My White River 50 race results made perfect logical sense to me, but I still felt like crying as I neared the road at Buck Creek near the finish line. I mustered a smile, I kept running, felt the emotions swell up again, and kept pushing toward the line for a fourth place showing in 7:15.58.
The results of the race made complete sense to me because I’ve long believed that I could and should be competitive at ultra events. Based on my running background, my marathoning capabilities, and my experience on trails, I truly believed I should be racing near the front of ultra trail races, but it’s taken a long time to actually get to where I thought I should be.
The race unfolded much as I had anticipated. I ran easily out front on the flat gravel road before hitting the trail. I figured I’d be slower on the first climb, and that was the case as I watched the front four run away. This was OK though because my plan was to be steady and conservative all day. I felt like I could run the majority of the course and if I did that, I should finish with a solid time. So I ran with a quick turnover as I pranced my way up the mountain. After the stairs I moved into fifth, which is where I’d stay for the next forty miles.
I say it was a conservative effort not because I was taking it easy, but because I did my best to not take too many risks with pushing myself exceptionally hard at any given moment. I was always working, I think I only walked about twenty steps the entire race, but whenever I felt like I was pushing outside of what felt like a safe range, I would back it off and slow down. I moved steadily up each hill, ran fast downhill without ever hammering it, and I kept a steady pace on the Skookum Flats trail. I ate 22 Powergels and drank at least five liters of water, keeping myself physically focused throughout. Nowhere did I totally nail it, but my steady effort paid off and I finished feeling strong and mentally put together.
I finished the race with a mix of emotions, some relief for sure, a little pride, and some real joy, maybe even love. I picked up an mp3 player at the mile 27 aid station (my crew of Julie, Anna, and Kristin were fantastic and had everything ready for me) and I listened to music for the final 23 miles. As I was nearing the road at the end of the Skookum Flats trail, I spotted a fence that I knew was only two or three minutes from the road to the finish. At that moment I was listening to a song that Julie and I often sing together, and which actually brought her to tears back when we were hiking the CDT last summer. Emotions rushed in on me and I surprisingly was overcome by the urge to cry. It felt good though. I was really happy at that moment, I was really happy to be running, I was really happy to have a wonderful wife, I was really happy to be alive.
So much is often said to romanticize running, and normally I don’t think much that way about running. Day in and day out I get out there to get my training in because running is a big part of my life. However, this past weekend, as I finally finished a mountain ultra more in line with my potential for the first time, I thankfully was swept up by the romantic, emotional experience that running has to offer. I trained well, my crew and I planned the logistics of the race well, and as it all came together on a beautiful day in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, I felt something, I experienced something that will likely stay with me for years to come, and that something is really valuable in my little life.
For additional stories about the race, our friend Tim Mathis has a good write up about the race on his blog: White River 50 Report.
For those interested in the more technical side of my race prep, here is a link to my Training Log.
I plan on writing a little more about my hydration/fueling strategy as well as the shoes I wore (Hokas) in a future post.
Thanks to my crew, my running friends, and 7 Hills Running Shop for all the support. It’s good to be racing.