Thursday, August 5, 2010

White River 50: Engage

The White River starting line.  I'm just to the right of and behind Yassine, smiling oddly enough.  Race photos and views of Mt. Rainier taken by Glenn Tachiyama; finish line photos are by John Wallace III.
There's a scene from Top Gun after Goose dies when Maverick is back in a plane for the first time and his head isn't in it. "He won't engage," the instructor tells the sergeant guy.  Well, so ultra running isn't exactly like flying fighter planes, but in races I often resist engaging (racing in this case, not shooting at people from a fighter plane).  My head's just not into "racing,"--if there is someone in front of me, I'd rather slow down than speed up.  I had a little mantra on Saturday, and it was, "Engage."  Short for, "Get your head out of your ass and push yourself."  I had been really anxious the entire week leading up to White River, and was really hoping to avoid getting buried by nervous thoughts.  At the end of the day, it's really just an internal battle, so who was there, or where I finished among them really shouldn't matter. That might sound nice, but in reality I wanted to place well.  I had a goal time in mind of something under 8:30.  Not having looked at pace charts from previous years, hitting that goal was kind of just a crap shot.  My estimate was based on where people finished last year, with hopes of finishing second, which was just shy of 8:20 last year.  Regardless of place, I wanted to run a time that would give me some confidence in lining up at future races. 

White River is really just 2 big climbs and 2 big descents, with a several miles of flattish rolling trail thrown in at the beginning and at the end.  The scale of the elevation profile looks a little misleading to me. The climbs feel bigger and longer than they look in the elevation profile, but if you look closely, you'll notice that both climbs go on for about 10 miles.  They were gradual and runnable in parts, but I found myself hiking a fair amount of them, as well.  The downhills were about as steep as they look in the profile--big fun! 
The reward for heading up the first climb: first glimpse of Mt. Rainier. 

The first flat: The first few miles into Camp Sheppard are along the river on a flat to downward-sloping trail.  I started off pretty quickly, and led until after Camp Sheppard, where Meghan and Ashley Arnold floated by me going up hill.  I felt fine on the flats, but once the climb started, the wheels came off quickly. 

The first climb: This was my low point in the race.  I had pissed off my hip flexors in bikram yoga earlier in the week, and they were really feeling grumpy, acting as if they might cramp up and stop working at some point.  I also had long strings of people behind me at various times, and this always causes me stress.  I don't like to set the pace for others, especially if I'm holding them up, so constantly worried about whether I should step off trail or not.  I eventually got to a place where I was running alone with Matt, and he kept me moving until I eventually stepped aside and let him by.  I wouldn't see him again (although I finished ahead of him...funny how that works).  I eventually made it up to the top of the climb, and just as I did, Amber sped by me.  She was flying, and even though I felt like I was moving up on the flats to the turnaround, never had in her sight.  Despite my crappy climb, I made it to the turnaround, ended up back in 3rd as Amber was still in the aid station, and was told I was about 3 minutes back of Meghan and Amber.  Not bad for as crappy as I felt on the climb.

I swear I heard Glenn tell me "Don't smile," so I just look confused.
The first descent:  Oh how I love to run downhill.  I tried to take it conservatively, as I knew there was still a lot of running to be done, but it's hard on switch back-laden trail to contain the fun that is running downhill.  I kept a pretty conservative pace, and was surprised to pass Ashley right at the bottom of the hill.  I moved into second, but saw Ashley and Amber again as I left the Buck Creek aid station, the half-way point, more or less.  I grabbed my iPod at Buck Creek, thinking I might want it for the climb up Sun Top.

The second climb:  My first climb buddy, Matt, had described the second climb as much gentler and runnable.  What?  Maybe in Anton's world.  But in my world, the second climb, especially the first few miles of it, were anything but gradual.  I was running out of water quickly, and my lower and middle back were screaming at me.  I couldn't decide if it was back pain, or kidney pain.  There were all sorts of obstacles on the second climb: my screaming back/kidneys, my empty water bottle, a group of horses, some mountain bikers, and hot exposed sections of climb.  I didn't feel as low as on the first climb, but I was definitely being lazy.  I used the guy in front of me (a friendly British guy from Seattle) to gauge when to run and when to hike.  He had 2 water bottles, which appeared to be over half full, and I kept resisting the urge to ask him to spare some.  I finally worked my way past him and his underutilized water bottles just before the Fawn Ridge aid station, where I downed 4 glasses of water, filled up my water bottle and moved on.  The rest of the climb, more gradual once you pass the aid station, seemed almost a cake walk after some fluids.  The only really interesting thing in this section was a few mountain bikers who whizzed by at breakneck speed.  Luckily I wasn't listening to music, as they blitzed by me flying downhill around sharp turns.   Although the climb seemed endless, I finally passed Glenn, who was snapping pictures right below the aid station.  Woohoo, now for the fun part!

The views on the first climb were amazing, until you got the view from the second climb.
The second descent:  Weeeee!!!!  Now for the fun!  So, at the end of the seemingly endless climb, you pop out at the Sun Top aid station on a gravel road.  Like all of the other aid stations, this one was great, and the volunteers were extremely attentive. They told me I was 5 minutes back of Meghan (which was what I'd been hearing since Buck Creek), so I grabbed what I needed, and started the descent.  I guess I hadn't read the course description very closely because I knew there was a road section on this descent, but didn't realize that the entire descent was on the road.  The signs read something like, "Runners next 6.5 miles on road."  Yippee!  Running down a steep gravel road for 6 miles is fun at first.  I cranked on some music for the first time of the day, and Split Lip once again helped me pick up the pace.  The downhill felt great for a good while, but really did start to suck after about 4 miles.  It was steep, and it just kept going and going.  I didn't see a soul until about 2 miles from the bottom where I passed a guy that was walking.  He must have been in some pain to be walking down this glorious hill.  I glanced at my Garmin occasionally and my pace ranged from 6:10 to 7:10.  A good place to make up some time, after the slow ascent up Sun Top. My quads felt good, although I felt like I was torturing all of my abdominal muscles.  Eventually, all good things must come to an end, and so too, the hill.  As I approached the next aid station I heard someone say that Meghan was 10 minutes up.  Wow, she must have flown down that hill, as I felt like I was cruising, and according to the estimates people offered up to me, she'd gained 5 minutes on me on the way down.

Always glad to see the finish.  And psyched to be under 8:30.
Skokum Flats to the Finish:  I had heard that the last section could kind of drag on.  You've just come off this killer downhill, and then you pop into the woods for 6+ miles of technical trail along the White River, that isn't 100% flat.  It was a nice rolling trail, with plenty of roots, although it was not nearly as technical as I was expecting.  I ran pretty much all of it, although I wasn't pushing too hard, and it seemed to drag on forever.  I made the mistake of asking a few different people how far it was to the gravel road.  I know better than to ask a question to which I already know the answer.  I was wearing a Garmin after all, and I knew when I had left the previous aid station.  The answers were miles off, and the final kid that told me I had "less than a mile" to the gravel road, when in reality it was about 100 feet took the prize for the least accurate answer. OK, so it was true, but there's a big difference between a mile and 100 feet at mile 49.5. Again, don't ask a question you don't want to hear a wrong answer to, and to which you already pretty much know the answer.

David Horton letting me know that I was the 1st Loser. 
I came across in 8:22.03. Meghan finished 11 minutes ahead of me in 8:10.51.  I had no gauge of where I was time-wise all day, so I was pretty psyched to come in well under 8:30 and hold onto 2nd.  Overall, a good day.  The post-race grub was good, and several of us got a nice soak in the White River, which is truly white.  Well, kind of like diluted milk, a result of glacial run-off I was told.  I'd been dreaming of sitting in that river those last 6 miles, and enjoyed the company while soaking.  An added bonus was $600 for finishing second, and a pair of La Sportivas.  I wore the Crosslites during the race and they were awesome, so I'll be ordering another pair.  I've been looking for a favorite trail shoe for a few years, and I think I've finally found one. 

The top 10 women. 

I highly recommend this race:  well-organized, a beautiful and well-marked course, great downhills, amazing views of Mt. Rainier, enthusiastic friendly aid stations volunteers, good post-race BBQ, and a large and talented field.  It was a fun day in the mountains!
Our Team Oregon carpool had an awesome day! Yassine and Pam both finished 5th.


Olga said...

Amy, rockin' awesome! Great run, girl! You think you'll still around the Goats with such results? :)

Chris said...

Wow!! 600 smackers and a pair of shoes, not a bad day's work. Congrats on a fantastic race!

ultrarunnergirl said...

Sounds like you had a good race. Still kicking butt. Glad you seem to be all healed!

Love the new blog design.

Ronda said...

Awesome race Amy! Congratulations on you cash! I love the pictures too...your captions make me laugh.

Yassine said...

You're on a roll Amy!...You rocked out at White River...It was great traveling w/ you times :-) Way to push yourself...that was an epic day all around...see ya soon

Sophie Speidel said...

You did the VHTRC proud, Amy! Way to go! Woo-hoo!

sea legs girl said...

Congrats! That is so awesome! What an amazing time for a route with such elevation change. Gotta admit I'm jealous of the trails and scenery you guys had there. And it does sound like you had a lot of fun. Plus won money. I like how pretty much everyone commented on that. It's pretty rare to win $600 at a race!

jayaresea said...

Great race Amy, and great report! I'm the guy you passed on the 2nd downhill...and yeah, I was in pain :) And I'm a really bad downhill runner to begin with. I definitely looked on in envy as you slowly got smaller. I linked to your site via my race report, hope you don't mind! Good luck in all future races, and I'll keep working on those downs!

Hostpph said...

There are many things that it comes to your mind when you are in the start line. but it is quite complicated. You have a great race. Congratulation.

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