I'm hoping this will be a shorter than usual report, we shall see.
When I signed up for this one I was planning to take it easy, enjoy the scenery and actually try to use it as a long training run for my next 100 miler. That all changed when the race director sent out an email early last week which stated there would be prizes for the first three overall and first three masters. I didn't figure I had a shot at top three but top three in the old dude category I thought was certainly possible.
I drove up on Friday after going in to work early. Pulled my usual move of sleeping in the car. Dinner the night before was two taco bell 7-layer burritos without beans. So technically 6-layer burritos, or perhaps I should just say six layer junk food. I don't really consider them to be burritos. My choices for nutrition were very limited after 2300 hours, so I bit the bullet. Sure, I could have planned better and not found myself in that situation. Finally laid down to sleep around 2340 and was just dozing off when the first train went by. I think there were only two. Sleep that night was rather fitful and I woke up a few minutes before my watch alarm was set to go off at 0626.
The drive the night before had been in the dark for all of the scenic areas I went through. Getting to see the natural beauty in the morning was a treat. Made it to the start area just a little after 0700. The race would get underway at 0800 and check in was supposed to be from 0700 to 0745 but they were running just a bit late. No big deal as there was plenty of time to spare. After getting my bag of stuff (nice t-shirt, Hammer gel, bib#44) I went back to the car to listen to more TOOL and begin the process of getting ready to race. Mixed up a bottle of Gu Roctane that I would use as morning calories. Pinned that awesome number onto the left leg of my shorts. Then as I began to put my shirt on something scratched me and I thought 'I've worn this shirt before, it doesn't have any tags that are scratchy'. Pulled it back over my head and saw a bunch of little sticker burrs all around the waist area but mostly on the right side. I hadn't worn this shirt since Western States, all the burrs had survived the washing machine. I didn't panic, figuring I had plenty of time to pick them all off. That's what I did for about five minutes or so.
Race got underway pretty much right on time. I had lined up close to the line and went out hard with the command of "GO". We ran across the upper end of the parking lot for just a little while before hitting a trail. At one point really early on there was a switchback and I counted the guys ahead of me, noting that I was 11th overall. But the 30K started with us so I had no idea what actual place I was in. The first four miles of the course are mostly flat, some minor drop down to the lake and a subsequent climb on the other side followed by rolling gravel road for a while. I was moving well (avg pace was 8:11) and was pleased with how I felt. The fourth mile did begin the upward trend and it got going with some gusto during the fifth. I ran the vast majority of it but the first bits of hiking did occur on some of the steeper trail sections. There was a dip down a ways followed by a minor climb which led to the first aid station located around 6.1 miles in. I ate part of a banana, grabbed a Hammer gel and got out of there quickly.
The course took another good upward turn and rolled along a ridge yet mostly climbing for the next three or so miles. Then we had about three and a half miles of rolling ups and downs. It was during the ninth mile on a particularly steep section that someone finally caught up to me. Jason
was moving really well, he was kind enough to say "You're crushing it man, keep it up!" and he gave me a fist bump. I kept him in sight for quite a while and saw him pass another guy. Never saw Jason again until the finish line but I did spot the other guy from time to time and tried to bridge the gap but wasn't able to. He was just leaving the second aid station as I was approaching. Made another really quick stop, ate some watermelon, some M&Ms, and a couple of potato chips while having my bottle topped off with water. Grabbed that and a few pretzels and began the long, technical descent. It was really steep with lots of rocks and about two miles long. At the bottom a woman asked "How did you like that nasty beast?" I replied "That was fucking awesome!". She told me I was in 7th place.
Earlier I had thought 'I'm certainly in the top ten of the 50K but 7th is way better than 10th'. To find out I actually was in 7th was very cool.
Now the real fun was about to begin, a five mile climb up to around 6,000 feet elevation. Crossed the North Fork Sacramento River which was basically a stream and I was able to keep my feet dry by stepping on large rocks. One thing the climb had going for it was the fact that it was very pretty and the river was tumbling down over rocks just to the right of the trail most of the time. Even when it wasn't within sight I could hear it. There were quite a few spots along here that I would have taken photos had I not been racing. Speaking of which, I did do some running on the less steep stuff but there was a lot of hiking. At one point I heard someone coming up from behind. I did at least allow for the thought that maybe it was just someone out on their own. When I turned to look, he was moving so well that I couldn't imagine I would have been in front of him this far into the race. Turned out he had raced the 10K and was just out checking out the trails. I was pleased to still be in seventh place after he went by me.
Made it up to the third aid station and took a longer break here than either of the previous two, probably longer than the previous two combined. This one was at 19 miles and up at 5353 feet according to Strava. Started to leave without my bottle and the guy that had filled it for me said "You will certainly want this". I was definitely feeling the elevation and by the time I got to the top of the climb I knew I had to get down quickly. Being at elevation made that difficult so I just did the best I could. At one point I could hear a vehicle approaching and around a corner came an ATV with what I believe was a man and a woman on it. They were both in full camouflage and there was a rifle sitting sideways across the front of it. The passenger, whom I believe to have been female, waved & I waved back. A minute or two later a jeep went by. A little later there was a car stopped on the road and I thought 'I don't think you wanted to be on this fire road'. I thought this section was only going to be 2.3 miles and at the aid station one of the guys told me it was about a mile to the top. It was taking forever to get back to the aid station but I knew I hadn't gone off course. Figured it was the elevation screwing with my brain. Perhaps it was the elevation or perhaps just a faulty memory because this section was actually 5.1 miles. The next section was 2.3 miles. As I am nearing the aid station there is a young boy playing in the dirt at the edge of the fire road and I asked if I could get a high five. He stuck up his hand and I said "Thanks, that helps a lot". First thing I did upon arrival at the aid station was to ask the guy with a dog if I could pet the dog. Nothing like some dog energy to lift the spirits.
Shortly after getting there they began to ring the cowbell again and I said "That's not good". Somebody heard me and said "He's coming in for the first time" and another guy said "It's not like it's a race or anything". I laughed and said "Yeah, I'm not at all concerned about being in seventh place. Even though my last name has seven letters and I was born in the seventh month of the year". A guy in the race who had been at the aid station when I arrived asked "But are you the seventh son of a seventh son?" and I said "I actually have no idea". Figured that was probably too much chit chat so I got moving out of there.
Now there's only seven and a half miles to go. I'm not feeling great but I don't feel awful. I know that once I get back to the next aid station it is a drop down out of elevation. But I struggle some just trying to get there. I was having a hard time mentally staying focused on pushing myself. When I made it to the final aid station I kept looking back up the road. I had topped off my bottle at the previous aid station so didn't bother with that here. Just drank some Coke, ate some M&Ms and watermelon. Grabbed some more M&Ms to go, looked back down the road one last time, didn't see anyone and I took off. Down the steep road a second time. This time though my feet were already more tender from having kicked rocks throughout the day. On top of that I had some small rocks in my shoes and just about every step my toes were getting jabbed by them. I was trying to tough it out but eventually decided I had to take off the shoes and remove the rocks. As I was taking the second shoe off I heard foot steps coming towards me. Fortunately he looked on the younger side but as he went by I asked "You're in your thirties, right?" he responded in the affirmative. Of course that could have been a lie and I didn't like letting go of seventh place. So I hurried the process, got up and started chasing him. I was closing the gap some but I think I was pushing too hard. So I found myself walking here and there. Then I would push the pace and catch up some but then I would walk again. Started getting worried and would glance back over my shoulder to see if anyone else was coming up on me. After about a mile of this I finally convinced myself to stop doing it. Just hold a steady pace even if it is too slow to catch the guy. Still found myself walking more than I would have wanted but I held off everyone else and made it to the finish line in 5:42:39.
8th out of 36
1st male 50-59 out of 6 - Won a stainless steel pint glass that has Age Division Winner on it.
2nd male master out of 12 (1st place was 40 years old) - Won a Mountain Hardware backpack, retail value $80! Funny thing about that is the fact that I had just mentioned to Whitney that I was going to have to get a new backpack. My old one has served me well for more than fifteen years but it's starting to fall apart.
I really enjoyed the course, it was very beautiful in many spots. Some amazing views out there. Post race was really nice too. There was lasagna, with meat and vegetarian options. Along with a very nice salad and a keg of beer. Was really cool to talk with other runners, the race director and Zach Bitter. He was there as the Altra shoe representative. Overall male and female winners got a pair of shoes. I would highly recommend this race!