American River 50M – 2008

April 5, 2008

I decided to try this race again.  This had been my first 50 miler back in 2004, and I had never done a faster 50-miler on any course (though the others were Dick Collins (substantially more hills), Sunmart (lots of cramping), and Mt. Disappointment (DNF, but I didn’t even get to Mile 38 under 10:30)).

I was staying with my friend Jessica (and her husband Erik) in Davis and made arrangements with a GVH runner to get a ride to the start (and I believe that we would hitch a ride from the finish with some volunteer or other GVH runner).  The race starts at 6am, so he would pick me up at 5am.

I have a number of steps that I like to take before I leave for a race.  Generally, I like to have a full hour to “use the facility,” grease up my genitalia and toes, get dressed, and make sure that I have everything I need for the day.  Sometimes I have an extra 15 minutes… but better that than being rushed.

I also don’t sleep that well, because I am worried that I will not wake up in time… and often I will wake up 20-30 times during the night, thinking that I have overslept, only to see the clock and sleepily realize that I have not, and that it is not time to get up yet!

For a 5am pickup, I planned to get up at 4am to take care of everything.  As per my usual, I woke up a dozen times too early.  Unfortunately, the last time I woke up, it wasn’t just before 4am or close to 4am… it was 4:50!

4:50 was not going to give me enough time to do much of anything, save get dressed, think quickly (and sleepily) if I had everything, and grease up everything but my toes (no time).  To me, the MOST important step is to evacuate my bowels so that I don’t have to go during the race… and I didn’t really have time to do that at all.  Bad bad bad news.

My ride was slightly late (maybe 5 minutes), but that wouldn’t have made a difference to try and take care of my needs.

At the start, we had about 15 minutes between getting from the car to the start, until the start, and the port-a-potties had long lines.  I decided that I would look for a bathroom along the course and hope that there was either a short line or no line.

From the get-go, I HAD to go the bathroom.  I could feel the discomfort.  Fortunately, being on a park path, there were bathrooms every half-mile to mile, but of course, the closer we were to start, the longer the lines were.

Finally, I got to a double bathroom facility (basically like a permanent port-a-pottie (a perm-a-pottie?) where one of the bathrooms was not in use.  Ah, sweet relief!  As usual, I had to go quite a bit.  My fond memories are that a number of people kept trying the door handle and saying to others in the line, “I think that one is closed, because I have been here 5 minutes and no one has come out.”  I was in there for 8-10 minutes, but when I came out, I felt a whole lot better!

At about 15 miles, I ran into a familiar face, Summer Wesson, the gal I DNFed with at Mt. Disappointment.  We ran together for a bit.  I talked about my success at Sunmart and she talked about her plans for upcoming races.  She is 6 years younger than me and shorter, so after a time, she took off at a “blistering” pace.

My split close to the marathon point (which is right around Folsom Lake) was 4:40 (about 20 minutes slower than in 2004).  My split at 50K was around 6 hours (close to my PR for a 50K!).  Once I got onto the trails, however, I started having a few issues.

First, since I had no protection on my toes (and technical socks make zero difference) I started to get blisters.  (No cramps, because I was taking Succeed S!Caps.)

Second, I started to get some side knee pain in my right knee.  The downhills felt uncomfortable.  Later, someone said it might be a tight IT band.  I’d never had that problem before.  On the downhills, I needed to run with my knee bent more markedly to deal with the soreness.  (It felt OK when I ran with it more bent.)

By about Mile 40, I was at my end-of-race shuffle pace and not moving all that quickly.

My favorite section, which is around Mile 42 to 46, where you run around a lake above the river, was incredibly muddy, and poison oak leaves were encroaching upon the trail.  I had to take very careful steps to avoid the poison oak and this seemed to annoy people behind me who wanted to pass.

“I’ll let you pass when I don’t have to stand in a patch of poison oak to get you by.”

At about Mile 46, I let one very insistent runner pass.  It was 67-year old Hwa Ja Andrade, from TRH.  Great, now the “old” ladies are passing me!

The last section is the HUGE hill.  It’s 3 miles long and 1000 feet of elevation gain.  I walked the entire hill and passed by a number of people running (albeit slowly), including Hwa Ja.  The last 2 or 3 tenths of a mile are flat and I was able to run in to the finish (and passed a few more people who were gassed from running up the hill).

I finished in 11:27:37 (almost an hour slower than last time).  I came in more than 5 minutes ahead of Hwa Ja (to me, impressive because I put 5 minutes of time on her in just 2 miles).

Slept really soundly after the race and spent a nice Sunday morning/afternoon with my college friends and had a well-deserved burger at Burgers & Brews in Davis.


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