13 September 2013

Moscow Mountain Madness 50k - race report

The Moscow Mountain Madness is the oldest annual trail race on the Palouse. It's looked different throughout the years, but traditionally it's been something in the 10-13 mile range. This year a 50k was added to the schedule, so I've been pretty stoked about this one all summer. The only worry was whether my Achilles would be ready to handle the pounding or not. After a couple pain/injury free 20+ mile outings in the Wallowas over the past few weeks, I decided the MMM 50k was a go.

Doug, the RD, asked me to help design the 50k course earlier this summer. I've run these Moscow Mountain trails many times over and have always had an idea of where a good 50k course would be if we ever decided to put one on. It's a little long (32.5 miles), but that extra little bit is worth it. 

My plan was to treat this race more like a fast training run than a race. I still had some reservations about the Achilles. Will it hold up? Am I pushing it too much too soon? And so on. I've been racing shorter distance in the last couple months, so I knew it could handle hard running, I just didn't know whether it could handle 32.5 miles of hard running -- and I knew I've lost my racing long distance legs, so I figured even if my Achilles could handle racing, the rest of me simply isn't in race shape for a long run.  I thought a 5.5 to 6-hr finish sounded safe.

I ran with my buddy, Buzz, for the first half of the race. We both had 5.5 to 6 hours as a goal. A group of six or seven of us pushed the first climb at an easy pace. By mile six everyone had spread out a little, and Buzz and I were running together in fifth and sixth place. We wouldn't see anyone else the rest of the day.

At the highpoint of the course around mile 15.5, Buzz and I were still together and we were just about right on our pacing plan for a 5.5 hour finish. Buzz's downhill legs weren't feeling as good as he hoped they would, and he fell behind by a minute or so through mile 18. From there on I was on my own until the finish line.

I crashed once, but there wasn't much blood. I felt 'easy' on the downhills all day, and I banked a few minutes on the big descent at mile 20 knowing that a big climb was coming up afterward (why did I put that climb on the course!). The climb at mile 23 reminded me how much endurance/stamina I'd lost since March. I hiked more than usual, but my overall pace was still in the 5:30-5:45 finish range. So I was happy with how things were going. 

On the straightaways and downhills after mile 25, I fought the urge to really push it. And I'm glad I didn't push it, because as it was my right hamstring started cramping up like crazy during the last two miles. And it was a game of Red Light/Green Light during the last mile when a cramp would grind me to a halt so I could stretch it out.

I crossed the finish line fighting cramps, but right on my goal with a time of 5:29. (official results

I think everyone was happy with the 50k, and this went smoothly for the most part. Now's time to start thinking year number two. 

course profile

I'm tagging along in the rear
as we approach the first aid station

Peg-leg McMurtrey crossing the finish line.

Next up is a little rest to make sure everything is feeling like it should. I'm going to be overly cautious while I attempt to get my fitness levels back that I had last year and this year going into Rocky Raccoon. I'm going to be conservative this month with my mileage. I have the Wild Moose Chase 25k on Sept 29th, and the Mt. Spokane 50k on Oct 5. 

Right now everything is feeling good, and each day I'm more and more confident with my Achilles. But I'm still not ready to kick my training into high gear. I think I'm going to play it relatively conservatively the rest of this year, and then make sure that I'm rested and healthy so I can give it a proper go at this race in April.

Keep running!



  1. I am a trail and ultrarunner from the San Francisco Bay area and just accepted a job in Walla Walla, WA. I almost turned the position down solely due to the apparent lack of running trails nearby.
    I found your blog while looking for information on the Wallowa Mountains. I loved your videos and got quite excited that this area will be relatively close to me. Can you tell me what other trails are in the area? Also, what camera/video do you use?

    Beatrice Song

    1. Hi Beatrice-

      I don't know Walla Walla trails specifically, but you'll be very close to the Blue Mountains/Umatilla NF and there are great trails there -- Wenaha River Trail and Oregon Butte Lookout being a couple very good trail runs. Tri-Cities has some trails too; the Badger Mountain 100m/50k is in March.

      If you want to stretch your driving legs a little more than the Wallowa Mts in Oregon are amazing (I saw you commented on that post too).

      In the other direction, Yakima has one of the toughest 50ks around. Then a little further west and you're trail running in Rainier's shadow. So maybe not quite the same out-the-door access you have in the Bay Area, but there are still awesome trails within reach.

      I use a sony cybershot, iphone, or gopro for all my photos and videos.

  2. Thanks so much for your reply.
    The Blue Mtns/Umatilla NF look to be a fairly easy drive from WW so will definitely check out your suggestions. It is always so much fun to discover new trails.
    One more question - what mountains are in the background of your website?

    1. The background image is from a 55k I ran in Iceland a few years back. :)

  3. What's a trail race without a little crash and some cramping up, eh? I'm so so so happy for you that your Achilles is feeling well and that you're able to race again. April's race will be alright, I guess. Maybe I could talk myself into being excited for you. :)

  4. Great post! The course sounds like it was beautiful - looking forward to reading about more of your adventures!

  5. Good job, as always. I like your finish video, especially since I still can't believe I missed it in person!

    P.S. Going conservative for the rest of year doesn't usually mean signing up for 50ks and running the whole dang Grand Canyon. Just an FY. ;)