Saturday, August 4, 2012

White River 50 Mile Race Report

50 miles in the woods is a long way to run and a lot can happen.  Fortunately, the White River 50 mile was probably on one of the most beautiful courses out there, and consisted of great company and fantastic volunteers.

Drive along Hwy. 410

I camp out the night before and can barely sleep. I'm too nervous. Neighbors are playing the soundtrack to Gladiator and medicating on tequila until 2 a.m. (Note to self, next time just tent camp outside the race start). I'm falling in and out of sleep, waiting for my alarm.

The race day weather is low cloud cover, with temps in the low 50's, and perfect for the start of a race.  There are lots of people at the start, more than any other run I've been to, and all look to be doing their part in trying to keep the national BMI average below 'obese'. The early starters have left at 5:30 a.m. and are on course.  I stand somewhere near the back of the pack, the clock strikes 6:30, and the day begins.

Miles 1-17
Maybe 100 yards in, I meet up with runner friend Greg. I've run with him at Grey Rock three weeks before, run with his wife at Sun Mountain, and had seen them both at check-in on Friday. I figure we'll both be running the same pace, so we decide to run together. This is nice, we talk about other things, and don't worry too much about navigating the sea of people that quickly bottle-neck when the short section of airstrip running changed to forest single track.

We power hike and run portions of the first climb, careful not to expend too much energy. We discuss life.  It's enjoyable to be able to hang out, while running, for the first two and a half hours of the race.  The climb is long, but the scenery makes up for it. Consumed in the morning fog, the trail consists of some of the most beautiful forest, waterfalls, and creeks. Sun starts to pierce through the clouds and forest as we approach where the climb begins to level off. Greg tells me to go for it if I'm feeling good, and I am, so I wish him good luck, pass a couple of people, and pick up my pace. Shortly thereafter, Glenn captures Mt. Rainier beautifully in the background as I approach the 17 mile marker, full of energy and ready to take on the day:

Inline image 1
Photo Credit to Glenn Tachiyama

Miles 17 - 27
After the aid station, I get about 3 miles to run along the ridge, following by 7 miles of downhill. There is no real explanation for what it feels like to run so much continuous downhill. While the trail is soft, the forest quiet, and the air clean, my legs are starting to let me know they would like a slight break. Without a break, my quads soon start to tire, and I found myself waiting for some sign that the Buck Creek aid station is quickly approaching. Slowly but surely, I am greeted with the murmur of the White River. Then the sounds of cars, and finally, cheering volunteers and onlookers as I approach the Buck Creek aid.  It's in the woods, and people are everywhere cheering. I'm astounded by the sheer number of volunteers and onlookers. A helpful volunteer takes my pack, and refills it. I try a potato, it's hard and uncooked, so I spit it out. I don't bother to test another, have my first swig of coke, take a salt tablet, and then a cup of water. Back on the trail, my legs are shocked that they have a short flat section, and I really don't know what to do. 

Miles 27 - 37
I walk a bit of the flat areas, going by many campsites with people that are hitting the early lunch hour. BBQ's are starting, some campers already drinking, and I'm sure a fair number of people wondering what the hell all these psychos are up to. I meet up with a couple of runners I've met in races before, offering words of encouragement, and then begin to power hike and run as the second climb begins.

At a small creek crossing, I try to rock hop, and fall into the water on my butt.  Both shoes are now soaked.  I'm slightly concerned this will lead to blisters or uncomfortable feet, but decide instead to embrace the fact my feet got to cool themselves. This is where I meet Nicole, and she offers me help but I manage to get up on my own. We then proceed to run together, with occasional breaks on the remaining miles up to Sun Top. She's a mother of three, and completely kicking ass. Her second 50 miler, she seems to be doing pretty well as we each take turns in the lead.

We get in a with a group of about three other guys, and our 'mini peloton' ascends a 4 mile stretch up to the next aid station. On a brief downhilll, one of the runners descends a short section running backwards. First time I have ever seen this, as he exclaims 'Gotta save the quads!'  I tell Nicole that I have the strongest craving for citrus, and I start thinking of lemonade, oranges, and grapefruit. After a fair amount of climbing, we begin to see balloons attached to the trees, and hear music as we approach the aid station. Jimmy Buffet is blaring, all the more reason to make this stop quick. Coke, salt tab, orange. Move.

The trail is now a steadier grade of climbing, mixed with some slight descents, and I'm waiting for the Sun Top aid. Conversation now sparse, breathing heavier, and for the first time I notice the temperature isn't as cool as the start. Pit Stop #1 makes itself known, and I bushwhack off the trail (FYI, everyone does this, it's extremely commonplace). Shortly thereafter, the switchbacks leading up to the Sun Top aid station begin to appear, and without the cover of the forest, the afternoon sun engulfs me. I'm running portions of the switchbacks, and sweat is dripping from my nose.

Inline image 2
Photo Credit to Glenn Tachiyama

Miles 37- 44
Sun Top aid consists of two cups of Mountain Dew, or in the words of the aid station volunteer 'Double Dew', an orange, a belch for the spectators, and my decision to put everything into this gravel road downhill. I'll see what I have left for the final 6.5 miles and gut it out. I pass a handful of runners on the way down. Everyone looks exhausted. The gravel road is largely without shade and exposed in the sun, but the only thing burning are my quads. I just keep thinking that the aid station is just ahead. As I level off and approach the aid station a half mile out, my bowels dictate that I need to go. I find a tree and perform Pit Stop #2.

44 - Finish
I down three mini cups of Coke/Pepsi at the Skookum Aid, have a helpful volunteer fill my pack with water and ice, and take off, happy that my bowels have now cleansed themselves. Not so, about 15 minutes in, I get the very intense urge to 'go'. I stop to walk, and the urge immediately subsides. I walk for a couple of minutes, then start running again, and immediately have the same intense urge come up. I find a tree, Pit Stop #3. I get back on the trail and start running again. I try to enjoy this part of the trail, as it borders the White River, is nothing but old growth forest, and breathtakingly beautiful. But my body is wanting me to focus on other things. The same intense urge hits me 5 minutes later, as running now results in bowel issues. I've stopped eating and drinking, engage in Pit Stop #4 and #5, get passed by way too many people, and submit to walking to the finish. I feel completely lethargic.

10:08:02 and good for 110 out of 275 finishers.

In Retrospect
The final section took me more than 90 minutes to complete, resulted in me going over 10 hours, and generally feeling extremely poor.

So what was it?  My first thought is caffeine from the Mountain Dew and Coke. I rarely drink any type of cola, but decided it looked good during the run. Dumb, and it caught up with me. Second thought is potentially too many gels/blocks and not enough water. Gels were my primary source of fuel, and I consumed more than I'm used too, along with not drinking enough water (I didn't pee a lot).  My third thought is that I just went too hard on the 6 mile downhill.  I passed some people and figured that I would just 'tough out' the last 6+ miles.  It's very hard to 'tough out' 6 miles after one has run 44 in the mountains.

I've had truly mixed feelings about this race since it was finished. I was happy to have completed the race, especially right around my goal time of 10 hours. I was happy with the first 44 miles. I didn't like how I finished. Nothing is more demoralizing than not being able to run, control ones bowels, and be passed by more than 20 people over the final miles of a race.

I'll adapt.

Bring on a 100 in 2013.

Pre-Race Food: Turkey and Rice Wraps for dinner. Strawberries and PBJ for bfast.
Pre-Race Music Book: The Enthusiast, by Charlie Hass
Post-Race Food: Home cooked meal from the Johnson residence in Fircrest.  Steaks, guac, sweet potatoes, alcoholic lemonade. Friends picking me up at the race to drive me back to their place for food, a hot shower, and a bed, means more than anything. Extremely grateful.

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