Oops I Did It Again… American River 50 mile run – April 5, 2014

I did it again… Last Saturday April 5th, I ran the 50 mile trail race from Folsom to Auburn, the third time this year, but second time finishing. Here’s a little history:
2012 – DNF (ran till mile 40.94 and missed the cutoff time)
2013 – finished 12:01, felt great that I actually finished before the 13 hr cutoff time
2014 – finished 11:35, a new PR for a 50 mile run!

Training: My training this year for AR50 was a little but different than in prior years. I ran less total mileage each month, but did more quality runs such as intervals, tempo, and hill repeats. This year I am not only doing this 50 mile race but also attempting to do my first half Ironman triathlon distance (70.3 miles at Vineman). Even though this half-IM is not till July this year, I had to start training early, which is also during my AR50 training. I hired a coach, specifically for Vineman race, but she also incorporated training for my AR50 run. I was a bit concerned in the beginning that I was not running much miles, instead I was spending time on the bike trainer and/or riding outside doing drills. My runs consisted of long training runs but also tempo and intervals. I finally trusted that cycling also helps with my running, combined with tempo and interval runs. I ran a 50k race for training and PRd that race, finishing under 7 hours.

Race day: I woke up extremely early at 3:30 am, but couldn’t sleep well that night. It is as expected, I never get good sleep the night before a race. I had coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. When we got to the start line I had a honey stinger waffle and then my apple sauce. I was at wave 2 so we started at 6:15 am. It was a little dark, I had my headlamp with me. However when we started running, it was starting to break light. We ran probably about 1 mile on paved road before entering the trails. There weren’t too many trees so there was sufficient light that I could see the trails. I ended up not using my headlamp while running.

Last year’s route started in Sacramento, a small area for the start line and checkin, and a very low key start. This year the start line was bigger and better; we had music, lots of porto-potties and a huge parking lot. The first half of the course this year is different than last year, there was supposed to be more running on trails, but in my opinion there was not much more trail running vs paved bike path running on the first half this year. The distances at the aid stations are also slightly different. Beal’s Point was typically more than half way at 26.5 miles; this year Beals was only mile 24. I had a few other woman-issues this time on the race, so I had to use the real bathrooms several times (well looking back, I only used it 3 times for the entire race, so it was not bad). At Beals, I refueled and ate some peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I actually ate this at most aid stations) and some boiled salted potatoes. During the run in between aid stations, I made sure I was eating my honey stinger chews, for energy and electrolytes. At this rest stop, I did my usual changing of clothes and freshening up. My sister was taking pictures as I struggled to take my shirt off, wipe down with baby wipes, and put on some deodorant. I like feeling fresh for the second half, so that it feels like I’m just starting to run again. My friend, Pim, paced me from Beals to Granite Bay, for approximately 5 miles. I was just happy to be running with someone familiar. She was talking to me, taking photos, and leading the way. That stretch to Granite Bay felt really short; but it could be that I was just doing better this year and was still feeling great at that point.

At Granite Bay, approx mile 29, I met up with my next pacer, my sister Raciel. I realized at that point that the next stretch is 11 miles to Rattlesnake Bar. I figured that this stretch might be slightly different than last year because it is longer. It felt a lot different and a lot harder than the last two years. The trails were challenging and technical, I had to always watch my footing. Wearing Hokas did not help much because my shoes were so big that I was scared I would get my foot stuck between one of the ruts or rocks. Having Raciel right in front of me helped a lot. She would call out obstacles ahead of me, while keeping the pace. A few people followed behind us, taking advantage of Raciel’s warnings. It worked well, I’m happy to help fellow runners get to the finish. At Buzzard’s Cove (it was an aid station in the middle of a climb inside the trails), they had vanilla ice cream and some typical aid station food. It was starting to warm up so I made myself a coke float, which tasted so yummy. I couldn’t finish the vanilla ice cream so I gave the rest to Raciel. It was probably not a good idea in hindsight to have ice cream during an endurance run. Raciel and I continued running, I was feeling great but I can’t say the same for Raciel. When we were two miles away from Rattlesnake Bar, the next aid station, Raciel was not feeling well. She had not had lunch yet and I fed her ice cream. I told her to drink more water and stay hydrated. I had a lot of water in my pack so I offered some to her but she said she was fine. When we were about a little over half a mile to rattlesnake bar I just told Raciel to walk (she was not looking good, I was running in front of her and pacing her), and I can just run by myself to the next aid station. Her duties as pacer were ending anyway at that aid station. As I ran down the hill to Rattlesnake Bar I was telling my big sister Annelle to watch out for Raciel as she was not feeling well. I refueled at the aid station, then met up with my friend, Kathy, to pace me for this last 9 miles to the finish line.

Kathy paced me last year, and got me through that grueling last climb, so I graciously asked her if she could do it again for me this year. She is always awesome and I hope to repay her one day and also be her sherpa at one of her IM races or any race where she needs help. At Rattlesnake Bar I was feeling pain on my left knee. I thought maybe it was because of going through the technical trails from mile 29 to 40. As I was running with Kathy the pain was progressively getting worse running downhill. I had to walk the downhills, jog the flat trails, and speed walk uphill along the single tracks. When we finally were out of the single track trails, I was relieved because I knew that we were not too far from the top. Most of the climbing for this race is on this last stretch, about 5 miles. After Last Gasp aid station (the station with barely clothed, half-naked college looking guys), Kathy had the best idea to do intervals going up the hill. I just followed her instructions, I think I got my second (or third or fourth) wind at that point. For the last 2.5 miles, she picked markers on the course for me to spot – run to the next ribbon, walk to the post, run to the railing. It was just like doing my interval training run, and I was passing every single runner that passed me on the downhill earlier (because I had to walk downhill, to ease my knee pain). My knee was not hurting at all on the climbs, so I played along with the interval run. Before I knew it, we were on that last short hill, that I just kept a good slow jog getting up that hill. I can hear the speakers, music, and the crowd; so at the top, we didn’t stop running and just kept going… and going… and running faster… and sprinting towards the finish line, I spot Raciel in the crowd wearing a silly umbrella hat. Then, waving my hands up in the air I ran towards that inflated arch for the big finish! I hugged Kathy, who ran me to the finish line. I saw my sister Annelle and hugged her. The volunteers gave me my finisher medal, the most coveted jacket, and a bottle of water. I saw Raciel and tried to hug her but the ridiculous hat was in the way. I looked at my watch and was happy to see that I PRd and finished 11:35, 25 minutes faster than last year! I’m happy with my finish time (although I was secretly hoping to finish 11 hours, but that was a stretch). I still felt great at the finish, and was happy that my knee held up till it was all over. I would do this all over again, if not to finish at a faster time. I think I’m almost ready for the next distance. Ready for a 100k? It’s only 12 more miles!