A bit of catching up to do on the recaps. Durdam, Mahir and I made the trip up to Seattle and then out to Crystal Mountain for the USATF trail running championships (aka WR 50) at the end of July and we had a pretty good time of it.
We arrived on Friday and after stocking up at Whole Foods we made the 90 minute drive to the foothills of Mt. Ranier for the scenic (read challenging) course that takes place with little fanfare but a lot of intensity. Because this event has the Nationals moniker it draws from the hard-core nutter community with talent to spare. A fare number of these folks are moving up from the marathon distance and still have some speed left. The others are just plain tough.
The race started at 7AM and we were good to go with our assorted drop bags — ready for some nice trails and some pain. For me, this race I might dare retell as "pleasant" if I were to leave out some of the ebbs. I miscued on my Gu in the first 15 miles but discovered electrolyte replacement (Succeed) and was actually doing some serious running through the first 28 miles. The course is split into into two halves and two major climbs (as in never-ending). Save for an unexpected trip off a switch back for an emergency bathroom break, the first half went well and was capped with a tasty cheese and avocado sandwich.
The second climb just seemed to drag very slowly, up and up and up. I had been warned about the false summit on the way to the second peak (Suntop) but it was still a drag. I stopped at 37 for some PB&J and a banana and then girded myself for a very long descent on a dusty road. Minutes and 2 advil later I found myself putting the slow-twitch hammer down and actually running most of the way to 43.
For a while I thought I had a shot at my PR (11:38 on a much easier course) or possibly even getting close to 11 hours but the last seven miles were a brutal tangled windy affair along the riverbed. There were roots and trees and stumps and steep climbs. The clouds had rolled in and the lighting was poor. My lame attempts at short intervals gave way to frustration and finally anger when I was shot out onto a sand bed in the river and could find no clues as to the impending finish line.
Fortunately I popped out of the forest in time to recover from a typical ultra induced emotional low and found I still had legs enough to jog. In fact, as I strode down to the finish line I couldn’t help but think I easily had 100K or possibly 70 miles in me.
Durdam turned in an impressive 11:00:40 — more than 1:45 faster than last year and an agonizing 40 seconds from the Western States qualifier. Mahir debuted with a *scorching* 9:23, good for 40/144.
I was pretty pleased with my 11:50. My body was in decent shape. A few blackened toe nails but no real damage. It was a good thing we suffered that WS training run abuse as this 50 didn’t feel a whole lot more difficult (mostly because of the good trails/footing).