Enjoying all 50K: Nico Composto’s Yakima Skyline

Nico Composto enjoying the miles – Credit: Glenn Tachiyama

MTC note: 2017 Treasure State Trail Series Champ Nico Composto shared this race report of his recent podium finish at the Yakima Skyline 50K. If you have a race report or story to share, we’d love to hear from you at admin@montanatrailcrew.com

2019 Yakima Skyline 50K by Nico Composto

I am writing this a week after the Yakima Skyline 50k, so I have largely forgotten the pain and only remember the fun parts of the race. For all 4 people who read this, I recommend taking everything I write with a grain of salt.

I had always heard amazing things about Rainshadow Running events and this race did not disappoint. Arriving the morning of the race, I was pleased to find a laid back attitude with people crawling out of tents (camping at the start is free, which is very nice) and drinking coffee. I was pretty nervous going into this race, as I always am, so the relaxed attitude at the start helped me out. I spent the majority of the 90 minutes leading up to the race vacillating between doing some drills and nervously returning to the porta-potties which have always served as oddly comforting pre-race sanctuaries away from the energy of the race starting area.

Getting to the start line, we were given one instruction, “watch out for rattlesnakes,” and then the starter said, “Maybe I will surprise you”¦ GO!!” and we were off. I was indeed caught off guard, but was able to figure things out pretty quick. We did a quick loop around a parking lot, headed over a small suspension bridge that was very hard to run over alongside 200 other people (it was very shaky), and began our first climb. The trail was surprisingly pretty. I thought the lack of trees would be a draw back but it really was a great trail for a race (except that I got VERY sunburned due to the lack of shade and my ghostly post-winter skin complexion).

The first climb was relatively uneventful. We climbed at a fairly comfortable pace. I dropped to maybe 10th place, hoping deeply that I would feel this good on all the uphills. The first uphill is the steepest, but it is also the first, so I guess that makes it not that bad. At the top of the first climb, there is a 3 mile section that is gradually downhill and not technical. I immediately made a mistake, got excited and started pounding that downhill. I caught the leaders and booked passed them. I regretted that move immediately, swallowed my pride, and backed off the gas. I blew up in both Speedgoat and the Rut last year and REALLY REALLY REALLY didn’t want to be sitting on the side of the trail with leg cramps this race.

 The lead pack caught me and I was excited that they ran right past me. After the gradual 3 mile downhill segment, there was about a two mile downhill that was actually quite steep and a bit rocky. I am not good at those downhills and some of the leaders were able to float away from me. They were really impressive downhill runners. I decided that I didn’t want to trip and fall this early in the race, so I slowed up a bit and eased to the bottom and the aid station at mile 8. The volunteers at the aid station were amazing. They quickly got my bottles filled up with water and soda and I was on my way. I had lost a little ground because I stopped a bit longer at the aid station than the other runners, but it was already getting warm and I was glad I had water.

We began the second uphill and eased our way up. The climb was much more gradual than I expected and I was glad that I could run most of it. By the top I caught the leaders again, but the second downhill was undoubtedly the most technical in the race. The elevation profile does not do that descent justice. There were a ton of rocks on the trail and, to make matters more complicated, the side of the trail is lined with big rocks waiting to catch the face of someone who trips. The top three runners were incredible on this descent and they got away from me and I knew I probably wouldn’t be catching them again.

The halfway point has an aid station with more excellent volunteers that helped me organize myself and get moving. By the turnaround it was really getting warm (68 degrees feels like 100 after such a long, cold winter) and I was definitely happy I had two bottles. I was barely making it between aid stations at this point without running out of water. I couldn’t even spare a drop to clean off my gu filled hands which were very sticky and gross.

I had never run an out and back race before, so it was a little unusual passing people for the next 10 miles. I tried my hardest to get off the trail for people (especially if I had a solid place to step on my right-hand side). In turn, people coming the other way also tried to make a little room. I think in general, the situation worked well considering how narrow the trail was at times. 

Probably one of the most frustrating parts of the race was in the prairie in between miles 22-23. This is the flattest part of the course and I usually like flat sections, but I ran out of water and the section lasted way longer than I remembered from the way out. Eventually I made it back to the mile 23 aid station, though, and downed some water before taking off. The only really really REALLY steep section of the course comes just after the aid station when you go up a very steep 200 meter pitch to begin the final climb. Though this section sucked (my legs did cramp), I knew that on top of that the climb was much more gradual.

I found myself walking a lot on this final uphill section. I could see 4th place maybe 2 minutes ahead of me and worked so hard to make up ground but I just couldn’t.  Eventually, we got to the final aid station about 5 miles out from the finish. When you look at the course map before the race, it is easy to think, “Why would I ever stop for water just 5 miles from the finish?” Well let me tell you, everyone I talked to agreed with my sentiment that this man was a savior. He was just chilling on top of the mountain, blasting “Panama” by Van Halen and flying an American flag. I could have kissed him, but instead I grabbed a quick top off of water (which I had run out of in the short 2.5 mile section since the last aid station) and kept going.

When I got to the top I was so happy to realize that I hadn’t cramped yet and, with just a flat and downhill section left, I was unlikely to do so. I ran the section on the ridge hard, trying to push in the hopes of going sub-5:15. The last descent begins with a steep section but then gets quite gradual, if a little rocky. As always seems to be the case in races, this last section lasted longer than I expected. Eventually I hit the bridge and realized that there was a runner about 10-15 seconds ahead of me. My college aggression got the best of me. I knew that I had about 400m to catch him and, though perhaps it is looked down on in ultras, I really wanted to close fast so I put in a very hard kick and was able to catch him with 200 meters left and nab 3rd place in 5:16.41. It felt good to be able to close hard in a race and I was happy to have finished a hilly mountain 50k in a time I could be really proud of. All in all, the Yakima Skyline 50k is a great race, perhaps the best in the northwest this early in the year, and one that I would recommend to anyone.

Really quickly, I want to say thank you to my coach Forrest Boughner of Alpine Running Guides who has helped me get to the point where I can succeed in mountain races. Less than a year ago I was sitting near the top of a mountain at Snowbird Resort, unable to move because I was woefully unprepared for the Speedgoat 50k. Now, at Yakima, I was able to enjoy all 50 kilometers of the race.