Posted by: pointlenana | August 6, 2017

White River 50 – August 5, 2017

I ran White River for the 5th time yesterday, and this is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve written about it.  So I’ll cut to the chase.

This was a B race for me – mostly train through it on the way to a couple A races this fall, but still try for a good day.  My best time there is 9:27:42 from 2014.  I’m in pretty good shape right now and up until recently thought I might get close to that again.  The weather was supposed to be warm (80s-90s) until a day or two before and then cool, but at the last minute it seemed to change and be warm on race day still.  Also, there are fires burning up in BC and the wind patterns are bringing the smoke down here.  Between the weather, the smoke, and some residual fatigue from a lot of mountain runs recently, I decided I’d be happy with anything under 10 hours but that I’d try to start out on course PR pace and see what happens.  (When has anything bad ever happened from starting too fast?  The worst that could happen is I would fall apart, hate the race, have a tantrum, swear off running forever, and question the choices I’ve made in life.  Could be worse.)  I also wanted to test out a recent theory that you can run flats and uphills at marathon effort in an ultra, because you get to recover on the downhills – or at least I do because I’m not capable of going really fast on anything the least bit technical.


The night before the race.  The moon and the mountains in the distance on the right are hazy due to smoke in the air.

For the first half of the race I was clocking splits that were just a bit slower than my PR day.  In fact, I ran the first ~4 mile leg in about 30 minutes vs. 32 minutes on my PR day.  After that I seemed to lose 1-4 minutes on each of the uphill legs, and pick up a little on the downhills.  I left the aid station at mile 27 at 5:02 elapsed, only a couple minutes past my PR split, mostly because I didn’t have to stop in the portapotty like every other time I’ve run this race.


Looking north from the start at the first climb.  The high point on that ridge in the picture is about 1/3 of the way up the 4000 foot climb.

And from there, my race gradually degraded.  There’s an exposed section on the next leg up to Fawn Ridge but it didn’t seem that hot in the sun around 11:30am.  I still lost ~5 minutes on the way up and had to spend a little time at the aid station drinking ice water.  On the way from Fawn Ridge to Sun Top, the running gods turned on a convection oven and I got really hot.  My stomach started threatening me with mild nausea – “put anything else in here and you’ll regret it”.  At the Sun Top aid station (15 minutes behind “schedule” now) I cooled off again and then headed down the road.  I ran hard down the 3000 foot 6 mile descent and passed a few people, and got myself nice and hot again.  I knew that a 10 hour finish was at risk and I hoped to create a little buffer for my Skookum Flats slog by doing the fast recovery downhill.  When I pulled into the Skookum Flats aid station, Adam Hewey looked at me and asked “a little hot out there maybe?”

The ~6.5 mile Skookum Flats leg lived up (down?) to my expectation – not flat, lots of tripping hazards, and endless.  But there were a couple good things along the way.  For most of the second half of the race, I leapfrogged with a woman who ended up being the masters winner.  I had passed her coming down the road, but she left the last aid station just ahead of me.  I was not motivated but I challenged myself to follow her.  It was a beautiful thing to see – she didn’t look tired, she ran cleanly over the trippy roots, and she didn’t stop to walk at all.  I was able to hang with her for a mile or two and then suddenly my body balked at jumping past roots and rocks.  (I talked to her afterwards and she said the same thing happened to her eventually – she tripped a couple times and then suddenly couldn’t run aggressively anymore.)

After miles of shuffling, trying to convince myself to run the obviously-runnable sections, and moving slowly, I started giving up on a 10 hour finish.  “10:05 is pretty close to 10.  It doesn’t matter anyway.  Who cares about finish time?”  Just then Ben G came up behind me.  I was surprised to pass him early in the day coming down from Corral Pass – he’s faster than me – but we chatted briefly and he told me his stomach had gone off.  When he reappeared behind me in Skookum Flats about 30 miles later, his stomach had returned and he was hating the race and wanted to be done.  I mentioned my dwindling chances at my goal.  He did some quick math, decided 10 hours was still achievable, and basically told me to run with him.  Which I did for maybe 10 minutes until I suddenly felt very gross.  At that point it felt like we were close to the final 1/4 mile dirt road and either I had a couple minutes buffer or I had no chance.  I walked for a minute or so to settle myself and then focused on the now receding BenG in the distance in front of me.  The dirt road appeared a little later, I ran steadily to the finish, and then sat in the medical tent for a bit while they poured ice water on my head and rubbed it to cool me.  Finish time was 9:58:06.  Given the heat, the smoke (stuff is coming out of my lungs this morning) and the dust on the Sun Top road from a few cars (blinding dust clouds whenever they’d pass) I’m pleased with that.  46th out of 210 overall, 6th out of 27 in my age group.  It’s a tough age group, with a really fast guy who just turned 50, another guy my age who pretty much wins the age group in every race, and a former White River winner.


Thanks Ben, for helping me find a little motivation at the end.


  • The best thing about White River is that “everybody” shows up.  I hung around for a while after the race and got to meet some people in person that I know from Facebook, say hi to good friends, talk to acquaintances I see at races, etc..  That was really fun.
  • My friend JeffK had a great day – finishing somewhere around 8:41, 14th overall, and 3rd in his age group.  It’s really cool to see how much he’s improved in the past year or so.  And not to take anything away from Jeff, but that also says good things about his coach Matt U.


    Jeff showing off some of his hardware.  Except for a short while at the beginning of the race, this was the only time we saw Mt. Rainier during the day.  The smoke obscured it after that.

  • I got to meet my online friend Margaret in person at packet pickup.  According to another online friend (that I’ve also met at a race) online friends are one step up from imaginary friends.


    Margaret isn’t so imaginary anymore.

  • As for my marathon effort theory, I think there’s some truth to it.  I definitely felt like I was running too hard in the beginning and reached Corral Pass wondering how badly I’d fall apart.  But even though I did the next descent at a decent pace I felt myself recovering.  The fast start is probably partly responsible for my fade, but I think the smoke and heat account for most of that.
  • I talked a bit with David Horton, an ultra legend.  To pick just a few highlights from a very long list, he was one of the first 100 mile finishers at Barkley and has set speed records on both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.  Before my first-ever ultra (White River 2012) when I was in a portapotty the morning of the race, very nervous and struggling to take care of business, he was outside not helping anything by harassing all of us.  “You are taking too long.  There’s a long line.  The race will start soon.  You have 20 seconds before I come over and start shaking the cans.”  I mentioned that, and 5 years later he’s remorseless about totally freaking out a newbie.


    David Horton and I being photobombed by the woman (Stephanie?) who was working the finish line with David.

  • By far, the best part of yesterday was watching my friend Cassie finish her first ultra on that course and in those conditions.  One of the things I really like about ultra running is that people appreciate the effort everyone puts in.  Yes, we ooh and aah about some of the fast people, but we also know that the people finishing late in the race are out there for a LOT longer than the winners and very likely suffer more.  Kudos to Cassie for getting it done.  (And when Cassie and another woman finished shortly before the 14 hour cutoff, David Horton called over “You ladies cut it pretty close” – she can be proud of being personally harassed by an ultra legend.)


    Cassie, shortly after she finally got to stop running.  Jodee Adams-Moore, who won the race one year, made those finishers medals.  And I have a nice “tan line” where my gaiters stopped and the dirt begins.




  1. I always love your pics, especially since this race is a repeat. The “smoky moon” pic is gorgeous!

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