Race: White River 50

Runner: Anson F

Race Date: 07/27/2019

Location: Crystal Mountain-ish

Results: 88 OA, GP 74; 10:42:07

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2568714783

white river 50
Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The challenge of attempting to run 50 miles. Furthest I had run prior to this was a 50k (twice) so the challenge was something that both excited and slightly terrified me.
  2. It’s a NW Classic. White River has been going on since 1993 (that’ like 26 years?) so it’s a must-do at some point. I feel like there is some substantial history in this race and it’s nice to be a part of it on some level.
  3. Volunteers. Has to be the volunteers. Without them this race, or any race for that matter, just doesn’t happen. They were all super helpful, friendly, and just made the day that much better.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  1. The aid station change the week of the race. While I appreciate the switch from water-only at Ranger Creek to a full station at Noble Knob, making this change literally the week of the race was a surprise.
  2. The out-and-back section from AS 2 to AS 3 (Noble Knob to Noble Knob). This trail is pretty narrow in places and can have some moderately steep slopes on the sides, making it hard to pass in spots.
  3. There was one course marking that about 15 of us missed on the out-and-back section which added maybe an extra mile or so. Probably could have been flagged better. A bit frustrating but also an “occupational hazard”.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I had a chance to run the first 25 miles of the course before race day and I am super glad I did. I think this preview (or at least half a preview) really helped me prepare, physically and mentally, for what the day would hold. Is that first hill really 10 miles? Yeah, it kind of really is, but it’s also more runnable than you may realize. Given that I was able to focus on putting in an effort I knew I could sustain, get good nutrition, and never really enter a dark place during the race. I made sure to eat and drink during the race and spend a few extra minutes at the AS to ensure I got the nutrition I needed.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • Yes, it’s just “two hills”, but they are pretty substantial hills. The first one is close to 10 miles but there are good runnable sections on the way up. There are plenty of places to pass (and be passed) so I don’t think someone needs to worry too much about being near the front after four+ miles when the hill kicks in.
  • The “new” aid station on Noble Knob is full service so that should help in planning nutrition (not just water-only like the previous station at Ranger Creek) but there is a now greater distance between AS 2 and 3 (also Noble Knob), probably almost ten miles, so plan nutrition and hydration accordingly.
  • The second hill also has some good runnable sections on it, especially the false summit down to the road. You can make up some time here.
  • The road down from Sun Top sucks (IMHO). Yes, it’s 6+ miles of easy down, but the road is boring, it’s super hard packed and impactful on your body, there are no views to speak of, and vehicle traffic, while low on our race day, can kick up a lot of dust making breathing difficult. However, if you’ve saved a bit in your legs you can make back a lot of time here.
  • The last 6.5 through the forest are really quite delightful. Slightly uphill but along the river the entire way. It’s beautiful single track that’s just a pleasure to run. There are some hikers and mountain bikers, but everyone is respectful, and hey, you’re almost done! When you get here you know that you’re going to finish and that mental boost is joyous.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Probably saved a bit too much in the tank. Would power hike the second hill a bit more and run the downs a bit more aggressively. Also might consider bringing poles. I think they would have helped, especially on the second half of the course.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Not a lot of rollers but the “two hills” to get through. Run your race, even from the start. The first four miles can be deceptive but there are 46 to go!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Very. We had a pretty cloudy day so didn’t get many views, but when it’s clear Mt. Rainier dominates the skyline. The silver forest is beautiful in its own right, especially with the new undergrowth and explosion of flowers near Corral Pass. Don’t just look up, look down, too!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes. I had about 9,300′ on my Garmin and it felt that way. The climbs are pretty long so settle in when you start going up. Some of the single track on the Noble Knob-Corral Pass section are narrow and loose so watch your footing. And pick up your feet on the final six miles! Lots of roots and rocks as you work your way to the finish.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Yeah, felt good. Other than the AS change the week of the race (which was made for all the right decisions) it feels like this has been going on for a while.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes! Seemed quite strong but still super fun and filled with friendly people.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

The only thing here that seems to require some forethought is the night before. Are you going to stay at an over-priced hotel at Crystal Mountain? A campground near the start line? Maybe just camp at the start line? Or stay at home and get up super early? I chose the latter, which made for a long day, but made sure I went to sleep early.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

All standard fare, which was new this year.

Weather and typical race conditions

I think it’s usually bright and sunny and warm/hot, but this year we were treated to overcast and absolutely perfect race conditions.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

I would consider using poles next time. Otherwise I don’t think you need anything particularly special.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not really. The first half is pretty much closed to spectators (because of remote terrain). And Sun Top is closed to cut down on traffic and dust on the road (totally support this). You can see your runner at Buck Creek (27.2) and again at the finish. I suppose you can also hang out at Skookum Flats (44.5-ish) but otherwise that’s about it.

How’s the Swag?

T-shirt and a pint glass. Very good.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4/5. I didn’t like the out-and-back as passing and being passed in certain sections was hard given the narrow trail and steep hillside. I also feel like the course marking at the turnaround could have been better.