Saturday, April 14, 2012

American River 50 Mile Race Report 2012

Lining up at the starting line of The American River 50 Miler Endurance Run, I found myself feeling very calm and focused. I was in the zone and the race hadn't even started yet. I knew that today I would need to be focused all day to ensure that I hit my splits as planned. This year I tried something new, I actually wrote down and carried with me my projected time goal into each aid station and ultimately my finish goal. I also knew that I would need to run a very smart first half.

The countdown begins I take one last look at my goals and I am off. I immediately settle into a nice pace not worrying to much about what else is going on around me but focused on what I needed to do. I needed to lock into my pace. It is a interesting thing locking into a pace for me, I run how my body feels. I can tell how fast I am going just by listening to my body and how it is responding to the effort. I settled into a 9:00 minute pace quickly and hoovered around there without really having to look at my Garmin.

The first half of AR50 is along the parkway. It is flat and has a few small rollers. The first aid station isn't until the 8 miler marker, but I started fueling sooner than that as I knew that if I didn't fuel earlier on I would fall behind and it would be a battle to catch up. At mile 8 I arrived right where I needed to be maybe 10 minutes faster than predicted but I didn't let it bother me. Anthony was there and he told me I was right where I needed to be and reminded me to eat. I refilled my water bottle grabbed some PB&J and a GU and was off and running again. Around mile 10 I put my IPOD on and rocked out to some good songs which helped pass the time, but I was also still aware that I needed to eat and drink.

During this stretch I was feeling really good, my legs were strong I didn't have the flat feeling like I did at Way Too Cool, and mentally I was focused and fresher. Leading up to this day I changed up my running schedule a bit and I think that worked out really well for me. This time around I ran 6 on Thursday with some pick ups and than on Friday I ran 4 miles. I believe by doing this helped keep me mentally sharp and the dead leg feeling away.

As I neared the mile 14 (Sunrise) aid station I was still ahead of my schedule by 10 minutes, but again I wasn't concerned. I was fueling and drinking. This aid station my family was planning on coming out and cheering me on. My nephew Bradyn was really excited because I told him he could bring his cow bell and ring it as loud as he wanted. Only with me arriving 10 minutes earlier I was worried I would miss them. As I neared my friend Dasie was out running with her group and seeing her brought a brighter smile to face, than I saw my friend Kuni. He immediately asked what I needed and I gave him my bottle to refill with water for me. He took off with me right behind him.

At the aid station I grabbed 2 PB&J and scanned the crowd for my family. I couldn't see them, I had tunnel vision. I looked down at the pedestrian bridge hoping to see them walking across. Nope no such luck than just as I started running again I heard my sisters voice. She yelled out "GO MEME!!!" so loud when I went by. I looked back and waved and shouted "HEY!!" That was a very special moment for me. Bradyn had the biggest smile on his face and my sister cheered for me so loudly that I could feel her excitement. I would remember that energy and excitement the rest of the race.

I quickly settled back in and all I could do was smile and relive that moment. Pretty soon I would be arriving at the bluffs and the single track. At this point I really need some hills and some single track. I was still feeling strong and focused but I just needed a change of terrain. As I neared the bluffs I took in some gel and began the climb. I ran the Hazel bridge and than ran the first part of the bluff. Than I transitioned into a power hike and quickly caught up to the runner in front me. As soon as I could I passed him and transitioned back into a run and ran the rest of the bluff out to the top and back down the other side where I reconnected with the parkway and the pavement.

But that would be short as the fire road was next. I was nearing main bar and I could feel my energy levels dropping. At the aid station I was still about 10-5 minutes up. I refilled my bottle grabbed some PB&J and started running the fire road. I was really looking forward to the single track, but as I was running the fire road I noticed that something was off. Hmm, maybe I haven't been eating enough. I slowed the pace down just a bit and took in a gel and a salt. I knew that if I didn't fix how I was feeling it was going to be a long day.

Going into Negro bar I was back on pace. I refilled my bottle and grabbed my usual 2 PB&J and was running just as quickly as when I arrived. From here I started visualizing my run into Beals. I had trained on this hill and new it very well. I continued on my way running and than power hiking and than it felt like all my energy was gone. I quickly took in a gel and a salt. I power hiked for a bit and than began running again. At this point I am starting to think that I am a bit behind on my fuel, so I take in another gel in an attempt to get some calories in me quickly. That seemed to work because soon enough I am running again.

I am getting very close to Beals and the marathon mark. My fastest marathon was a 4:14 and when I arrived at Beals I arrived in 4:19. I was right on schedule. Anthony was there and he quickly helped me change my shoes and socks, refilled my bottle and gels. As I was telling him what was going on, he said it sounded like I was behind a bit on calories and to eat something at the aid station. He also had me hold a gel in my hand so that I would remember to take it. I was in and out of Beals in around 4 minutes thanks to the support of  my friends.

Coming into Beals

I fueled and settled in on the single track. I arrived at the fire road (Cavitt) feeling a little off so I just settled into a nice pace. I didn't worry about other runners passing me, I was focused on what I needed to do before I hit the single track and that was fuel. When I came to the single track I kept a nice steady pace and ended up being the pace setter for other runners. My pace was right on point, even though I was still feeling a bit low on energy. I took in a gel and just kept at it. I was in a dark place right now and the conversation behind me helped me not to focus on the dark place. But it was hard. I wasn't smiling I felt like a robot, just running forward. UGH, I was just hitting the single track and I couldn't believe I was feeling this way. What a low.

I arrived into Granit Bay aid station refilled my bottle and took in some Gel. I recognized my friend Chuck and I think he could tell I was in dark place. He said something to me, but all I remember was giving him the evil eye. Sorry Chuck, you were only trying to help. I left Granit Bay after taking in some gel in the hopes that that would help me get out of my dark place. I settled into a nice pace and once again set the pace for others.

I kept running, I ran through twin rocks and focused on the conversation behind me. I wasn't in the mood to say much of anything so I just enjoyed what the runners behind me were talking about. Chuck passed me and said "You are doing a really great job." All I could say was "I feel like crap." Probably not the smartest thing to say. He immediately recognized that I was still in a dark place and offered some advice. He told me "Never ever allow a negative comment into my head no matter how you are feeling. Because that negative comment will take over. Stay positive, put on some great music. But remain positive." And with that my mood changed. I thanked him and things began to look brighter. Maybe it was the tough love by him, but my legs started feeling stronger I was focused again and knew that I had a task to complete.

I was still setting the pace for our small group and I was slowly reeling in the train of runners that was in front of me. Soon enough I hooked my train onto their train and I just settled back for a bit. I took this moment to refuel and recover. We all power hiked the tough rollers on our way to Buzzards Cove. The train had about 10 or so runners and we all arrived at the aid station. I knew that I needed water, I refilled my bottle and quickly passed other runners. I also took in a gel. I was slowly starting to feel stronger.

I hooked up with some other runners and once again we had a pretty good sized train. Only this time I wanted by. I was feeling strong and I wanted to use this opportunity to make up some ground and time. Plus the conversation behind me was turning negative as the runner behind me was having some issues and I really didn't want those thoughts to creep into my head. I quickly passed every one so quick in fact no one hung on to me. I was free once again. That freedom felt so good it was unbelievable. I used that freedom and put some distance on myself and the train behind me. I was off. I was back.

I was focused and feeling strong. It had taken me a bit to get out of that dark place, but I did. Now I was making my way to horseshoe bar. That was my goal, my small goal. My attainable goal. Keep moving as this section is really runnable and fast. I took in some gel and continued hydrating. I arrived at horseshoe feeling pretty good. I refilled my bottle and made my way to Rattlesnake. It was maybe less than 3 miles to the next aid, but I had fallen 10 minutes behind. I didn't let it get to me I let it fuel me. I kept the positive thoughts flowing and remembered that I was still on target with my goals. (I had set up more than one goal, just for this reason! )

Than ever so slowly I could feel the wheels falling off once again. I took in a gel and kept moving, power hiking the climbs and running everything else. I could hear the aid station in the distance and that propelled me forward. I reminded myself that I was running aid station to aid station and that refocused me as I had started to think about how much further I had to go and that seemed impossible. Aid station to aid station.

I came into Rattlesnake knowing I would need my drop bag as I was out of gels. I refilled my bottle and than out of nowhere my friend and team mate Eric was right in front of me with a huge smile on his face. It was uplifting to see a familiar face, as I didn't know if I would or not. He helped me get my drop bag, asked if I wanted to sit down and I said yes. I sat down and filled him in on my situation, maybe because it felt good to talk about it and get it out. I told him that it felt like I was behind on fuel and it also felt like I had blown up my quads. He just nodded his head. I took in two gels and he suggested two salts which would help aid in the digestion process. I refilled my gels and looked at him and said "This next section is totally runnable, right?" Why, I don't know. I know this trail, it is runnable. But I think I was looking for some positive affirmation. He smiled, he was always smiling which is great and said yes. I got up out of the chair and started the final push. Thank you Eric for being there, I really just needed a familiar face and a sounding board.

I power hiked the hill and started running as soon as I crested the top. I was back on a mission, I still had plenty of time to PR, but I couldn't fool around. I wouldn't be able to "enjoy" this last section as it was going to take some mental power to push myself.

Maybe a mile out of rattlesnake I saw Anthony. He immediately knew something was off and didn't hesitate to tell me. He said "You look really pale. Are you eating and drinking?" I responded with "I do? I fell behind on my fuel but I just took in two gels and two salts. I am drinking an entire bottle in between aid stations." Anthony ran with me for a bit and that really helped recharge me. He reminded me that I knew this course, I knew the hill and to use it to my advantage. I was still on track with my goal.

Running with him for a few yards was a huge mental boost to me. I was even more focused and I could feel the desire to push myself fire up inside me.  With his words of encouragement, I was off. I broke the course down, Avery's Pond was my first goal. Than the power plant. At the power plant I had to use the bathroom. So I used the remote port a potty. I peed for the second time, very clear and well #2. I felt so much better after doing that. In fact that is the first time I have had to stop to do #2 during a race. What a relief. My stomach wasn't so tied up and I felt so much better. One less thing for me to have to worry about.

I started running again, and I found out that I didn't blow my quads up like I thought I did,  I just needed some salt. I knew I  needed to make up some time from my pit stop. I slowly passed runners and kept on track with my task. Soon I think a few runners hooked onto me and I set the pace to the outpost. Once there I took in some coke and refilled my bottle. I was in and out. Only a few more miles to the base of the dam hill. Again I was setting the pace for others. They thanked me as we reached the base as we had made up some serious time.

At the base I didn't stop running like the others, I pushed myself. I ran 3/4 of the way up before transitioning into a power hike. Here I took in 2 gels knowing that this fuel was necessary. I started running again making my way to Last Gasp. I power hike the steep sections but ran as much as I could when I could. As I neared Last Gasp, I dumped my remaining water on head to refocus me. The Last Gasp volunteers ran down to me and took my bottle. I power hiked into the aid station grabbed two cokes and kept moving. The coke tasted really good and the ice cool water was even better. It was heaven in a little bottle.

Now the run begins and I wasn't alone. Another runner had hooked onto me and I was pulling her up the hill. She was on my heels running when I ran, which was most of it and following me as I cut the corners. This is the same runner that hooked onto me during those miles from the outpost. I didn't let it frustrate me, but I did try to shake her. I picked up my pace on the flat section with the little downhill, but she held on. Than slowly she passed me and I couldn't hook on to her. In the past two years no one has passed me the dam hill.

I kept her in my sights, I passed other runners. Now only a mile to go and my pace quickened but I couldn't catch her. .5 to go one more little final hill and I ran it all. The finish was near I could feel it. I rounded the corner and hit the grass with a ever increasing stride. Than with maybe 20 feet to go, I heard my sisters voice. She had come to the finish to cheer me in. When I heard her voice I looked right at her and couldn't believe my eyes. I shouted out "Ohh my goodness!" or something like that, and almost stopped in my tracks. I was totally surprised by this, so surprised I just about started crying that is how emotional it was for me. I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face.

Had to sit down after finishing!

I managed to overcome 3 major lows, I continued moving forward just like I said I would. I never lost my focus on the ultimate goal. My goal for the day was to run a 9:30, and I ran a 9:33:42. My goal into Beals was 4:20 and I ran a 4:19. Overall I would say that I predicted what I could run this day pretty spot on. It took a lot of heart to overcome those lows and be able to achieve my goals. This run is a new PR for me on this course. I ran it 11 minutes faster than I did the previous year.

My sister and niece Kaylee and I at the finish

I wonder what the rest of the year has in store for me.

Congratulations Dustin on your first 50!

I would like to thank my friends and family for always believing in me. To Anthony for helping me along during my training and for his strength and support on the course. Thank you to my friends and family who came out to support me throughout the day and a huge thank you to all the volunteers who gave up their time to help support us runners that day. And thank you to Fleet Feet for your support on and off the course.

Awesome job Jenny, way to pace her in Kirk!


  1. As always, another great race report...congratulations on the fantastic race!

  2. Congrats on your race! It's tough getting through the lows...way to dig deep!

  3. Great race report!! You are so in tune with your body now it is impressive! You amaze me. Can't wait to run more with you!

  4. Congrats on an amazing accomplishment!

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  6. Nice race Melisa! Kevin, my pacer, who I was with the weekend before when I saw you at top of Last Gasp, said he saw you go by about 30 minutes before me at Granite Bay and you looked strong! Great job!!!