Sunday, August 1, 2010

Being Realistic at White River

This weekend the 50 mile National Trail Championships were held at White River in the shadows of Mt. Rainier. There are only two climbs on this course, but they are 11 miles and 8 miles long, each followed by jarring downhill sections of similar length. After the 3.7 mile gentle start to the first aid station, the only other flat section is the final 6.2 miles on the rolling Skookum Flats trail, which comes at a time when you are too tired to really appreciate it. This made for an incredibly challenging course, but the beauty was stunning. There were great views of Mt. Rainier looming above, dense coniferous forests, and nearly 20 different kinds of wildflowers in bloom, all on a perfect 75 degree sunny day.

White River has been on my radar all year, but I didn't sign up until the last minute. I have been feeling so blah and tired since Western States, that it just didn't seem like a good idea to run another major race so soon. But somehow over the course of two weeks, my mind transformed this bad idea into a good idea and so I signed up. I knew I wouldn't be at my best, but I knew the course would be beautiful, I thought it might bolster my waning motivation, and I knew it would probably be the only major run between Western States and Angeles Crest. But in the days leading up to the race, I was still kind of dreading my decision - 50 miles is a LONG way to run when you are already tired! In fact, I was really looking forward to the trip more than the actual race, as I was carpooling up with Amy Sproston and Yassine Diboun, two awesome runners I was excited to get to know better.

Before the day started I told a few people that I would like to be around 8:30 on this course, but 9 hours was probably more realistic in my current state. Reality slapped me in the face as I finished in 9:00:47!

I had a few estimated splits in my head for 8:30 pace, but from the get go, I wasn't hitting them. Nothing ever went terribly wrong on the day, in fact, a lot went really well: my food and fluid intake was really good, I stayed pretty consistent, I only took six S!-caps (heat training kicking in!) and I moved up as the day went on. In fact, I started in 55th/7thF and moved up to 35th/5thF by the finish.

There was only one minor disaster and it didn't cost me too much time: With about three miles to go, I caught a toe on the very technical Skookum trail and I came down flat on my chest, knocking the wind out of me completely. Isn't a reflex to put your hands in front of you when you fall?? Was I really so tired that I couldn't even move my arms into a position to protect myself? Well, hey, at least I didn't break a nail. I came up moaning with every breath and had to walk for a bit (at least enough to add 48 seconds to my time, I am sure ;) ). As an added bonus, a mountain biker saw the whole thing and made a point of telling me how bad the fall looked. What a helpful guy!

Even with the fall, there still wasn't one thing or one section that went particularly wrong. I was just running about 3 minutes per section slower than I had hoped and those minutes add up after 50 miles!

Though my time wasn't as good as I would have liked, I still am really glad I went. It was easily the most beautiful course I have been on. I had a great time catching up with old friends and making new ones, and after two years of ultra-running I finally crossed paths with my college classmate, Greg Crowther. But what helped me the most was talking to people about recovering from a 100 miler. It was nice to hear that it was normal to still be tired and flat five weeks after putting yourself through the ringer! Even Meghan and Anton admitted that they had a hard time recovering after their first 100 and that the recovery has gotten faster with experience. Sometimes you know those things deep down, but still need the reassurance anyway.

Top 10 women (photo courtesy of the random guy I forced to take pictures of me)

Williams '95ers bring home hardware (even better, Greg got cash for his sub-7 hour third place finish). Go Ephs!

My awesome carpool: Amy (2nd), Yassine (5th) and me (5th)


Ronda said...

Nice run Pam. Congratulations on your 5th place. You will certainly gain recovery speed with every one of these big runs. Recover well from WR and cook it at of my favorite runs.

amy said...

I'm so glad you decided to jump into the race and our carpool at the last minute. Can't wait to do some training runs in the fall. Good luck with the rest of your AC training. No better way to jump back into it than with a beautiful hilly 50 miler! It's almost time to taper again!

crowther said...

It was great to see you again at last! That accounts for at least 20% of my smile, with another 30% attributable to the $300 and 50% due to breaking 7 hours.... Has it really been 15 years since we saw each other? Good grief!

Pam said...

Amy, I think I have pretty much been tapering ever since WS!

Greg-Great to finally see you again, too. We did get a brief glimpse of each other at PDX 26.2 in '08, but otherwise, yeah, it's been 15 years. BTW, you just made me feel really old!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for chatting w/ us @ dinner. It's always good to talk and remember ~ there's always room for improvement ;-) Excited for you at AC ~ but will miss you at Waldo!

Kannan said...

Good post.