It’s an important question. Why do we run? It’s not often that we’re able to capture the emotions and feelings that truly answer that question, which is why we wanted to share a race report with you that does just that. One of Matt’s runners, Daisy, ran her first 50 mile race this year at American River, following it up with another 50 miler this past July, White River, and is running her first 100 mile race this September. She wrote up a race report for friends and family for White River and we were so inspired by it that we wanted to share it with you. It embodies all the reasons we run – for the people, the outdoors, the feelings of accomplishment, the camaraderie, the ability to run through 50 miles despite a near broken elbow and a lost pair of sunglasses, and the desire to tell all about it afterwards.
Thank you Daisy for sharing your experience with us and for reminding us of all the reasons why we run.
Hey everyone. Most of you know I love to trail run in the mountains. This year has been my best so far, as I’ve managed to hit new mileage goals and just finished my second 50 mile race of 2016. In September I will be running my first 100 miler in Oregon in the Mt. Hood National Forest and PCT.
On Saturday, July 30th I ran the White River 50 Mile Trail Race. It takes place near Crystal Mountain off highway 410. It was a near perfect day. The sun was out, the weather just right and I had lots of friends running, including my friend Kristy who was attempting her first 50 mile effort.
The start was at 6am. As you can see I had a lucky charm along for the ride. That’s Ganesh, loaned to me by a dear friend for safe travels. Look how clean I am!
The race includes two big climbs for a total of 10,000 feet. Yeah, just two. One goes up to Corral Pass and the other Sun Top. Both offer amazing vantage points to take in the splendor of our local volcano, Mt. Rainier. She was a real show off too. I had been unusually nervous leading up to race day. Mostly because this race is the quintessential PNW ultra and in my mind I needed to complete it in order to call myself an “ultra” runner.
There were about 400 of us heading into the forest when the countdown ended. I always start off nice and steady to find a groove early on and keep my head clear. I chatted with a few buddies as we assumed our positions in line once we hit the first portion of single track towards Camp Shepard. My nerves had calmed by then, the smells and sounds of trees and pine needles under my feet has a way of doing that. It was eleven miles to the first water station, and about 3000 feet of climbing through switchbacks, log stairs and rocky, technical trail. I’m a good climber. I have a way of just putting my head down and mountain goating up the steep stuff. The smaller inclines I run slowly up and any flat or downward portions I also run to save time. I had a nasty fall coming through the Noble Nob section on a short downhill. I caught a toe and down I went sliding forward on my chest and slamming my elbow hard into some rocks. My friend Dana helped me up, I brushed off and got back to running. My right elbow started to have sharp, shooting pain into my lower arm and tricep. I gave it a look and the tip was swelling up like a punched nose, bloodied and scraped. *as a side note, I’ve broken it once before, so I was convinced this was the case again. I could still swing my arm and my legs were feeling strong and ready to fight for the climb up to the pass. We reached Ranger Creek, I topped off my water and kept climbing. The sun was peeking through the trees and once we hit ridge line we were perched above the clouds with Rainier rising up across the valley. I felt so small and insignificant. This just made me more determined to put it all out there to finish this incredible race. As we approached the final climb to the first Pass the lead pack of runners were starting to head down, flying past us with a focus that inspired me to turn up the volume. Some of these athletes are my friends and teammates. I know firsthand how hard they train and the sacrifices they make to run at this level. Getting high fives, and hearing “good work Daisy,” from them filled my heart with pride. I hit the aid station at Corral Pass, a volunteer handed me my drop bag and another one took off my pack to refill my fuel supply. I asked medical to take a look at my arm. The EMT shook his head and asked if I wanted ibuprofen. I declined, as the pain had subsided to a dull throb due to endorphins and my ability to focus elsewhere. I had bigger things to worry about!
Mile 17 and I was feeling great. I was right on schedule keeping a steady, comfortable pace. Legs felt good, I was eating and hydrating as I had in training. Mentally I felt strong and as we headed back down I started to pass people who had climbed up too fast and we’re now paying the price with stunned quads and sour stomachs. The Ranger Creek portion approached and I had to start doing damage control. My arm was heavy and achy, my legs were dying to run the five mile section back to Buck Creek, which is a twisty, technical array of switchbacks, creeks and awesome single track. The type of trail I like to sail down, but knew I couldn’t. I still had 30 miles to go and another massive climb. Saving my legs for that was priority number one. I headed down focused on keeping a measured pace and trying to keep upright (by this portion I had fallen two more times). I was covered in dirt, sweat and smiling big. I passed more folks. And several asked me, “how much longer until Buck?” “Just keep moving,” I said. I hit a soft section with a steep drop to the left. I make it a habit to look ahead about 10-15 feet so I know where to place my feet as I’m running. My pace was brisk, breathing steady. I had just eaten two large chunks of candied ginger to prevent nausea. Next thing I know I’m sailing forward towards the ground and my right knee and elbow (again!!) hit the ground. Fortunately, the trail was soft. But my shorts filled with pine needles and my beloved sunglasses went flying off my head and tumbled down a steep, heavily wooded embankment. I stood up and saw them about 100 or so feet below and thought about going down to get them. “Nah!” I’ve got to keep moving!
I approached Buck Creek to the sounds of cheers and cowbells. “Bib 115, still smiling.” The crew said. I saw my friend Jami and two of my teammates approached without a word and started grabbing my vest and gear to resupply my food. I ate a banana and asked volunteers to give me peanut butter. I told Dave, “I think my elbow is broken.” I could move it despite the swelling, but I knew at some point it was going to feel worse. This is the mental game you play doing endurance events. Your mind is always shifting gears, problem solving, assessing situations, and trying to stay on point to get the job done. My career as an ICU nurse has prepared me well!
I headed out of Buck Creek at mile 27 with the plan of going up Sun Top as quickly as I could. It’s all climb, but much to my surprise there were some flats and downs near the summit that not only felt good, but cleared my mind of all the dark thoughts churning through my head after I left the 50k aid station at Fawn Ridge. Or maybe it was the cold Coke I chugged and the hydration bladder filled with ice. When you approach Sun Top there are two things pumping you up. 1) there is a lot of downhill coming up! And 2) the half mile trail from the access road to the lookout and aid station is a steep mother. It takes literally every ounce of fight in you to keep your quads moving.
And when you reach that top ^ this is how you feel. I was completely overwhelmed with pride at the work I had accomplished at this point, but the work was about to get harder. Twelve or so miles to go! I was smiling, chatting with friends who assisted at the aid station. “Time to go,” my friend Alison reminded me. All refueled I headed down towards Skookum on 6+ miles of nothing but downhill hard pack dirt and gravel road. My legs still had energy, my quads had quit screaming and before I knew it the first two miles ticked by and I was going too fast. If I kept up my 8:45/mile pace I wasn’t going to have any legs left for the 6 mile technical finish. I stood up and relaxed my shoulders, focused on my breathing, sipped cold water and ate two gels. As I rounded a corner I could see two of my friends, Dana and Kristy ahead at a walk. I squealed at them as I approached. Our reunion was met with hugs, tears and relief. I kept up my jog and said, “come on, we need to be running. It’s going to hurt whether you walk or run!” We stayed together until reaching the final aid station at the entrance to Skookum Flats. I immediately saw Ken running up towards me shouting, “what do you need?” “Watermelon!” It was all I wanted. Thankfully, all of the stations have ample fruit, but nothing tastes or hydrates me better than watermelon. Now keep in mind that this was the first time I’d seen Ken all day. I had been thinking about him constantly. Words cannot describe the immense love and adoration that washed over me to see him trotting up that road in his Chaco sandals still dusty from his mountain bike ride over at Crystal Mountain earlier in the day. This man puts up with so much of my ultra running obsessive crap. He never complains about the dozens of pairs of running shoes everywhere, never bats an eye at my 4am runs, he supports me no matter what. He’s gotten me to many starts and cheers my finishes. He lets me get angry and cry when I fail, and never lets me forget that this is just part of the sport. He teaches me to dig deep and fight. He reminded me not to linger too long. Kristy was having a hard time. This was her first 50 miler, and she was suffering a bit. I was determined to head her out through Skookum, because the trail from now on to the finish was twisty, technical and exhausting. Dana and I sandwiched Kristy and off we went for the longest 6 miles I’ve ever run. We were reduced to a granny jog. It wasn’t until we saw the wooden bridges that signaled me we were close that I picked up my spirit and heavy legs. Kristy had managed to channel her suffering and went ahead of us. I was so proud of her. Dana and I kept running as we reached the road. Only a quarter of a mile to go! We sped up and passed several runners in their zombie-like shuffles. We laughed at how incredibly painful our bodies felt. People along the road were cheering and encouraging us. I could see the finish and before I knew it Ken came into focus, familiar voices were yelling my name and I ran across the finish line with Dana.
A big hug from Eric, one of the race organizers.
My love Ken! I couldn’t do this without him. Thanks babe! Poor Ganesh was pooped.
If you want to read more about the White River 50 race specific information, check out Daisy’s other race report on Urbanski Coaching.