Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Shooting Par at American River 50 Miler
running with Sweet Lew in the early miles. photo by ultrarunnerpodcast.com
Well, another year of American River 50 Miler is in the books. Similar to my race at Way Too Cool, I ran well but nothing that has me hooting and hollering too much. My goal going into the race was to be Top 5 and sub 6:15. I didn't accomplish either of these goals but I wasn't too far off which is okay. More than anything, I'm glad the spring "classics" are over. I love Way Too Cool and American River but they are too competitive to just want to race relaxed and with the weather in Bend, I just am not usually ready to throw down the full gauntlet this early in the season.
I flew down on Friday afternoon and after scrambling around at a couple of the Fleet Feet stores, I was able to locate the old model of the shoe that is my absolute favorite; the Adidas Adios. They screwed the new one up so I'm fighting to find them wherever I can!
After that, I scrambled over to American River pre-race dinner where I was on a panel to talk about the race, strategy, and just getting to the finish line. It was a good time and fun to catch up with the Patagonia Team Manager, George Plomarity and Race Director, Julie Fingar.
I woke up the next morning and was definitely ready to run. I decided to run in my brand new Adios shoes even though I had not run in a step in them yet.
I made my way to the start line and soon enough, we set off into the chilly Sacramento morning. American River is a tough race to negotiate. You basically have two races to prepare for. The first 26 miles are basically a road marathon with about 3 miles of trail in between miles 18-21. After that, you jump on a single trail that slowly and slightly labors upwards towards Auburn, California with a final 1,500 foot climb in the last 3 miles.
So, figuring pace for the marathon is always a tricky gamble. You don't want to run too fast where you have nothing left for the trail but you don't want to give up too much time where you dig yourself into a hole that you can't get out of. So, I tried to go on my perceived effort. I knew there were tons of good runners in the race so I would have to be smart about things. A couple guys (including the winner) shot off the front and I settled into the second pack of runners with trail veterans, Lewis Taylor, Phil Shaw, and Jean Pommier. I knew there was a ton of quick guys still behind us like Rich Hanna, Jacob Rydman, Erik Skaden, and Ellie Greenwood.
I am definitely NOT a road runner and don't pretend to be one so I just tried to find my groove as all of the guys I was currently running with pulled ahead of me and I was in nowhere land until I caught up to the ultra rabbit, Jady Palko. He sat on my heels and we talked a little bit as he let me know he would not be able to hold this pace for too long but wanted to take it to about the marathon as a hard training run.
There is a small climb at around mile 17 and I took a bit of a wrong turn, quickly corrected it and saw the hungry pack of about 7 or 8 runners right behind me. Good grief.....
Right after I took a wrong turn, up ahead Lewis Taylor and Phil Shaw took a wrong turn which allowed me to move ahead of them.
It felt good to hit some trail sections and turn down the pace a little bit and just get my legs used to some small climbs and descents. I was still feeling pretty good but the pavement was starting to beat me up a touch more than I would have liked. I could feel that my new shoes were starting to loosen up some and I decided that I would take a few minutes to gather myself at the mile 27 aid station (Beal's Point) which is the largest aid station in the race.
I could feel the pack of runners right behind me breathing down my neck and when I took another wrong turn (I was told some of the markings were messed with) at mile 25, the group caught up to me. I ran through the marked marathon point in 2:55 and hit mile 27 at 2:59. Right as I hit Beal's Point, a huge group of runners barreled through... Jacob Rydman, Phil Shaw, Lewis Taylor, Sean Meissner, Erik Skaden, Rich Hanna, and Chris Calzetta. Holy Moly!!! It felt pretty frantic and I just decided to chill out for a moment. I stopped as all the other guys ran through and I put on my ipod (which I never usually do), re-tied my shoes and ate a banana and put down some fluids. I knew the other guys were all leaving me but I figured I had 24 miles to try and reel them in. However, in an instance, I had gone from 4th place to 11th. Wow!
As I started up and got onto the trail, I wasn't overly stoked at how I was feeling. I was moving okay but I didn't have quite the "pep" in my legs that I had remembered having in 2010. However, within a mile, I did reel in Sean Meissner. I could tell his pace had slowed but was impressed at how he was running and tried to encourage him to stay strong. He said he was bonking a bit but he did manage to finish in a PR of 6:42. After I passed him, I caught Phil Shaw within another 1/2 mile or so and left him pretty quickly as well. I kept chugging along, trying to stay steady and finally caught a glimpse of Erik Skaden up ahead. I took a deep breath as I knew he wouldn't make it really easy on me as he is definitely a fighter in the latter part of any ultra. I tried to stay pretty quiet until I was right on his heels. "Back from the dead, huh?", he said. I really wasn't. I let him know that I just took some time at Beal's Point. I wasn't feeling awesome, but tried to push hard to put some distance on him. He hung pretty tight for a mile or so until I finally put a few curves in the trail between us. I usually love the tight and quick climbing ascents and descents in the trail around this part of the race but today I felt a little stale. The legs were working but my stomach was feeling off and I was rolling on the downhills like I would have liked. Oh well, you have to work with what you have that day.
As I rolled into Horeshoe Bar (mile 38.14), I caught up to Chris Calzetta who said he was fading. I figured I had another one plucked off and took a moment to hydrate and jumped on the trail with Chris hot on my trail. I figured he would fade on me and I tried a couple times to push the pace a bit on some descents but he stayed right on me. I was frustrated with having my ipod as I didn't know if he wanted to pass me back and I was constantly pulling my earbuds out and asking if he wanted by, etc. I won't wear one again in a 50 miler.
Rolling along with Chris Calzetta in the 40's. Photo by ultrarunnerpodcast.com
Chris and I rolled in mile 41 together and instead of getting water, I plugged on through, again trying to shake him but he stayed behind me and again, I just got in a steady groove, again realizing that my stomach was off. I thought I was going to barf a couple times as my mouth got super watery but I was able to hold it together. When we pulled into mile 44, I decided I would just let Chris go. I wasn't feeling awesome and I was tired of trying to figure out if he wanted to pass me or what so I consciously waited about 30 seconds after he left the aid station to get moving again. Finally I got on the trail again but within a mile, I caught right back up to him. Well, maybe he's finally done..... I asked to pass him and again he stayed game and locked onto my heels and I could not lose him as we descended to the river. Finally we hit the bottom of the last big hill and we just locked into a nice groove together on the final last 3 miles up to Auburn. We hiked the initial part at the bottom but started running once we hit the asphalt. With about 2 miles to go, I wasn't super stoked on my overall time but I was in the midst of a thought that at least I hadn't been caught over the last 25 miles. It was at that exact moment that I saw someone coming up from behind us. "Oh shit", I said. Not only was I getting caught but, yeah, I was about to get chicked. I hadn't had a woman pass me in an ultra since WS 2008 but Ellie Greenwood was absolutely PLOWING uphill. In fairness, in my humble opinion, she is the best female ultra runner (trail) in the world right now. Chris and I were running about 8:25 pace uphill and she went by us like we were standing still. Damn.....
Smelling the finish line with Chris Calzetta. Photo by ultrarunnerpodcast.com
I didn't have a lot of fight left in me so Chris and I just kept plugging and pulling each other up the hill. We both crossed the finish line in 6:20 (he was actually faster than me since he started slightly behind me at the beginning of the race). I was 7th place in the second biggest 50 miler in the country. Not exactly what I was hoping for but not disappointing either. I pretty much shot par.
After the race was a whirlwind of catching up with friends and hanging in the Patagonia Recovery Zone tent. One of my best friends, Sam Raymond showed up and was nice enough to drive me back to Cal State where I had to catch a 6 PM plane home. Whew!!! All in all, I'm happy with where I am at in the early season but am excited to get on some more courses in the mountains.
*Patagonia Sage Burner shorts. Great cut with good pockets.
*Patagonia Cap 1 stretch Tank. Good fit. Zero chafing.
*Patagonia Endurance socks. No blisters. Low rise, love em.
*Adidas Adios. Love the old version of this shoe. Wish I could have had a few runs in them first. I had to stop and tie the laces a few times as they weren't totally fitting like a glove like they do after a few more runs.
* I didn't take enough salt or water. I got behind and I skipped a few aids trying to put time on people. I should have hydrated better and taken salt on a more consistent basis.
* My ipod. Too tough to use in a short race. The cord. Not being able to hear folks around you, etc. Lesson learned. Save it for 100's if at all.
* Being even the slightest bit concerned at my marathon split. How stupid? I wish they didn't mark it so I wouldn't be the slightest bit curious. I think if I had gone through the marathon about 5 minutes slower (around 3 hours), I would have had more juice for the trail. Lesson learned.
*Don't catch a plane 5 hours after you finish a 50 miler. Kinda stressful but I am glad I got to celebrate Easter with my family!
A big thank you to my main sponsor, Patagonia for allowing me to race in the best outdoor clothing in the universe. I feel very lucky.
Post race Training; April 8-14
Sunday: 2.5 miles, 24:35. Some super slow shuffling with my son Fisher on the River trail. 15 minutes of core work
Monday: Still really sore and fatigued. 15 minutes of core work, 35 minutes of weight lifting.
Tuesday: 9.1 miles with Hugnut at Phil's trail. 01:11:30, 650 of climbing.
Wednesday: Very easy group run from Fleet Feet. 5.5 miles, 46 minutes. 35 minutes of yoga. Ab ripper X: 16 minutes
Thursday: Treadmill workout. 7:30 pace throughout. raised incline 1% each 1/4 mile. Made it through 9% on first two repetitions. Got part way through a third round and had to get my kids from school. Fairly tough workout. 7 miles, 52:30
Friday: 12 miles with Hugnut out at Phil's Trail. 01:30:50. 1100 feet of climbing. Felt pretty good for the week after the race. No upper gears but I could grind just fine.
Saturday: 14 miles. 01:43:29. 1125 of climbing. From my house, through Shevlin park, through Phil's, past my house we are building and climbed back up to the homestead. Felt pretty good.
All in all, a good post race week. I didn't push it like I did after Way Too Cool and that was smart.
Looking forward to a 50K in April and a 50 miler in May before Vermont 100 in July.