White River 2010 Recap
Photo courtesy SRC/John Wallace III
calves smelled like burning
hoped i could do it in eight
one climb too many
Moments after crossing the finish line at the 2010 White River 50 mile, about 8:25:32 after I started, RD Scott McCoubrey handed me my stainless steel water bottle and asked how it went. Or maybe Greg Crowther asked me. I dunno. It was kind of a blur. But I do remember my response was "the course has one climb too many." A little self-depreciation hardy-har-har…since the race only has two (big) climbs. But that was really all there was to it. A lack of significant hill training was my ultimate undoing in the 2nd half of the course, and I believe it was the only thing holding me back from accomplishing my ultimate goal of sub-8 hours. I was probably better suited for a 50 mile race that had only ~5k feet of climbing, not 8,819 feet. Still, I cut 22 minutes off my time from 2009, and all of those minutes came in the 2nd half. So progress was made. I also didn’t twist my ankle at all, so we’re hoping this means no cankles this August.
With the aid of raccoon-scented Patrick Niemeyer, whose broken blog is linked over there on the right if you’ve got absolutely nothing better to do, I had a brain full of aid station splits I would want to hit or be around if I wanted to be in the hunt for 8 hours. Combining the splits from Uli’s 2004 then-course record, Anton Krupicka’s 2009 CR, and Susannah Beck’s 2008 womens’ CR, he extrapolated a pace *I* would want to hit for 8 hours. And the day before, on the drive down from the city, I memorized them with help from Claire and can still recite them with ease:
Aid Station Miles H:Min Camp Shepard 3.9 0:34 Ranger Creek 11.7 1:56 Corral Pass 16.9 2:47 Buck Creek 27.2 4:18 Fawn Ridge 31.7 5:11 Suntop 37.0 6:14 Skookum Flats 43.4 7:01 Finish Line 50.0 8:00
As it did last year, the race started off under cool clear skies and I was without nerves. Despite a guy behind me rapping along out loud to his music and running through tree branches like a pyscho, the 4 miles to Camp Shepard came and went effortlessly and without incident. I did arrive in 0:31:07, a few minutes fast. Instead of fretting over this, I looked at it as a welcome to not have to push too hard on the first climb.
About halfway to Ranger Creek I came upon Ashley Arnold and Meghan Arbogast, the womens runner-up at Western States and favorite to win this race. Ashley is young, the same age I was when my hair was only just starting to fall out. Meghan is 49…but looks no older than 39. Knowing I was in good company (meaning the top women…who tend to be smarter racers than the men I’d find around me), I decided to stick with them and ignore what the guys were doing. We hit Ranger Creek nice and easily in 1:54:35, and after a brief water bottle refill and watering of the shrubs, I quickly caught them again as we methodically made our way to Corral Pass. Compared to how I would run this race if I was alone, Meghan, who was leading most of the time, seemed to take the climbs slower and the descents a bit faster. I just remember thinking to myself "easy, big fella" on the climbs and having to go just a tad harder on the downs to keep them around than I might otherwise.
We all came in together again to Corral Pass [photo], right on cue in 2:47:13. To this point really nothing had felt difficult yet. We resumed our train on the trip back to Ranger Creek (another body or two now with us), but during the last short climb before the loooong descent, I couldn’t help myself and took the lead. I told Meghan she’d get me back on the downhill surely, and soon found myself all alone. I caught a guy or two on the descent to Ranger Creek but did not hear or see Meghan or Ashley gaining back on me (3:32:45, for the record). The all-downhill switchbacks to Buck Creek commenced and aside from passing one or two guys, I was completely alone. My spirits were high here. I knew danger lay ahead in the 2nd climb, but throughout the race I was comparing how 2010 me felt versus 2009 me at this same point, and 2010 me was always coming out smelling like roses. I felt like I was running easy yet the train of better downhill runners were not running over me at all.
Buck Creek welcomed me at exactly 4:18 as I felt seriously zoned in on my splits. I left my hydration belt with Claire (thing would *not* stay put on my waist and instead was slowly rotating around me as I ran) and left with a couple extra gels, now holding both bottles. Last year at this point I came into the aid station around the exact same time, but much more wrecked from the long descent and spent a few minutes sitting, getting a blister treated and taking extra time to eat. This time I was in and out pretty quick and felt relatively okay. Back of my legs were feeling a little sick of it all but I felt more confident than I did a year ago.
Then, after a brief flat warmup, the second climb started, and I said goodbye to 8 hours.
The fall from grace didn’t happen nearly as quick as last year, to my legs’ credit. We were what I would call "mostly running" all the way to the Fawn Ridge aid station, and I refused to look at my watch until I got there. I didn’t want the bad news until then, and if it was good news then hey all the better. When I arrived, I looked down and saw I was 3 minutes back (5:14:22). Close…but I took this a little hard, since I didn’t think I’d be able to ramp up the effort to get back to (or exceed) the pace needed from Fawn Ridge to Suntop, a much more difficult stretch in my opinion, since I felt I was already giving "max effort." Best case I felt was I’d be about 3 minutes FAST to the aid station due to overestimating the pace. This did not happen. And as a nice kick in the balls to top it off, as I was leaving the aid station, I saw Meghan Arbogast just arriving. Ccccccccccrap. It wasn’t just the thought of getting "chick’d"–she’s a legitimately badass runner and I’m sure we had similar time goals–it was just the inevitability of it all. A reminder that I while things were *better* than last year, I once again wasn’t doing what I needed to do on this climb. And did she have to look so damn strong coming into the station?
Meghan along with two other guys passed me maybe halfway to Suntop, as my fears were realized and my legs slowly became mostly worthless on the uphill. The false summit downhill provided no real relief, only supplying me with new side cramp pain that I would love to blame on the cup of soda I had at Fawn Ridge but was more likely my shitty downhill form. I ran/hiked up the final climb to Suntop [photo], the watch reading a depressing 6:29:04. Little did I know Anton had finished the whole race nearly four minutes earlier.
The 6.6 mile downhill from Suntop was miserable and not at all what I was needing at the moment. My poor form once again brought back the side cramps and the back of my legs, not properly hill trained for a downhill this severe, this late, were not in great spirits. The 2nd place female, Amy Sproston, passed me about halfway down. Luckily nobody else did and I arrived at Skookum (7:22:24) being told I was in 23rd place. This I found bittersweet. My secondary goal was only determined the night before with help from Claire…that being sub-8:30 and/or top 25. I was 32nd last year. So I was in line for both of those barring anything tragic happening in Skookum. That was sweet. I found bitter though just how dumb those goals sounded at the moment. "Sub 8:30…what does that even mean?" I asked myself. Secondary & tertiary goals are usually very uninspiring.
I noticed I was "passing" a guy who was sitting in a chair at the aid station, so in my head I figured I was now in 22nd. "Gotta hold this place…for The Thrill," I told myself in unsuccessful attempts to push myself through this 6.5-7.0 mile stretch that felt about twice that. One thought I had as I consoled myself shortly after my watch turned over to 8:00:00 was that "well, at least this year no one’s gonna beat you by over two hours!" Again…inspiration was hard to come by on Skookum Flats.
About an hour later I finally hit the road that led to the finish line and I mustered up all I could for the spectators. There were a ton of kids at the race, all formed into small little posses of trouble. I like to think that I got them to stop throwing sticks at one another for at least a couple seconds and watch, admiringly, as I brought it home. Someone said I was 21st place…not 22nd. At first a little dismayed I wasn’t in fact running for The Thrill, Terry put it all back in perspective via txt message later that evening. “OH YEAH! 21×2=42 WWWWOOOOLLLLFFFFF!!”
Unbelievably happy to not have to run anymore, the disappointment was short-lived. Scott McCoubrey handed me my stainless steel water bottle and……
Anton wound up crushing his year-old course record…posting a 6:25:29. Seven days after completing a 194-mile week. The mathematicians in the room might notice he did in fact beat me by 3 seconds more than 2 hours. I’m too in awe to be that ashamed.
A few days have passed and I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve recovered. Not only should there be no cankles at all, but I think the Cougar Mtn 13 miler is definitely a go (not a fast go, but a go), and I should be able to average a bit more than the 10 miles a week I was able to average in the Aug-Dec months of 2009. I gingerly walked around Sunday, but Monday I merely felt "sore" and walked normally. Today I ran for almost an hour, feeling merely "very tired."
The lesson learned THIS TIME is "more hills." It sounds a little pathetic as I type it, but it’s true. Everything else was great…but in the back of my mind I knew I didn’t put in the trail hills I needed to put in. I hoped I could escape. I was wrong. There was one hill too many.
Here are some other race reports I’ve come across (and the time they ran).
Anton Krupicka (6:25, crushed course record)
Greg Crowther (6:58…this was Greg’s 4th attempt to break 7 hours after running 7:34, 7:07, and a 7:01 last year. I was only maybe a minute past crossing the finish line when I found out and it was a huge lift. Gives me hope someday for 8 hours.)
Yassine Diboun (7:02)
Amy Sproston (8:22)
Scott McMurtrey (9:34)
Joel Ballezza (10:28)