Tuesday, August 02, 2011

White River 50 Race Report

-Around mile 28, I started circling the drain.  I never felt that bad, but had hit a patch of some real low energy levels.  Not a bonk, but a serious low in motivation and optimism.  Slowly, but surely, the unexpected happened...-

The day was crisp and clear...perfect weather for running in the mountains. (all photos Sue Henry unless noted)

Listening to the pre-start course looks like we are a little out of place height wise here.
Second ultra together...more to come I'm sure...great job Dad!

Uli Steidl lead out the pack on the airport gravel road for the first mile before hitting the single track next to the White River.  After some gently rolling terrain, we started the climb and I was really itching to hit the climb.  After the first couple of miles of climbing, I was actually a little bummed that it wasn't steeper for this climb.  I had hoped for a pretty agressive climb, at least for some sections, but instead it is a pleasant runnable switchbacking meander up to 6,000 ft from the 2,500 ft starting elevation.  This was all fine and good, but it didn't enable me to make some time like I was hoping...this I should have save for the second climb, which was steeper and more to my liking.  After topping out on the ridge the trail rolls a little and it is during this out and back section that I got a good view of the folks ahead of me.  The first one to pop around a bend in the trail was Uli and he was just floating over the ground and looked really effortless...he had at least 3-5 min on Gary Gellin and Timothy Olson who both looked good.  At the turn around I had to sit down quickly to readjust my shoes as the either the laces or something was off and I was getting an aching pain on the top of my left foot that had started around mile 5.  The weird thing was that I hadn't experienced this pain at all in training so it must have developed very quickly during the first couple of miles even though I intentionally made sure my shoes weren't too tight.

Anyway, on the return trip of the out and back, I felt great and was bolstered even further by gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier as well as seeing my Dad running easy and strong about 20-30 min back.  The descent back down to the river was much steeper and technical than the way up and I was really enjoying it.  I got caught by a few folks that were pushing the down really well.  Namely Craig Thornley and Krissy Moehl.  Craig ran around me quickly and was out of sight in a matter of seconds, very impressive.  Krissy took much longer to come up on me and in the process I had the not so bright idea to try to hold her off till the Buck Creek aid station.  Although, I managed it till nearly the end of the descent, I think I might have overcooked it a bit and came in the the 26 mile aid station a little dragging.

Changing shoes at Buck Creek...the easiest 26 miles I've ever run...although, I was a little worried the second half would not be so effortless.

Zach was my crew chief and he wasn't going to let me be satisfied with just a good first half.

Not sure what pep talk Zach was giving to Papa, but he looked as unimpressed as he did about my first half.

I had decided to make a shoe change at this aid because of the laces issue I was having and also change water belts from my one bottle to a two bottle system anticipating a hotter second half of the race.  As I left the Buck Creek aid, I knew I wasn't going to be able to stick to my goal of running the second climb as good or better than the first.  I just didn't have it in the legs and the fact that I had 24 miles to go after 26 mi and 4000 ft of gain already run started to weigh on my mind. Around mile 28, I started circling the drain.  I never felt that bad, but had hit a patch of some real low energy levels.  Not a bonk, but a serious low in motivation and optimism.  It wasn't till I hit the mile 31.7 Fawn Ridge aid station and got a few drinks of coke in me, some water dumped over my head and picked up the great energy of the fabulous volunteers that I started to feel better.  I left that aid with a much better outlook and proceeded to mix power hiking (which I apparently suck at cause I was getting caught by others that were hiking) and running (which I did fine with and actually gained on people when I ran) at about a 50/50 ratio.  I thought the last climb was going to get out of the trees and afford a better view of the course and Sun Top where I was headed as the course description said it was exposed on this section, but I didn't feel like it was that exposed at all compared to running many of my long runs at home all above tree line.  I also didn't get that mental boost of the view that I always look forward to above tree line until I actually hit the Sun Top climb, which was a steeper grade and felt much better than the more rolling, forested trail before it.  By the time I hit Sun Top, I was feeling better and after a quick refuel there was off down the 6.4 mile 3000 ft descent to Skookum flats.  I had been putting in 1 L/hr of water since mi 26 and still getting at least 200-300 cal/hr in the whole time even though I felt poorly.

After getting the legs moving a little faster, slowly, but surely, the unexpected happened...I started to revive exactly when I thought, before the race, that I was going to feel the worst.  By the time I hit the bottom of the descent at mile 43 and hung a right into Skookum aid, I was in much higher spirits and had made really good time on the road.

My wife, Alyssa, was a great support and I was surprised to see her at this aid station, but it really lifted my spirits.  Thanks Alyssa for being so encouraging on a tough day watching two kids while I got to play in the mountains all day!
The trail out of Skookum is a flatter trail right next to the river with a little more technical flair too it.  After a stiff first mile, the engaging nature of the trail got the best of me and I started to loosen up and feel much better.  By the time I was half way through this 6.6 mile section, I had started to hit a pretty good clip (I'm guessing around low 9:00 mi) and felt the best I had felt since the first half of the race.  I had made enough time up on the road descent from Sun Top that I started entertaining a sub 9:30 finish time.  As I got closer to the finish, I started feeling even better and was really pushing as I knew it would be close.  Once I hit the gravel road for the last .25 mi to the finish I felt great and had energy to push the rest of it out hard.  This whole process of revival at around 45 miles and 8 hours and 45 min into a run still blows my mind.  I had read so many accounts of other ultra runners that have experienced it, but it really is something you have to experience yourself to truly believe it is possible.  I figure my other ultras, since they were done by mile 31 or so just never gave me the opportunity to find this out...that and I was in way better shape going into WR (which probably had more to do with it).

Heading down the finish straight with Zach coming in behind me. Photo: John Wallace III.
Zach making 50 look easy in flanel, khakis and sandals. Photo: John Wallace III.

The satisfaction of finishing my first 50 miler starting to settle in.  Photo: John Wallace III.

Zach finished to the applause of the crowd and then wanted straight up in my arms...couldn't be happier.

The family just shortly after the finish.  What a great day!

Final time was 9:29:36 good enough for 56th place out of 244 finishers.  Although having slightly higher goals before the race, after experiencing it and know how it worked out, I couldn't be happier with the outcome for my first 50.  I think this race will mark the beginning a whole new level of learning and growing as a runner and person.  It was by far the most work in training (which didn't seem like a ton of work most of the time) I've ever put toward something and it paid off...I may turn myself into a runner yet...we'll have to wait and see.

All in all, White River was a great experience and yet I feel I still have much to learn.  I've got to get my shoe situation worked out better as that was a small issue and pacing will play an important role in the future.  However, my training, hydration and eating were the best they have been for any of my races and I think improvement, especially in ultras is a long evolutionary process that requires patience and consistency.  My recovery is going well and my short run today felt the best I ever have post ultra, so I think my increased base and elevation gain in training is starting to pay off.  I'm looking forward to getting back up some local peaks soon and hopefully out to another race of 50 mi or more in the next month or so.


teresafreese said...

David, I have said it before, and I will say it again, you are truly inspiring. I am pretty much speechless at all that you have accomplished in such a short amount of time. I have very little running experience and yet I have experienced breakthroughs and highs that come from pushing past the desire to quit. Reading your blog reminded me of those feelings. As corny as it sounds, as I was reading, my emotions were stirring. I was feeling those feelings for you. There is a lot of reward in all of it. I am really proud of you and happy that you are so successful in your running. Keep up the amazing work!

jasonhardrath said...

Wow man, Great work! I would love to join you for a few of those jaunts around the Baker peaks if you have room for a tag-a-long.
Congratulations, I look forward to seeing you soon.

David Henry said...

Teresa: Thanks for all the encouragement and support. Wouldn't have been able to do (while keeping sane at least) without you guys letting me slip out for some of those lunch runs.

Jason: Thanks! You would be more than welcome to hit some runs up this summer. I'm itching to get into the Eagle Caps too. See you soon.

Susan Henry said...

Congratulations David! You really showed me this race that hard training and perserverance really pays off! You ran that race like it is somewhat effortless. You always had a smile on your face at each aid station that I saw you along the way. You smiled at the finish as you came running up the final shoot with Zachy in tow. Great memories for sure as your mom. I love you and am proud of you and your accomplishment through the hard work of training! Thanks for all your mentoring and training with my running. I am very grateful to have you as my son.

Alyssa said...

So glad we could be at this race with you! The blog post was great, but being there was even better. Proud of you!