By Matt & Kerri Stebbins
Like it’s been since its inaugural run in 2011, the Yakima Skyline Rim 50k is a testament to toughness. It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s rocky. It can be windy. It’s frequently dusty. The Yakima Skyline Rim 50 km is one of the toughest and most scenic of Rainshadow races (and without doubt one of the toughest 50 km courses in the country), and likewise one of the most feared. Those fears are well-deserved: Exposure, unpredictable weather, technical trails, and never-ending climbs and descents bust quads and break spirits. And yet for many of our new and veteran Yakima runners, it’s exactly the difficulty of this course that makes it so alluring.
From the start beside the Yakima River, this course brings the punishment, crippling wills with a brutal 2,000 foot ascent in the first two miles. Sweeping vistas showcase the beauty that is central Washington, and those vistas sprawl for miles: There isn’t a single shade tree on this course. So remote is the route that it features only three aid stations, one of which is water-only, and one wherein the supplies (and aid station volunteers) have to be rafted in via the Yakima River. Camels would do well on this course. So do some masochistic fools, or as we know them, tough and tenacious runners like Mike Foote, Nate Jacqua, Masazumi Fujioka, and 150 other stalwart souls. Foote, who won in a tremendous showing, described the course as “…hot, dry, exposed, steep and technical.” He went on to describe his efforts as one of highs and lows. “I felt good, then I felt bad, and then finished feeling somewhere in between.” That sentiment was certainly echoed throughout the field, and was matched by the elevation profile: up, down, up, down, repeat. Dry, exceptionally warm conditions put the hurt on the many runners more accustomed to the wetter west side of the Cascades. As in previous years, this ridgeline fiesta challenged even the most resilient of runners, as a full quarter of the field did not finish, done in either by heat, dehydration, cut-offs, or the combined carnage incurred by such a tough course – or all of the above. The lesson, as always: Don’t underestimate the difficulty of a Rainshadow course. Especially this one. (Also, come run it! We double dog dare you.)