When you’re running 50 miles, it’s good to have the support, training, and belief in yourself along for the ride.
My name is Brett Whitelaw, and well, I can officially say “I did it!” It was tough and probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to plan for in my life. That’s right; I’m talking about camping the night before an ultra...in a tent!...with a one-year-old baby! From the day I began ultra-running, I told myself I could never camp the night before a race because that would be just plain ludicrous; however, desperate times call for desperate measures. Ruby’s Inn and everywhere within a reasonable distance was sold out, so the decision was made to camp as close as possible to the shuttle pick-up spot for the race start. Now I’m official. I’m that guy in a tent who somehow manages to run a ridiculous distance the next day without knowing when and where his next shower is going to be.
The shuttle was about an hour ride to the Start. I decided to try something new today because that’s what all good runners do on race-day. I usually don’t eat breakfast, but today was different. I had a secret weapon I’ve been saving just for today: A coconut cashew SUNWARRIOR protein bar. These bars are pretty amazing. I counted the word “organic” 18 times in their list of 21 all natural ingredients. I’m going to say it powered me through the entire day because I really didn’t eat that much at the aid stations this time. The flavor was delicious; I’m a sucker for anything with coconut. Thank you, SUNWARRIOR!
I only fell 3 times!
This race was sold out, and the crowd was big at the start. We had about a quarter-mile stretch of dirt road before the single-track started. I started in the front of the pack to avoid the inevitable bottleneck of runners. I was about 15 runners back when we flowed into the single-track. After 5 miles of ascent, we were back on a dirt road. I slowed down my pace, and for the next couple of miles, a dozen runners passed me. It’s hard on the self-esteem when you’re getting passed; I had to keep reminding myself, it’s okay; that’s what happens when you start out at the front. Those first 5 miles were also hard. I told myself I need to train harder because burning out at mile 5 isn’t a good way to start a race. No regrets though, I was certain being stuck in the cattle chute at the beginning would have easily added on an extra hour to my time.
I only had one single goal for the race: To pass at least ONE 100-Mile runner who will still finish their race. The reason for that goal is because their cutoff time was 6pm, therefore, by achieving my goal I would also finish my race in less than 12 hours. I’m happy to report I made my goal.
The aid stations were good to me this race, but I ate and drank significantly less junk food than normal during the race. Looking back, I can’t believe I maintained my energy level throughout the day. I am certain it was the Sunwarrior Sol Good bar I ate for breakfast.
(NOTE: Find out more about Sunwarrior Sol Good bars here. Plant-based protein bars never tasted so good.)
One interesting thing about this race is that I maintained my place for the remainder of the race.
A few miles before the Proctor Aid, where I met up with my friend Nate, the 55K course joins up with the 50M/100M course. From the point of convergence, I was steadily passing 55K runners, not because I was running fast, but because I was simply not stopping. The Desert Everest in the midday heat was turning its runners into its victims. The scene was that of a battlefield (or ‘I am Legend’ as mentioned above). Those who were actually moving forward were barely doing so and had the eerie appearance of zombies. Shade was sparse and guaranteed to be already occupied by another runner who was doing their best not to give up or die. Some runners laid directly in the trail. I literally had to step over multiple runners. Nate and I even passed one runner getting medical attention hooked up to an IV tube. I swear I heard another runner yell out to me, “Tell my family I love them!” It was carnage out there.
The Thunder Mountain Aid Station was the final aid station and nearly halfway the distance in that last 17-mile stretch. When Nate and I approached that Aid Station, it may have well been an army medical tent. People were vomiting; others were lying down moaning and groaning.
I filled my pack with ice and headed out quickly ready to wrap this race up. I’d have to put a little effort into the last nine miles to make my goal finish time.
I call the last 5 miles the Deja Vu loops. It was a repetitive trail made to drive you insane, especially after 44 miles. Basically, you would run down a trail, and it would immediately turn around nearly 180-degrees and run up and over another hill, over, and over, and over. It was never ending... until it finally did end. Oh, by the way, spectators who travel upstream a few miles who give inaccurate distances to the end are the worst. Please don’t be “that guy.” “You’re almost there, only 1 more mile.” “You’re almost there, only 3 more miles.” What the?!? Luckily I had a GPS watch and ignored them all anyway.
Eventually, after the Desert Everest and the Deja Vu loops, the single track ended and turned into a downward gravel road all the way to the finish line. Nate and I ran most of that last mile, passing another handful of runners with the Finish banner in sight. We pushed it hard in case any of those last people we passed were 50M runners. I crossed the Finish Line totally spent, but successfully avoiding any injuries.
The course was amazing. I loved every mile of it. The landscape was changing by the mile, one minute I was running through a forest, next through an open meadow, then along coral colored cliff edges. I’ve wanted to run this course for a long time, and I was finally able to do it. That anticipation allowed me to love every moment of it.