Sunday, April 7, 2013

American River 50 Mile Race Report 2013

I was nervous upon arriving at the start line of AR50. Why? I am not sure. I have run this race before, I know the course, I had my estimated times of arrival based on my fitness. I was ready. Maybe I was nervous because anything can happen during a 50 miler. Once I lined up at the starting line all those nerves went away. 3---2---1--- it was go time!

I settled into a nice comfortable pace, not pushing it and running very relaxed and comfortable. I was going to run my race and not get pulled into the wrong pace. I mean 50 miles is a long ways and I knew I couldn't make any big mistakes at the beginning. My projected time I  knew I could achieve going into Beals which is mile 27 was around a 4:20 - 4:30. My fitness was about where it was last year based on my finish time at Way Too Cool 50K back in March. I knew I was capable of running a 4:20 in to Beals and my projected finish time was a 9:30.

The first 8 miles came and went my crew chief/fiancé Rachel was at the 8 mile marker and it was comforting to see her and know that she would be along the course the entire day helping me achieve my goal. I also saw a bunch of my friends who offered encouragement and shouts along the way which always brings a smile to my face and makes the daunting task of running 50 miles more enjoyable, as running 50 miles is enjoyable some would say no. But to me it is. It is about the challenge, setting the goals and achieving those goals throughout the day. Overcoming adversity, overcoming the lows and embracing the lows to slowly ride it back to a high. There were many lows this day as well as many highs. But that is to be expected in a journey of 50 miles.

I was right on pace at the 8 mile marker; my pace didn't feel force it felt comfortable and sustainable as this would be a crucial key for the day. I was fueling and hydrating along the way, but the day felt humid and I was sweating pretty good, even my hands were sweating. I had originally planned on carry a bottle for hydration, but a last minute change the night before I choose to wear my Salomon pack, which I think was a good idea as I was needing the extra water and I find when I wear my pack I actually fuel better as my hands are free.

The next spot I would see Rachel was at the fish hatchery, so I just counted down the miles. I was still on pace and feeling comfortable and was actually looking forward to the Hazel bluffs as my legs were getting tired of the flats and the asphalt. At the fish hatchery a quick wave and I was off. Again smiling on the inside. I hit the bluffs and went into a power hike, then as I neared the top I felt strong and started running up and over and around the corner and down I go to connect back with the parkway for a bit before hitting the fire road and some sweat single track. I arrived at main bar and filled my pack and grabbed a pb&j and I was off. I powered hiked for a bit stretching out my quads as they just weren't feeling right.

Here Christine from the fleet feel ultra training group had caught up to me and I locked on to her heals and she carried me to the single track. Her energy was just what I needed and I knew that I needed this pace. I just hoped she didn't mind me locking on. We hit the single track and just motored on. We arrived at the bluff and powered hiked up. Here I went by her but I knew she would be close. At the next bluff I just kept on running, it didn't feel forced it felt comfortable to be running the bluffs so I just went with it. With every step forward I knew I was nearing Negro bar and my ultimate destination of Beals point. I was mentally breaking the race and focused on running only aid station to aid station. By doing this my brain could remain focused on the small task instead of the bigger task.

I arrived at Negro bar and grabbed a pb&j and some coke and headed out on my way to Beals. During this next stretch I was slowly starting to feel my energy level dropping. I took in a gel and continued on. I hit the hill and ran some than transitioned into a power hike and ran again. I remained focused on my task. I took in another gel in hopes of getting some much needed calories in as I knew something was off, but I couldn't figure out. I hit the 26.2 mark in 4:13 and knew that I was almost there, just a short ways to go where I will see my crew and change my shoes and hit the trails. Ohh how I was looking forward to the trails.

I arrived in Beals in a time of 4:21, which was right on pace. Rachel quickly directed me to the chair and we went about our business of changing shoes, she made sure that I had my gels replenished and did everything that was on the list. Anthony arrived while I was changing shoes and his first words to me were "You look really pale. Are you eating? Drinking?" My reply, "Yes, I am eating and drinking. I just think I am overheating, I am really hot." He told me continue eating, and keep drinking as it was warmer than usual and then he asked me if I had used the bathroom. My reply "No, I haven't peed." He then said that I feel really dry and I need to keep pushing the fluids. He rubbed my quads down as I had told him my quads feel funny and next thing I knew I was up and off to the aid station. At the aid station I refilled my pack and took some coke and was off.

I hit the dirt fire road and tried to put something together, but I just couldn't find a rhythm. My pace had dramatically slowed down. I immediately started doing the calculation in my head and I was able to calm myself as I had given myself enough time to reach Rattlesnake. I didn't have to push but I needed to be consistent. I took in a gel, by this point my hands were swollen and I thought that maybe I had stopped processing my fuel. This has happened before, but from experience I knew that it would be ok, I just needing to battle through this low and not let this damage me.

I hit the single track and kept a descent pace; it wasn't anything stellar, but I was just glad that I was moving. I neared Granit bay aid station and there I took in some coke and used the bathroom. That is a good sign, it helped me out mentally I know that much. I was now on my way, but my feet were starting to really hurt. I was developing blisters, I could feel two blisters under two toes on my left foot and I could feel a blister under my big toe and between by big toe and on the sole on my right foot. This is not good.

Then everything came to a screeching halt. I wasn't running anymore, I was hardly shuffling. Every step I was in agony; each rock I stepped on during the meat grinder section was painful. All I could focus on were my feet and how much pain I was in. I was now stepping off the trail to let others pass, but I was still moving forward. Aghh the blisters. Again I did some calculation, it would be close, but I was still within my target goal, if only these blisters weren't causing me so much pain.

I stepped off the trail to let some other runners pass, but this time the runner didn't pass. It was my team mate Dan. He knew something was wrong with me. He asked me what was going on. I looked at him and said "I have blisters on both feet and it is so painful." He immediately went into fix it mode. He told me "I have super glue, we can take care of them, I have band aids, whatever you need we can do this." Then he said some magical words, "I have Tylenol or Motrin you want some?" "YES!! That would work, because I am afraid to take my shoes off and see the blisters." With that I took some Motrin and both Dan and I were off.

Dan stayed with me offering encouragement to run up the little rollers. It was amazing how supportive ultra runners are especially when another runner is in need. Thank you Dan! We made our way to Rattlesnake and I could feel the Motrin kick in right as I arrived. Here Rachel was waiting and Pam (trailmomma) was going pace me the last 10 miles. Rachel had everything ready just as I had instructed. She had my bottle with water ready to go. I immediately told her "empty the bottle and put coke in it I am keeping my pack. Does Pam have my gels? Ok I am having some major blister issues but the Motrin is kicking in." I had arrived into Rattlesnake about 15 minutes passed my schedule time, and I knew that historically it would take about 2 hours to finish the last 10. Hmm I wonder if I pushed it if I could make it.

10 more miles and I am 15 minutes back, which isn't that bad considering what I was dealing with. Pam and I were off; I took the lead as I like my pacer behind me unless I tell them to go in front. I pushed the pace up the hill and ran when I could. Slowly my energy level was coming back and the pain was calming down, but with each step I could still feel the pain shooting up through my feet. We hit Avery's Pond and both Pam and I chuckle, ah the memories with Avery's Pond.

Slowly we were gaining on other runners and then passing them. Pam was the voice of reason in my head. She would say things like "how about catching the guy in orange then the guy in white?" Now who am I to say no to a challenge? I would slowly bring them in and pass them. I think each time I passed someone Pam would call out another target I mean runner. With each step my pace quickened. I was on a mission. I wasn't going down I was going to finish strong.

We were running the rollers and with each roller my legs were feeling strong. I was mentally focused and clear, unlike when I came into Beals. I knew what I needed to do and Pam knew what needed to be done to encourage me. She pushed me, but not enough to break me. We were making good time. We hit the aid station in no time and I refilled the bottle with coke and we were off. Keep moving, keep moving, and don’t stop, is all I kept thinking. Again my legs were feeling strong on the rollers and I knew with each step forward I was nearing the end of this journey.

Pam kept me moving being the calm steady voice I needed, the voice of reason. We were almost to the base of the dam hill. I started to grab for a gel as when I hit the base I would take a gel in. We hit the base and I took the gel in. I transitioned into my power hike and I had the biggest smile on my face. I was in beast mode. Nothing was going to stop me, except my blisters. With this 3 mile climb all I could feel with each step was pain. But I wasn't going to stop.

I power hiked the step section and transitioned into a run. Pam matched me step for step. At last gas I had my bottle refilled with coke and kept on going. We hit the pavement and started running and then my bottle of coke exploded onto the runner I was passing. I immediately stopped as I couldn't believe that just happened and apologized. He said no worries; I will get you back with a big smile. I started running and Pam called out the land mark to aim for only I would aim beyond her goal and keep going. Than I would call out 'HIKE" and we power hike. Pam would get me running again. I was nearing the top and with each step I could feel my blisters getting bigger. Each step was painful, but I buckled down and let out a shout and ran.

I ran and I ran. Pam was right there. I hit the last little hill, hiked the last section and was off and running. I hit the grass and the final stretch. I had just enough for a final sprint. I crossed the finish line in 9:46:53. I was only 16 minutes passed my initial goal. But that is OK, as this journey was about overcoming and moving on.

Thank you to my amazing fiancĂ©e Rachel who supported me all day and throughout my training. Thank you for your understanding when I am off training and thank you for being apart of this journey. Thank you Pam (Trailmomma) for your amazing pacing duties during the last 10 miles. It was truly special to be running those trails with you once again. Thank you to my friends and family who have supported me and seen my life change over these past few years, and thank you Fleet Feet for your continuous support.