White River 50 Miler on July 21, 2010
Enumclaw, WA near Crystal Mountain.
My first attempt at 50 miles.
Delicious single track, gorgeous views, great volunteers, world class ultrarunners mingling with mortals, long downs and soul wrenching climbs.
Corral Pass photo
Video by Paul Ward (I am in the blue tshirt in a few of the early sections)
As this was also an USATF 50 Mile Championship, we were gawking at the other runners showing up for checkin. We starting chatting with a couple from WI next to us, they were there with their young son who was running, although the real reason they were in the area was for a wedding in Portland in which they convinced their son to come along with the lure of being able to run a 50 miler on the trip. I believe he placed in the top 15 or so, after running across America this spring to raise money for clean water somewhere (can't quite recall this). This would be my first attempt at 50 miles. And while my training was stellar up until, say the June 19 Mayor's Marathon, it quickly fell apart upon returning to Virginia and the Summer weather awaiting me. I briefly pondering not even starting after one particularly taxing long run of only 16 miles, but changed my mind later that week.
We drove down from Seattle the night before with 3 runners and 2 crew, myself, Seungyoo (whom I met through craigslist for a Ragnar relay 2 years ago) and Jennie (who said on Facebook she needed a ride and I offered a spot in our ride's car). The crew were 2 of Seungyoo's housemates. Checkin is right at Crystal Mountain, which oddly enough I have never been there even in the Winter to ski. We get checked into the race, checked into the hotel and wander around, still not seeing any superstars that we recognize but we continue to scan faces. Spaghetti dinner, and a presentation at the end with a video, and good description of the course by the RD. We saw David Horton and said hello at the end of the meeting (I was wearing my Holiday Lake 50k+++ shirt, a race in which he is the RD).
OK, on to the race. Having never run 50 miles before, Seungyoo and I opted for the early start at 5:30a, 1 hour earlier than the normal start, giving us 14 hours to complete the course rather than the 13 hours for the normal start time.
START to AS 1 (Mile 3.9)
Flat near the small rural airstrip, back on the trails near along White River. Cross HWY 410, 2 miles of single track in standard NW forrest. Spent most of this section half asleep and gradually waking up. Saw Mary and Sukamor at the AS, cup of sports drink and handful of fish crackers.
AS1 to AS2 (Mile 11.7)
The climb begins. A Mix of slow runnable ups, to walkable ups. Waterfalls, starting to chat with the other runners. Met the AMR EMT-B, and the guy from Bremerton (that had a continuous slow/steady uphill run), both of whom I would leapfrog all day. First views of Mt Rainier and Suntop, you could also see the start line at the airstrip waaaay below us. Fingers were chilled by the time I reached the AS, had the S&R guy help tie on my bandana, filled Nathan HPL with water here (2L). This was a water/gu only AS. With the help of the paceband I made, I was able to tell the volunteers how far from the start they were, how far to the next 2 AS. They offered me an extra gel for my help, I declined.
AS2-3 Corral Pass (Mile 16.9)
More climbing, some in the forrest and some out in the open, this is an out and back section from AS2 to 3 then back to 2. Views about halfway up, last 1.5 miles or so were relatively flat on a logging road. Just leaving AS2 the leading men passed by from the normal start time, Anton Kruptika (aka Jesus, very tan BTW) and Scott Jurek (I said "good job Scott" and he replied back "good job." Scott Jurek talked to me!!!! ahhh. JK, not really. I repeated this when they were coming back towards me on the return). Saw the course photo guy taking the quintissential picture with Rainier in the back. Mary and Sukamor were at this AS as well, they were trying to help but I did not feel like I needed anything. Mary, an amazing human being but not an ultrarunner commented, "Jesus just came through a few minutes ago!" Made me laugh. More sports drink, snacks, watched the lead women come into the AS, then back onto the trail.
AS3-4 (Mile 22.1)
Repeat of the last section but in reverse, despite the etiquite that the return runners had the right of way, I still got out of the way for about 1/2 the runners as I knew they were really faster than me in the grand scheme of things. Gave encouragement to several runners and gave them beta on the trail, it seemed to give a few people hope. I saw Seunyoo and Jenni going towards the previous AS about 1 mile out from the AS. Got a gel from the AS and Scap and headed down the trail pretty quickly.
AS4-5 (Mile 27.2)
Downhill singletrack. Loved this down, felt great and was glad to not be climbing for a while, passed a few people and got passed myself. Ran into a few mountain bikers trying to go up the trail, unfortunatly they piked the wrong day to go riding. At the bottom crossed over HWY 410 with the help of the crossing guards and back towards the start area, but in the woods. You come into the aid station with a million eyes on you (OK more like 40 pairs). There were so many people cause it was an easy access point. Sukamor was there to say hi and help me out, Mary was trying to find another part of the trail. I had them fill up my Nathan pack for the 2nd time with water. Scaps, boiled potatoes dipped in salt, potato chips, not sure what else I ate there. Starting to worry about the next climb.
AS5-6 (Mile 31.7)
My dad was at his first ever ultra run/race and was volunteering at AS 6, mile 31.7, or about halfway up the second climb, towards Suntop. As the trail left the campground/airstrip and began to climb again, I began culling exit strategies in my brain. My legs felt dead and I was moderatly concerned that I would not get to the top, certainly a low point for me. A few people passed me, and I did not pass anyone. I was quite thrilled to finally reach the aid station. But a weird thing happened there, no-one that I had been around on the trail was quitting there, and a few people even looked worse than I did. I was about 2 hours ahead of the cutoff, so I figured I would continue on and just see what happens, and so I did. Dad (the guy with the Virginia t-shirt on) said he was learning a lot about ultras and he got to learn about some of the great runners that had passed by earlier from some of the other volunteers (yes, he saw Jesus too). They were the party AS, so as to help inflated spirits perk up and continue our climb to suntop.
AS6-7 SUNTOP (Mile 37)
This section was longer in mileage than the previous section but felt shorter in time and distance. Suntop marks the top of the "2nd hill" and last of the uphill climbing. Leaving the party AS, I continued at a tad faster than the pace before since I was not spending all my mental energy on thinking about quitting. I hit a weird sort of bonk in that section where all I wanted to do is lay down and take a nap. Now I have bonked in marathons before and know how that feels, but this was just an immediate urge to take a nap, guess I should've ingested some caffeine at the last AS, I didn't cause I was avoiding it due to previous triggers it caused in the increase motility in my GI system. This section has 2 evil false summits. I has only heard about the last 1 from blogs, but there is a first one with some runnable plateau trail afterwards, then more up, then a lot of down, then about 0.6m up the last climb to suntop. My Garmin watch earned it's weight in gold in that section letting other runners know just how far to go to the AS (hmm, I thought everyone had one of these, guess not). Just before the AS got our pics taken again by the race photo guy, and sat down at the AS, my first and only time sitting during the race. Filled up my Nathan here (technically a volunteer did) and ate and drank caffeinated beverages. As I was eating I look up and see a very fit gal in a crossfit shirt. Crossfit, now wait a minute, didn't Jason say that his friend would be up there as a volunteer? So I ask her, and yes she is Jason's friend, she even knew my race number to look for, nice! I want to linger but get up so I can get this thing done, plus I am looking forward to the downhill that was hard earned by all that crazy climbing, and away I go.
AS7-8(last one!) (Mile 43.4)
Glorious downhill. Several runners did not like the downhill, but I tolerated it quite well and enjoyed it. This section is all on a gravel/dirt FS road, all down all the time. Leapfrogged all of the same people that I had seen all day long, namely the AMR guy and the guy from Bremerton. Rolled into the AS and Jennie was there, wait Jennie was there. What happened? She had passed me about 2 miles shy of Suntop but apparently her legs did not like the downhill, and slowed considerably. We get an icewater spongebath and as I am chatting with a volunteer, he recognizes me from Vashon, it is Dr Carlson a Chiropractor. I quickly catch up on his family, including one of my classmates. Jennie and I head out together in too short of time.
AS8-Finish (Mile 50)
Since we were getting close here, I had neglected hydration and fueling on the big downhill and did not consume much at the last AS. This is what I believe made me nauseous and pushing me to walk quite a bit in the last section, legs were tired but functioning and I had a goal in sight, 12 hours. I kept thinking, I should eat some ginger, I should eat a gu, I should get out the peptobismal tabs, and of course I acted on none of these thoughts. Oh well, finally get to the road, I had planned to run the last straightaway, but a gal came by and said run with me, and so I did to the finish. I could have sprinted by her but held back as I was pretty sure she started at the normal time and I didn't want anyone to think that I beat her when in reality she was an hour faster than me. Glad to be done, all I wanted to do is lay down, something that I had been fantasizing about for the last several hours (which I know is a no-no after a race, but oh well). Finish time 12:09:51 (12 hours you are mine next year! Just sayin)
I was pretty toasted and just wanted to get home, so I changed with the aid of baby wipes (tons of dust crusted to my legs) while dad got the post run BBQ dinner and we headed towards the ferry, Vashon, and a bed. On the way out saw Mary's car and she let us know that Seungoo was STILL RUNNING and had just left the last AS (she ended up finishing with 4 min to spare). Stopped at McDs on the way home and only ate a few bites. Walking was pretty stiff, I was too tired for a shower so I headed to bed.
-Keep up fuel and hydration even when you are "getting close" to the finish line.
-Train more thoroughly (ahem, include some big climbs)
-SCaps (electrolyte tabs) are great.
-Keep up on fuel when you bonk or feel low mood in general.
-I can do the normal start next year.
-Mileage/cutoff time paceband was super helpful as was the Garmin.