Tag Archives: Amy Dodson

Skyline 50K – 2016

August 7, 2016

The race is back to Sunday again.  I liked last year when the race was on Saturday.  On the one hand, I had to run the day after I drove up, but conversely, I had a day to recover and hang out with my family on the way back.

Then again, Mom and Dad aren’t around this weekend because of Dad’s HS reunion this weekend in Southern California.  I suspect that we are passing each other in Central California.  I did, however, get to have a nice BFT dinner with my sister Marisa and our friend Shauna and watched some of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (though not exactly conducive to getting a good night’s sleep before a long race).

The course this year is a bit different, having to do with some construction going on around the dam area (dam it), so we will start out in the same direction as at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50M and work our way over to Bort Meadow from a different direction.  On the map, you cannot really tell how different it will be or if it will be tougher, but if we are heading in the direction that the original Skyline Course used to end, there are some dramatic uphills that I don’t necessarily want to tackle.

For the past few years, starting with Skyline 50K 2013, I create a laminated pace sheet to carry with me and on the back side, I do some kind of dedication (starting with an inspiration to my HS friend, Brian Kelly, who unfortunately died at 42 the day before the race).  Last year, Skyline was my 100th marathon or ultra (27 mararathons, 73 ultras) so I dedicated it to the 10 people who most influenced me getting into running.

Today, I am at a different milestone – my 80th ultramarathon, so I have decided to dedicate it to eight people I met while running ultras that made a difference in my life.  (See attached PDF for the pictures.)skylinepace16

First is Ken Michal.  I met him as we passed in the dark during the Santa Barbara 100M/100K.  Later, I learned he had spent 8 hours in a port-a-pottie because the aid station blew off the mountain and it was the warmest spot available.  We have since met at many other events, and he is a pretty amazing (All Day!) athlete.

Next is Amy Dodson, who I first met at American River 50M in 2010.  She had a lung and leg removed as a teenager, so she is hard to miss.  I thought she was another one-legged athlete, Amy Palmeiro-Winters, who had run the North Face Challenge a year prior, and when I asked her if her name was Amy, who knew that there was more than one Amy with a prosthetic leg running an ultra?  We ran a few miles together, but our real great experience was at Miwok the following year when we ran together for several hours.  I received the “brunt” of good wishes as fellow competitors cheered us (her mostly) on.

Next, a pair together, Dave McCaghren and Jerry Hollingsworth, who I met perchance at the Sunmart 50M pre-race dinner.  Pretty much I sat down at a lonely table because I didn’t really know anyone from the Texas location of the race.  We ended up on the same race shuttle to, and from the race, had cocktails at the hotel post-race, and ended up breakfasting the next morning, too.  A few years later, I stayed with Jerry and a friend the night before my first (and so far, only) 100 miler, the Rocky Raccoon.

At the Santa Barbara 100M (attempt #2 where the race didn’t actually get cancelled), I got lost and then fell apart by Mile 29 (though more than 30 miles for me at that point).  When I got back to the finish (to then help out and cheer people in), I met a guy from Long Beach (that I never knew before) who had some ultra experience (including Barkley).  I haven’t (yet) given into some of his insanity, but he (and dog Lacey) were invaluable in pacing me at Twin Peaks 50M last year (my first and only pacer to date).

A few years ago at Skyline, I ran a few miles with another early starter.  She was no slow runner, just starting early because her friend was.  We are not really alike and follow different tracks in life, but I have always enjoying running and talking with her (and reading about her various trail and ultra adventures).  Meg Deverin Cheng and I met up again at the start (and finish) line today.

Two years ago, at the High Desert 50K in Ridgecrest, I ran cumulatively a few hours with Darrell Price, ten years my junior and local to Ridgecrest (and occasionally works in Long Beach, too).  Both of us are big guys (I’m taller, naturally.) so we had that to commiserate about.  Last year, I stayed with him at his house less than a mile from the Start Line, and hope to do so again this year.

Finally, Laurin Miertschin, who I met at Twin Peaks 50M my first year.  Both of us ended up doing the 50K drop down.  She has also ventured out on my hash events, and convinced me to run a number of tough local races.  I hope she gets back out there soon since she seems to be injured a lot these days.

Besides, my eight ultrabuddies motivating me to do well, I did a countdown of my 8th most favorite ultramarathons and the 8th hardest ones.  (If you are on FB, you can revisit my posts from July 29 to August 6th.)

Something different that I am doing today is wearing my GPS watch to both see where I am on the course and also, it shows me my best pace on each section.  I always have a vague idea of where I am on the course, but I also enjoy knowing EXACTLY where I am at.

The race starts out on time and they recognize the folks who have done 10+ Skylines.  This year is my 9th.  Hoping for some special giveaway next year.

As mentioned above, the course is different and we are heading towards the suspension bridge.  I wonder if it will be crowded when we get there as for Dick Collins I had to wait 2-3 minutes to cross, so I hung back a bit… but when I get there, we go, not over the bridge, but around it.  That’s kind of disappointing.  I hope to cross it en route to the finish, just because I feel like that makes the whole race for me.

After the bridge, we go to the right (in the final miles, we come from the left) and begin heading up a fairly steep road.  I have to walk this.  At the first aid station (a mere 5K from the start), I’ve done 38:37, so a pretty slow start.  GPS says that my fastest pace was 6:30 (probably a short downhill stretch).

The course continues paralleling a paved road, and crossing it a couple times.  After about 3 miles, the terrain becomes familiar and I know I am on the path to Bort Meadows.  I don’t like the trail leading there, because it is single-track and rutted, which is not great to run on.  At least it is still overcast.  Four miles more, 50-odd minutes, a much better average pace.  If I want to break 7 hours, I will need to get a better pace in soon.

From Bort to Big Bear (basically the Fish Ranch Road crossing) is around 3 miles, a mile-and-a-half of gentle uphill and a mile-and-a-half of decently steep downhill.  I am always reminded that we have to do this in reverse.  Another 38 minutes here (but that does include stopping just before the aid station to put my inserts facing forward again (they slip because my shoes don’t fit perfectly)).

Once I cross Fish Ranch Road, it’s a bunch of single-track, uphill, mostly familiar trail, but then we do take a slightly different route to get up to Skyline Gate, a more circuitous route.  It just makes the long uphill suck more.  Four more miles, 63 minutes.  It’s looking less likely that I can break 7 hours.  Yes, my total time is 3:11 and I am just about halfway there, but I know there are some sections ahead where I will definitely lose more time.

Marisa and Shauna meet me at Skyline Gate and I convince them to at least walk with me to the French Trail turn-off.  It’s nice having some familiar company.

French Trail is a steep downhill and there were a bunch of people hiking on it.  This is my best chance to make up a little bit of time, before I lose a bunch of time later (as my feet hurt more and more as the event goes on – last year, I wore the better cushioned Hokas, this year, the shoes aren’t as soft).

Unfortunately, it isn’t ALL downhill, and on the really steep uphill, I got a bit gassed out and then my feet started to hurt more than usual.  (Might be a recurrence of my plantar fasciitis.)  According to the GPS, 5.7 miles in 100 minutes (so not really picking up any time).

Now, I have the 3 mile segment, in reverse, with the steep uphill and the gentle downhill.  I am struggling more than usual on the uphill portion.  Typically, my times in either direction are comparable (within 5 minutes of each other), but I was 10 minutes off in the reverse direction.  Even on the downhill, I don’t feel like running.

From Bort Meadows, I now have over 5 miles to Honker Bay, and if I remember this section correctly, it seems like a whole lot more than 5 miles.  You essentially parallel some of the earlier trail and then there are a number of long switchbacks uphill and then a slight drop, and then more and more uphill.  I know that when I get to the treeline, well, I’m not getting any closer.  Feels closer, but never is exactly.

I am watching my GPS overall time, and at this point, I am just hoping to get to Honker Bay in under 7 hours… but officially, 7:00:09.

Now there is about 2.3 miles to the finish, and hopefully I get to have the soothing bounce of the suspension bridge to carry me through to the end.  Now I am in the sun of the day and my feet are really sore.  I am just trying to get through the last bit.  (I mean, I WILL, but it is a struggle.)

When I get to the bridge, it is disappointing that we are going around it again; I will talk to the race director.  We should be going across it at least once… that’s the best part that I look forward to.

Once across the bridge, it is paved to the finish.  I try and walk briskly on the uphills and flats and shuffle/soar on the downhill sections.  I am able to pass a few stragglers in this part, and get to the finish in 7:46:38.  Definitely one of my slowest times, though, given that it was a different course, it is a personal best on this particular course!

I can’t hang out very long at the finish line as I need to drive back to Southern California afterwards (stopping first to shower and pack up at my folks’).

Looking forward to at least 20 more ultras and to reach 100!






Miwok 100K – 2010

May 1, 2010

I entered the drawing once again for the Miwok 100K.  They did the lottery a little different this time… well, UltraSignUp did the lottery, and there was no “sign up with a teammate and you both get in system.”  Basically, they drew names and then had a waiting list.  I was something like 4th on the waiting list, which is tantamount to an automatic spot in the race (because at least 50 people ALWAYS drop out).

Since I had already done the race last year, I had a better idea of what to expect, and figured to improve upon my time even if it was pouring again… because I would know where the tough sections were and I would have my advantage of being able to maintain a fast walking pace up the hills.

Fortunately, the day of the race, the weather was much more moderate (and not hot), so I had the confidence of performing much much better than last year… and for the first five miles, I was running (and walking) better than the first year.

Just before I got to the first aid station at about the 10K point, I heard a unusual, but familiar sound… it was Amy Dodson from last month’s American River 50.  The plonk-plonk of her carbon-steel prosthesis sounded the same on pavement as on trails.  She looked really good and ran right by me.  I didn’t keep her in sight at all and maintained a 13:00/mile pace through the beautiful coastal section leading down to Tennessee Valley aid station.

Once I got down there, her boyfriend/husband was assisting her with a different prosthesis (some difficulty with it staying in place).  I soldiered on; the next section was downhill paved to dirt to the Pacific Coast Trail (and a bunch of uphill).  I did a comfortable pace down the hill (so as to not put a strain on my lungs prior to the uphill) and then began pressing the pace walking uphill.

After about 5 minutes, however, I hit the proverbial wall.  I couldn’t press the pace walking and slowed to a hands-on-hips bent over slog up the hill.  From behind, I was passed once again by Amy, who commented that she would see me at the end, if she made it that far.  I grunted an assent, because I felt really really cruddy.  When I got to Muir Beach, I had slowed to a 16:40 pace (including a downhill section!).

Uphill struggles

Uphill struggles

From Muir Beach to the next aid at Pantoll, there is a one-mile fairly flat section (after crossing Highway 1) and then 4 miles of relentless uphill (great!  Now that I can’t do uphill today…).  At the base of the hill, I caught up with Amy.  She was starting to struggle, too.  I told her about last year when I did the previous mile (or so) with Eldrith Gosney, and she imparted to me about how the first 20 miles and the last 4 are the worst.  Both of us were definitely at our worst, but we encouraged one another up the hill, hoping that we would feel better once we passed mile 20.  It worked, at least, to get ourselves up the hill (at about a 17:00/mile pace – not bad for 80% of the section being uphill).

Once we reached Pantoll at about Mile 22, we decided to stay together for a bit and encourage one another.  This section was particularly hard for Amy because it was single-track and it wasn’t completely level.  It messed with her balance and also rocks or branches would get hooked on it and nearly trip her up on several occasions.

The benefit of being together for about 6 miles was most advantageous to me, personally.  The leaders had started to come back from the Mile 35 turnaround, and being slower runners (I don’t necessarily agree with this rule, because we will struggle more in getting to the end and making cutoffs.), we had to move to the side and let these runners pass.

However, in passing, every single one of these runners commented, “You guys are SO-O inspirational!”  I responded, “Thank you, but I know you are mostly talking to Amy.”  Still, this kind of reinforcement helped.  I make it a point to say something nice to each person I encounter (mostly to people returning on out-and-backs and mostly ahead of me), and for the most part, they NEVER say anything in return (too engrossed with headphones or just conceited).  We picked up the pace by almost a minute per mile and were invigorated at the Bolinas Ridge Aid Station.

However, once there, I began to notice the looming cutoff time.  I had 1 hour, 42 minutes to cover 7 miles (or about 13:18/mile).  While this seems totally reasonable, it was rolling hills (but at least not 6″ deep water this time)… and my pace on the flat single-track was 3 minutes/mile slower!

I left Amy behind (she encouraged me and didn’t think she would make the cutoff) and I went off by myself to try and make the cutoff.  When I got another runner just ahead of me that we needed to turn on the pace to make it, she seemed willing, but 5 minutes later, when I turned back to say something, she was not staying with me.  Her mind was willing, but her body was not.

My body was not particularly happy with me, either, but I kept telling it that I was going to make it and it could rest if I didn’t.  I passed about 12 runners in this section, encouraging each to pick up the pace slightly to try and make the cutoff.

With about 2 miles to go to the aid station, the trail turns left and heads significantly downhill.  This is where I have to really turn it on to make it.  I ask each runner coming uphill about how long ago they left the aid station to give myself a better idea on how much time I have left.  At the top of the hill, I have about 42 minutes to make the cutoff, but I would prefer to have some leeway, rather than just make it and then be struggling for the next cutoff.  In other words, I don’t want to get to mile 58 and miss it by 2 minutes because I eased up at Mile 35.

I ended up making the cutoff by 19 minutes and my pace in this section was 11:30/mile!  That’s a pretty good pace after doing a marathon!  As compared to last year (in the rain), I was almost 45 minutes SLOWER! ?!?!

I spent little time at the aid station, knowing that I needed to turn around and go right back up that tough hill to make the next cutoff at Mile 50 and then the next at Mile 58.  On the way up, I saw Amy, who was about 10 minutes behind me (she made the cutoff, too, but now had 10 fewer minutes on the return trip).

I went at a more relaxed pace back up the hill (wanting to make the cutoff, but not wanting to exhaust myself from finishing the race.  Having made the cutoff, I just needed to maintain no slower than 16:40/mile to finish (including finishing in the dark… so maybe a little faster than that).  I returned to Bolinas Aid Station at a 16:07 pace.

From Bolinas, you head back along the uneven single-track to Pantoll.  Maybe I was invigorated by having made the cutoff, because I did this section in 15:20/mile, nearly a minute per mile faster than with Amy.

From Pantoll, you head down the steep uphill back to Muir Beach (about 55 miles).  I made that interim cutoff by about 25 minutes (but still slower than in 2009).  From Muir, you head back up onto the Pacific Coast Trail, but come into Tennessee Valley Station from a slightly different direction.  This is the last cutoff, and again, I made it by about 20 minutes (but still slower than last year).

The plus, once you get to Tennessee Valley and make the cutoff, is that you are pretty much guaranteed to finish… even if you are going a bit over the overall time limit (they give you the benefit of the doubt).  It was already starting to get dark, so I was going to finish in the dark (despite a Muir Beach volunteer telling me that I could still finish before dark – though I had calculated to do so, I would need to accelerate to 9:00/mile!).

At Tennessee Valley, I saw a familiar face – Martin Sengo from GVH – he gave me some aid and some encouragement before I sped through the aid station and headed up the horse switchbacks to the last bit of trail – uh oh – the last 4 miles.  No rain or fog this year, though.

After about a half mile of the switchbacks, the battery died on my headlamp.  There was a little power left, so I was able to turn on the red light.  You can see a little bit better than with no light, but not much.  This was almost as bad as the fog and slowed my pace considerably.

Without the fog, however, I could actually see where I was going.  On part of the uphill stretch, there were these cloth bags filled with sawdust placed just before a dip in the trail.  Whenever I spotted one, I knew that I should treat it like a hole, just so I would not stumble as much.  Other than that, I utilized my vision of runners ahead of me to see the trail (or when a few people passed me).  One runner shown his light behind me when we traversed the uneven stone staircase down towards Rodeo Beach and the finish line.

Once at the bottom of the stairs, we were mostly on a paved path with a yellow line (couldn’t really make out a color, but that’s what I assumed) down the middle.  I just fixated on the line and the cowbell noises emanating from the finish.

Just before the end, the trail turns to the left twice to turn into the finish.  Volunteers would spot incoming runners by their bobbing headlamps… so I surprised the heck out of everyone when I suddenly appeared (since they probably did not see a bobbing RED headlamp).

I finished in 16:02:11, about 12 minutes faster than last year.  Wait, what?  I was FASTER?  But I hit every aid station slower… except for the last 4 miles, when I did 19:00/mile, instead of 23:00/mile.  Awesome!

Postscript:  I found out that Amy had missed the cutoff at Mile 50.  I felt like she was good to go, but she told me later that she was happy with her result, despite not finishing.

Another item of note was that UltraSignUp ranked runners by how they thought they would finish.  I was ranked 10th to last.  Of those who finished (because there were people ranked ahead of me who did not), I finished… 10th to last.  How weird is that?

American River 50M – 2010

April 10, 2010

In the weeks and days following my 9th Way Too Cool, I had a number of (mis)adventures.

Towards the end of the month, I had my big Hashtravaganza planned.  For the past two years, I had coordinated the run aspect of it and another person had coordinated the meals.  She notified me a mere week before the event that she would not be available at all.  I ended up having to do all of the food purchasing, but did find another person to help with the cooking.  However, I didn’t want to have to be hauling a lot of supplies around 2 weeks before running another 50 mile race.

This fact contributed to a bit of knee pain for me, and it didn’t help that I had a couple of falls on hash trails in the two weeks preceding American River.

A non-running issue that I had was that I didn’t have a concrete plan for the end of the race.  Most ultras are a circle, but American River 50 is point-to-point, basically 50 miles away from the start.  The two options are to have someone pick you up at the finish (or drop you at the start) OR to utilize the extra fee bus service (at the finish).  However, a snafu in the past had been that the bus service ended after 11 hours… so if you were running slower than 11 hours, you were S.O.L.

In my last AR run, I made arrangements with my friend Jessica to come and pick me up at the finish line (and she picked up a couple of my friends, too)… but she was not particularly available and I did not want to impose upon her again, as it is a lot to ask someone to hang out at the finish line for HOURS or to be on call, for a finish time that could range across a large time frame.

So… I drove up EARLY on Friday (4/9) morning from Long Beach.  When I got to Sacramento, I went to the Fleet Feet store and picked up my bib.  I then called Laura (who had flown up) because we were planning on meeting for lunch.  I should probably say meeting for “lunch,” because we did not actually eat anything.  We went back to the store and looked around at some of the items at their sidewalk sale.

At this time (about 3pm), Dick Beardsley, was making an appearance.  He was the “host” of the event.  If you don’t know about Dick Beardsley, he was part of the famous “Duel in the Sun” at the 1982 Boston Marathon.  He and Alberto Salazar battled it out for first place.  There is some controversy whether the press got too close and doused the runners with exhaust fumes.  The race came down to a few seconds, but Salazar won the race.

A few years later, Beardsley was in an accident on his family farm, went through rehab and became addicted to painkillers (to the point that he forged signatures on prescriptions to get more).  About 10 years ago, he published a memoir, which I received an advance copy and wrote a review about for the AREC newsletter.

While I enjoyed the book, the story was such that I did not feel sorry for him in the least.  The particular scorn I felt was that once he had “recovered,” he was not able to run faster than 5:30/mile and was devastated.  I said, “How can you feel sorry for someone who is depressed about a pace faster than any of my friends could do, even for a half lap around the track?”

For the most part, I don’t get a follow-up from writers whose work I review.  I think they mostly are not sending me a copy for my writing skills, but because they can reach an audience of 300-500 people who would be MOST interested in purchasing the book.  However, I did receive a rather nasty response from Dick Beardsley, saying that I couldn’t possibly understand what he went through or about the problems of addiction.

I did respond to him, saying that I had had a problem with Ibuprofen for about 8 months after being diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis, where I felt compelled to take 6-8 Advil every day to deal with the pain.  (I only take Advil now if the pain is REALLY bad, and try to limit myself to 3-4/WEEK.)  He replied that maybe I DID understand.

Seeing him again at the Fleet Feet store, I wanted to introduce myself.  (Actually, I made an attempt in the week or so prior to the race, but the e-mail (from 4 years prior) was no longer valid.)  I wasn’t sure if he remembered me, and I didn’t know if there would be any lasting animosity.

We ended up talking for about 15 minutes and he didn’t really remember me, but we had a nice talk about what he was up to in the years following the publication of his book.  He was going to run part of the race tomorrow as a pacer for the highest bidder (with the proceeds going to charity).  He promised to cheer for me if he saw me.  I thought that was a nice thing to say, but I doubted he would remember me by name (though maybe he would remember “the tall guy”).

Laura returned to her hotel and I went to meet up with my friend, Karen, to make my car arrangements for the race.  Karen, who was also running the race, was a member of GVH, and we had carpooled prior at Way Too Cool.  Also, her roommate, Henry, was a resident of my freshman dorm building (and honors program).

I drove up to her elementary school, which was located about 10 miles west of Auburn (the end of the race).  I had made an additional arrangement with her (not because of the car issue, but it worked out nicely for both of us).  I had about 10 years worth of National Geographic magazines that I had saved, but had not really looked at again.  I made several offers to teacher friends, but no one was really interested.  Karen said, however, that her school would be happy to take them off my hands… so en route to the car drop, I stopped off at her school and donated 250 magazines (to read, to cut up, whatever).

Once Karen was ready to go, we caravanned up to the Overlook parking lot in Auburn and I left my car there.  In order to make this work, I needed to only have with me the stuff I needed to run the race – my water bottles, my headlamp, some spare money, ID, and the clothes I would wear.  Everything else needed to stay in the car.

Karen then drove me back to Davis (where she also lives) to Erik and Jessica’s house.  I had a nice dinner with my friends and got to bed early.

Karen picked me up at 4:30am and drove us to the start by Cal State Sacramento.  I wished her well (because she is much faster than I am) and looked for Laura and other people I might know.  My guess was that Laura would want to run her own race and we have different strategies anyway.  We did start together, but were not really running together.  I was hanging towards the back as usual.

The first 2 miles or so of the race, you are running in the opposite direction of the finish line, and have a short moment to spot the race leaders.  It is predawn for only about 30 minutes before you don’t really need your light (but I still like to have it).  As I passed by the start line again (under the “Golden Gate Bridge” replica), I heard a shout of “Go, Emmett!”  It was Dick Beardsley, cheering for me.

Now, for the next 20-odd miles, you are running entirely on a paved path, along the American River, with a couple of bridge crossings.  I managed to run at a pace between 9:30/mile and 12:00/mile.  My knee was bugging me a little bit, but I felt OK.

At about 18 miles, I heard an unusual sound.  Not a sound like an animal or a vehicle, but an unusual running sound.  I am aware of the footfalls around me and some are more plodding than others.  But this sound, this sounded like, well, unnatural.  I looked back, and saw a female runner with a carbon steel artificial leg.

I remembered from December that they made a big deal at the North Face 50M that one of the finishers had a prosthetic leg (and she had beaten me by over 3 hours!).  I allowed her to catch up, so we could talk.  Strangely enough, I remembered the name of the runner (because I am pretty good with names) – Amy Palmeiro-Winters.

So, I broached the conversation with:  “Is your name Amy?”  She answered Yes!  I said, “Oh, we ran the same race together in December in San Francisco…”  She said, “I wasn’t there.”  WHAT!?!  But your name is Amy and you have a prosthetic leg…

As it turned out, she was ANOTHER ultrarunner named Amy with a prosthetic leg.  Small world.  This was Amy Dodson, from Arizona.  She had lost the leg (and one lung) to cancer about 25 years earlier as a teenager.  I ran with Amy the rest of the way on the pavement.

It goes with my usual statements about how no one has an excuse not to give running a try because there are people out there with far worse issues than you do and THEY are out there achieving.

At about Mile 22, you cross the river for the final time (via a fairly steep uphill major boulevard bridge), and then drop down onto a dirt trail for a couple of miles before returning to the paved path.  I felt a twinge in my knee on the downhill sections, and worried that I might have issues or might not be able to finish the race (even though I had the resolve to do so).

At 26.2 miles, they have a nice timing clock to show you how pitiful (or great) you are doing, marathon-wise.  My first year, I came through in about 4:20, and this year, I came through about 4:48 (pretty similar to my first-ever marathon time).  At Mile 26.5, you drop down into the Folsom Lake parking lot and to the 26.7M aid station.  I decided that I needed to take a couple of Advil to deal with my knee pain (but only 2).  I saw Laura leaving just a bit ahead of me.

The transition to dirt is somewhat unusual.  You follow the paved path that curves around the edge of the lake, and it gradually becomes dirt… but you can see runners off in the distance, traveling around the perimeter of the lake.  Folsom Lake is pretty huge, and you cannot run around it, because, well, the American River drains into it, so eventually, you are back along the river.

On the trail portion, I am losing a lot of my pace.  9:30s become 13:00s and 12:00s become 17:00s.  At least the ground is soft, though I am still feeling some lateral pain in my knee.  I work around the problem (until the Advil kicks in) by running the downhills with my knee bent a little more than usual.

The trails are beautiful and wildflowers are everywhere (and poison oak, too, so I have to be watchful).


Laura just ahead of me.

Laura just ahead of me.

I have probably said in a previous post that my favorite section is at about 40 miles.  You make a turn off of the river and are a little “inland.”  You run through a little park with an inland lake.  There are a bunch of twists and turns to get around the lake, but it is just surreal to be running around a little lake right next to a river (not like Folsom Lake).  When you emerge from this idyllic section, you are on a fire road heading to a hydroelectric plant, and are getting close to the finish.

I begin descending closer to the river and by Mile 46, you are only about 10 feet above the river on the trail.  This is the section where I was passed a couple of years ago by my friend (who didn’t recognize me for some reason), who I then repassed on the uphill section and beat by a whole lot.  This is also where I encounter Laura, just before the move for the final hill.  As per her usual, she has vomited, so she is all set to make her play for the finish.

This is my “strength.”  In the last section, although not hilly, I have slowed down to about 20:00/mile.  I think I can make some of that up on the uphill… walking.  This is the section where you gain nearly 1000 feet in 3 miles… where everyone (except me) really struggles.  I consider myself pretty decent in ultra trail speed walking.

I can’t tell you how many people I passed going up the hill, but my pace is about 13:30, which is pretty decent for the grade.  About a mile from the end, you can spot the location of the finish (up above) and I know that I will soon emerge onto the street outside the parking lot, run on the street for a bit and then “sprint” into the finish.

In my first AR50 (and my first 50 miler), I passed two people in the final 100 yards because I was able to sprint.  This year, I am caught between groups of people (minutes ahead or minutes behind so at least I am not making anyone’s friends feel bad that I passed their buddy), and come in with a time of 11:22:03.

Laura cannot be too far behind, so I hang out at the finish line until she comes in about 10 minutes later.


Even though my time was about 45 minutes slower than my personal best, I am happy with the result (I am 6 years older.) and that I got through it without too much impact on my knee issue.

Laura and I get some food and then she decides that instead of waiting for the bus (which apparently waits for the last runner to finish, rather than not waiting for the over 11-hour finishers), that she wants to ride back down with me (she already paid for the bus, but I am more flexible).  She is pretty tired, but I am proud of us both for finishing another ultra (and her first 50 miler).

On Sunday, I go with my friends to one of our favorite haunts for brunch, the Tower Cafe in Sacramento (and my plan is to leave straight from the meal to drive back to Long Beach).  It makes for a nice end to the weekend.  It always seems to my friends that I only visit them when I am up running race.  Lately, that mostly has been true, but I could just go and do the race, but I like to work both into my weekend.  I say a fond farewell to Jessica, Erik, Amy and Joe, and have a long 6-hour drive back to the Southland.

Later in the week, I receive an interesting phone call.  News that I could not (apparently) hear in person – both Jessica and Amy are expecting their first child in the Fall.  Both are close in age to me and I wasn’t sure whether either would ever have a child.  I guess there’s hope for me, after all.