Getting acquainted with my Frog cup-cake (finisher award)
I want to extend some thank you's before launching into a full blown race report. First of all, a huge thank you to Julie Fingar, W2C race director. Not only does she put on one of the largest/most competitive 50k in the country, but she was willing to take time out to play host to Owen and myself the day before the race. She made the transition across the country seamless. Without her help neither Owen nor I could have made it the start line in reasonable health (more on that to come). Secondly, thank you to La Sportiva and Rock/Creek Outfitters for their support in sending me out to Cool, CA equipped with the best trail running gear available. The support I have received from these two incredible companies has allowed me to string together back to back to back to back races.
Alright... now a race report
Way too Cool 50k ... The best finisher award ever! Cupcakes!
Honestly, Mt. Mitchell went far better than I was expecting it to. The obstacles that aligned prior to that race really made the finish line a wonderful experience. Following Mitchell, I was mentally charged and ready to get back on a race course. So, the next weekend, I found myself toeing the line at the Umstead Trail Marathon. After a week of little to no running, I thought that my recovery had gone smoothly. However, as soon as the gun sounded, I knew I was not fully ready to race. I stuck in with the leaders believing that perhaps I was just still a little sore; however, as we cruised through the five mile marker and my legs/back were not loosening up, I decided to save the effort for W2C the following weekend. I took the following week tremendously easy with one short track session on Tuesday to judge how the recovery was progressing. Thursday I grabbed a flight out of RDU and seemingly 24hrs later arrived in Auburn, CA. A six hour flight from D.C. turned into eight+ hours of sitting as our plane was stalled on the runway for over two hours before finally taking off. Thankfully, both Hannah Pate and Owen Bradley were troopers, waiting a few extra hours to pick me up at the airport.
The next day was spent catching up on sleep after getting in around 2am. We got out quick in the morning and stopped off at the race expo at Auburn Running Company (amazing running store with extremely knowledgeable staff) before heading out to the race start in Cool canyon. Along the way, we got sidetracked on the Western State 100 race course. The scenery was breathtaking and once we finally got to the race start line I couldn't help myself so I ran for a little over an hour on the course. Unfortunately, I did not realize that for the first thirty minutes I was running down into the canyon only to have to turn around and run back up the canyon for the next thirty minutes. Almost too excited to sleep, I was up before my alarm sounded.
The gun sounded and we were off flying. I slotted in feeling very comfortable around fourth position. Talking with Julie before the race, she had said that in order to win this race you needed to play it smart in the early miles. With a newcourse (an 8mile loop before leading out on the larger 24mi loop), I knew I wanted to start the larger loop in around fourth position. The earl
y miles breezed by and I quickly realized two things. One, the course was extremely muddy. Second, the early pace was a little quick. Having never run the course and not knowing any of the other competitors, I glanced back only to see the world famous Hal Koerner leading the chase pack. I knew Hal was a smart competitor and had raced the course before so I eased up and dropped back to his group. We came in through the mile eight (back through the start line) in fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh respectively while being chased by a large harry man dressed as a gorilla (not Owen Bradley who is equally as furry).
We dropped down the "shoot" which was more a slip-n-slide with the mud. At the bottom we were still holding around six minute mile pace. Onto the fire road, I was introduced to fourth place finisher, Tim Olsen, who ran a patient race to finish just off the podium. Best of luck next week, Tim as he takes on the best in the business at Krissy Moehl's Chuckanut 50k. Heading into the first climb of the day, Tim had already put a 20s gap on our group. I knew I needed to pick up the pace and bridge before I lost contact; however, at a creek crossing, I slipped causing my back to spasm. My heart sank as I began to worry that the same back injury that I had to fight during Mt. Mitchell was back. On the next uphill, I lost contact with the chase back as my back spasmed resulting me having to walk to the uphill. From that point on in the race, I was unable to lengthen my stride as my back repeatedly would spasm, contracting down on my diaphragm. Aside from the misfortune, I had a blast enjoying the beauty of Cool Canyon and American River. Coming into the last aid station, I knew my shot at a top five finish was blown out. I focused on breaking four hours and with a mile to go, I knew I had it pretty well in hand. Crossing the line was a relief as W2C was the fourth race started in four weeks. Honestly, I was a little upset with the overall finish but you cannot be frustrated with a 15 minute PR.
So what's next? I was registered to race Bull Run Run 50 miler. I have decided to withdraw and address my back injury. My next race will be in a few weeks but for the meantime best of luck to all those that are racing this upcoming weekend (to my running partner, Owen at Oak Mountain 50k). Finally, thank you to Owen and Hannah to putting up with me for a few days and getting me to/from the airport at ungodly early hours.