Detailed Course Description
Soon after(0.25 mi) leaving the starting line at the Umtanum Recreation Area and crossing the Yakima River on a wooden, pedestrian only, suspension bridge the runners leave the valley floor and start the first monster climb. In 2.2 miles the runners will climb 2100ft to the top of Umtanum Ridge. Making it's way towards the canyon rim the route follows a dirt 4WD road along the top of the ridge for about 3 miles before plummeting 1.6 miles down(initially on a lesser dirt road then single track) into lowlands of Roza Creek. The first aid station is the beginning of this steep downhill. You worked so hard to get up that first climb then before you know it you're right back down at river level. The lowlands are pretty easy running so you quickly, cover the one mile distance to the start of the next beastly climb. Down here in the Roza Creek Valley is where the 25k turns around and goes right back up that nasty hill they just barreled down and they follow the same route back to the finish that they just ran out on.
For the 50k runners they continue forward and start their next climb on the far side of the creek valley. Luckily this one is slightly easier than the first-- it's only 1900ft of climbing but in about the same distance as the first climb(just over 2 miles). But just like after the first climb you're rewarded with some sublime ridge top running and a high elevation aid station. Don't be fooled though there are two little climbs of significance on the ridge, the first is just as steep but short little sucker in and out of Cottonwood Spring, the second is the killer because it catches you off guard as you're thinking you're making the final drop into the turnaround at Buffalo Rd. But no worries soon enough you'll be making the descent into the halfway point aid station.
Here at Buffalo Rd (the 50k's 3rd aid station and turnaround) the 50k runners are right back where they started elevation wise having lost all the altitude they had worked so hard to gain twice before. Mercifully the climb to start the second half is more gradual than the other three and even has some downhill and flat parts in the middle to break up the work into two manageable parts: 1400ft in 2.2 miles and 900ft in 2.0 miles. This brings us to the 50k runners 3rd big downhill and 1900ft in just over 2 miles is gonna hurt(but not as bad as the last one--the steepest one of all!). Again after the long steep drop there's the mellow Roza lowlands to relax and recover in before coming to the last climb in the race.
This last climb starts out super crazy steep for the first 100-200ft(runners when coming down this earlier may have slid on their butts--it's that steep!) then after that initial absurdity it's just crazy steep for the next 2.5 miles or so before reaching the ridge where it still seems to go up hill the whole way for another 2 miles but with only 300ft of gain. Just when you're begging for the uphill to please, please be over with you come to The Plunge! The runners might not even recognize this top section of the last downhill because it's so steep and they were so strong and full of vigor the last time they were here oh, 26 miles earlier, but here they are and they gotta go down it. Yeah it's gonna hurt. Those Quads are going to scream and threaten mutiny. It's even gonna be hard for the 25k runners to go down that first quarter mile but don't worry folks...actually rejoice I say for this is what you came here for! This is where you find out what you are made of. So suck it up and take The Plunge! The river is waiting below. And so is the beer. 2.2 mind blowing miles later you hit the valley floor hobble across the bridge and collapse in the parking lot. I'll be there, I'll shake your hand, I'll give you a hug and take your picture. And if you whine too much I'll rub in your face the fact that Candice and once did this 50k course in the dark the day after running 33 miles-- so how bad could it really be?
Ok yes I know I said there were three things I said come to mind when I think about this course and I know I just ranted and raved for 2 long paragraphs about how bad ass the climbs are but didn't hardly mention the views and the ridge running. Darn. I guess I'll just have to show you some pictures.
50k-- mile 5.5, 10.5, 15.5, 20.5, 25.5
25k-- mile 5.5, 10.0
50k (north half)