Hot & dirty: Headwaters 50K review

It took me a little while to get around to this, but last week I ran the Headwaters 50K for the second year in a row.

Which, due to unexpected circumstances this summer, also turned out to be my second ultra!

Now that I’m rested, recovered and rehydrated, I have to say it was a damn good time.

I set out with the starry-eyed goal of finishing in under 6 hours. Anyone with an uncannily sharp memory and/or stalkerlike obsession with my blog might recall that, earlier in the year, I set a very far-reaching goal of cutting two hours off my 2014 time.

Welp, I didn’t do either of those things. I did cut two MINUTES off last year’s time, though!

Reach for the stars and you may just land on the moon, my friends.

I finished in 7:03 and change

This race was tough. Last year, I finished on a stress fracture and still think that was easier than this year’s race.

How could that be?

A) It was hot. Way hotter than last year.

B) I totally failed to consider the weather beforehand and only brought a single 12 oz handheld water bottle with me. This was a stupid mistake I’ll never make again.

C) Hot. It was hot.

But I finished, and I improved!

My day started at 6 am with my boyfriend singing “Happy Birthday” to me. It wasn’t my birthday, but I guess that made it even cuter.

We stopped for coffee and then hauled ass down to Mount Shasta so I could do some weird warmup skips and dance moves in the parking lot.

Due to the numerous wildfires in surrounding areas, it was a little smokey, but definitely not as bad as it has been. I brought a bandana with me just in case I wanted to wrap it around my nose and mouth. This ended up being an invaluable item. I would dunk it into the ice water buckets at aid stations, or into the cold river, and then lay it over my head or stuff it down my bra.

Without that thing, I just might have turned into jerky.

Gerad Dean, the race director, said that 44 people started the 50K. It was hard to tell at the start line because everyone was so spread out. 32 finished.

I tried to pace myself a little better this year by wearing my giant old skool Garmin watch


That thing is almost as big as I am!

I also tried something new by alternating jogging with hiking. I was VERY determined to finish this race without an injury!

When I got to the Rainbow Ridge aid station at mile 5, I was told (several times by a very enthusiastic volunteer) that I was second female.

Sweet! That lasted a whole 2 minutes. As I was struggling to stop my stupid tiny water bottle from leaking, I got passed by a man-woman couple.

I would continue to pass, and get passed by, this couple over the next 10-12 miles. I learned that they’re from Portland, and can climb hills much faster than I can.

When I hit the Sisson Callahan trail, I decided to just slow down and hike the whole way up. I was running low on water and just ate a baggie of salty pretzels. I also just like to take that section easy, because it’s about 5 miles of nothing but up.

I got passed by another man-woman couple. The woman, who would finish second female overall, called back over her shoulder as she passed-

“Hey! Did you get better shoes this year?!”

She must have been one of the people who passed my sad, limping ass in the final stretch of last year’s race! She remembered me! I felt very warm and fuzzy, but mostly thirsty.

I didn’t see those two again until I got to the finish. Power couple, let me tell you. They devoured that trail like it was a blueberry muffin with crumbs.

At some point, I got a little too hot and dry to think straight. I knew I was still over two miles from the aid station, so I filled my water bottle in the river.

I did.

I know better. Way better. But, I was REALLY thirsty and figured that if I got sick, it’d probably happen after I crossed the finish line.

Somehow, that seemed perfectly rational mid-race. Now that I have this mysterious diarrhea… I can see the blatant folly.

On my second lap through the North Fork aid station, I started to notice runners dropping out. A few people were just sitting in the river. I had reverted to monosyllabic communication and was bleeding from a skinned knee. I guzzled several cups of water, peed for the first time throughout the entire race (extremely unusual for me, I usually pee every 20 minutes) and grabbed a few chunks of banana.

I tried to eat them, but my stomach wasn’t having it. By the time I got up to the final aid station at High Divide, I was disgusted by the thought of solid food.

It’s okay, they had Pepsi. I normally don’t like soda, but let me tell you, when it’s 100 degrees and you’re at mile 25, that shit is THE NECTAR OF THE GODS!

It’s true, Pepsi saved my life and got me through the end of that race.

On my second run down a long, 2.5ish mile rocky hill, I was followed very closely by two women who were deep in conversation about their recently deceased canines.

I don’t wanna sound tooooo Jersey Shore, but I really wanted to smack those ladies. It’s hot, I’m using all my brain cells to focus on not falling down this hill, and you’re gonna go on and start filling the trail air with sad stories of your dead dogs?!?!?!


Anyhoo- I kept up with them until about the last mile, when suddenly wings sprouted forth from beneath my heels and everything stopped hurting all at once.

I flew past a few people and glided across the finish line like a fucking gazelle (or at least, that’s how I remember it- a graceful gazelle clutching an empty, half crushed can of Pepsi), snagging the third place female by the skin of my teeth.

The only words I could say were, “It’s hot,” before stumbling over to a shady spot and parking my ass on the ground.

After some lovely volunteers surrounded me with praise, poured ice water down my back and brought me a plate full of watermelon, I felt reborn.


Ready to do it all again!

I won a sweeeeeeet pair of Smartwool socks, which I put on as soon as I swabbed the layers of trail crust from my feet. Sadly, I have no pics of those. They’re sweeeeeet!

I also got a Klean Kanteen steel pint glass for finishing second in my age group.

There was a keg of Ninkasi at the finish, but the beer patrol man said I couldn’t use my prize cup for it. Silly rule, but I hardly had the energy to argue.



Top takeaways:

  1. Bring a bigger water vessel next time!
  2. Bandanas are awesome
  3. Packing clean post-race clothes to change into makes a huge difference

Fun race, stoked for next year!

6 thoughts on “Hot & dirty: Headwaters 50K review

  1. Congratulations… on not dying from heat stroke! When I’m in that heat (it happens rarely in the UK) the most I can manage is a cold beer and a swim in the sea. You’re extreme! (I think that’s a compliment). What next? A 50k through a forest fire? I could make a film about that!
    Well done, I’m sure that sort of stamina will see you through the writing business and over the finish line.

  2. Pingback: Lauren Steinheimer

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