Monday, April 6, 2009
A Quick Trip to Cali: American River 50 Mile Endurance Run 2009
Above photos top to bottom:
1)4 minutes before the start 2)Monica, Annette and Kami early on 3) top 5 females at the end 4) on the trail 5) Tony, Hazel, Monica, Me and Elinor.
Each time I fly across the country to run- I seem to “forget” the tedium of travel upon returning-otherwise I might not continue to travel thousands of miles to run 50!
I drove to Charlotte Thursday after a mid afternoon dentist appointment to get some sleep and be ready for the Friday 7:30am flight from Charlotte to Phoenix and then to Sacramento. After 2 full planes and a 15 minute window to run full tilt through 2 concourses to change planes I arrived on time in Sacramento and met up with fast girl Monica Ochs from Washington. Monica and I met at Way Too Cool in 2008 and have stayed in touch. We deceided to share rental car and hotel for this trip and booked our arrivals and departures within 30 minutes of each other.
We spent Friday afternoon picking up our race packets, searching for a neoprene ankle strap for my timing chip (I didn’t want to take the time when I changed shoes in Beal’s Point to deal with zip ties), and doing assorted errands. Before an early supper at Panera, we ran over to the starting area and covered a few miles. Hanging out with Monica, discussing race plans and life was both mellowing and got me extra psyched for the run. We had similar plans for the first 26.7 miles. We both wanted to run in under 3:30 and thought we’d be good companions for the pavement section at least. Last time I ran AR 50 in 2007 I was very conservative on the pavement and had lots “left” for the trails and beyond. This year I wanted to see if I could find the magic pace on the bike path that would still leave me legs for the rolling trail portion.
When I planned my season by in December, I’d planned AR would be a “focus” race-just as Caummsett Park 50k was last month. Yet after the opportunity for the 24 Hour Team came up, I knew I didn’t have the luxury of a “taper” needing to keep mileage up to continue to prepare -though I did run fairly easy the 4 days prior to the race.
In usual Annette fashion, I reviewed previous winner and top finisher times. I learned that 6:50 at AR was a qualifier for the 100k National Team. I read through the entrant list carefully. I thought 6:50 was beyond my preparations, yet thought if I had a really good day; 7:00 would be doable.
(I also figured that based on history, a 7:00ish hour finish would put me in a top 3 position-and as a Montrail Runner-I really, REALLY wanted to place! (Yes-ego stuff-and also since it has been a long time since running the 50 mile distance I wanted to know I still remembered how to race!)
George’s “Uncle Tony”, his daughter Elinor and her friend Hazel drove up for the Bay area early Saturday morning to meet us and crew for us. This was the same wonderful trio who crewed for me in my 2005 running of Western States 100. Again each was an immense help and heaps of generous positive energy. Elinor and Hazel are both 22 years old. Elinor is one of the neatest people I have known and I am happy to call her “cousin”! Tony played the role of sentinel cheering us into the aid stations-great moral support-yet also a signal that Elinor and Hazel were not far off ready with our stuff. I am certain they saved me at least 5 minutes out there and greatly contributed to my moral as I hit a low point around mile 41ish.
Monica, Kami and I ran together quite comfortably for around 10 miles when we lost Monica to a “pit stop”….somewhere during the next little while I dropped back a bit. Though I was enjoying Kami’s companionship and feeling good in the moment, I knew her pace was a little much for me and I watched her bright green North Face shorts slowly disappear in front of me during the next several miles. I felt excellent during the first almost 27 miles, coming through the fancily marked “marathon” zone of 26.2 at 3:16: and through the timing matt at Beal’s Point at 3:19:56.
Montrail’s, Jesse Malman was there to take my road shoes and hand me my Mountain Masochist Montrails. This was the first time I’d ever changed shoes during a race, yet opted for the change this time because: 1) Jesse was willing to be there to make the swap and therefore it was a real option, 2) I wanted to wear trail shoes during the last 23 miles, 3) almost all the first 27 miles are on pavement and road shoes would offer more cushioning and I hoped less recovery time than the less cushioned trail runners. The “shoe swap” easily took less than a minute (thank you Jesse!) Here I grabbed 2 Pb&J quarters. Up ‘till now my calories were coming from Clif Shot Blocks and Clif drink. I was also drinking Nuun and after 2 hours running took 1 Succeed Cap each hour.
Running out of Beal’s and across the gravel onto the trails was exciting-I was both excited about being back on trails-yet a little anxious too-not sure what my calf would or wouldn’t do! I did see Jen Pfeifer cross over the timing matt on my way out-and thought it might not be long before I say her up close! The next 4.9 miles to Granite Bay were fun and I felt good-and took another PB &J quarter-I wasn’t really hungry-yet am used to eating some real food during runs over 50k and didn’t want to bonk….yet very soon, I did. (Or if not bonk, hit a sudden icky low point that stayed with me for almost 6 miles).
A couple miles after Granite Bay I started physically having pains in the area of my left collarbone. The harder I ran, the worse it was. I think it was gas? I know it sounds funny-yet it has happened a time or two in the past. I started to feel weak and someone asked me how many miles into the run we were and I said “50-I mean 13-I mean 48…it was weird ‘cause I was trying to say that we had 13 miles to go-but it wouldn’t come out as such! So I ran sloppily along wondering about calories or electrolytes. Jen Pfeifer galloped by and we cheering each other on. I resumed debating my current state: I was 4+ hours into the run and hadn’t yet stopped to pee…is blood sugar? Hyponuetremia? I thought for sure I was getting plenty of salt so I wrote off the latter-besides my fingers weren’t swollen and although it was warm, the day was not hot. Instead I unzipped my quickdraw pocket to see what Elinor had “packed” for me: a baby Clif Bar! So I ate that, drank some Clif Shot and concentrated on moving steadily on. I chose not to look at my watch because I thought it would only further frustrate me. I was taking care of my body as best I could, yet I needed an attitude adjustment. Tracey Mammolito from Mountain Hardwear was planning to join me for the last 10 miles so I was hoping when I met her at Rattlesnake Bar her companionship would help me pull out of my funk. As I came into Rattlesnake at 40.94, Tony yelled out, “You’re not smiling!” “No”, I responded, “I am in a low right now.”
Arriving at Rattlesnake, Elinor again hooked me up with a fresh bottle of Nuun and I called out for Tracey. Jesse informed me she wasn’t there. Dang. Gotta get outta this funk. Then I remembered-though I hadn’t planned on using it-Elinor had my ipod shuffle in case of “emergency” ( I really don’t like to listen to it during races especially on trails ‘cause it warps my concentration and I don’t like the idea of getting in people’s way because I can not hear them!) Yet at this point, I was willing to make an exception and Elinor and I took 35 seconds to unravel my earpieces and away I went. Within 10 minutes my world had changed. Attitude better, collar bone cramp gone, I felt more focused. I moved faster. I stopped to pee. I listened to music on and off until 2 miles from the end. (What music? Ahhh-a great mix including: Eye of the Tiger, Power of a Dream, Olympic Spirit from Bejiing, William Tell Overture, various U2, 10 Thousand Maniacs, Johnny Cash and John Denver to list some).
With a little over 3 miles left to go the route left the river and went up. Not as steep as some single-track, but to be sure one of the steepest road grades I have attempted to run at the end of a long run. The attempt lasted 100’ or before I walking the steepest section. Right at the 3 mile mark the grade mellowed and running for Annette was again possible. A wonderful volunteer at the Last Gasp grabbed my water bottle and filled it with ice water-I kept running at his instruction and he came after me when the bottle was filled. (Believe me; I gave him no great chase!)
Shortly after that I passed a man walking down from above. He told me something like: “2 ¼ miles left-you’d better start working.” At first I felt insulted-and thought and maybe even said aloud that I’d already been working. Yet running up the road I ran harder. Maybe Jenny was right behind me. Or Monica or any other woman. I was not willing to give up my 3rd place position so this goal kept me driven up the hill. I looked back a few times. When reaching the top, Elinor ran along side the course almost all the way to the finish line shouting and cheering. Lots of other people shouted and cheered too. I felt very welcomed and happily crossed the finish line at 7:11:21. Then I hugged my awesome crew and blubbered some. I got to briefly visit with Greg Soderland, Karen Hoffman, Eric Skaden, Jesse Malman, Jenny Capel and later brief congratulations to 1st place Kami (6:45:51) and Jen (7:03:25) as they posed for the above photo. Jenny was 4th (7:14:33) and Monica 5th (7:26:02).
Maxwell King was the overall winner in 6:04:44. Complete results here.
After the run I was “worked”. My hamstrings and abs and chest were sore. I really wanted a beer, but settled for water, Diet Coke and a veggie burger.
We didn’t hang out at Auburn Overlook for too long as I wanted to spend some quality time with our “crew” before they had to head back home. After showers and a little downtime at the hotel we walked a half mile to Zinfandels for a yummy Italian dinner. Tony, Hazel and Elinor left shortly afterwards and Monica and I spent the rest of the evening finishing off a bottle of wine and talking. Overall, I had an excellent run, a fun reunion with Elinor, Tony and Hazel and appreciate the new friendship with Monica.
In reflection though, I wonder what could I have done/not done to prevent my funk? What if I tapered? What if I ran the 1st part easier? What if I drank/ate more less, etc, etc??? How much did Friday’s long travels influence my day? As mentioned earlier, I am rusty from racing longer distances and hope to get redialed in before Vermont 100…which I think might mean finding a race sometime early to mid June to practice on?
With my 3rd place finish yesterday I did gain entry into Western States 2009. I don’t think I will be ready. I have not been doing nearly enough mountain running. After World’s I’ll need some recovery time and there simply isn’t time to do the trail work that WS 100 deserves. I want to run that race again, yet only when properly prepared!