Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Sunday, April 6, 2008

American River 50 mile - 6.24:42 9th place

Ahhhhh.... my reward! I know it's hard to see but it's a pint of Burnt Sienna amber from Hoppy Brewing company in Sacramento. It's the best picture I could get with no lights, sorry. Mighty fine beverage made from mother earth herself.

American River 50 mile 2008 done - in the books! I'm here to tell you that I'm extremely happy with my result. I think I ran a very smart race with an even pace throughout. This is my 50 mile PR by 18 minutes. My previous was 6.42 set at Sun Mart in 2006 which I believe to be an easier course. Having said that I feel like I'm doing the best running of my life and I have a feeling it's gonna get better as long as I can stay healthy.

Here is how I saw the race unfold:

I went to the start the line on Friday afternoon to see the bike path that we would be traveling for 31 myles. Turns out to be pretty similar to the bike path I had been running at home. I ran for about 20 minutes on Friday to get out any kinks and see how my body felt, all things considered I felt good and positive about the race.

I hadn't studied the course in too much detail because the maps provided really don't tell the story. I just went off of race reports from people who had previously run it. The commonality of each report talked about going out too fast on the bike path and blowing up on the last 20 myles. I didn't want to do that so I took up the strategy adopted for Way Too Cool - go out slow and let them come back to me.

In the pre-dawn twilight I watched 17 runners take off at a torrid pace. The group included: Tony Krupicka, Oz Pearlman, Jorge Pacheco, Lon Freeman, Todd Braje, and Nick Bingham - all of who I suspected to go out fast. As I passed through the 10K mark in 38:17 I felt very comfortable but still felt like I should slow down. The front group was still in sight but slowly starting to disintegrate. I was running with Erik Skaden (previous winner), Mark Lantz, and Lewis Taylor who all knew the course and the downfalls. I thought if I can stay with these guys they will lead me to the front. Stomach became unsettle so I had to stop for bathroom breaks 3 times and pretty much put them outta sight at the 17 mile mark. Still on the very flat bike path I was running all alone at the marathon mark and went through in 2.54. Ya - 2.54 for the marathon and I still had one to go! I was a little nervous but decided at this point to push until it broke.

After the 28 mile mark the single track starts and I was surprised at how technical and pretty the trail was. I ran through the 50K mark in 3.36 - my second fastest 50K time ever! I was 20 minutes up on my projected finish time of 6.30 and was thinking I would start to give back some time as the trail started to undulate constantly. It didn't matter because I needed some variety but it definitely slowed me down. Still feeling good and running every step through 40.7 myles - Rattlesnake aid station. I had not seen anyone since leaving the 22 mile aid station, this really started to get on my nerves because this semi technical single track was my forte. FINALLY at 40.7 I got into the aid station as 3 runners were leaving, Billy Barnett, Jorge Pacheco, and Mark Lantz. I had a sense of urgency now! I passed Billy immediately and was in pursuit of Jorge and Mark. I got within 15 seconds of them but just didn't have enough to overtake them.

Somewhere along the trail I passed several others but don't know where. I think because I was quick at every aid station there could have been runners sitting down that I didn't notice. Having said that I didn't know what place I was in, nor did it matter, my time mattered the most.

With Jorge out of site I stayed with 30 seconds of Mark Lantz through Last Gasp aid station (47.6). We had been climbing since mile 44 and I was in the drivers seat. I could tell he didn't want to run up the hills but knew he had to because every time he looked back I was running. What he didn't know was that every time he stopped, I stopped, trying to conserve for the last push. Now I was hurting but I could see the finish waaaay up on the hill. I made one last push the final 1.5 myles to catch Mark but he was running my same pace. Along the way we both passed Oz Pearlman who was walking. Last year Oz ran a 50 mile road race in 5.30 but the trail and hills were too much for him.

I finished and had no idea of what place I ended up. They told me 9th and I was shocked! I had passed 8 people in the lead group and not passed by a single person! To me, that's all I could ask of myself. I know we all say we would do things differently if we had a chance to do it again and maybe that's why I keep going back to run the same ultras - I wanna see how fast I can get. In retrospect, for American River next time I think I would go out faster and stay with the lead group knowing that I will beat most of them on the single track. I tried to make up too much time lost on the bike path and ran outta real estate.

Thanks to all of you who have been supporting me! Your support really pulls me through the tough times during the race. I wish you all could be there with me!
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