Patagonia Long Hauler Shorts: ever since racing with them at Bulldog 50k I have preferred them, especially when I know there is a lot of smooth trail or road.
Brooks Tech Tee (running warehouse) + InknBurn Tech Tee (roadID snagged it…DANG IT!!!) – I changed shirts at the 27 mile mark. The salt loss on the shirt was starting to chafe.
Sox: Injinji + Nike – the extra miles at start got sand in my shoe and it was game over for clean feet after that
Pack: talked to coach Jeff of PRS Fit and decided to change to a 1 liter pack, used the Hydrapak E-Lite Vest. (Review coming soon)
Headgear: Hammer Headsweats Visor (1 st half), then Buff and Oakley Sunglasses (buff helps me keep cooler in the later part of the afternoon)
Arms: Perl Izumi Arm Coolers (soaked at later aid stations)
Shoes: Newton Terra Momentus (green goblins) – the whole way through
Hammer Heed: half heed/water mix – half straight water
Hammer Gel: 30 min intervals
Coke/ Pepsi (just tasted dam good at the aid stations)
China Bar – 2.5 mile
I was one of the lucky runners who ran took the scenic 2 extra mile route. Runners had to loop around the parking lot head down the street first left then right onto the trails. Unfortunately, many of us missed that quick right and kept going “to the end” and then hit the river. Normally you would just call it experience. What was frustrating was that many of us inexperienced runners “ran-scared” the first section of trail trying to make up time. Many of us were running up and down hoping one of the runners coming down would point us in the right direction, which never happened. I turned off my GPS and reset it thinking that the whole field would re-start…no such luck.
During this tour of the banks I met a man from WA State. He told me about regaining his health, being off of a lot of the meds he was previously on and he had driven all the way down to earn that fleece jacket (12 hour). I am not sure if he passed me at some point but no one from WA State came in after I did. I really hope he passed me because that sucks to have your goal blown up because of inefficient course markings. We hiked around the banks of the American River walking over rocks (not able to run) and then up a huge hill to the aid station. The aid station volunteers told all of us that everyone had extra distance on their Garmin GPS did little to help, we were pissed. For this section of the race through Granite Bay I was mentally in panic mode.
Rattlesnake Bar – 9.1 miles
Up until this aid station I ran scared. It was me and my chart versus the Garmin. I needed to get to Rattlesnake Bar in the window I had set regardless of the extra distance covered. The adrenaline made me run harder and put out effort that I would not have otherwise expended. I was charging up single track rollers and just felt super strong. Looking back on it; I ran the trail section way too fast and did not hydrate enough. My water pack was maybe 1/3 empty and I had run 6.6 miles as if this was trail 10k. It was stupid and I would pay for it later. These reckless charges are always a double edge swords; on one hand you could blow up your legs, but on the other you bank time that you may otherwise not have. I met with my crew/pacer Berto at this point. He was trying to get me to calm down but I was still in the panic mode. This was a quick stop and back to the trails, water a few gels and I was out.
Horseshoe Bar 11.9 / Granite Bay – 18.4 miles
During this stretch my vigor started to fail me and the sand from the banks of the AR started to rub me the wrong way. My right forefoot puffed up and I was certain of some blister action. I started with the Injinji sox, but because sand got inside of them when we trekked by the river I had to change. My mistake at this point was not taking a minute to clean my feet well then put on the new socks. I just shook off the sand, quick sock change and got going. I really should have taken a few minutes to fix my feet on this one. Later in the race taking out phantasm pebbles caused full leg lock cramps. I also took off my visor and went to my mid-day set up which is a Buff and sunglasses. I like this set up because the buff holds water longer and still protects against the sun and the sunglasses for glare and to keep my head up. When the sweat hits the lens I know that I am slouching and it is just an external reminder to keep strong.
Beal’s Point – 23.3 miles
Up to this point I looked pretty good at the aid stations, not going to lie. My time was slowing but the panic was also subsiding. I felt that I was settling into the splits I intended to run the whole day. Nothing hurt (yet) and I was still very much enjoying the trails and running with packs of people. No offense but I hate this aid station, sorry Beal’s. This is where I DNF during the American River 50 ultra a few months ago. I definitely was fueling with that memory to get me here. Once that fuels burned off the wheels came off.
Sunrise – 35.1 miles
William Pond – 41.9 miles
I am going to lump these aid stations together because they are the cut off stations. During ultra-events the cut offs are meant to motivate runners and keep volunteers from staying out there all day. As a runner you definitely want to respect their time and make sure that you are giving yourself some room and not cutting it too close. It really comes down to being on time… or you are pulled from the race; simple as that. I hit an emotional and physical wall after Beal’s Point. You would think I would turn on the Billy Badass at this point because I know the course, but the long stretches of bike path just wore on me. I no longer had the distraction of beautiful single-track along a river. The course turned into a grind. My legs shut down and would cramp if I tried to get anything out of them. I was paying for the initial energy expenditure and not cleaning my feet at Granite Bay. I kept feeling pebbles and rocks in my shoes only to discover there was nothing there. It was especially frustrating when I could feel the skin between my left foot toes swell up and not being able to do anything about it. I would bend or stop to check my shoes and my foot would contort. All the toes would bend inward making the calf tight, pulling the IT band and immediate crippling cramps would ensue from the hip on down. After a few of these any ankle side to side movement was out of the question.
I was very fortunate to have a pacer for this race. It is unusual to have a pacer during this particular race because it is considered an “easier” 50 miler. For me, I was scared of the cut offs from the moment I signed up. My previous 50 finish was 15+ hours and shaving 3 hours in 5 months seemed impossible. My pacer was my old college roommate berto. We both happened to get into the ultra-scene around the same time; he has a really calm demeanor and also is consistent as heck. We were actually talking about nutrition…he remembers to eat based on where he is not the time on the clock…yeah I thought the same thing!
He helped me get out of the first slump (and the later ones too); Negro Bar was one of the worst when my buffer started to shrink. We had a 45 min padding against cut offs, then 30 min, until the last aid station where we beat the cut by 13-15 min. I think every ultra-event you have peaks and valleys but a pacer helps so much. When I asked him what he was doing on Oct 15, his immediate answer was, well I am pacing you are the 50, right?
He travelled 23 miles with me…Survivors “Eye of the Tiger” blasting my ears off….we got from one spot to the next. At one point we resorted to running the sunny parts until we got to the shade of a tree. It was also really helpful to have him because he set a pace I could keep for longer than 10 seconds. A few times I wanted to go quicker and really gain some ground but he would reel me in. That really helped because had I done what I wanted I may have finished and also the cramps would have made driving 8 hours Sunday to be at work on Monday impossible.
At aid stations he would take my pack and fill it up quickly. All I had to do was stuff my face with whatever I could get down, soak my Buff and sleeves and get going. Having quick transition times at the aid stations was key to this race. As the day drags on you want to stay and soak in the positive vibes from the volunteers. But every minute there is not only a minute lost on course but it also makes it harder to find the will to keep on trucking.
There was a couple I remember distinctly. I was trading spots with her husband (guy with white desert hat and black Camelbak). I would see them at the aid stations when I would arrive since we were both roughly running the same time. I got cramps right at the station after I changed socks and she really kindly offered salt tabs. I thanked her for the offer and declined since I had some. Later in the race I saw her running back onto the course wishing me well and telling me her husband was cramping up. Another aid station (closer to the end) a young kid, no more than 12 or 13 was running backwards as well looking or his dad. All along the route I was connecting with fellow runners, 2 that DNF with me at the AR50, another guy who told me to keep my head up, and even one guy I recognized from his finishing picture from UltraRunner Magazine just to mention a few.
I think I have just been spoiled with cool experiences but ultra runners seem to genuinely care about other runners. We all know what it takes to finish and that some days its better to bag it and fight another day then to go blaze of glory status, since that would most likely be very detrimental to your health.
Finish – 50 miles
After Negro Bar my legs were cramping the whole time. I became very comfortable with the fact my legs would twitch in funny ways. One time I had to stop and Berto had to massage my calf until it loosened up. Not ashamed to say my eyes were tearing more than once.
The last push to the end was the sweetest though. We were running and another runner and her pacer caught up to us. Berto says, relax you have enough time to cover the distance. Her pacer said to her…you would too if you were cranking out certain miles/min and you’re not. That sort of lit a fire in me. He was right, if we were going to beat the 12 hour cut off we had to make a move and make it fast before the temps dropped and the little motivation you have goes down with the sun. Berto and I set a pace and cranked out what in hindsight were dead slow miles, but at the time I felt like Billy the Kid running away from a bank I just robbed. Before the sun set I crossed the line, exhausted at 11:37:53 and earned my fleece but more importantly I I did not let my friend/pacer Berto down, nor all the friends and family back home who never doubted *cough**cough* that I could finish.