Somewhere between great and good

July 27, 2008

At yesterday’s White River 50-Mile Trail Run, I carried a small laminated piece of paper with aid-station splits I listed as “great,” “good,” “fair,” and “poor.”

The actual times at which I left each checkpoint were: Camp Sheppard (3.9 miles), 0:29; Ranger Creek (11.7 miles), 1:43; Corral Pass (16.9 miles), 2:29; Ranger Creek (22.1 miles), 3:10; Buck Creek (old location — 27.2 miles), 3:49; Fawn Ridge (31.7 miles), 4:33; Sun Top (37.0 miles), 5:33; Skookum Flats (43.4 miles), 6:15; finish line, 7:07. In short, I flirted with greatness for a while before winding up somewhere between great and good.

A few runners delivered performances that were fully great. Mike Wardian won his third USATF ultramarathon title of the year in 6:52, the second-fastest American (i.e., non-Uli) time ever on this course; he was followed by Adam Lint (6:59) and Jasper Halekas (7:04). Among the women, Susannah Beck smashed Nikki Kimball’s course record by seven minutes with her 7:32, rendering Kami Semick (7:42) a bridesmaid here for the third time in four years.

I knew Susannah was having an unusual race when she caught up to me just before the Corral Pass turnaround. (I myself was only about 90 seconds behind the overall leader.) As she greeted me from behind, I was so surprised that I nearly fell off the trail.

I really did leave the trail about six miles later. Just after the Ranger Creek aid station (22.1 miles), there was a detour around a giant fallen tree. I veered left instead of right and wound up in a valley while eight or so runners went by along the ridge above.

My inattentiveness had cost me a couple of minutes, increasing the gap between Wardian and me to about six minutes, but I soon forgot about that as I started the long descent to Buck Creek. I found this section uncomfortably steep when I ran it during the 2005 race, but this time it felt wonderful! My competitive angst and concern with splits melted away, and for a few miles I simply enjoyed the sensation of gliding down the trail. I felt like the quarterback who finds serenity amidst the oncoming pass rush in the Fountains of Wayne song All Kinds of Time.

I passed a bunch of people during the climb from Buck Creek to Fawn Ridge, and then I was alone. Fawn Ridge to Sun Top was hard, but I found solace in the fact that I was still running up all of the hills. Then came 6.4 miles of dirt-road downhill. Again, the contrast with 2005 was striking. Back then my chewed-up quads limited me to a 7:30-per-mile shuffle; this time my stride was a lot healthier and my pace a full minute per mile faster.

As of the last aid station (43.4 miles), I was pretty much locked into 4th place, being well behind the top three and comfortably ahead of everyone else. But with less than half a mile to the finish, I was caught by Canadian Aaron Heidt. Irate at the possibility of being passed, I launched a furious kick and finished 40 seconds ahead of him.

Aaron later told me that, as a college student, he had been a miler — exactly the type of runner I fear most at the end of races. Fortunately for me, the effort of running 49-plus miles had sapped him of his usual speed.


  1. Well done Doogie, good to hear you so positive about a race result. And well done on the finishing kick; I always hated getting passed in the last mile of my races.

  2. Greg,Great run, man. What a fun race. That was a blast running in that big group for the first 15, with everyone wondering when someone would make a move, and who would crack first.I would have been even more stressed than I already was if I had realized you were within 3-4 minutes of me at every aid station. Somehow I had a feeling it would be you right there…-Jasper

  3. Congrats on a "great-good" race Greg! That must have been one hell of a kick because with ~500m to go when I saw you, you were only ~2-3 sec ahead of Aaron, so to end up 40 sec ahead…way to go!Thanks for posting about your race so quickly. I was sorry to see you had left by the time I headed back to the finish line and, thus, didn't get to ask about your race.I did get to see Liz and "Muffin Man" (aka Phil) briefly at the Skookum Flats AS as I was running the second half. I'll have to get you guys some more of those muffins. Apparently Phil's a big fan (I'll let Uli know since he's the one who made that batch)!Enjoy your day of rest today – well deserved!Cheers!Trisha

  4. Hi Greg – I went left instead of right around that fallen tree too because there were ribbons that way and the two guys ahead of me were flailing around it that way too. And then when we got back up to the trail I looked backwards and thought "Why did we do that?" In my case it was less crucial since by that time I was realizing that *my* laminated splits were geared for a Kendra in much better shape than the one who was running this year. Great and gutsy 4th place finish in a strong field. As for the women – SB was super fast – I do sometimes wonder what Nikki's times would be if she weren't coming off of Western States 100 one month earlier each time. PS: it was raining at Buck Creek this morning so I think we lucked out!

  5. Nice work Greg! Sounds like a solid race by many counts and perhaps a breakthrough on some hilliness for you. Sorry that I haven't gotten back to you on the Phil story yet… Soon 🙂

  6. Thanks to you and the other fast folks out there, I learned how to hump trees to get out of the way. :-)It was good seeing you, if only for a split second before Ranger and after Corral.And I wish I would have known to go RIGHT instead of LEFT at that downed tree!!!

  7. Nice run Greg – Funnny, I think more people went left then right at the downed tree because the ribbons marked it that way. I went left and bitched with every step about all the crap that was falling in my shoes!

  8. a belated congratulations to you, greg. strong work!

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