Remember a time when single track trails were endless, countless climbs felt effortless and each view negated any notion of self doubt? When cut off times, awards, judgement, and pride ceased to exist? When start times differed and people came together to support one another unconditionally regardless of intention or ability? A time when we could fill our bellies at the finish with tubs of home cooked quinoa and craft beer? A time when expectations swiftly disappeared as the essence of trail and ultrarunning permeated the scene? I remember a time like this. It was last Saturday.
On July 23, Rich White and Adam Hewey graciously organized and hosted the inaugural Needles 50km - a stunning 50km 'fat ass style' to and from Silver Ridge Ranch in Easton, Washington. We had the privilege of experiencing a weekend that often exists only in figments of our imagination.
Hyperboles aside, the weekend began with many runners arriving to the ranch on Friday evening. We camped altogether, beside the start and finish 'line' (an open area behind a field). I arrived after 'ultradriving' from Colorado and set up beside some friends and my exhaustion immediately disappeared. My girlfriends drove down from Vancouver later Friday evening. We spent the night hours laughing about our unregulated start times in the morning, gossiping, and drinking wine in my van. I remember wondering if there was anything better than this - a ranch, inspiring friends, wine, a van, and having the opportunity to explore gorgeous new trails the next day.
The looped course includes parts of the Cascade Crest 100 miler - connecting Domerie Divide, Thomas Mountain, French Cabin Mountain, Little Joe Lake, Thorp Mountain, Kachess Ridge (aka The Cardiac Needles), and Silver Creek in the picturesque Central Cascades. It was one of those days, when 10,000 feet of climbing felt like 1,000, and I felt grateful for every drop of sweat and every inch of beauty I was seeing. The two aid stations included humbling ultrarunner volunteers that also appreciated how special this event was. After ingesting an oreo-bacon treat at the second aid station, I realized I was descending into the conclusion of this run. It was bittersweet. When I finished, I shouted to Adam, "Ummmm can I go again?" I did not want the run to end.
Needles 50km captured the essence of ultrarunning. I felt the beauty of the natural world coincide with the rawness of human nature. As much as I avoid the word 'should,' the Needles 50km event was a reminder of what trail and ultrarunning should be. It embodied the authentic essence of why we are all doing this - to see beautiful places, meet inspiring people in the ultrarunning community, challenge our minds and bodies, and eat home made quinoa.