The weeks leading up to White River were mentally tough for me. I had lost focus. This, as well as some personal issues the night before the race, left me feeling like I very much did not want to run Saturday morning. I slipped into the mid-back of the pack fairly quickly. I wanted to drop out at mile 4. I was having a miserable day.
The first 16 miles or so were a long climb. The aid stations were not what I was expecting and I was low on calories. I put my music on loud and early to help blot out the fact that I was running. I mostly tried to think of other things. I found a gel on the trail about 20 miles in and ate it. I hate gels and they usually make me sick, but in this case I figured being queasy would be more enjoyable than bonking...and surprisingly I didn't get sick. When I reached the aid at mile 21 they were calling out encouragement to all the runners and proclaiming "6 miles ALL downhill to the next aid station".
I headed out from there onto the loping switchbacks back down the mountain I'd climbed earlier. Within 2 switchbacks I began to mentally deal with my situation. I was not going to drop. I had 30 miles to run. I might as well capitalize on my strengths and do my best to forget that I didn't want to be out there. I began passing people in a steady stream. I came up on a guy and was behind him for half a switchback. He stepped aside at the apex and allowed me to pass. He said, "I'm just going to draft."
I tried my best not to laugh.
He didn't last a full switchback.
I went to a happy place. I wasn't running, I was tubing. My water bottles were full of lemonade. I relaxed and after passing a lot more people I was coming into the next aid station. Thankfully a friend was volunteering there and he grabbed my drop bag for me while I stuffed my face. Running close to 30 miles without enough calories always sucks. I walked out of the aid station...and continued to walk the flat. Some day I will learn to STOP EATING, even though I am hungry at aid station. I didn't get nauseous, but I certainly felt sloshy and full...perhaps due to the 4 cups of Coca Cola I bolted. I finally started jogging again when I got to the next climb. I jogged, but I mostly hiked fast, up...and up...and up. Then the course wound down to the road and I was thrilled...AID STATION!
The course crossed the road...and continued up...and up. I was out of water. The sun was beating down. My hike fast speed felt laborious, although the runners I passed who fell in behind me assured me it wasn't. Finally rounding a switchback with stupendous views of Mt. Rainier the aid station was in sight. Again I drank multiple cups of Coke.
The aid station worker asked, "Ice in your water bottles?"
I've read that cooling your hands triggers a lowering of core temperature, which then results in you being able to continue to perform at a higher level. Grasping two bottles full of ice water as I headed 6 miles down a gravel road in the full sun made me a believer. I felt cooler. I felt more awake and less tired. I pushed hard on the road. It was the last down and I wanted to make it count. I looked at my watch and realized that a Western States qualifying time might actually be possible, despite the slow early miles. I passed people. My lower back began to feel like my hips were being permanently pounded into it. Finally, I came into the last aid station.
From there it was 6 rolling miles to the finish. A runner I'd run with at Sun Mountain was there and we headed out together. We kept each other going through the last miles when we both just really wanted to be done. We jogged rather than walked, which I'm sure I would have been doing if I'd been alone.
Then finally...the finish chute!
I arrived tired, but more from the all day mental battle than from physical exhaustion. In fact, my body felt as good physically as it has this entire year. There was no pain, aside from foot pain from bad shoes. 50 milers are beginning to feel physically less demanding and more manageable. I've been consistently in the 10 hour range all year. I feel that this bodes well for Cascade Crest.
10:39...and a Western States qualifying time!