On July 9th I found myself staring at my computer screen thinking,
“What on Earth did I just do.”
Ultrasignup had just informed me that I was officially registered for the White River 50 on July 25th.
After my unlucky and mentally taxing races this spring into early summer, I had told myself I wouldn’t race until I was ready. That didn’t last very long..
But I had such an amazing running week and weekend, so obviously my next free minute was consumed by looking for races near my future-home. What better way to welcome myself to the Pacific Northwest than to run a beautiful race and meet other crazy trail runners?
I pushed the nervousness behind me as I road-tripped for the next week and had the most eye-opening running stretch I have ever had. I started off running around Colorado’s Indian Peak Wilderness and Continental Divide with some of my best friends and then set out towards San Francisco, where I explored the beachy trails for a couple of days.
The weekend before the race, I was running on top of a volcano in Lassen National Park. My life was unreal. Running was such an adventure, and I loved it.
I had no expectations going into the race. That was a big change of mentality from the previous races I had recently run. Instead of thinking of the race as something I had to compete at, I was gabbing with all of the other runners, thinking only of the adventure I was to set out on over the course of the next morning.
It was in the 50s and raining, and would continue throughout the day. For some reason this made me more happy than not, it had been a scorcher back in Portland, and the coolness was refreshing. After my mandatory cup o’ joe, lacing up my rather new Helios SR, (my favorite shoe, ever) and hurriedly throwing my jacket to Dave Horton, the race started, and I found myself grinning ear to ear and trotting along at a very enjoyable pace.
For those of you who don’t know the White River 50 course; it consists of two reallllyyy long climbs, and two reallllly long descents. And it also consists of some angry bees.
After maybe 2 miles, us middle pack folk running in a group, got stung by a string of disturbed bees.
I exclaimed, “Ooouuuch! If that doesn’t put hair on your chest!” (At this point no one was awake enough to laugh at my joke). So silently on we went.
My goal for the first climb was to make myself eat and run rather conservatively so I could actually run the second climb. I ran the first climb with a super cool woman I had met the night before named Trisha Steidle and we settled into a very good chug up the climb.
Towards the top I scooted around her with another guy who was part of our pain train, and kept on running at a nice consistent pace.
We got towards the top and I saw Ulie (Trisha’s husband, whom I also had the pleasure of meeting the night before) and he informed me that I was only 4 minutes behind the leader and about 2 minutes behind the 2nd and 3rd place girls. Although I was a little shocked, I hadn’t thought I was running too hard, I still didn’t make it my goal to catch them.
I got to the aid station at the top and was informed that they were all within a couple of minutes. I felt great, grabbed some gels, and bounded outta there.
As the trail leveled out and was more runnable with rolling hills I found my stride and caught the 3rd place lady, Alicia, and ran with her for a little until we caught the 2nd place girl. We ran in a little pack for a good 4-5 miles, which was awesome. I never ran with fellow ladies in a race before, the conversation was awesome and the reaction from the runners we were passing on the out-n-back was equally as cool.
“You go girls, go catch her!”
The next 7 miles were all a curvy, low-grade downhill, so it was time to fly. We took it rather easy, and finally I broke ahead a little bit and ran into the first place girl, who was also named Alicia, and who also resembled the other Alicia a little bit. Weird.. we'll blame the the sugar depleted mind.
We all ran into the aid station before the next climb together. I ran in and was informed that I had blood all the way down my leg, I looked down and was shocked. “I barely fell!”
But “barely falling” in my book is in fact still falling. I told them to ignore it, it would be fine, and then I told Eric (one of the RDs) that I actually wanted another climb. I felt great.
I popped half of my Bobo's oat bar (these things rule) into my mouth, and ran out of that aid station pretty fast along a flat windy single track to the base of the next climb, and when I looked back, I was shocked to see no one at all. I decided to not let myself hike the first 2 miles of the climb, so I set out at a slow jog and made it to the next aid station pretty quickly. I picked up a fellow 23- year old at the aid station and we ran together for the next 5 miles to the top of the mountain! We pushed each other along at a respectable, but definitely not blazing fast pace, and soon we saw a sign for a half-mile to the top.
I got to the top, was told I was in first, grabbed a couple gels, and set out on the road at about a 6:40/mile pace. This road reminded me of my first 50 at the Tussey MountainBack because you could just let loose and run fast. About half way down, the infamous Dave Horton passed me in his car.
“You look strong, girl!”
He is an awesome guy, and always managed to put a dorky smile on my face whenever I saw him during the race. He caught back up with me on his way down, and told me I had a substantial lead. He then continued to try and take my photo and chat the next couple of minutes. The one thing he said that stood out the most was,
“Are you having fun on this downhill, girl?”
I nodded and laughed. I was. A lot of fun. It was incredible.
I kept running at a pretty quick clip until the end of the descent, where I caught an 18-year-old guy running his first ultra! He was killing it!
We ran together for a little until the aid station, where he zoomed through and I stopped to grab some water and gels. With around 6 miles left, I thought it would be pretty runnable and I could sneak in close to sub 8 hours (I had 41 minutes). However, the first mile of the final stretch made me realize that I had no chance to reach sub 8 hours, so I should just enjoy it.
That section was beautiful. Everything was covered in lichens and moss, resulting in a beautiful, vibrantly green, rain-forest-like section. We all know looks can be deceiving, as this was also the hardest part of the race. It consists of a super windy single track with tiny climbs and descents that don’t let your rather trashed legs get into any sort of rhythm. Aesthetically pleasing, sure, but man that hurt like hell.
But everything comes to an end, and after another somersault-fall in the dirt, I soon found myself running down the final tiny stretch of road towards the finish line.
With a grin on my face, and “Don’t you dare fall in front of all of these people,” running through my mind, I crossed the finish line in 8:20. I immediately received hugs from the RD’s and Dave Horton, and never felt more at home.
My bunkmate had rallied and finished second about 6 minutes after me! And my fellow La Sportiva Teammate, Nicola Gildersleeve finished in third!
After some goofy photos, I decided to tend to my rock, dirt, and tree filled knee wound.
As I stumbled towards the health tent, Kurt, the Scott rep, said, “You were so fun to watch, you were such a ball of joy entering the aid stations, with a smile across your entire face.” I immediately stopped and looked at him with a stupid grin across my face and thanked him immensely.
That is exactly who I want to be.
It was then that I realized that I was happy the ENTIRE race. I loved all of the people I met and the runners that joined me for part of the journey. It was such an adventure, and by keeping my mind free and clear, I had ran my way to a victory. Losing your mind to the trail and just moving through the wilderness is almost primitive, yet exhilarating.
Although a lot of runners say you learn the most from races that go horribly. I think you can also learn from those that go well. You not only get to see your potential and strengths, but how far you have come from your last race. I want to continue to improve my ability to run happy, and be that girl with the obnoxious grin on her face while running into an aid station oblivious to the gnarly battle wound on her knee.
I cannot thank John Wallace, Scott McCubrey, Eric Sach, Dave Horton, and all of the other wonderful people that helped put on the White River 50. It was an amazing course with extremely well staffed and organized aid stations. The White River 50 was the best welcome to the North West that I could have asked for. Needless to say, I look forward to racing up in Washington again.
And I can never thank La Sportiva enough for the amazing product and continued support!
Food/calories consumed: (this is always fun)