Sunday, April 12, 2009

American River 50 Mile Endurace Race


Last weekend I raced my first 50 in California: The American River 50 mile endurance run. It was an interesting day filled with highs and lows. The race follows a mostly flat asphalt bike path for 18 miles. Mile 19-27 are half pavement and half dirt with some decent hills thrown in. Miles 28-46 are rolling and mostly on single track. While the last 3 miles are all uphill gaining about I000 feet in the last 3 miles. I started the race in the lead pack with about 8 runners and 2 rabbits off the front leading the race. We set a solid pace and settled into the race in about 6:20 to 6:40 mile pace, and just clicked off the miles. Temps were cool, in the low 50s. I was well hydrated and ended up drinking too much, as every 4-5 miles I had to stop to regulate my bladder. Overall, I felt solid and relaxed yet was a bit anxious concerning my frequent stops. I went through the marathon in a 2:45 which was right on pace.

At mile 28 i just started feeling pretty bad, so I ended up slowing up. My coach, Scott Drum, jumped into pace me at mile 31 right as I was at the emotionally lowest point in the race. I was in 9th place at this time and 20 minutes behind Max King, who had taken the lead. Scott kept me going and by mile 34 I was feeling much better, was rolling along, and mentally fully back in the race. Scott took me through Mile 41 at which point I was feeling great. I had bettered my place down to 7th. From Mile 41 through 46 I just rolled along and finally picked up another spot down to 6th. The last 3 miles of the race, which are all uphill, I tucked in and started a fast cadence. Scott picked me up again with 2 miles to go and I hammered (if that term is applicable 48 miles into a race) up the hill picking off one last runner with a mile to go. I crossed the line in 5th place, in 6 hours 16 minutes. The winning time, by Max King, was a solid 6:04, while Dave Mackey was 6:12 and 3d and 4th were about 6:13.

I learned a lot for my first 50 mile race. Mentally I learned a lot about going farther and staying focused longer. I know I can expect both low and high points in a race. Surprisingly, I drank too much. I also went out just a tad quick and probably not relaxed enough. Making the mental transition from marathons to ultras is the biggest challenge. Bring it on. Challenges spice up life.

Special thanks go to Al Smith (AKA Al Willis), support team leader, who logistically managed our travels, Scott Drum for his inspiration, encouragement, and coaching, and to Shawn and Katie, our host family who took extra good care of us ensuring that we were well fed and comfortable. They made the trip special.

Salida Run Through Time Marathon


I made this race a mandatory race for 2009. In 08 I ran it, but because of the heavy snows I ended up running a bit extra: about 31 miles in a time of about 4:22. This year I wanted redemption and a course record. My original goal was sub 3 hours but I had been under the weather for the previous week. So my goal for the race was just a solid training run, an honest effort, and hopefully a first place. Overall it ended up being a good day. I went out and just maintained speed for the first half at which point I had a 2 minute lead on 2nd place: Ryan Burch, a solid ultra runner. I maintained my lead and won the race and set the course record in 3:03.42. Maybe sub 3 next time around.

Moab: Red Hot 50K+


“1 minute till the start” the announcer said into the microphone. It was a brisk and windy early morning with wispy low inviting clouds blanked by their thicker ominous counterparts above. I was still debating which set of clouds would win the day. I opted once again to change my top for a lighter one and got back to the start with 20 seconds to spare. It helped that I had parked my mobile home, also known as my 4Runner, twenty feet from the start the previous night.

40 seconds later and the eager anticipation for the start was now forgotten and 20 seconds into the past… 4 more hours to race. People jockeyed for position as we climbed up a quick short rise. I stayed back 10 yards, still warming up trying to objectively analyze the pecking order. The burly Dave Mackey set the pace with 2 runners immediately following. He was obviously pushing the pace opting for an honest race. After 1 mile in I moved up to draft. Our pack mimicked the dissipating clouds and by mile 5 at the first aid station it was only Dave and I.

We continued the up-tempo pace and Dave knew I was there for the long haul. The first climb was over relatively quickly and seemed like a nice breather. We were 9 miles in and look down at the start line only a mile away and 1000 feet below us. I took in the view in a shortened eternal second. No more time to savor the view we were off bombing down the first decent. Dave a master at the downhill easily glided down bee-lining all the turns. With a 2-3 minute lead over 3d I felt solid and ready for some more interesting terrain. We went through mile 13 in 1:30 and headed headlong into the wind. Dave asked me to share the lead so he could draft. At last we were working together, putting off drilling each other for a few more miles.

We alternated the quick lead over dirt roads which beckoned us on and soon went through the half way mark in 1:57. The sun was out and the day had warmed up to a pleasant 50 degrees. We started the next leg with a solid up hill at mile 19, immediately followed by a steep downhill on solid rock. The pace increased. We had caught up to the 33k runners who cheered us on in admiration. We were in the heart of the race. I’d push the up hills while Dave would reciprocate on the down hills. At last we were racing as we navigated around rocks, up climbs, over holes and gaps, and other obstacles in our way. We laughed at the terrain that wanted to mock us. Instead, we flew over it asking for ever harder routes; this was ideal. The harder the terrain the easier and faster we ran. The routes got steeper, the terrain harder, we flew faster, only laughing harder.

Mile 28 arrived. Before me lay 6 giant 300 foot long 100 foot tall boulders aligned in a row rising out of the sand like the backbone to a giant desert leviathan. Following the backbone in caravan fashion was a line of the 33k runners. Their camels absent, and only shadows to keep them company the caravan trudged on. After the great desert beast came a final climb followed by an easy dirt road which I used to put 20 seconds on Dave. Then came the final downhill. I heard Dave’s footsteps pounding after mine. We came to a 10 foot drop and Dave caught up. I jumped half way down to a thin ledge then down to the soft sand below. With a mile to go we were neck and neck hammering each other. Dave’s downhill prowess won over as he gained distance over me winning in 3:58:50. I followed in 3:59:33. We had broken the old course record of 4:03.

Lessons learned: Need to drink and eat more. 33+ miles only gets easier the further into a race.