"Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."--Dean Karnazes
This quote from Dean Karnazes was on my mind all day. I go into every ultra just wanting to finish but this race was different. Throughout the day my mindset went from finishing the race with a fast time to just finishing, to just surviving the day in general. I have been anticipating this race ever since it got over last year. I wanted badly to improve my time from last year and that was the main thing on my mind going into this race and that's where I went wrong.
I spent the night up in Kane Canyon in order to get an early start and a longer nights rest. Everything went fine, I got a great nights rest. So great I woke up late and was late for the race. The next thing I know I'm pulling up to the starting line with a few minutes before the race started. I'm getting out of the car as Ben is playing the National Anthem thinking oh crap all my gear is scattered in the back of my car, luckily I was able to get my poop in a group and got my butt to the starting line. My game plan was to get ahead of the pack on the first climb and go from there but thirty minutes in the race people where passing me. I know this course and I can't and will not push myself too early. I went at my own pace if not slower. I made it to the top with only a few runners in front of me, there was at least 6 miles to the aid station let’s just take it easy and slow. That's what I said but I really didn't listen to myself. I bombed off that hill, I had no idea what I was doing but it felt good doing it. When I reached Kane Lake trail I stopped and walked for the most part to rehydrate and fuel before the aid station. When I got to the aid station I loaded up again on fuel and took off for the three people that were in front of me.
Last year from Kane Aid Station to Boulder Creek Aid Station I underestimated the climb but this year I wasn't going to make that same mistake. From the Kane Canyon Aid Station I ran to the creek crossing and on the flatter sections on the other-side before I went into hiking mode. I actually enjoyed this section this year because I was able to hike it alone and just slowed down and enjoyed this part. Working for the Forest Service and being able to get out and hike everyday really helps on these climbs. I think I made it to the top in just a little bit over than an hour and a half. Once you get to the top of Boulder the other-side practically just drops off into a steep single small track that is really rocky, but I surprised myself by time I was making compared to last year at this point in the race. I was so excited that I bombed off this hill as well and made it to Wildhorse Creek in about 30 minutes. I couldn't believe how fast I was going down this track, I have never ran that fast before in a race. I was happy to be close to the halfway point this early in the day feeling this good but I knew that the easy part just got over and the hard part is about to begin.
I arrived at Fall Creek at 11:00 way ahead of where I was last year and I was happy because there was some afternoon thunderstorms heading our way and I didn't want to get caught up in them on top of Surprise Valley (11,000ft). I'm not sure what exactly makes this part of the race so hard but you cannot underestimate it. This part of the course is very remote, if you decide to drop out when you get into Surprise Valley you either have to hike 7 miles down or go over the top and hike 8 miles out. Not much of a choice anyway you go. From the Fall Creek aid station I felt pretty good I just ran 20 miles and I have 17 to go, so I was going to keep it that way and hike until I got to the top of Surprise Valley. This year the runners were lucky enough to have an aid station just as you come out of Fall Creek just before you start climbing into Surprise Valley. I was so grateful for them and made sure that I let them know that. Last year was brutal not having any aid through this section so this year I was going to take advantage of it. Surprise Valley was slow going for me but it was also slow going for everyone else. It took me a while to get to the top of Surprise Valley but I just barely made it to the top before it started raining. I let out a big warrior cry and snapped a few pictures before I headed down.
The top of Surprise is a very special place for me and I was glad that I was able to lead a crew up there this summer to work on the trail for the Forest Service. But what made it particularly special was being able to run on it and enjoy the work that you worked so hard to do and see others enjoying it as well. Not many people that work for the Forest Service get to appreciate the work that they do on a regular basis like I do. It’s definitely a win-win situation for me.
Another huge mistake that I had made was getting to the top and drinking all my water. For some reason I thought the other aid station was at Betty Lake. But when I got down to the bottom it was just a couple of backpackers camping. It was no aid station at all, the next one must be at Baptie Lake and I still had another climb and two miles to go. By now the weather was really taking a turn for the worse. It was crackling and popping so badly that it brought me down to my knees when I was climbing over to Goat Lake. It’s very scary being above treeline when storms like that come around. This is where my mindset of just finishing went straight to just surviving. I hit a wall, it was the lowest part of the race for me. I did not want to run anymore, I wasn't enjoying the race. I was wet and it was still raining and I had another climb at the bottom to do and ten miles to go. A little part of me wanted to quit but I remembered that if I do quit I still have to hike myself out. Every ultra-runner knows that ultra-marathons are 10% physical and 90% mental and I knew that myself. I knew that every runner gets this feeling in a race and if I could fight through this feeling I would finish the race.
I made it to the next aid station just as the rain stopped. I grabbed some water as well as some Oreo cookies, not my favorite race food but it was a good mood changer. I headed down the trail with a handful of pretzels and about three cookies, which I could only finish one cookie due to my stomach. It was now down to hiking the rest of the way but I eventually made it to the bottom. One more climb and a few more miles to go and I'm crossing the finish line.
I have never been up White Mountain trail before but I heard that it was a good trail, which indeed it was but there was a lot of trees over the trail. Slow and steady with lots of breaks sitting down on logs got me to the top. When life gives you a tree lying across the trail, sit on it and watch the other runners struggle up the trail. When I reached the top I ran into Paul (RD for RONR) and talked to him for a bit how much I enjoyed his race this year and how well it was put on and then he sent me on my way saying I have a short 5K left, all downhill. My stomach finally got better and I was able to run the rest of the way out. It was nice to see some new trails in my neck of the woods and it was great to see a one of the biggest trees on the forest just before I finished the race (starting to become a huge fan of trees).
When you see the finish line after a long day and a lot of miles it’s just an overwhelming feeling of emotions that come over you. I think that's one of the reasons that I love doing these races, is to feel that feeling every time you finish one. It’s great to see your family and friends and all there support that they give you. You really have a whole new perspective of life after you finish a race.
"If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon. If you want to talk to God, run an ultra."--Dean Karnazes
Official Race Results
Chip Time: 11:03:20