August 18th, 2011
Holy shit, this is really happening.
It was 5:30 a.m. on July 30 and I was at start line of the White River 50, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most stunning and challenging ultras with 17,400 feet of elevation change. This moment was a year in the making, and I was quaking in my Cascadias.
Holyshitholyshitholyshit. What am I getting into?
I almost entered the 2010 race on a whim, but fortunately a disastrous training run on the course slapped me back to reality: I wasn’t ready… yet. While I could tear up the roads for miles, technical trails left me a quivering mess. So I started hitting the trails to boost my confidence, as well as entered several of the more challenging races. I built up slowly, starting with shorter races that would increase my trail-running skills without completely wiping me out, then moved on to the longer stuff: Chuckanut 50K, Capitol Peak 55K, 55 miles at the Watershed Preserve 12-hour, Beacon Rock 50K (a particularly grueling race put on by Rainshadow Running).
My training was going well, but I made a bonehead move at the end of June: I tried to BQ again at the Seattle Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. My darling and I had decided to skip Boston for 2012, but had a change of heart. Given how quickly it promised to sell out, we knew we’d have limited chances to get our times. We both had great races up until mile 17, but we weren’t able to hold the pace. While pushing my limits at RnR wasn’t necessarily detrimental to my White River goals, running the Ghost of Bellevue — another road marathon — the next day probably wasn’t the smartest move. The roads beat me up, forcing me to take four days off from running.
To my credit, I did get in three training runs on the White River course. However, due to snow we weren’t able to get as far as we hoped. More troubling: based on my paces in each of these runs I was concerned I wouldn’t make the cutoff, even with an hour early start. In mid July I headed down to Death Valley to pace a friend at Badwater; while I didn’t get in as much running as I would have liked, at least I got to spend time at higher elevations and in intense heat (the second half of White River can be brutal due to the sun). By the time I returned from Death Valley I was in taper mode — there was nothing I could do to improve my fitness, but lots I could do to f@#k it up.