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The White River 50

Just ran the White River 50. I love this race. It's my second time doing it. The White River 50 is in my opinion best started at 5.3o in the Am. In this case I am starting it with the predawn cover of West Coast stratus/fog/goop...part of the annual Summer tradition in these parts. I wait to start the run with my new friend Jess of the Mas Loco Tribe. We are both stoked to try out our new Luna Sandals. Barefoot Ted has given them new names but I can't remember what they are... Wierdly it's as if Ted is with us, his Monkey Spirit Alter whispers in our ears... Chill man... Take it easy.... Run like a human... Try out these sweet all natural coco nibs... we deem your new sandals the El means the soul sucking goat ...

I snap back to reality and Scott our race organizer and everyone's friend starts us off. My fiance standing on the side of the runway waves at me and wishes me good luck. I wave goodbye. She crashes back into our tent and sleeps for hours. I and the racers around me take our first steps, the first of tens of thousands of steps. The chirps of GPS watches ring softly in my ears. There are quiet whoops and whistles as if our early start will awaken the superstars still asleep in their tents.

The temperature is in the 50s in the predawn foggy light when I shed my layers at mile 2. I always run hot and I'll not wear a shirt the rest of the race. 3o minutes later or so we come to stairs. The famous stairs. The infamous stairs. I'm not sure why people dislike stairs. I find them more comfortable and efficient than climbing the slopes without them. In my Luna's I'll be burning my calves later anyway.

Sometime after the stairs on our up way through the palisades I give Jess my official forecast. "40 minutes till the sun breaks through," I say. And 40 minutes later beams of morning sun pierce the trees as we straddle the crest miles away still from Corral Pass. Then we climb more and the stratus is beneath us reflecting the sun and looking not gray and gloomy but gleaming and silver like stainless steel. The WR 50 now alternates moods on both sides of this crest. In the morning sun it's almost hot against the East facing palisades. On the west side it's still wet and cool in the trees and shade. There is one 6 foot patch of snow left not far before the new loop at Corral Pass.

At the Corral aid station I stuff taters in my mouth and pockets while WR50's awesome volunteers refill my water pack. Off to the valley. The sun is out in full force now but she is not cruel. She whispers... I like you today... During the long downhill to home base the pack spreads out a bit. Some slow down on the downhills or run no faster than on the flat. Most speed up. I'm one of the slow ones while several heel strikers thump like a herd of horses past me like rush hour cabbies from New York. We're all friends here and I don't hate the heel strikers. But they are each and every one of them loud. I hear the approach of tennis shoes with a increasing pitch like an approaching car at highway speed...and then as they pass the whiff of wind and the deepening pitch then fading pitch the passing of a car at highway speeds. If there were any forest fairies or sweet little woodland woollies they've all scattered off to more peaceful valleys by now.

Near the airport things get loud anyway. Rainier National Park is filling up and her rangers will soon be turning people away from Sunrise by the dozens. "Parking lot is full," they say.

At Ranger creek my BFF-Official cleans me off, feeds me, waters me, watches as I stuff more salted taters in my pockets and wishes me good luck on the second half. The climb to sun-top is more brutal than I remember it. My planter fasciitis is starting to ache. I worry about semi-permanent injury. Then I tell myself to relax and give myself permission to quit before I get hurt. My planter surprisingly gets no worse and as I imagine that this 50 is only my first 50 of Leadville my body chills even more...knowing it has to if it's going to make it.

And this becomes the theme on the way to Sun Top and after: I've got to relax and feel good even by mile 50. This is my training run for Leadville. It's a helpful exercise because I know it's my mind that is in training even more than my body. I'm not putting in the 90 miles weeks like The Running Man does. His blog scares me shit-less. I just don't run that much... yet. My body is still relearning what society taught it to forget. I'm still reacquainting myself with my body, with it's rhythms, with how things are supposed to feel, with the fact that beyond all expectations my body adapts, grows stronger, and runs further than ever before.

I like the idea that a ultra-runner's peak age is much later in life than the sprinters. I heard somewhere (was it born to run?) that we peak now in our 50s, that my times in my 7o's might be similar to my splits of my teen-age years. So far it's true, I'm getting faster. I'm having more fun. Isn't that the point? At least it is for me. If there was one takeaway from Born to Run, it's that there is no point if I'm not smiling during and after the race. Delusional and hallucinating maybe, but smiling.

So that's my goal by Sun Top: to be delusional and smiling whether or not I'm oriented x3. 7 miles downhill and this time I'm not hot. The Sun-Sol is not beating down as much as she did last year. The second growth forests provide more shade than I remember. It is cool. On long decline I remind myself that I'm at mile 40 of 100 not 40 of 50. I look around a bit and enjoy the scenery. I don't hate on the SUV's that pass like I did last year. Somehow Mr Diesel isn't as dusty as last year. Tomorrow I'll enjoy blowing out red-blood clotted snotty dust bombs nonetheless. I love those suckers. Little gooey globs of success.

Skookum Flats made me cry last year. I hadn't been eating enough. With the goal of smiling my way through this time I ate much more food along this years race. And at Skookum aid station I pounded some brain candy so that smiling would be possible. I curse nature more than once as I run through the deep dark forest along the grey-tilled waters of the White River. But I'm smiling more. Mr Garmin can't see the sky through the old growth and is confused about how far I've come. He says 48 miles. The volunteer at the Buck Creek Bridge shouts 49.5!

I'm tired but smiling. I run to the finish line hating on the organizers only for not having ample beer at the finish. But that's probably illegal. I skip the buffet, commiserate with my comrades in arms (D) (are any ultra-runners (R)?), strip off my glycerin soaked running garb and make for the closest pizza oven.

It's been good race. And an even better year.


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