Posted by: pointlenana | July 26, 2012

White River 50 – Into the unknown

On Saturday I run my first ultra – the White River 50 down near Mt. Rainier.  The good news is that there are only 2 hills, and the bad news is that’s the joke experienced WR50 runners tell.  There are in fact two hills – one goes up about 3800 feet, the other a little less, and with ups and downs along the way the total elevation gain is about 8700 feet over the course.  Start and finish are in the same place so that means there’s also 8700 toe-crushing downhill feet.  In comparison, the Boston Marathon has about 700 feet of up and 1100 feet of downhill.  Mostly I’m confident and looking forward to it but at times I am barely this side of an all-out panic.

When I signed up I naively looked at it as a very long marathon.  I’m one of those people who reads the instructions when they are doing something new (maybe the only person who does that) and the more I read about ultras, the more there is to get anxious about.  For a while it was the hills.  You generally don’t run up the hills in these ultras – you powerwalk them.  So I had to practice that in my long runs, except it was kind of boring so I didn’t practice it much.  Then it was the drop bag question.  I can send stuff ahead to the ~9 aid stations along the course, in case I want to change my shirt along the way or recoat myself with BodyGlide.  Since the course is two big loops and we pass near the start halfway through, I’ve decided to forego drop bags and just dive into my travel bag halfway if I really need to.  At some point there was the hydration/food question – one handheld water bottle, two handheld water bottles, a fanny pack + bottle, a hydration backpack, some combo.  I decided to go with one water bottle since aid stations are about every 5-6 miles except between the first and second aid stations where it’s 8 miles and huge amount of uphill.  My plan for getting through those two hours is to hydrate well before the race, pour water in at the first aid station, and make the lone bottle last for up to two hours.  Mostly I’m trying to take a minimalist approach to this event – a water bottle, me, 50 miles in the mountains (plus a lot of support from course organizers and volunteers).

This week’s panic is about blisters.  I got a highly recommended book – Fixing Your Feet – and have been flipping through that.  I’ve never had real blister problems in my marathons, and figured that I could probably limp my way through any blisters in the last few miles.  Bad idea to read that book.  The book says that blisters are unpredictable – people don’t have any problems for a while and then suddenly do.  It also has a story about some blister-free person who did a 50 mile run, got hot spots after 20 miles, blisters by 30, and had to drop out of the race at 42.  I didn’t like that story very much.  So now the pouch in my water bottle has some blister patches that hopefully will come home unused.  There is medical assistance at most of the aid stations but if you have a problem 2 miles into an 8 mile segment between stations, things can get pretty bad before you can get help.

The other big unknown is how long it will take.  In my most confident and delusional moments, I think 9 hours is best case.  My friend Jeff who talked me into this – who has broken 3 hours in a marathon – ran half the course in 4 1/2 hours recently so I’d say delusional is the right word to describe 9 hours for me.  If I had to bet I’m guessing it will take 10 to 11 hours.  If I have a bad day, e.g. blisters or falls or the climbing is even harder than expected, it could be 12.  The limit is 13 hours.  Janet wants to come see me finish but she might be waiting from 3:30 to 7:30.   I’ve done a decent job guesstimating finish times for other runs and bike rides, and having 4 hour window for this event is little weird and very daunting.

Before my first couple marathons and long bike rides I could barely sleep.  Now I always sleep before those.  I have a feeling though that I won’t get much sleep Friday night.

Wow, cool!  “Back by popular demand” the WR50 is letting people pick their bib numbers (choices are 1 to 360 – about that many people signed up).  Jeff clearly had the same idea I did and got one of the numbers I meant to ask for – 50.  I forgot to ask earlier today when they said we needed to send our requests, but I sent mine after the deadline and it looks like I got another, similar one – 150 (first 50).  It took them about 2 minutes to take care of my (late) request.  The scale of this event is apparently a bit different and more personal than the Boston Marathon.  Although I’m a little worried about how I’ll feel Saturday evening, I think this will be fun.


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