklow from Bellingham, who is 79 years old and completed her 21st ultra.  75 year old John Bandur - who was the second person to ever complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning back in the day, also competed - finishing his billionth ultra and showing that he can still beat a bunch of the young punks.  It was a beautiful day in perfect conditions, and I had a 50k PR and improved my time from last year by about 18 minutes.  Angel had less of a good day, probably owing to a 21 mile trail race last weekend and about a million miles of running this Summer.  A rough go on Saturday, but a good leadup for the upcoming Mathis Family Relaxed Running Winter of Fun.  Speaking of families, it was also cool to see our friends the Vaughan's all finishing the race - it was daughter Angela's first 50k, and when Ras finished the 100k, one of the first things he said was "Congratulations!  We're an ultra family now!" (Full results are on Ultrasignup.)

Speaking of speaking of families, my last two race experiences at Cascade Crest and Baker Lake have, I think, helped me to get a better sense of what it actually means for a race to be a 'Classic' ultra.  While it seems kind of crazy to talk about classics in a sport that has really only existed for a couple of decades, some races have a palpable sense of history that others don't.  White River had it, Cascade had it, and I didn't really notice last year, but Baker Lake had it too.  Part of that comes from the fact that those races have been around for a while, but part of it also comes from the people who create the race atmosphere: the race has passed from RD to RD, but this year it was Terry Sentinilla, a Grand Slam finisher this year, a Badwater top 10 finisher last year, and as old school as they come.  Shawna and Joe Tompkins ran the grill the whole day with their guns out, intimidating the rest of us, and Tim Stroh ran the aid station at the turnaround.  Glenn Tachiyama was taking photos alongside Takao Suzuki, Adam Hewey got second in the 50k, and Brian Morrison made a return to ultra running after a year and a half layoff.  A couple of years ago most of those names wouldn't have meant much to me, and I wouldn't have recognized many of the faces (which might be why I didn't notice the classic nature of the race last year), but this year I picked up on the fact that this was a family reunion - these were folks who were taking ultra running seriously before it was really a thing, and Baker Lake is a race that has meant something for a long time.  The WA trail racing scene is complex and growing these days, and in a very real way, Baker Lake is one of the races that laid the foundation for that growth.  Scrolling through old Ultrasignup results gives you a sense of that - James Varner, whose Rainshadow Running has created a sort of second generation of classic ultras, still has a top 3 time from Baker Lake, and Krissy Moehl still has the women's record.  Interestingly enough, a couple of years ago it was also the first ultra for Jodee Adams-Moore, who is arguably the most promising current trail runner in WA.  And the race itself had the feel that you always hear ultras are supposed to - where the competitive aspects of the race are secondary to the social experience of the weekend and the human experience of moving on two feet through nature.  Last year the race was a free Fatass.  This year it cost money, but the feel was basically the same.  People have fun running through the woods, then celebrate other finishers' accomplishments afterwards.  Good times, and driving home you feel like you had a nice day hanging out with friends as much as feeling like you achieved anything athletically.  A perfect race experience, a ton of fun with friends, and a great chance to hang out with the old school ultra family. 

2 comments:

Ian Burton said...

I absolutely concur. I'm fairly new to the Ultra Running scene and found Baker Lake to be an awesome example of the camaraderie and good times that I've come to associate with our pseudo-individual sport. Love the connectedness and sharing stories around the campfire and passing folks on the trail so much really adds to the experience. I'll definitely be back for Baker Lake 2014!

Great tales on this and other blogs too. Sharing stories in whatever format is an integral part of the Ultra community. Congrats on a stellar running year for you and yours. Keep it up!

Tim Mathis said...

Thanks for the kind words Ian! "Pseudo-individual" - nice descriptor!