Like returning to the basement after seeing it with the lights on, my legs danced with anticipation of returning to run White River 50 Mile Endurance Run. WR50 will always hold a special place in me. During the training runs I met one of my best friends and THE best training buddy, Paul. WR50 was my first ultra marathon and just like with any first love, you never forget. This time I came back with hopes of crushing my previous time. I have put forth so much time and effort in training for Cascade Crest 100 (a mere 4 weeks later than WR50!) that I was for sure I would be able to knock off 2-2.5 hours. However, those dreams had to be pushed aside very quickly. My plan of attack was going great until about mile 20. I had run the first 6-7 miles faster than I normally would have in order to walk the insanely steep incline at the Palisades and resume running until Corral Pass. This plan worked flawlessly…almost.
I rounded the last bend into the Corral Pass aid station and to much surprise saw Paul just exited. We gave the best high-five EVER and I went to get my water pack refilled. However, the volunteer informed me that it was pretty much full and it would be better to not top it off for less weight running down. Wait? What?! It was still almost full. No. I thought I had been doing well and remembering to drink water. Forgetting my watch was proving to be more of an issue than I thought. I normally run with music, so I was trying to remember to drink every 4-5 songs alternately taking gels and salt tabs. On the way back down, I started to experience similar signs of dehydration I had the week before at Rattlesnake. Oh no. It was time to make a decision. Push myself to the breaking point or use WR50 2011 as a practice for CC100 on how to give attention to areas of need. To be honest I tried the former…for about a mile. I began to feel horrible, so I had to tell myself that I would not hit my time point. That was the toughest moment of the entire race. I was passed by many people on the way back down to Buck Creek (mile 27 aid station) which was difficult considering I normally use downhills to catch the people who overtook me on the ups. Having finished the climb to Corral Pass over an hour faster than last year, I arrived at Buck Creek in the exact same time. 5.5 hours. I wanted to quit. And cry.
But I pushed on. All the time I walked and focused on hydration and nutrition was paying off. I was running again through the 8 mile uphill section to Sun Top (mile 37 aid). By mile 31 I had caught up with or passed most of the people that flew by me on the last downhill. I was feeling better than awesome. Prior to the race I had given up coffee and all caffeine for 2 weeks. (Those of you that know me well recognize how big of a commitment that is!) At the mile 31 aid station (which is Hawaiian themed…and awesome) I had a shot of cola. It was not long before my legs transformed into rocket boosters and I was having to tell myself to slow down on the uphills. I continued on, feeling stronger than I thought was possible given the mileage and bonking early on.
As I came up to Sun Top, I saw familiar faces of people who had passed me around mile 22. I had done it. I was able to come back from feeling like complete crap. The next section is a 6.4 mile downhill stretch of fire-road. I knew this was the chance to make up some of the time I lost on having to walk earlier. However, because I felt so good I was forgetting to take gels. I was remembering to drink water though. Unfortunately, hydrated as I was, my energy levels were fading…quickly. I had to walk about a 0.5 mile of that fire-road and took 2 gels, much to my body’s disgust at the thought of swallowing another one.
I rolled in to Skookum Flats at around 9:30 on the race clock. Time to get to work. I knew I had finished this final 6 mile section in about 1:20 during the training run. Bear in mind that this stretch was completed in that time at the beginning of a run. During the course of the race, I had let my time goal of sub-10 hour go but only with the goal of qualifying for Western Station 100, which is sub-11 hour. I spent a little time at the aid station fueling up and left for the finish line at 9:34. The thought entered my mind that I probably would not qualify for WS100 since I had finished the section on fresh legs what I needed to do at the end of 50 miler. Time for some black magic. Chocolate covered espresso beans. After reading Ultramarathon Man and keeping my body from caffeine, I knew this would help. Again, there were moments where I was sprinting. SPRINTING…at the end of a 50 miler. Yeah. I was shocked too. My legs were still feeling amazing but I could tell my lack of nutrition intake was taking its toll. But I could not be bothered with that at the end of the race. I needed to dig deep and push hard if I wanted a WS100 qualifying finish.
I did it! I finished WR50 and qualified for WS100. Not at all according my plan. I finished the last 6 miles quicker than I did on fresh legs!!! My body was starting to become wrecked as I crossed the finish line because the lack of nutritional attention the last 13 miles, but after about 30 minutes I was feeling normalized. The next morning my back was a little sore from carrying the water pack but my legs felt phenomenal. I went for a 6 mile run and could not believe that I had run White River the day before.
Initially, I was very upset with myself and my finishing time. I talked with my trainer and realized the amazing opportunity I had to experience such lows, think through what I needed to do and see my body comeback. The perfect training for a 100-miler.