Last year's American River 50-Mile Endurance Run was my first 50-miler. I had such a horrible time because of GI issues that I almost dropped out of the race....several times. Thanks to my great crew, I stuck to it and finished with a time of 7:53. This year, I was using it as a long training run; another workout towards my goal of finishing San Diego this June. I thought if I could make it through the race without GI or fueling issues, I'd consider it a win, or a solid training run.
One of my new running friends, and Ironman, HK, was gracious enough to allow us to crash at his house in Sacramento, which was less than 10 minutes away from the start. We arrived at the starting area around 5:30, dropped our drop-bags off and greeted other friends as we made our way up to the starting line.
It was still dark when the race started and would continue to stay so for a couple miles as you run south along the ARP bike path for a mile and then turn back and make your way up to Folsom. I slowly passed runners as I settled into a comfortable 8:20 min/mi pace. It only took a mile into the run before I started to get hot. It didn't start out that cold, but I wanted to wear my PI WXB raincoat. I must have look like I was struggling because a runner asked if she could help hold my jacket while I put my hydration pack back on. That was very nice of her. I kindly declined and got squared away. About 2 miles in, I heard someone cheer for me and looked over and saw Lavy. She was there to pace Patrick M. so made her way around the course cheering on folks until that point. Another participant in the 50-mile run, Amy Burton, asked me if that was Lavy, and I said yes. Then she asked if I was Tanford. So I introduced myself to her and found out that she is running Tahoe Rim Trail 100, and is having Lavy pace her there. Tyler, who was also there to pace HK, and crew, was just another 100 ft up the pathway. I handed her my jacket and continued on.
Amy and I ran together for the next 8 miles before she stopped for a bathroom stop. Then for the next 10 miles, I was alone. For a race that has over 800 participants, this is highly unusual. There were several people ahead of me, but far enough that if the trail turned, I'd lose sight of them. Then, there were several people a few hundred feet behind me. This made for the perfect condition for me missing a turn-off a little before mile 20. I ended up staying on the bike path and looping back around to the Main Bar AS at 19.2, adding on 3 additional miles.
Apparently someone had pulled down the course ribbons that marked the left turn onto the trail from the bike path. I told the captain of the AS what had happened and he said they sent someone down to put ribbons back up. The few people who were behind me and followed me, making the same mistake weren't too happy about it. I hope I don't end up in their race report as the guy that messed up their race. Oh well, things happen. But the second time around, there were about 5 ribbons up, and a volunteer standing there as a course monitor. Stuff like this is common in races. There are folks who don't care too much for runners and will take down ribbons, or people who just don't know what the ribbons are for and would pull them off.
I laughed it off and figured that as long as I can keep up the pace, I'll just count it as extra training miles. I wanted to finish the race feeling like I could run another 10-20 miles...now I guess I only would need to feel like I could go another 7-17 miles. I passed by that random porta-potty that saved my life at mile 19.5 and figured I should take a photo of it since it saved me from completely pooping my shorts.
But because of those extra 3 miles, I got to Beale's Point AS about 4 hours in to the run. But I got an unofficial 50k PR of 4:20, (and an unofficial 50-mile PR of 7:50.) I felt solid running the trails. I got to Buzzard's Cove looking forward to some ice cream. I wanted a cone last year but with the GI issues, nothing was appealing enough to eat. I passed through Buzzard's Cove with a few other guys, but was the only one that stopped for a cone.
The only other significant event that happened was a fall around mile 48 (officially mile 45 of the race) where I tripped over a rock, and threw my foot down to stop my fall, but that caused my right calf to spasm and cramp up, causing me to fall anyway. It took me a good minute to stretch that calf out enough to relax the muscle so I could stand up again. Meanwhile two runners passed me, briefly slowing down to ask if I needed help. Most trail runners so are nice. I eventually caught back up to these guys right before we started the last 3 miles of climbing to the finish.
I felt strong, and surprisingly fresh, but I think I just wanted to race to be over so I could go enjoy a beer. I ran the last 3 miles up to the finish, briefly stopping at the Last Gasp AS to take a photo (of the hunky dudes that were manning the aid station to encourage the ladies to finish strong)
With today's recovery run, I finished out the week with 80 miles, 8,500 ft of elevation gain (7,200ft loss) and 12:55 of time spent on my feet.
Special thanks to NorCal Ultras race director, Julie Fingar, for putting on a great race, all the volunteers that made the race possible, HK, Tyler, and Diana for providing us with beers, driving us back and providing a cold pool to soak our legs post race.
Edit: I had half a cup of chicken noodle soup at Granite Bay AS, drinking all the soup but only taking in some of the pasta and chicken. The chicken was quite dry and I ended up cheeking it for a bit. Five minutes later, the chicken bits are still in my mouth and getting drier. When we hit a little uphill section, I took a deep breath and took some of that chicken and started choking. After few minutes of coughing an trying to clear my throat, everything was all good and I continued on. Had to laugh about that too...and noted here to remember to not eat the chicken.