Sunday, April 13, 2014

American River 50 Mile Race Report 2014

The American River 50 mile endurance run is a local favorite. I enjoy this race for many reasons, but the main reason is that it is local, I can train on the trails, and it is convenient for crew to enjoy. I have been running this race since 2010 and each year brings with it a new adventure and this year wouldn't be any different. Going into this race, I told myself it was a training run as my target race was in July. I was to use this day as time on my feet, to focus on fueling, and not to crack myself.

This year the event started at Brown's Ravine near El Dorado hills and we would run to Folsom and around Lake Natoma before heading back to Auburn. This was a new course which meant new possibilities and I could only wonder what this new course would do to my time.

I knew going into this race that I could a run anywhere between a 9:45 and a 10:15. I have been pretty quiet thus far this season with my training and what races I will be running and what my goal times are. I have been keeping things to myself and focusing on what I know I am capable of running and not allowing any one to influence me or to put doubt into my head. I am staying focused on the bigger picture TRT100.

I arrived at the start with my training partner Trailmomma and my wife Rachel. Rachel would be crewing us this day and I would be picking up my pacer Kuni AKA The Beast at Beals which is mile 24. I had asked Kuni to pace me at TRT100 along with Trailmomma and having him pace me at AR50 would be good before TRT. Trailmomma and I were in wave 1 which started at 6am. We both had lights as it was pretty dark. We lined up and before I knew it we were off for 50 miles of fun. This first mile we were running on pavement, but soon we would hit the fire road and eventually the single track trail which would bring us to Folsom Point where the first aid station would be. Trailmomma was booking it as this was her back yard. I just jumped onto her tail and held on. When we arrived at the levee I said to her "You know you were flying back there? We have 50 miles to go?" She replied calmly and confidently "I know, but this is by back yard and I feel good."

We arrived at Folsom Point on schedule, if not ahead thanks to Trailmomma. We did what we call the clover loop around the parking lot and then we arrived at the aid station. Here I grabbed some PB&J and we left. We weren't there too long. As we were leaving we spot The Beast and he gives us big hugs and we hand off our lights. As I am leaving he looks me in the eyes and says "Take it easy, I will see you at Beals." This stuck with me the rest of my journey.

Now we where on the pavement and we both settled into "our pace" a nice, comfortable pace. We enjoyed the sun rising over the lake and each others company. I could tell Trailmomma was feeling great and mentally in a great spot. I on the other hand was having a few issues, maybe more mental than anything. Did I go out to hard, I am pushing the pace to much. The typically thoughts, ones that can turn a race around. I did my best to bury those thoughts, but once they manifested it was hard to change them. Ohh the doubt has been planted.

The pavement portion was one of my least favorite. Pavement is tough to run on, for me that is. Every step just punishes my body. I can feel it throughout my body. I also knew that it wouldn't be long before we arrived at the second aid station at Willow Creek and not far from that we would hit the trails once again. I focused on my fueling. I was fueling with Perpetum. I started drinking if after mile 5 and had packed 2 small baggies that I was carrying in my pack. Each bottle was roughly 250 calories. I have been fueling with Perpetum for about a year now.

As we neared Willow Creek Trailmomma took off ahead as she needed to use the restroom and as she left she said to me "Wait for me." I arrived at the aid station and took my time, I refilled my bottle with perpetum and enjoyed a PB&J square. I walked out of the aid station and waited. I didn't wait that long for Trailmomma maybe less then a minute and we continued on our way.

We were now making our way to the aquatic center and eventually the bluffs. I always love reaching the bluffs because by this point I am done with the pavement and it is great to use different muscles. As we neared the aquatic center something was off with me. I was very quiet and my eyes were darting here and there. My stomach was gurgling at me and not in the way that says I am hungry. I needed to go, only there wasn't anywhere for me to go. I had to slow my pace as the discomfort was painful. Trailmomma knew something was up and looked at me and asked "Are you ok?" I looked at her and said "No, I have to go." The aquatic center came and went and now we were slowly making our way to the bluffs. We crested the top of the bluffs and for a split second I contemplated ducking behind the cars and going, but soon realized that wasn't a good idea as it was to exposed. We started down and I darted ahead and at the bottom, I darted off onto a side trail and went.

Trailmomma waited for me and we were on our way. I felt better, but not great. My stomach was still upset but at least I had some peep back in my step. We took off toward Main bar. Here I filled my pack, and enjoyed a quarter banana and grabbed a small mojo bar. This next section takes up to the bluffs and some nice single track trail. We kept a comfortable pace, ok maybe I was running a bit slow here. I didn't have much in my tank, though I had been fueling. I knew that I needed to settle down and relax, this was just a low and that it would pass. There was till plenty of race left. Trailmomma and I cruised along and as we hit the bluffs I told her "I have to go again! I think it is the perpetum, I am going to stop drinking it and switch to coke." I knew something had to change. Something that I was doing was causing this issue and I couldn't continue this race doing the same thing, but expecting a different result. I made a choice, right there and then. I was going to stop drinking the perpetum.

Trailmomma took off ahead as I once again had to use the restroom. She told me she would wait for me at the next aid station. I arrived and mentally I was defeated. I knew I couldn't keep going if I was going to be using the restroom every 20 minutes. But I also knew that my system needed to reset and my secret weapon was my wife, Rachel was waiting for me at Beals point along with my pacer The Beast and Dasie. I had to keep going, but all I could think about was how bad I felt. As soon as I arrived at the aid station Trailmomma went to action. She grabbed my bottle and rinsed it out and put coke it in. She had me moving again telling me "Rachel was at Beals. Let's Go."

Trailmomma was feeling like a million bucks and I just kept thinking I am slowing her down. I told her to go ahead, I had to let her go. It was tough watching her run and I did everything I could to muster a slow shuffle, but once again I had to use the bathroom. Ugh this is not good. I had one final hill before the small descent into Beals. I rounded the corner and shuffled under the arch and then transitioned to a walk. I saw Dasie and she walked me to Rachel. The Beast was smiling and said something that made me laugh. My crew went to work getting me ready for the next half. I told them I was drinking coke, they knew I was sick and that I had been dry heaving. Trailmomma gave me some tums. I drank a ensure and then I managed to get a gel down. I slowly ate some banana while Rachel cleaned out my pack and replaced my gels. I looked at The Beast and said, "We should start walking." The three of us started walking. I was ready, but was I ready? I looked at The Beast and told him "I have to use the restroom" and I sprinted for the bathroom. Trailmomma told The Beast, "you guys will catch me ok." I was in the restroom for a bit about 5-7 minutes. After that I felt a lot better, like everything had been reset. I am hoping this is the end of the runs for me today.

The Beast and I hit the levee and slowly ever so slowly my pace starts to quicken. I have a new pair of legs a new energy about me and I want to capitalize on this energy. We hit the single track trail and I am in full gear, I am focused and thinking clearly. I start to pass runners and when I pass them I am light on my feet. I am back and ready to take this day this race back. But first I need to catch Trailmomma.

We hit the fire road at cavitt and we are cruising, The Beast is telling me to hike this and run that, not to hard here, how about you drink some coke, a salt maybe. He is doing everything right and I am listening and following direction. Soon we hit the single track trail and at first I am moving conservatively, but then within a blink of an eye I take off. I accelerated so fast, I don't know what happened, but it feels good. I open up a bit more and we are flying. We are passing runner after runner and I am looking strong. I don't feel like I have 25 miles in my legs but rather I am just beginning my day. I challenge myself to hold this pace, now open it up some more. I do. Then I see the blue shirt and I can't believe my eyes and under my breath I say "No way." Up ahead is Trailmomma. I caught Trailmomma. As I near I shout out "Hey, hey, hey." She looks back stunned, surprised and excited like she can't believe her eyes. She jumps aside and so does the group she is running with and I pass. As I pass she hooks on to us and once again we are together. I caught her just outside the granit bay aid station. Together our pace increases and I hear her ask The Beast "What did you do? And can you do that to me?" We are passing runner after runner. Up ahead I can see Rachel, she had surprised me by being at Granit bay. I fly past and she knows I am back.

At the aid station Dasie is waiting for us. I drink some soup and take in a gel and tell Dasie "Let my wife I know that I love her." I am alive and feeling great. We exit the aid station, the three of us, me in the lead followed by The Beast and then Trailmomma. This next section takes us onto part of the mountain bike course, which I didn't like at all. We were slowed down by conga lines and there wasn't much room to pass on top of having to look out for mountain bikes, it was not fun. When I saw an opening I would take it. I would see another opening and take it. The Beast was my eyes for bikes as I was focused on finding an opening and passing. After about 2.5 miles of this loop we were back on the course I knew. We were all three still together which was a amazing feeling.

On our way to buzzards cove there was a lot of congestion, which really slowed us down. There wasn't anywhere to pass and the line was long. Here I was getting really frustrated as I was feeling strong and wanting to move only I couldn't. I kept looking at my watch, which frustrated me even more because I was losing time. I wanted by, we passed when we could, but I knew we would have to make our move at Buzzards cove. In the meantime The Beast had me on a gel an hour and a salt an hour and he would have me sip the coke from time to time. This fueling was working. I was feeling good.

Buzzard cove was approaching and behind me The Beast says "You going to eat some ice cream?" This aid station is known for the ice cream. I have never had the ice cream. I still had my wits about me and replied "Ohh so this is the real reason you agreed to pace me. For the ice cream." We all chuckled and when we arrived The Beast had some ice cream. We were in and out and finally had some room to play with on the trail and I took advantage of that. We were on our way to horseshoe bar.

I was still feeling great and made up some time, only to run right back into another conga line. Like before there was nothing I could do. I threw my arms up in the air in frustration as we were having to walk. I told myself to calm down, take this as a time to reenergize and refocus. I knew that there would be an opening up ahead where the trail widens and when  I came to section I took off like my tail was on fire. I accelerated so fast I was passing runners on their left, their right letting them know I was there. They were trying to stay dry as this section was a mud pit. I took a chance and plunged through the mud and water. I looked back and saw The Beasts was with me, but I didn't see Trailmomma. Crap.....Crap....Crap....we had lost Trailmomma. I knew she would catch up and I pressed on. But every chance I had I looked back to see if that blue shirt was approaching.

The Beast and I were flying again. We arrived at horseshoe bar and I took in a gel and quickly made my way to water bucket. I was hot and needed to cool down. The Beast followed me and helped cool me off. I screamed and hyperventilated. The Beast had a huge smile on his face and I was smilling as well. The cool water felt great. As The Beast continued to cool me I looked back and shouted "TRAILMOMMA!!! OVER HERE" she had caught up to us. She looked at us perplexed (I can only imagine how that image looked) and said "I fell." I ushered her over to the water bucket and The Beast and I cooled her off and cleaned up her bloody knee. I told her it was 2.2 to rattlesnake and we took off.

2.2 until I see my wife and crew again and then about 10 miles to finish. I can totally do this. I checked my watch and I was within my goal time, but I wasn't going to be able to settle. I would need to continue to push myself, I would have to run on the fine line of cracking if I was going to make my goal time.

The Beast and I were moving well during this section. He was monitoring my fueling and allowed me to dictate the pace. He took the lead for a bit which was great as it allowed me to relax my mind and recharge. I took the lead back and kept focused. We were getting near and as we neared I could feel the aid station energy. I heard some music and then realized that what was playing was a song we played at our wedding and that energized me some more. "It's a beautiful night, I think I want to marry you!!!!! I think I want to marry you!!!!! Yup that played through my head and the memories of our wedding energized me some more. My love was waiting for me, she was supporting me no matter what, I can't wait to see her!

I arrived at Rattlesnake after a gnarly descent and my crew immediately went to work. I was feeling strong and focused. My wife Rachel puts a banana in front me and I just look at it. She looks at me and back at the banana and I take the banana and start to eat it. Yup my super food on this run was bananas. I then make my way to water bucket because I am hot. Dasie has my pack and is refilling it. I get cooled down and Dasie makes me a ice scarf out of my bandana around my neck. I cooled down and ready for the final part. I look at Rachel and say "I love you, and ohh yeah I heard our song." She just chuckled at me. The Beast and I are ready. Trailmomma flies in just as we are leaving. I knew she would be fine as here she was picking up her pacer.

The Beast and I took off, I hear as I am leaving "You own this Pigeon." I power hiked the hill passing some runners and then it is game on. Again we are moving and I am doing the math in my head and know it is possible to achieve if I believe. It is going to be close. The Beast continues to monitor my fueling and salt intake which is great because that is one thing I don't have to think about. All I need to think about is moving forward and catching that next runner. The next aid station is coming and The Beast tells me "You don't need anything, maybe a gel, something light that is all." We are in and out and our way. Only a few more miles. Keep moving, don't slow down. I keep passing runners and I make it a priority that once I pass a runner they can not pass me. It is a fun game to keep my mind occupied and to give me a edge, a reason to push a bit harder each time we pass a runner. Then I see it, the Damn Hill. 3 miles to go.

I am focused, we transition into a power hike and my power hike is strong as we are passing runners. It feels great to be this close to the finish and have life in my legs. Keep pushing, don't slow down. Ok we can run now and run we do. The mental talk in my head was fascinating. Run, run a bit more now power hike. I matched the The Beast power hike and had him pull me a bit. Last Gasp was near. So close keep moving. We hit last Gasp and I again cool down with the water bucket and then we push on. Running here and running there. Passing and hiking now running again. 1 more mile, "push it" I hear The Beast say and push it I do. One final hill and The Beast has me run all of it. He wont let me settle, oh the pain it hurts I am right there on the red line, the pain, but push on I do. We crest the hill and make the right turn the final little hill and then the grass. I hear the crowds, I hear my name so close keep going. Push it!!!!! I see the clock and I am so close I find another gear and cross in 10:15ish. I did it.

Rachel is waiting for me and as soon as I stop moving I immediately start to cramp. My hamstrings, my calves everything is screaming at me, but I don't care. I finished and I finished within my projected goal time. Who would have thought that would have happened with the way my first 24 miles went. I turned things around the last 26 miles. I didn't do it alone though. I had the aid and support of a amazing running partner, Trailmomma. The amazing support and sacrifice of my wife Rachel. The best crew and pacer in town with Dasie and Kuni The Beast. Thank you all for your support and drive and compassion throughout the day. Trailmomma thank you for your help all day, you turned my day around.

I completed the AR50 miler. I learned a lot during this journey. I learned even more about myself.

In the days since AR50, I have recovered well. I didn't get any blisters during this event which is amazing. I was a bit sore, but walking fine on Sunday which was a goal of mine. I took the week off from training one to recover and two because I developed a very bad cold on Tuesday that had me in bed for a few days. In the weeks to come I have a race on April 27, a trail marathon that I will be using as a training run. Then things start to really ramp up in my build toward TRT 100 in July.

Believe and you will Achieve