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Yearning for adventure and beauty, longing for moment of peace, hoping for a breath of fresh air.
Announcing our 2020 Photography calendars, with stunning photos telling of these incredible precious and fragile places we call the wilderness of the West.
In late March, hundreds of runners gathered in Richland, Washington to run the mighty early-season Badger Mountain Challenge race.
With “just” 17,000 ft. of elevation change over a 100M distance on a seemingly reasonable course and with an affordable entry fee, this race is a perfect introduction to 100M races. The six UTMB points also make it a very tempting proposition for folks drawn to the iconic race in Chamonix. For many, southeastern Washington is off the beaten path and an early season race can be difficult to train for in the rough, winter months. An injury prevented me from consistent training and the dream of six UTMB points and a first 100M under my belt were out the window. But others went and did amazing.
As race weekend approached I was excited to see many of my running buddies toeing the starting lineup for different of distances.
After the race I caught up with Scott Michie, Bret Ferrier, Chuck Malinski and Keith Yates. All runners at The Outdoor Society running club on Strava.
Impressive results all around. I can’t wait to hear how your race went for you, but first, lets introduce the runners.
Scott Michie, age 36 from Olympia, WA
I ran cross country and track in high school. I stopped running for many years, as I am avid surfer. In 2007, I ran Orcas 25K and McDonald Forest 50K to try it out. It beat me up! More surfing. Then last winter I ran the Hot Chocolate 5k in Seattle with my brother and sister while wearing the “Stay Puft Marshmallow Man” costume. It was a blast! But it was on pavement. I started running a little more. In the Spring, I was at dinner with my family (3 siblings, 1 brother in law and 2 parents) all of whom had hiked the trail around and on Mt. Blanc in France. I was the only that hadn’t been there. And then I find out a good friend of mine has a plan to be there for UTMB, everyone talks about it! That is my main goal at this point. Qualify to get to Chamonix in 2019 for UTMB.
Bret Ferrier, age 35 from Ogden, UT:
I am just another face in the crowd. I started running long ago, in 6th grade, and have ran ever since, except for a hiatus for a few years after college when I ended up with walking pneumonia and lost the love of running. More recently, I run to spend time in the outdoors and as a bit of self-reflecting therapy.
Chuck Malinski, age 36 from Port Orchard, WA:
My running career is very new (3-4 years old). It covers organized races, varying in distance from 5k-50 miles, a great majority of those being dirt trail. Also, a few self-supported adventures in the Olympics and Cascades.
Why I run is simple, I run for sobriety. I was an avid drinker and lost myself in the alcohol. Then my daughter was born in 2012 and I had minimal accountability in her life. I needed to change that part of my life. Running was my answer.
My goals are pretty simple. I want to enjoy this for many years to come and push my comfort zone every year. Who knows, maybe my kid will run a race with me someday. That sounds like a great goal also.
Keith Yates, age 37 from Yelm, WA:
I have been running for about 3 years now. My first road race was the Capital City Half in 2016. First trail race was the Chuckanut Half in June 2016. I pretty much stuck to the roads during the beginning of my training. I was slowly introduced to the wonders of the trails by my great friend and coach at Upper Left Distance Training, Korey Konga. Slowly, I added trail time at Capital Forrest, Olympic National Park and Rainier National Park. This past December, I ran my first Ultra, Deception Pass 50k.
I enjoy running for multiple reasons, as I am sure most of us do. If I had to narrow it down, I would say I truly enjoy the views and being surrounded by nature on the trails. There is something about being engulfed by the hills, mountains or trees and popping out at the top to take it all in. Or to pause mid run and enjoy a moment no one else (unless you have a running buddy) gets to.
I have come to enjoy the trails and the Ultras as a challenge. I would like to be able to get 4 or more in each year.
I ran the 50k, which was not 31 miles, but actually 34-ish miles. To the Nomad Trail Runners of Eastern Washington’s credit, they were clear ahead of time that it was 34 miles. Which was nice that it was not a surprise on race day.
I selected the Badger Mountain Challenge for a variety of reasons: 1) It fit perfectly into my calendar. Meaning I had ample time to train up and ample time to recover for my next race. 2) I knew it would be a challenge, but it also would not be out of my league. It was presented as 4100ft of gain which was on par with where I felt I was as a runner. Being my second ultra I was looking for a reasonable challenge and to gain valuable experience before leaping into races with more gain. Although, when I finished my Garmin said 4900ft. 3) Lastly, the pictures of the course looked awesome! Some views and experiences were of things that those of us in Western WA do not usually get to enjoy.
I chose Badger mainly because a mentor and good friend, John Spannuth, recommended it to me. I was a little on the fence about it, but as the time to register came around, it seemed right to sign up for the 50 miler. This was my first 50 mile race. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t rushing into something too big that I couldn’t handle, yet give me some room to push myself into this new distance. I nailed both aspects.
I speak French and have been meaning to make a European running trip. I have thought about running UTMB and just decided at the beginning of the year that I wanted to run it next year, so needed 15 UTMB point. I ran Black Canyon 100K last month and am running The Canyons 100K next month so I thought why not get my 15 UTMB point in 3 months and then focus this summer on a couple FKT attempts and adventure runs in the high country when it melts out as that is what I love doing the most.
I ran the 100 miler this year. It provides 6 UTMB points and is one of the few races in Washington to do so. It is not a huge race, has some of that local flavor, isn’t overly expensive and isn’t as difficult as something like Hardrock! Ha! But it’s still 100 miles…
We arrived in Richland on Thursday, a day before the race, for the pre-race dinner. The Race Director, Jason Rutherford, gave us a pre-race brief while we ate our provided dinner. Jason, along with the Badger Board of Directors, were very professional and answered all questions anyone had about the race.
The race was very runnable with the majority of it being on dirt roads, single track and a bit of pavement. The scenery reminded me a lot of where I grew up having grown up in Northern Nevada. The aid stations were very well manned and very friendly.
The course is an out and back of 50 miles. I did two of them. It has five main climbs from 800-1000 feet. Total elevation gain they say is 13000’. Might be more, I found it to be closer to 16000’ based on everyone’s GPS data that I talked to while on course and stalking Strava afterwards. My watch said 8400’ per loop. There was a lot of space dust to get in your shoes and rocks to roll your ankles. But also flats to keep a good jog going on!
The course was and out and back. There were 3 aid stations. Two that you hit twice and one at the turnaround. First was at about 4.5 miles, second at about 10 miles and the turnaround at a little over 17 miles. Course was ran on a man made trail on Badger Mountain and Candy Mountain. There was also a less trafficked trail that was not as manicured as the local hiking trails. A 5 mile or so section was ran on the gravel shoulder of a paved road. A large section was ran around vineyards on a service road of sorts. This road was not paved but more of a firm gravel. Lastly, about miles 14-21 were ran on dirt trail that had lots of loose powder. It plumed up when you landed it at times could cover your foot. This caused many runners to require a change of socks.
Organization was good. I have no major complaints. The aid stations all had a port-a-potty in case runners needed that. All of the volunteers were top notch, in great spirits, helpful, kind and encouraging. The course was marked consistently with pink ribbon. Some areas had more markings than others. Some turns had 8-12 ribbons indicating the correct direction. Some turns had fewer. I did not hear any folks complain about poor markings or missing turns. I however, did miss a turn. I came to a T and I saw no markings either direction and went the wrong way at mile 33. I added about 10 minutes to my time and ran an extra mile, give or take, according to the Race Director. But, as I mentioned earlier, this may have been MY mistake and not the fault of anyone else, as I haven’t heard anyone else say they missed it. I place that one on me.
I think I had a few highlights! I was very excited to not cramp. I was very excited my fueling went smoothly. I didn’t have stomach issues of any kind besides feeling full of liquid and burping. I really enjoyed the unobstructed views. That is not something we on the westside get too often. Finally, I think cresting Badger Mountain, taking in the view and knowing it was all downhill for the next 3 miles was clearly a highlight!
The highlight of the race was just seeing my friends out there and also making new ones. The aid stations were very well stocked and the volunteers were SUPER friendly and accommodating. Those were also huge highlights of the race.
The highlight of the race was the last 10 miles as my wife came to the race and was able to pace me into the finish. It was her first time pacing in an Ultra and it was nice to have her run with me into the finish.
Finishing. This was my first 100 and I wasn’t sure I could do it. I had a goal of 24 hours and I did that! But also I had my family on course and at the finish. That just made the entire event that much better. They really brought up my spirits and helped make me not feel too crazy!
So, after about 65 miles I started to feel a bit queasy and my stomach was a bit touch and go. I primarily take Tailwind when I run and find I need 200 calories an hour to keep my energy up, but with my stomach starting to feel off I cut back to 100 calories an hour to try and give it a chance to catch up. I was able to get ahead of the nausea, but was feeling close to bonking when I finished as it was a bit lower on what I usually take for calories.
The toughest thing I encountered was probably when my legs started cramping with about 15 miles to go in the race. It’s not the first time this has happened but it makes for very painful/frustrating times. My remedy for this was a “jog/walk” method. Jog until the cramps started, then walk it out until they went away. It got the job done.
The space dust on the jeep road with rocks in it. I don’t know how many times I rolled my ankles in that stuff and coughed from it being in my lungs. And knowing I had to go through it 4 times was haunting me. So when I got to it the fourth time in the dark around 1 am, I had music going and just thought about the course past that section. Focused on keeping energy to crank out the last two climbs. I had made it worse in my mind than my body felt, so I was good!
The long unrelenting climb up Candy Mountain at about mile 27.5 to 28.5. There are no switch backs, it is just a long straight climb. On your way out, going down the back side of Candy Mountain, you realize the trip back is going to be much less fun. The last big climb is switchbacks up Badger Mountain. Portions are runnable, but after 30 miles hiking was my best friend here.
I have a 9-5 job in an office. If you need a community banker, I’m your man! But finding time to train for the hours it takes is not easy. I focused on running early in the mornings trying to get 1.5-2 hours of running in the mornings. And longer runs on the weekends. I did take days off occasionally when I felt my body needed it. My goal was to always have 100’ of vert per mile of more each week. I also wanted to have a couple weeks of 100 miles, so mentally I knew I could see those big numbers in a race and not be intimidated. Most of my training was done with a headlamp too, which helped a lot. I didn’t have a pacer and the last 50 miles I pretty much ran solo the whole time and most in darkness. The early morning runs by myself with a headlamp really helped that!
I consider myself very lucky in that I work with Korey Konga, coach at Upper Left Distance Training. He is very knowledgeable and experienced. When I look at races it always involves a conversation with Korey. He takes a look at the race, what it involves and then compares that to where I am currently regarding to fitness, injuries, MPW, work/life/family, etc. All of this is taken into account as he develops my training block.
I live in Yelm, and it is about as flat as land can get. For this training block Korey had me around 45 MPW, running 5-6 times each week. Those runs included ‘easy’ runs of between 6-8 miles, 1 or 2 ‘workouts’ each week and 1 long run each week. The long runs mainly included “Dirt ‘n Vert”. These were usually at Rock Candy in Capital Forrest and they increased in distance as the race got closer up to around 22-24 miles.
The workouts varied from some minor pace work to treadmill work. I own a treadmill and I am very lucky to have it. Korey developed some tough workouts for the treadmill using the incline and pace changes to help me build strength and stamina.
Not sure I have anything I would have changed. Maybe if I lived closer to trails that would have been a nice thing to do more frequently than once a week.
I didn’t really follow a specific training plan. I was running a lot of weekly vertical gain and then around two weeks out from the race, I ran consecutive back to back longer distance runs. Like I said, no rhyme or reason, I just went with what felt “right” to me mentally for the given distance.
My training block for Badger was a lot more about recovery. I ran the Black Canyon 100K six weeks prior so I had a down week after that and then just an easy week and a half of running. I had planned on ramping up and doing a couple 30 mile training runs but ended up getting a bad cold/cough with phlegm in my lungs for three weeks prior to the race. I struggled on a lot of runs coughing phlegm up and didn’t know if I would be able to run the race, but it finally started to clear a couple days before the race.
My stomach was perfect. It’s not usually! I am a believer in Tailwind! I call it my running cocaine. I had baggies of it all day long on that course. My first food was trail butter at mile 5. That always seems to start my stomach off with good digestion. Then, from there I just ate at the aid stations. My focus was whole foods for the first part of the race. Bananas, PB&J’s, quesadillas and avocado turkey wraps. The second 50 miles I started having ginger ale and around 65 miles I started having gummy bears and licorice also. I think starting with a whole food for me is the best. I did have gels and blocks on me, but I never ate one of them.
The nutrition seemed to work, maybe with the exception of the cramping. I am still trying to figure that out. I started the race with a 20oz handheld bottle and a couple RX Bars. I stashed some food I knew I would want later in the race in my drop bag. I was comfortable with the aid station food. The aid stations were very well stocked with some quality resupply food.
As stated above I did have a bit of a queasy stomach, but it was manageable.
Nutrition was something that Korey and I gave special attention to for this race. I was having some issues on long training runs, feeling very depleted and unable or awful during runs I knew I could handle. I had been taking Clif Shots for fuel and that was about it. I am not a breakfast person and do not run with breakfast in my stomach. I know this sounds odd to many, but I never have. Korey gave some suggestions including, more ‘real’ food during run options and some breakfast of substance.
For the race, I woke up at 3:45am and went to sit at an empty Denny’s nearby to force down some eggs, bacon and toast. I hoped this would give me enough time to ‘process’ this and anything that might need to take place before the race could happen. Not being a coffee person, that is not always a guarantee for me. Unfortunately, nothing happened and I started the day with Denny’s. Hindsight, I may have eaten less of it. As the day went on I felt as if food was just piling up in my stomach.
I mixed gels with granola bars in an attempt to not just have the gel oozing around in my stomach. As the race went on, I would alternate gel then granola bar then back to gel. I fueled every 35-45 minutes. I also packed myself 2 PBJ’s. Not my favorite, but served me well the week prior running 31 with Keegan Hughes as he ran across Missouri to raise money for fallen first responders families. At the turnaround I had the PBJ. Was not as easy to get down as it had been the week prior. I ate about 2/3 of it. I never touched the other one.
I brought 2 – 24oz bottles of Tailwind. The plan was to drink half or more at the 10 mile aid station, the remainder at the turn around. Grab the second bottle from the drop bag and drink it on my way back. I think that went well. I had the burps for a little bit, but nothing awful.
Lastly, I learned from Deception Pass, and took electrolytes at EVERY aid station, even the very first one. I got bad cramps at DP and really didn’t want that again. I felt the electrolytes were valuable and it seemed to work as I had no cramping issues.
I have a lot of Salomon gear. Shoes were the Pro Sense Max and I wore the same shoe the entire time. I did have to change socks and clean my feet at 50 miles, but the shoes just worked. No blisters or missing toe nails! Just a rolled ankle.. I have the advanced skin 12 pack which is perfect to me. I had shorts until mile 68, which is when I threw on my tights. Wore a buff, light gloves and a long sleeve ¾ zip top when the wind picked up and temps dropped. I busted out some poles for the 2nd 50 miles too. They really helped and I think anyone trying a 100 for the first time should have them. Maybe not start with them, but have them in case. The climbs and steep descents were great with them. But you need to train first with them so your body is ready for it!
I believe my gear worked perfect for the conditions. The weather was exceptionally nice given the time of year. Shorts, short sleeve shirt, trucker hat, sunglasses. I DID make a sock swap at mile 30 just because the fine dust from the dirt was relentless on my feet, but I think I would have been alright not doing it.
I actually switched packs to a smaller Nathan pack for this race and I felt it served me better. It is smaller, fit better and still carried what I needed it to.
Innov8 290’s and Feetures socks. Zero blisters.
The weather was pretty good for this race but there was a pretty big difference in wind and temperature between the valley floor and the ridge lines that you run on. I packed a very light (North Face Better than Naked) jacket and had arm warmers and found myself constantly taking layers on and off, which worked well.
No real advice, the race seemed to sneak more vert in than I would have thought it would have, but that’s why we run :).
I would advise anyone selecting this race to really consider what they will be wearing and carrying. As it is an open course with ZERO trees you are exposed to all the elements. The weather over there is notoriously extreme. Previously races had been in the 80’s with direct sun and races have also been very cold, windy and wet. It was very windy, runners may want a shell to throw on.
This year’s weather was perfect! I know that’s a personal opinion, but it was prime running weather. Started off in the low 40’s, got up close to 70 and the wind wasn’t horrible. This was very non typical for the area that time of year for the area. So if you heard “unicorn tales” about Badger weather from this year’s race, just know it was a fluke. Jason said the race has a very low completion rate, especially the 100 miler, due to the fact the weather is horrible most years.
Do it. It is a great event! Everyone was so positive and helpful! But also realize, it’s not easy. The top of the ridge is cold and rocky. The climbs are pretty steep since the don’t always use switchbacks. So get your mind ready! And plan your drop bag right. That is very helpful at the McBee parking area!! And that jeep road, people don’t really talk about it. But that was my low point, so remember it!!
I am doing Mountain Lakes 100 in September. After finishing this race I’m pumped for it! And that will give me six more points to get into UTMB lottery in December. As of right now, that is the only race I am signed up for. But I’m planning to do some great runs around the Olympics and Cascades this summer. I met some cool people in this race to run with and know a couple guys here in Oly that are a blast to run with. Adventures to come!
I feel Badger gave me a lot of confidence. I had a not so good self-supported 50 miler run through the Olympics a couple years ago that I bonked hard on. That was replaying in the back of my head leading up to Badger. Completing this race has my sights set on bigger training runs over the summer in preparation for bigger races this year. I’ll be tackling the Whistler Alpine Meadows 110k in September and I feel as though I’m not going to suffer mentally.
As noted above, I am trying to get my 15 UTMB points this spring and then after that I want to get back an FKT on the Uintah Highline Trail that I lost last year and I am really wanting to run the entire Utah section of the Great Western Trail if I can fit it in. I want to run it just for fun in sections to see the whole state and will probably run parts of it Fastpacking style with a sleeping bag and tarp spending a night out on the trail here or there.
Badger is the first race of this year for me. I will be running the SOB 50k in Ashland, OR on 7.28.18 and the Oregon Coast 50k on 10.13.18. I will also run a road half in November and potentially be pacing the last 30 miles of a 100m in September. I am very excited about ALL of this!
Keith, Chuck, Bret and Scott for taking the time to sit down and share your race experiences with me. Again, huge congratulations on finishing the Badger Mountain Challenge.
We’ll see you out there on the trails. Summer is right around the corner.