Last Saturday (April 7th), I attempted to run my first ultramarathon, the American River 50 mile run. Â I was excited to do it; from Thursday at work, then leading up to the event on Saturday, I felt ready (but not overly confident), that my training was adequate to get me to the start line. Â Â Â However, in the end, I Â was not allowed to finish. Â I got to mile 41 (40.94) at Rattlesnake Bar aid station, and they had the sign that the course had closed; Â I missed the cutoff time. Â That was a total of 10 hours and 18 minutes. Â I will be attempting this again next year, and determined I will finish before the cut-off times!
The beginnings and training: I registered for this race in September 2011, after my friend Claudia convinced me that â€œitâ€™s time that we do an ultraâ€. Â Since I have ran so many marathons (not so fast ones, my best time is 4:34), I figured this ultra is the next distance to do. Â From September to December, I did both mat pilates and TRX classes, lap swims, and some running. Â At that time, I was training for CIM which was in December. Â I ran a total of 309 miles from September to Dececember 2011. Â When January arrived, I was more serious with getting more miles in. Â After researching many ultra training programs, reading some articles, consulting with my veteran ultra runners, I put together an excel spreadsheet for my training schedule. Â I did not stick to the required mileage, though, as I did not always have 4-5 hours on the weekends to run. Â I also did not incorporate any strength training during this January-March 2012 period. Â However, I still managed to run a total of 738 miles from January through March, leading up to AR50, and did a few TRX classes (2x) and lap swims (3x). Â During my training, my sis, Annelle, gave me this powdered drink called Prolong made by Herbalife. Â That drink really got me through my training, as it gave me energy to run longer and farther. Â I called it my magic milk! Â I had the same drink during race day, with my sisters giving me refills at each aid station where they met me. Â During training, I also took a protein drink after a long run (but not after all long runs). Â I alternated between the Fluid (chocolate something flavor) and the Herbalife protein powder.
I trained on both road and trails. Â For road training, I ran around my neighborhood, incorporating some hills, or in Los Gatos. Â For trails, I ran mostly at Rancho San Antonio, up PG&E (but I never ran all the way up PG&E; I always had to walk in between), and other trails at Rancho. Â I also ran Woodside (once), and Brook Falls in Pacifica (once), which was a technical trail that I hated, but, in retrospect, should have ran more of its kind. Â It was also pouring rain during that Brook Falls run, so it made the experience miserable.
As far as my diet and nutrition, I ate fairly decent, but I could have done better. Â I could have avoided eating junk food or fast food. Â During the whole training, I maintained my weight within my ideal running weight (of today, not from 10 years ago). Â I did not consume any alcohol/wine during my whole training because I gave it up for Lent. Â I did have a glass of wine on Friday night before the race, since Lent was officially over on Thursday, and it was the Triduum period.
Getting to race day: Prior to race day, I already commissioned my family (minus 2 brothers) to â€œcrewâ€ for me during this race. Â I left the planning to them, making sure they studied the course, the crew driving directions, and pacer duties. Â I also invited some friends to watch; whoever can come out to Sacramento, came out for support (Loretta, Sopheak, and their friends). Â I definitely needed pacers to divide the last 20 miles of the run. Â I love my family for being very supportive because they stepped up and really made this â€œcrewâ€ thing happen (plus they didnâ€™t want me to die at this run!). Â My crew, who consisted of my family and some friends, and my pacers wore a Team Herman singlet, created by my sister, Raciel. Â They wanted to make sure that they are clearly identified at each aid station. Â They were definitely recognized. Â They also carried a huge purplish balloon in the shape of a dragonfly so that I can clearly see them from afar, as I approached the aid stations.
On Thursday before the race, Andy and I drove up to the Sacramento area. Â My family flew up to Sacramento. Â We had a small squabble between my family, I think I was also very stressed out that evening. Â On Friday, even if it was my vacation day off from work, I checked my emails because it was a little bit busy (not me, but the officers but I know I always get asked questions). Â I had to put out some mini-fires at work, through emails and phone calls. Â Although it was under control, it was still stressful to think about it. Â I normally would not stress-out on those small things, but on that Thursday and Friday, I was not myself. Â Finally on Friday, we went to Fleet Feet Store and picked up my race packet. Â They had a sale at the store, my dad even offered to buy me this jacket that had American River 50 printed on it; I said I would get mine the next day after I finish the race. Â I should have allowed my dad to buy me that jacket!
The day before, my carbo-loading consisted of spaghetti carbonara for lunch, then spaghetti in a tomato-base sauce, and a piece of rib-eye steak, for dinner. Â I know, it was Good Friday, but my family said that I need to eat some meat. Â Â I also had a glass of Brunello. Â I slept early that evening, probably around 9 pm.
Race Day! It was a nice, cold and dark morning. Â I wore a red cap, my Team Herman white shirt, Â a blue running skirt, arm warmers, a long sleeve shirt over my short sleeves, and my gloves. Â I was very cold that morning, at 5 AM. Â I had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast. Â Â At the start line, I had a few bites of the Lara bar and some Powerbar chews. Â I had my hydration pack filled with Nuun mixed in 60 oz of water. Â Then I also had a 16 oz water bottle filled with the Prolong, which I was drinking at the start line. Â Right before the start of the race, and after drinking all of it, I ditched the water bottle. Â This is it!
The start seemed low key; I stayed at the back, since I would be starting extremely slow. Â It was so dark when we first started! Â I was running behind a tall guy, always looking down on the ground so I wonâ€™t trip on anything. Â We went out this fire road trail, then around and back to the start line area. Â I was maintaining a good 11 min pace, doing my 7 min run, 1 min walk. Â After 8.+ miles, at the first aid station, I stopped to use the bathroom. Â Even if there was a line, some of the spectators in line for the bathroom, let us go first since they saw we were in the race. Â After mile 8, I felt good again, then continued with my pace. Â I thought this first part, which is on paved bike path along the American River, was really easy! Â I could have ran faster but I thought, Iâ€™ll keep this pace so I can conserve energy. Â At the mile 14 and 22 aid stations, I saw my family, so I stopped to take some pictures. Â My sister gave me more of the Prolong mixed drink, and I felt good again. Â I started to peel off layers; my long sleeve shirt, arm warmers, then gloves. Â I gave them to my sister when I met them at the aid stations. Â After around mile 18, (after going up this bridge) we started to climb a short yet steep, rocky hill. Â I didnâ€™t mind it at all, I think because I was still feeling good at that point, although I speed-walked up the hill (it was not possible to run it, everyone else in front of me were walking). Â In hindsight, it felt like they were giving us a preview of what is coming up next. Â After mile 19 at the Main Bar aid station, we started to enter the trails. Â I was still feeling good, and it looks like per my Garmin, I was still maintaining my planned pace, which at that point, is around 11-12 min pace till Bealâ€™s Point. Â At the aid stations between 19 and 26, I ate some boiled salted potatoes. Â On the way to Bealâ€™s Point, at mile 26, I was starting to feel that the weather was getting warmer, and when we were running on non-shaded area, I felt that the heat was getting to me and I was starting to fade. Â I thought, this is too early to fade. Â When I finally arrived at Bealâ€™s Point aid station, my family was there, and Sopheak, too! Â I changed my shirt, wiped off the salt from my face, neck and arms, changed Garmin watches (the first one ran out of battery, I was prepared for this), took some pictures, had some more Prolong drink, then off we went, Sopheak, my pacer, and me. Â After Bealâ€™s Point, the trails were rolling hills, and not yet so technical. Â There were some areas that were rocky, but still manageable. Â When we arrived at Granite Bay, at around mile 31, I was only 30 minutes ahead of the cut-off time. Â I thought to myself, that is not enough cushion, I need to hustle. Â My legs, at this point, were really tired and dragging. Â I was drinking my Nuun drink on my hydration pack, which I just refilled at Granite Bay. Â I think the 60 oz lasted this long because I was drinking some of the Prolong drink at the aid stations where I saw my family.
From Granite Bay to Rattlesnake Bar, my brother, Jeandre, paced me through the trails. Â The treacherous trails began at that point! Â I think the most difficult portion (at least that I was able to run) was between this 30 and 40 mile segment. Â Although there were rolling hills, the uphills and downhills were technical: Â lots of rocks, uphills were like staircase (you literally have to step up a 2.5 feet tall rock), and uneven single track trail. Â At one point, there was almost 3 feet wide trail, where there was a lower and upper level (your choice where to run it). Â There were horses and riders coming from the other direction while we were running. Â The horses galloped right passed by us on the lower level to our left; that was pretty cool yet scary as it became a two-way trail. Â My brother was really good at pacing me. Â Our strategy was to speed-walk uphill, walk thru the rocks, then run thru the clear trails, even if they were uphill. Â We tried to maintain a 15 min pace when running, because our walks were about a 20+ min pace. Â I remembered feeling very tired during this segment. Â My brother told me afterwards, that I was asking him questions that didnâ€™t make sense, and that I was mumbling a lot. Â I also remembered doing a lot of math in my head, trying to see if I will make it to the aid station by the cutoff time. Â I asked my brother for the time and how much more distance we need to cover till the aid station. Â When he said we had 2 miles to go in 30 minutes, it took me 10 minutes to figure out that is a 15 minute pace. Â We hustled towards the end of this segment, because my brother was determined to get me to the checkpoint before it closes. Â We passed at least 5 people, two of which are guys who looked like really good runners, but they looked injured. Â It was not that I had any injuries, I was just tired. Â We arrived at the Rattlesnake Bar aid station, my family, Andy and Loretta were there, clapping as I rolled down the last downhill. Â I didnâ€™t know yet at this point that I missed the cutoff. Â We were chatting, I got my drop bag, we took pictures, then they showed me the sign, that the course had closed. Â I wanted to cry, but I wanted to show that I am still strong. Â I asked the guy with the two-way radio if I can continue and he said they will close the finish line by 7 pm, and that I wonâ€™t make it.
My watch said 4:25 pm, and they closed the course at 4:15 pm at mile 41. Â According to my sister, when I touched down at the aid station, it was only 3 minutes after they put up the sign. Â Oh well, there will be next year. Â I had many lessons learned, Iâ€™ve summarized them on a separate sheet. Â This is my first attempt, and I didnâ€™t know what to expect. Â For next year, I will plan my training better, running more on technical trails than groomed trails, and run longer distances. Â My longest training run was 35 miles, so I knew that I would be digging deeper for the last 15 miles. Â I attempted to run 50 miles, but ended up running only 41 miles. Â A year ago, I did not even think I could run 41 miles. Â This is my first DNF race, and although I prefer to finish a race, I am happy with the effort and performance I did last Saturday.