A Whole Lifetime of Experiences in 50 Miles

The 2015 White River 50 is my best performance in an Ultra to date. Consider the previous 4:

  1. 2013 White River 50 – Loved it! But didn’t push my limits much. Finished in  9:26:46 (50th)
  2. 2014 Scout Mountain Ultra Trail 100k – Pushed hard – but completely blew up and felt miserable afterwards. 12:35 (11th)
  3. 2015 Chuckanut 50k – Blew up. Cramp Attack. Pain. 4:45 (36th)

This one I definitely hit some walls and had a semi blow up – but I worked hard and I finished within 2 minutes of my goal with a 8:31:26 – nearly an hour off my 2013 time and good for 23rd place. It was a day full of drama and I was reminded of the vast range of experiences you have on a 50 mile run through the mountains. The highs, the lows, the euphoria, the despair, pain, more pain, really painful stung by a wasp while suffering through cramps pain, giddiness, joy and elation. It’s a long enough race that even if you hit rock bottom there is still time to pull things back together. It’s really a whole lifetime of experiences in 50 miles. Here’s a brief play by play for each of the major race sections:

Pre Race

I forgot that I had purchased a ticket to the pasta dinner so I regretted eating McDonalds on the way up. I suppose if there is ever a time to eat two dinners in one night it’s before a 50 mile race. Ride up was fine and I was able to see a few of the SRC Brooks folks at the course briefing. Stayed at Buck Creek and just found a spot to pitch the tent in the woods. Although I think I may have slept better in the car and it would have been less cleanup.

Had a nice morning. Only real issue was realizing that I had left my Garmin watch on all night so it’s battery was down to 35% arrggggghhh. My need for data was going to be frustrated today. It was probably good for me.

Start to Camp Sheppard (Mile 3.9)

Went out a bit fast on purpose since I didn’t want to get stuck in the massive conga line around Buck Creek. It’s hard to pass a lot of folks on the trail and I’d much rather get passed a little later then get stuck behind a bunch of folks. Arthur from the SRC Brooks team was with me at the start which was good since I know we are in the same order of magnitude of runner for a distance like 50 miles. He runs crazy distances that I only dream about though so if I was smart I would stick with him for a while. Foolishly I passed him to chase a few other folks since I was feeling good. A decision that I would regret later.

Camp Sheppard to Ranger Creek (Mile 11.7)

Some serious climbing on this section. I was feeling great – climbing hard but feeling like I was running my own race. Joe from SRC caught and passed me but I knew he was in better shape than me so I didn’t chase him. It was wet and cold and I realized that I had neglected any anti-chafing measures so I felt a bit of dread at what that would lead to.

Ranger Creek to Corral Pass (Mile 16.9)

Approaching Corral Pass

Approaching Corral Pass usually there is a spectacular view of Mount Rainier here

Continued powering up the first mountain in the race. Got passed by one guy who had Colorado socks. It was misty so all the classic views were obstructed. I had written my pace targets on my arm and I was about on schedule. Saw Eric at the Aid Station and was joking around and feeling great. Got some good food and headed back out.

Corral Pass to Ranger Creek (Mile 22.1)

Cruisin! After the long climb the downhill is a lot of fun. I was a bit bummed by the view of the Cascades being obstructed. I had a lot of fun talking to folks coming the opposite direction on this out and back section of the trail. It was cool and I was moving at a good clip and maybe showing off just a little. Passed a guy right at Ranger Creek.

Ranger Creek to Buck Creek (Mile 27.2)

This was where the euphoria kicked in. I really love running downhill single track and I was eating up the miles. I caught up to Mr. Colorado socks and another guy as we got close to Buck Creek. I was in the top 15 and feeling strong. I had crazy ideas that I was going to kill it on the second half and leave all these guys behind. I knew the race didn’t really start until after Buck Creek with the huge climb up Sun Top but I really felt that I was in great shape to climb sun top hard. I was really pounding it down the switchbacks loving the feel of the trail under my feel and the cool misty air. About mile 26.2 however I had a inkling of pain on my chest and noticed a bit of blood on my shirt. Not to worry though I thought I feel great. I’ll just take my shirt off! When I got to Buck Creek I threw my singlet into my drop bag and briefly looked for some band aids but didn’t find any so I decided to just roll with it and run the last half shirtless. We don’t always make good decisions in the midst of the stress of a race. This one would also come back to haunt me.

Buck Creek to Fawn Ridge (Mile 31.7)

Hardest 4.3 miles of the day hands down. I’ve never gone from feeling so great to so terrible so quickly. I took a quick pit stop just out of the aid station and got passed by the two folks I had passed on the way down from Ranger Creek and another guy and I thought to myself – no big deal I’ll just catch up real quick – until I tried to and nothing seemed to be working right all the sudden. My legs felt a bit like jelly and I didn’t seem to have any energy. After about a mile I started to feel extremely chilled due to my lack of a shirt and not being able to keep a good pace. I think the combination of coming down the mountain too fast, trying to digest a lot of food from the aid station, and the chill of leaving my shirt behind all caught up to me at once. I was crushed, bonked, chilled, tingling, massaging my simultaneously  numb yet cramping quads just to put 1 foot in front of another. I was drifting into the half hour mile split zone when my Garmin crapped out. A few people passed me but i didn’t care. I seriously thought about dropping because I was so cold. I’ve never been happier to see an aid station.

Fawn Ridge to Sun Top (Mile 37)

Topping Out on Sun Top

Topping Out on Sun Top

The Fawn Ridge aid station crew saved my day. They filled me up with some good food. They talked me through what I was feeling like good therapists. They identified that I needed some help and one of the works Cindy offered me her shirt (it was the race shirt). Thanks to some strategically placed duck tape and the shirt I was starting to have some hope. Arthur caught up to me at this point and that gave me someone to chase which was also helpful. He too was struggling though not quite as bad as I was at that point.

I headed out still in a rough spot but much better than I had been five minutes previously. Arthur and I leap frogged each other for a while on this part of the course. I got passed the the leading woman in the race. I got stung by a ground wasp on my head. Arthur passed me on the final climb to the aid station. All this helped to bring me back into focus. Making it to Sun Top is a huge mental boost since it means both of the mountains have been scaled and it’s mostly down hill from there.

Sun Top to Skookum Flats (Mile 43.4)

Revving up for Sun Top Descent

Revving up for Sun Top Descent

Had some fun at the aid station asking how all the SRC folks were doing and filling up on food. They did there job of telling me how great I looked despite the evidence to the contrary. They did help me believe I would make it. I was really worried about the fast 10k road downhill for this stage due to the cramping I had experienced on the way up. With a quick nod to premier race photographer Glenn Tachiyama I took off down the mountain. Thanks for all the photos Glenn!

I actually held up really well on the downhill. I don’t have any split times but I ran it hard and didn’t blow up. I actually passed Arthur again and felt really good as I pulled into the final aid station. I was really happy all things considered.

Skookum Flats to Buck Creek (Mile 50)TakeoSnookum1

Another huge test for my cramping legs – a rolling technical 10k. I pulled into the aid station and asked what time it was. It was about 1:40 so I had about 55 minutes to make my 8:30 time goal. It might actually make it. I had arrived with another runner so I thought I would shadow him for the last leg and try to use him to pace me through to the finish. Unfortunately he was not doing well after the rip down Sun Top and it was soon clear that if I stayed with him I had no shot at 8:30 so I struck out on my own.

After about three miles guess who passed me? That’s right Arthur again. I rubber banded off him and the third place girl for the next few miles. I really felt like the race should finish soon but I had no idea how much there was left. The pulled away from me but I kept them in sight and they were just the pacers I needed for the last mile. The woman took a pit stop in the last mile and started up again right behind me in the last quarter mile so I tried to chase Arthur down at the finish to stay in front of her. I could not catch Arthur and finished 16 seconds behind him.


Final sprint to the finish

Final sprint to the finish

Finishing Jordan style

Finishing Jordan style

I was very happy at the finish. Despite the earlier struggles I had the euphoria of finishing the race and sharing the finish line with my fellow masochists. It was a great finish line atmosphere. I got a big hug from Eric and some delicious BBQ. At the finish line it was all worth it. Could I have taken 15 minutes off my time if I would have made some better decisions? I’m sure I could have. But I put together a race I was proud of and came within 2 minutes of my goal so I’m declaring victory. I love this course and this part of the world. It’s where I belong.

Finish line hug from the co RD Eric

Finish line hug from the co RD Eric

Gear Used

The uniform! Brooks singlet and shorts (with a race shirt addition at the last minute – thanks again Cindy!) Brooks Pure Grit 3 are hands down my favorite shoes. Can’t recommend them enough. As with a lot of runners I’ve spoken to I’m a bit nervous to try the recently released Pure Grit 4.


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