04 May 2012

WSU 100k - race report

April 22 was my second attempt at the WSU 100k. When I ran it in 2009, it was my first attempt at any race over 50 miles...and it kicked my butt. This year I've been feeling very fit, and I was looking forward to a having a strong race as preparation for this summer's big goal.

The WSU 100k's main attraction is the relay which attracts around 50 teams a year.  The solo category is generally a lonely affair. This year there were less than ten solo starters. But we were lucky to have Badwater Champion and Death Valley solo crosser Lisa Bliss join us.

The solo race starts at 6:00am in Pullman and then does a huge loop that stretches all the way down to the Snake River canyon, and then a 17-mile stretch along the river, and then a climb out of the canyon back up to the Palouse. Lisa and I had chatted a little before the race and we were both shooting for about a 10hr finish.  She had her eyes set on the female course record of 9:51, and/or the female master's record of 10:15.  I thought I might have a 10-hour finish in me if everything went right, and at the very least an 11hr finish. (My 2009 time was 12:16.) 

The morning was pleasant and cool. Unfortunately, we knew temps were expecting to reach lower 80's by the afternoon, which was by far the hottest day of the year on the Palouse. In fact, I think I had been on only two or three runs all year without a jacket, gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt.

You've seen all the photos I post on this blog, so you know how much I love the beauty of the Palouse.  The WSU 100k is a great tour of the regional beauty. And the fields are starting to turn to green, so there was a great deal of color throughout the day. My first love is trail running, but running the hilly country roads around the Palouse is a very close second.

The 10-hour plan was to hit the 50k mark around 4:30, which would give us 5:30 to make it back up the canyon during the hottest part of the day. When we hit the river we were greeted with a nice stiff headwind. Winds are notorious in the canyon, so we almost felt lucky to have only what was probably a 15mph or so headwind. We pushed through the wind and hit the 50k mark almost exactly at 4:30. Right on target.

Temps were starting to get pretty warm by the time we reached the climb out of the canyon at mile 36. We powered up the climb -- hiking the steepest sections and running everything that we could. 

At the top of the canyon, around mile 45, I was starting to overheat a little and I took an extra minute or two with my crew, Annie, to soak my head in some ice-cold water. Up until this point, after I'd stop to quickly fill up on water I'd run to catch back up with Lisa (she would run through her water stops with an impressive water bottle exchange with her crew, Gunhild, that cost her almost no time) -- but this time I didn't have anything in my legs to catch up with her, and I was starting to need the extra time just to stay cool. I kept her within view for another five miles or so, but she was slowly pulling away from me with each stop water stop I took and I'd wouldn't catch up with her again.

I hit mile 50 just a bit over 8 hours and I still felt I had a shot at a 10-hour finish, though temps were now in the 80's and I was feeling the strain, and feeling the pace slow considerably. This was about when my buddy, Dan (who had run a leg of the relay), volunteered to run with me for the rest of the way. 

I was taking some walk breaks now, but it was nothing like 2009 when I basically did a 10-mile death march to the finish line. I still had some juice in my legs, and actually hit a 3-mile stretch where I actually felt I was running again and not just survival jogging. But that was short lived, and the last three miles of the race I was in complete survival mode.  

I was excited to reach Pullman in under 10 hours, but with a couple miles through town still left, a sub-10-hour finish was gone. I wasn't sure how far ahead Lisa was, but I was rooting her on to get the course record (turns out she missed it by only a few minutes).

I happily crossed the finish line in 10:13:25. I was very pleased with the race. My training has been strong and productive, and I think I'll be as ready as I can be for Scotland.

Enjoy some photos (taken by Annie):

Course profile

Solo starters

Sun rising over Pullman

Palouse countryside

Possibly the only shade on the entire course.

The sky was beautiful all morning.

Beginning the descent into the canyon.


Racer ST5 -- possibly my favorite shoe ever.

Along the Snake River with gorgeous canyon views.

Along the Snake River.

Nearing the end of the river section.

Starting the climb from the river.

Overheating, but looking cool.

With Dan.

Finished. Ugh.

Sometimes the best part of a run is the non-running part.