Monday, May 21, 2018

Race Report – American River 50 Mile 2018

* I'm a little late on completing my race report, but here it is.

Pre-Race Report

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.  I took on the Way Too Cool 50k in the beginning of March and was ready to take on my first official 50-mile run.  

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 wasn’t to kill myself on these first two races, but enjoy them and really study the course while I was out there.  

I was building off my marathon and 50k training.   Almost all 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.

The month before Way Too Cool 50k, I hurt my ankle.  I tried to train smarter since that injury.  In weeks leading up to WTC50k, 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.  I completed the WTC50k in a decent time considering my ankle injury and ongoing Plantar Fasciitis pain. 

After the race, I spent a week of cycling and swimming to give my feet a chance to recover.  I quickly got back into my training since I only had about 3 weeks until the American River 50 Miler.  I decided that I needed to get in one more long trail run, so I got up at the butt-crack of dawn (actually way before dawn) and headed up to Auburn.  I was doing the second half of the WTC course, starting about 90-mintues before sunrise.  It was cold, foggy, and wet out.  I have never had anxiety before when it comes to running, but that morning was different.  It was completely dark with no moon.  I parked my car and was heading out for my first solo night-ish run.  I finally set out on my way, knowing that my Garmin’s navigation would help me stay on track.   

I had my high-powered headlamp on and was only able to see about 25 feet in front of me.  There were creek crossings (one of which was really sketchy), but I was ready to get wet and muddy.  I was a little worried about mountain lions and bears since they are known to be in this area.  There was a ledge about 10-15 feet above me which would be a perfect place for a mountain lion to stalk me.  By the time the sun came up, I felt more at ease, as I stumble upon a fresh bear cub print.  Fortunately, I made it back safe and sound and my final long run was complete.  It was taper time.    

Race Morning/Pre Race

I woke up at about 2:30 and got dressed.  I grabbed a Pro-Bar Meal Replacement Bar and headed out to the car.  I had to be at the finish line at 4:00 to pick up the bus to the race start.  I met up with my friend Abdulah who I also ran part of Wat Too Cool with.  We were going to run together for as long as he was willing to stick with me, since he is a faster runner.  Also, I knew that I was going to run my own race and not try to stick with Abdulah if it was going to be too fast.  It was going to be a long day and I knew I needed to save something for the second half of the race. 

It was pouring out with some 15+ mph winds.  We got on the bus and made our way down to the start.  They said that we would be able to stay on the bus until the start, but ended up kicking us out 45 minutes early.  I grabbed my huge duffle bag with my drop bags for 25 miles and 41 miles and headed out into the storm.  I picked up my bib the day before, so I threw my bags into the back of a pick-up, hoping that they stayed dry until I reached them.  Then I hit the line for the port-o-potties.   

The worst thing was that people were hiding out in there just to stay dry, so the line took forever.   
Once I got out I met up with Abdulah who had to pick up his bib.  We couldn’t find any room under the eazy-ups that that had, so we just stood there in the rain.  Let’s just say that there wasn’t a dry piece of fabric on either of us by the time the race started.  

The temperature was in the 50’s so I went with shorts and a short sleeve shirt, both from Patagonia.  I was wearing my Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket and Drymax socks along with my Hoka Speedgoat 2’s.  For my pack, I had the Salomon Ultra 8-set, which is amazing.  

The first few miles were a little slow since the trail was soggy and narrow.  We eventually made it to the levee where it widened out and we were able to pick up the pace.  We were on pavement for the next 23 miles or so.  

The rain let up after about an hour, so my jacket came off.  Abdulah wanted to pick up the pace just after that so we wished each other luck and he headed on his way.  Abdulah went on to have an awesome race.

After a few miles, I ran across a few runners that I recognized from the 12-hour race I did (Michael and Yoly).  We talked a little during that race and ended up running for about 30 minutes together at AR50.  It is funny how you run into people you that you have met before, then you end up talking for a while like you have been friends for years.  I love the ultra-community and how we can relate to each other.  We all strive to push ourselves and it is why trail running has taken over such a huge spot in my heart.

Fast forward for a little, we follow the American River Bike Trail for a while until we cross a bridge at Nimbus Dam and head up the bluffs.  I ended up seeing a Bald Eagle Nesting Area and sure enough, it was just perched in the tree.  I felt like it was a sign that good things were going to happen that day.

A few miles later I ran into a few friends who were cheering and volunteering.  

I was approaching Beal’s Point in a few miles and I started to develop some pain in my outer metatarsal from my shoes compressing my left foot too much.  It slowed me down quite a bit and eventually I had to walk for a few minutes at a time until the pain lessened.  I also was getting a blister on my right small toe from debris and moisture.  I was really concerned that I was going to not make cutoffs because I was slowing down so much.  I just plugged along though, knowing that my dad and step-mom were at the mile 25 aid station with my drop bag (Beal’s Point).  

I decided to chug an Ensure, drink some Coke and eat a little.  I also swapped out my shoes and socks.  I stuck with Drymax Socks, but switched to my Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s.  I hit the real bathrooms in the park and headed on my way.  I am so grateful for my parents heading out to cheer me on.  They told my wife that I looked pretty beat up (which I didn’t find out about until I got home that night).  Even though I knew I would be chasing cutoffs if things didn’t change, I wanted my damn jacket and was going to give it my all. 

I headed out and instantly I noticed that the compression issues were gone and that pain went away.  About a mile later, I could feel the blister again.  I had about 4.5 miles until the next aid station, which is where I was picking up my pacer, Tim.  I sent him a test and asked him to find some moleskin if he could.

I got to the Granite Bay Aid Station, where Tim was waiting.  He wasn’t able to find moleskin, but we did get some medical tape and wrapped my toe.  Then we went on our way.  It was great to just have someone to talk to and push me when I wanted to slow down.  Tim is great because he pushes me, but in a kind way, “Hey buddy, we need to pick it up a little.”

The miles started flying by.  We made it to the Rattlesnake Bar Aid Station at mile 41.  Where I refueled and headed out.  I was keeping with my plan of getting in and out of aid stations quickly (less than 2 minutes).  

The next ten miles or so started to get interesting.  We had been in wet conditions all day, but the single track narrowed and were filled with water.  We were basically running up a creek, and yes, without a paddle.  

I kept doing math in my head to make sure I was going to make my cutoffs.  I don’t know why, but doing pace calculations tends to keep my mind busy.  It is similar to repeating mantras. We plugged on and finally made it on to the Last Gasp Aid Station.

We started plugging up the last 3-mile road (yes, paved).  I was so ready to just finish that I would run as much as possible, and by run, I mean very slowly jog.  I knew it wasn’t efficient and power walking would have been better, but I just wanted to finish and knew I could push a little.  

We made it to the finish line at 13:28:15. The cutoff was 14 hours so we did have a little time to spare.  While I knew I could have run a lot faster, the injuries were significant and I was thrilled with my finish.  I was handed my medallion and jacket.  We picked up my drop bags, but I forgot my headlamp.  At least someone is getting to enjoy it now (so sad).


Electrolyte/Fuel: Glukos Gummies and Tailwind Nutrition
Other Items in my pack: Ginger Runner BUFF, Baby Wipes, Extra GoPro Battery, Ensure

Lessons Learned

I try to take a few things from every race or long run that I do.  I had another great race of making sure my nutrition and fuel were on point.  I found out that Redbull was great for a pick-me-up, one is my limit.  Coke as usual kept me happy and tasted so good (which I usually don’t like).

Running in the mud is really fun if you have some good shoes and socks.  My Drymax socks kept my feet feeling good in past races and training runs because they pull the water away from your feet so quickly.  With the blister issues, I will be switching to Injinji socks for my future long-distance training and RDL100.  I think it will really help prevent blisters since there is no skin-on-skin contact.  I also had a huger blister under my big toe-nail, but luckily I won’t lose the nail.

While the Hoka Speedgoat 2 has tons of cushion, is responsive, and have great traction.  I will need to do my future trail runs in shoes with a wider toe box to prevent compression of my feet.  I will be going back to Altra shoes, which I spend a great deal of time running in already.  I can’t wait for the new Lone Peaks to come out and hopefully a new Olympus.

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 in 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.  Even after 13.5 hours of running/hiking, I still had more left in the tank.  I can’t wait to get healthy and take on my next challenge.  

What’s Next

The reality is that I had been running for the past year with Plantar Fasciitis.  I never gave it a break because I was doing one training block or race after the next.  At AR50, from mile 10 to the finish, it felt like I was running on bruised feet.  While I could run up hill, running on flats and downhill was extremely painful.  I knew that I would take the next two months off running to let it heal.  I was going to get cortisone shots and try Shockwave Therapy, which my doctor was suggesting.  Time to finally let my feet get better so I could have a legitimate shot at completing the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run in November.  

Update: It has been 1.5 months since the race and I have not run more than ½ mile, which is how far the gym is away from my work.  There is still some pain, but I am working on getting better and can’t wait to start training again.  I have been cycling, swimming, and hitting the gym.  I am getting stronger in preparation for the hardest training of my life.  I have done Active Release Technique and had my cortisone shots.   I have my Shockwave Therapy in a few weeks.  Bring on Rio Del Lago 100 and let’s see what happens.  Even if I get timed out because of my Plantar Fasciitis, I will give it everything I have.  That is what being an ultra-runner is to me.

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