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.