I finished the California International Marathon in the beginning of December and decided that I was not going to run a road race in 2018. My love for trails and running ultras has taken over and I started to work on my race plan for 2018.
Ever since last year (2017) when I did a 12-hour race, I knew that I would try for a 100 mile race. The Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run is not too far from me so I knew that would be the race. I just had to figure out what other races I would do in preparation for RDL100. I tried to get into the Miwok 100k, but did not get picked through the lottery.
I then signed up for the lottery for the Way Too Cool 50k, which is one of my bucket-list races. I actually got in. I decided that I was going to do the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run as well since the Way Too Cool and American River 50 courses combine to make the Rio Del Lago course. I saw it as doing recon for the big race. My goal isn’t to kill myself on these first two races, but enjoy them and really study the course while I am out there.
I was building off of my marathon training by taking a few weeks really easy and then ramping up my mileage. I did not add mileage too quickly, or so I thought at the time, and almost all of my runs were at 65-70% of my max heart rate. Basically I was building my aerobic endurance. Everything was going really well. I was doing back-to-back weekend runs and following Hal Koerner’s plan from his book “Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning.” It is a great book and I strongly recommend it.
I averaged 253 miles in January in 24 runs (which was my biggest mileage month ever). My legs felt great and I had really built up my aerobic endurance. I was doing a 22 mile slow run and started to get some ankle pain after about 14 miles. Nothing terrible, but it was noticeable. I didn’t feel a pop, didn’t land weird, it just started hurting. The pain got worse when I got home and let it rest for a while, but there was no inflammation. I did the normal ice/rest as well as some warm therapy. I took about 5 days off of running, substituting cycling and swimming for some run days. I even took Ibuprofen, which I hate doing. I ran 88 miles in February, which 60 of those were pre-injury. That means that the three weeks leading up to the race, I only put in 28 miles total. Looking back on my monthly mileage, my injury is probably due to overuse. I am figuring it’s some form of tendonitis or an impingement at the joint.
Way too Cool 50k was exactly one month after I hurt my ankle. I tried to train smarter since the injury. In weeks leading up to the race, I had had some very good, pain free runs. I had a few runs where my ankle hurt as well (even stopping a run 1.5 miles in and walking back to the start). Honestly, I was worried about it with the race quickly approaching. I decided to take the 3 days before the race off to let it recover a little more.
Race Morning/Pre Race
I woke up at about 4:30 and got dressed. I grabbed some overnight oats that had been in the fridge and headed out to the car. I wanted to get up to the race by 6:00AM so I could get a good parking spot. There is a parking lot right near the port-o-potties and not too far from the event tents. If you get there too late, you end up parking along the road (where the first mile of the race takes place) or at a store down the road (if you get there after 7:15 am. I got my primo parking spot and hit the bathrooms. If you are going to WTC in the future, I would strongly recommend getting there early.
I was continually second-guessing myself on whether I should change from my CW-X Thermal Tights to my North Face Shorts. It was about 36 degrees out and the high for the day was going to be about 44. I ended up sticking with the tights and am glad I did, but more on that in a little.
I was waiting for my friend Abdulah to show up when I turn around and see Max King (left picture below). He is a killer ultra runner who holds several course records and is a super nice guy. I also ran across Jamil Curry (right picture below) who is the founder of Run Steep Get High and Aravaipa Running. Jamil is not only a great ultra runner, but does vlogs and other videos. I have been watching his content lately, so it was really cool to see him there. Jamil was taping some of the race (following some of the Salomon athletes). I was able to get pictures with both guys. It totally made my day.
Abdulah showed up and after a quick trip to the blue palace (not together), I was ready for the race to start. The race starts out for about a mile on a paved road with cars parked along either side. After a mile, you head out on Olmstead Loop. When we got to the trail, there was a bad bottleneck, but it only lasted about a minute before everyone was on their way. The first section of the course is 8 miles and was mostly runnable single track with the exception of a few small hills. I was able to get a nice warmup mile in on the paved section and had a decent pace going with absolutely no pain. Here is a video of the first creek crossing at Knickerbocker Creek.
The first 8 miles were great. The sun was out for parts of this section and just a few sprinkles. The rain was expected to roll in about 3 hours after the race start. The trails were a little muddy, but not too bad except for a few sections. At mile 5.5 miles there was no ankle pain and I felt really good, especially since I had not logged many miles for the past 3 weeks.
At the end of the 8 mile Olmstead Loop, you come back to the start area where you hit the first aid station. I chose to stop by my car (thanks to my primo parking spot 10 feet from the course) to swap out my long sleeve Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew Shirt for my Smartwool PhD Short Sleeve Shirt. The shirt was getting kind of warm and I knew that I would probably be wearing my waterproof jacket so I wanted a cooler shirt.
I grabbed some coke, boiled potato, a few pieces of PB&J, and refilled one bottle with Gu Roktane. Then I headed out on the next section of the course that took you from Cool down the Western States Trail toward No Hands Bridge. Before you get to the bridge, you cross highway 49 and head along the Quarry Road Trail which is relatively flat until you reach the aid station at mile 13. I felt good at this point. I grabbed more PB&J and coke. Then I filled up my bottles with more Gu Roktane and headed out. No ankle pain still, but because I was landing more on my heel to put less pressure on my ankle, my Plantar Fasciitis on my left foot was starting to act up.
At around mile 16 the smaller hills started. Nothing too major, but it did slow me down a little. There was a little over 1,000 feet of vertical in the next few miles. I just took it easy and power hiked this section. My Plantar Fasciitis was getting worse, but my ankle was still pain free. I am able to run through the PF pain, but the ankle pain that I had in the weeks leading up to the race eliminated any running immediately, so I was happy with how everything was playing out. Most importantly, I was staying positive and just enjoying the journey. It was great to run a race where finishing was my main goal (usually I have a time goal that I try to hit). To help with the Plantar Fasciitis pain, I would just stand in the creek crossings for about 15 seconds to cool off my feet and try and keep the inflammation down. Here is a progress check at mile 18.
From mile 18, I just kept chugging along and having a great time. I decided before the race that I was going to enjoy the mud and not try and avoid every puddle along the way. Normally, I try and avoid puddles, but this was so much fun. Even on the climbs, I just put my head down and put one foot in front of the other. There were a few hills here and there, but nothing bad until Goat Hill, which was at about mile 25.5. It’s a short, but steep hill that’s over a 20% grade.
To be honest, this is where my reduced training mileage was apparent. I was slow to climb the steep hills. The good thing is that I didn’t stop completely, just kept slowly working up the hill. At the top, there was a volunteer cheering you on, letting you know that you made it to the top and the aid station wasn’t too far away.
With less than 5 miles to go, I grabbed some soup, coke, and sandwiches before heading out. I ran the last 5 miles a little slower than I would have liked, but considering my Plantar Fasciitis was really bad by this point, I was thrilled to not have to worry about the cut-off times. I even passed the great Ann Trason (14 time winner of the Western States 100) who was walking her dog on the trail. She told me the finish line was just up ahead.
As I approached the finish line, I stopped in a big mud patch, reached down and gave myself some mud stripes. I earned this finish and learned many valuable lessons (more on that later).
The finish line party included a signature frog cupcake, a pint glass and beer from Tap It Brewing Company from San Luis Obispo, and homemade soup. It was rather cold by this point and the soup was amazing.
There were a few vendors who were there including Salomon and Victory Bags. I grabbed my stuff and headed to my car to change and get home. My poor wife was stuck at home with our three young kids, so I saved the frog cupcake for her. She definitely deserves it.
Shoes: Hoka One One Speedgoat 2
Gaiters: Outdoor Research Stamina Gaiters
Socks: Drymax Max Pro Trail ¼ Socks
Tights: CW-X Insulator Stabilyx Tights
Shirt (first 8 miles): Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Pattern Crew Shirt
Shirt (last 22 miles): Smartwool PhD Short Sleeve Shirt
Hydration Pack: Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 8 Set
Jacket: Arc’teryx Norvan Jacket
Hat: Altra Tech Hat
Anti-Chafe: Squirrel’s Nut Butter
Other Items in my pack: Ginger Runner BUFF, Baby Wipes, Extra GoPro Battery
I try to take a few things from every race or long run that I do. Because this was a scouting mission for RDL100, I wanted to prepare for doing this section of the course at night, which would most likely be when I make it to the Way Too Cool course.
I had another great race of making sure my nutrition and fuel were on point. My favorite part of running ultra runs is that you get to eat awesome food and hang out with great people who you have never met. This was my first time having warm soup. Total game changer right there!!!
Running in the mud is really fun if you have some good shoes and socks. My Drymax socks kept my feet feeling good because they pull the water away from your feet so quickly. The Hoka Speedgoat 2 have tons of cushion, are responsive, and the lugs dig into the mud for some great traction. There were a few hills where people were running in place because they couldn’t get any traction. I was hiking up the hill and would push them until they could get some traction. I LOVE THESE SHOES!
I am a mid-packer, plain and simple. I have no issues with this at all. I am not super-fast (I know that fast is all relative) but my training has helped me gain the ability to just grind away, one foot on front of the other, for hour after hour. I know where I should be in a race and have no problem when people pass me. I check my ego at the door and run my race. That is a huge change from road running, at least for me.
I have to trust my training. After almost 3 weeks of minimal training due to my ankle injury, I still had the endurance to far surpass what I thought I would be able to do on race day. I just wanted to make the 8:30:00 cutoff and my 7:19:00 was only about 25 minutes slower than my PR. Most of that was due to my Plantar Fasciitis pain and having to slow down for that. I am very happy with how everything went down at the race.
So with a little over a month until the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, I will take a recovery week of swimming, cycling, and some easy running. My ankle is almost completely healed as of today, but my Plantar Fasciitis has become worse. I will work on every other day runs with more cross training (swimming and cycling) between now and the AR50. My goal is to enjoy AR50 and I know that my Plantar Fasciitis will be a factor, but I also know that I can run through that pain. I plan to take a month off after AR50 to let my Plantar Fasciitis recover.