It took me 4 minutes to get into Way Too Cool 50K, it took a bit longer to run it. At least running it was a lot less stressful (the race filled in about 8 minutes). After a week of sunny, warm weather, race morning dawned cloudy and a bit chilly. However, the sun did its work by drying out the course from all the rain last week making the trail conditions practically perfect.
Sunrise over Cool
On Friday I volunteered at Auburn Running Company to help with packet pick-up. I really enjoyed putting faces and names together with runners I've only read about. One definite highlight was meeting Jim Howard from early 1980's Western States 100 fame. There is a laminated copy of the newspaper article about the 1980 WS in the store and it has a picture of Jim. We talked for a bit and he mentioned he's just returning to ultrarunning, is looking forward to WTC and is also running WS100 again this year. I felt like I was meeting a pioneer of the sport and it was really exciting (I hope that doesn't make me a nerd).
I also met Devon Crosby-Helms who I only know from race reports by Scott Dunlap. She is incredibly nice and it turns out we share something in common: a running coach. A couple weeks ago I decided I was tired of reading all the training manuals/books/magazines about the best way to get fast/climb stronger/lose weight. It can just be so confusing. I wanted some help with putting a good training plan together to help me reach my goal of finishing Leadville. And I believe Howard Nippert can get me there.
In the days leading up to the race Pat was sick so we agreed that I'd head to the race by myself and if he felt better, he'd bring the girls to the finish line in the afternoon. My only other 50K that I've done is the Tahoe Rim Trail which I finished in 7:29. WTC has about half the climbing so I threw out 6:30 as a finish time that I'd be happy with.
I lined up way too close to the front (I'm actually right in the middle of Scott's starting line photo) but it was so crowded it was too difficult to try to move farther back. Quickly we were on our way and it felt like waves in the ocean pouring over me as hundreds of runners passed me. I haven't done any speed work so I knew I needed to go out slow and hope to have a strong second half.
The first part of the course covers part of the Olmstead loop which is the same course as 12 Hours of Cool Night Run that I did last year and it brought back some great memories. My legs were taking a long time to feel warmed up and I just couldn't seem to find a rhythm. I thought about how easy it would be to complete the loop and make the right turn back to the finish line instead of going left toward Hwy 49 and the rest of the course. Unfortunately, right at that intersection there were a lot of people cheering on all the runners and it was so inspiring that I completely forgot to quit. Before I knew it, I was crossing Hwy 49 and in a nice rhythm. Things were getting better.
Looking upriver along Quarry Rd.
Notice I'm wearing my Auburn Running Company shirt which many of us wore to show our support of Dan Moore, owner of ARC and currently fighting leukemia. He's done so much for the running community and it was wonderful to see so many shirts out there on the trails. You can read about his progress here.
The section from Browns Bar to Auburn Lake Trail is fun rolling singletrack and I kept wondering when I'd start seeing the front runners. I was about 1.5 miles from ALT when Leor Pantilat came flying by. Normally mid-packers like me don't get to see the front runners so it was a real treat seeing all the big names battle it out. Caitlin Smith came by with Bev Anderson Abbs right on her heels and I didn't envy her, that's a lot of pressure but she proved to be up to it by winning her second ultra in as many tries.
Caitlin with Bev hot on her heels
One of my goals was to really limit my time in the aid stations so when I hit ALT the great volunteers had my bottle filled quickly, I grabbed a few chips and 1/4 pb&j sandwich and I was on my way. The next 4 miles went by really quickly and efforlessly and I was soon at Dead Truck Trail. This trail, along with the dreaded Ball Bearing climb was the only section I hadn't been able to preview before race day.
I enjoyed the descent and even saw the "dead truck" before the trail really dropped off. Ball Bearing climb proved to be a little tougher than I wanted it to be. It just seemed to climb longer than it really needed to but finally I made it back to ALT at 21.5 mi.
Now instead of hitting the wall, my early pacing really paid off. I got a sudden jolt of energy and started flying down the trail. I know it's all relative but it sure felt like flying to me! I started passing runners that had passed me in the early miles, a lot of them guys, and I got a lot of "you go girl" which just inspired me even more.
Goat Hill was tough but it helped that I'd run it before. I continued to cruise and really push the flats and downhills, not even stopping at the Hwy 49 AS. I knew it was going to be close to 6:30 so I just kept repeating "relentless forward motion". Finally I was nearing the finish line and I wasn't sure if my family was going to be there. But suddenly there was Caitlyn on the trail in front of me, cheering me on. They were all there. I was hoping the girls would run into the finish with me but they were a little intimidated by the crowds. I ran across the line in 6:27:01, very satisfied.
Caitlyn meeting me close to the finish
I think Julie Fingar did a great job putting on the race. The volunteers were wonderful and there was a ton of energy all over the place. My only regret is that we left before I went into the food tent so I didn't see the cupcakes! Damn. Maybe next year. As long as the stress of registration doesn't get to me.