AR 50 – race day: April 1st This is not a Joke.

I just realized that this was only the 3rd time I’ve ever raced a 50 miler, and all of them were at this American River 50 mile run.  The goal initially for this race is:  stretch goal = sub-11 hours; reality goal = 11:30; finish = finish within cutoff (14 hours).  I was feeling great leading up to this race.  There was not too much pressure since this was a training race for Quicksilver 100k in May.  The goal is still to test my limits and endurance, and go fast in the beginning (since it is flat), then slower towards the end (since it has all the hills).

The first half started out good.  The weather was good, still cool early in the morning.  I completed 25 miles in sub-5 hours (4:55 I believe).  Not bad but could have been better, since the first half was fairly flat (few hills around mile 16 then 19).  My nutrition was good; had at least 150-200 calories every hour.  I also had a Base Salt lick every hour.

On the way to Beal’s Point Aid Station – the halfway point– I jogged the uphills.  There was an exposed area on the bike path, which was feeling warmer as we got closer to noon.  The course took us through a lot of bike path in the first 16 miles, then trails, then bike path again.  My legs were fine, but they not appreciating the paved road.  Where there was some trail by the side of the path, I ran on it.  At Beals point I refilled my water and nutrition from my drop bag.  Someone from the aid station helped me by taking my pack.  I forgot to close the zipper of my pack’s pocket, so when the guy tried to help by removing the air from the hydration bladder that he just filled (by putting it upside down), I think my Base salt tube might have dropped.  I stopped at the rest room at the end of the park at Beal’s Point, then continued.   Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that I lost my salt until I was already a mile or two away from the aid station.  I just drank a lot of water since the day was starting to heat up.

At Granite Bay (mile 29) AS, I saw my older sister, Annelle.  On my way there I didn’t feel too well, as I didn’t have my Base salt nor other electrolytes.  At the aid station I drank two cups of roctane with ice, ate some PB&J and boiled potatoes dipped in salt.  My sis kept asking me, “what do you need?” several times over and over, and so I said, “lotion?”  I put on some more sunblock on my face.  My sister snapped a picture then I went off.  A couple of miles later, I realized I didn’t refill my pack.  I patted my hydration pack and seems like I still had some water.  It was starting to get warmer, the temps were rising slowly.  Two miles into this stretch I took one salt capsule as I was sweating a lot more than normal and felt salty all over my face (thanks to a runner that gave me some).  Runners with their pacers passed me.  (Participants are able to have a pacer starting at Beal’s Point).  I had no pacer, I figured I can run 50 miles without a pacer, since I’ve done that at Miwok (a 100k race I did last May 2016).  An hour later I didn’t feel any different, and my quads were starting to cramp.  The short steps downhill made it hurt more.  I was thinking about the Base performance salt tube; where I could have possibly lost it. It would’ve helped at that time.  I realized later on that I was low on water, the last couple of sips felt like I was sipping air.  My watch said I was at mile 35 so I thought there would be 3 more miles till the aid station.  I was walking.  People passing me asked if I was ok; I just motioned and mumbled that I was out of water, but hoping the aid station is coming up soon.  One guy said the aid station was still 6 miles away and meat grinder section is coming up.  My watch was off, probably because it was set to saving battery so it doesn’t really pick up satellite often.  Then I was thinking, what is meat grinder?  Finally I remembered the section from the first time I attempted this race, it killed me.  Crap.  I figured I just needed to keep going.  At that point I was completely dry.  Four more miles to go.  Walking made me use less energy, so I walked.  It was so hot, I tried to jog some of the way.  Raciel’s friend from Vegas, Jennifer, passed me.  She was jogging, and I followed her a bit as she was chatting with me.  Then I couldn’t keep up so she dropped me.  Another group wanted to pass me at a single track, so I stepped to the side, where it looked clear of poison ivy.  They saw me not doing well so they asked how I was doing.  I replied that I was out of water.  Everyone else said they were low with water, too.  The Asian lady, Stephanie, offered me some of her ginger ale, she was carrying two bottles.  I had a couple of gulps from her bottle.  I let them pass then I tried to follow them, but then started walking after 5 (or so) strides.  More people passed me.  Passing on this single track means that I had to find an open spot without poison ivy plants and let them pass.  Finally, the sign that says Horseshoe Bar (aid station) was half a mile away.  I couldn’t run anymore.  My quads were cramping.  My calves were cramping.  There was one last short steep hill to get to the aid station, which I crawled up.  Someone yells, “Climb up that hill, Minel!”  It was my friend, Loren, he was volunteering at the aid station.  I yelled back, I’m dry, been out of water for a while, will get there soon.  I crawled up the hill (literally, on my hands and fee for the first few steps that was steep).  I was so happy to see an aid station.  Someone filled my pack with water and ice as I ate at the aid station.  I drank 5 cups of Roctane with ice in it.  I was chatting a bit with Loren, telling him that I ran out of water the last 4 miles before reaching that aid station, and was not feeling good.  Loren had a sombrero on and no shirt.  I commented that he was looking good, lost some weight, and gained some six-pack abs!  We chatted about how he is now back to his fast running self, training well and doing great at his races.  I wanted to sit down and Loren pointed to a chair but also said, “You can sit but you know what happens when you sit down…”  I know what happens.  I wouldn’t want to get up again, if I sit down.  So I didn’t.  I told Loren to look out for my sis, she was only 15-20 min behind me.  Loren said he will take care of her.  I refilled one more cup of Roctane then off I went.

We went down a steep downhill with some ruts first then the trails was back to normal, some rollers, single track, some exposed areas.  I got my second wind after that aid station.  I was running again.  It wasn’t a fast pace, probably a 12 min pace, but at least I was moving again.  I passed people who passed me when I was walking and out of water.  I passed Jennifer (my sister’s friend) and told her I feel a lot better after the aid station at Horeshoe bar.  I told her to come run with me so I have company, but she couldn’t keep up, she was falling behind.  I yelled back at her I’ll see her at Rattlesnake Bar (the next aid station).  I passed Stephanie and her group, I thanked her again for the ginger ale and told her I was feeling much better after the aid station.

Rattlesnake Bar (mile 40.94) – My older sis was expecting me hours ago; she thought she missed me.  I told my sis I ran out of water and was not feeling good.  She said that Raciel was only 15 min behind me at Granite Bay.  I told her to tell Raciel to try to catch up to me, it sounded like she was doing well.  I contemplated waiting for Raciel, but I was feeling better at that point (given the circumstances).  I replenished with more Roctane, ate, then went ahead.

That last 9 miles had some rollers, or at least it felt like there were more downhills.  My quads were cramping off and on again.  The downhills were harder than uphills.  I jogged and ran the flats and slight uphills, then walked downhill.  This one guy and his pacer kept leap frogging with me because he would run downhill then I would pass him on uphills.  Then I lost them.  I guess there were a lot more descents than I remembered, but not steep ones, just gradual but required big steps down.

Last Gasp (2.5 miles from the finish).  It was all uphill from that point onwards, on asphalt (except maybe the last few yards).  I remembered the year when Kathy Harris paced me, and we did intervals on that stretch.  I did intervals again, remembering what she told me:  run to the ribbon, walk when I reach the big tree.  I caught up to the guy and his pacer who leaped frog with me earlier.  His pacer was pushing him from the back, as they walked up the hill.  I chatted with them a bit, he said this was his 3rd AR 50 (this was also my 3rd AR50).  Then I passed them when it was time for me to run (during my intervals).

The finish was non-eventful.  I jogged up the last uphill going towards the finish line, because everyone was cheering me on.  I finished 12:22, which was not a PR but given the circumstances, was still a good time.

The Learnings:

  1. Be aware of distance between aid stations
  2. Don’t forget to refill pack at every aid station, or at least check hydration pack if filled.
  3. Bring more than 1 tube of Base Performance salt mix.
  4. Stay focused. Try to avoid distractions at aid stations and/or by support crew.
  5. You can survive for 4 technical hilly miles without water in the heat. But be careful.