Thursday, March 28, 2013

Race Report: Way Too Cool 50k

Two and a half weeks later I am still smiling.  Despite the weeks leading up to the race not going as planned, come race day I couldn't have asked to have a better day.  But I will start at the beginning - this one is going to be a long one.


It's no secret I love making training schedules.  When I decided I was officially going to put my name in the lottery for Way Too Cool I immediately starting researching different plans and came up with the perfect 13 week plan that would officially start the Monday they released the lottery results.  Three weekday runs and a long run on the weekend.  As the weeks progressed I planned to add some back to back weekend runs for Febraury.

The first three weeks went great.  I had to rearrange days here and there but I was hitting all my workouts.  When we got home from visiting family on Christmas day I felt that all to familiar ache in my back that turned into one of the worst flare ups I have had in over a year and wasn't able to run for three weeks.  A month later when I was just starting to hit my stride again I got the flu and was out for almost 8 days.  Two weeks before Way Too Cool I was doing my longest run of my training cycle to date - 18.6 miles.  

I was freaked out.  I wouldn't even train to run a marathon with a long run of only 18 miles and to be honest I almost backed out.  I didn't want to do this half-ass. 

Experience told me I would probably be okay with lower mileage than most.  Given my history with my back I knew really high mileage would only put me at risk for injury.  Despite my short long run, my mid week runs went well.  I decided the first 20 miles would be physical and the last 10 would be all mental.  My mental game has gotten pretty tough.

I must note I DO NOT advocate training like this nor am I particularly happy with what I did but I did the best I could given the circumstances.


On Friday the day before race day I got this little reminder at 9:00 am.

Gulp.  I guess I never changed my calendar after I got accepted through the lottery.  This was no longer a question - it was real.

Layla and I escaped work early that day and after a few errands we made our way up to Alisyn's who was so sweet and gracious to host us at her place which was roughly 20 minutes from the start line.  After a delicious dinner we were watching a movie and I could feel my eyes getting heavy, however, I soon as I crawled into bed I got a second wind and kept poor Layla up gabbing her ear off about who knows what.  I blame the nerves.  Finally around midnight I was able to fall asleep with the alarm set for 5:00 am.

Around 4:00 am I woke up to a nightmare that I was really there to do an Ironman and had forgot all my bike and swim stuff at home so I couldn't race.  I was revealed when I realized I only had to run 31 miles. :)

Race Day

The race started at 8:00 AM which theoretically meant a little more sleep than usual before a race although my nervous stomach got the best of me.  We got the start in plenty of time to score great parking, grab our bibs and race swag, head to the porta-potties, etc.  I still don't think it registered that at the end of the day I was going to be an "ultra marathoner."

This race is one of, it not the most, sought after 50k in the country.  With 1000 racers on race day the start was split into 2 waves - one at 8:00 and one at 8:10.  With about 5 minutes to the start of the 8:00 wave we made our way to the starting line.  I was actually pretty chilly at the start and for a moment I regretted not wearing arm warmers but the sun was out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky and knew as soon as we got going I would get warm and regret having to carry them.

As the minutes ticked down to 8:10 the nerves actually started to subside and I was getting really excited.  Before I knew it the horn sounded and we were off.

Photo credit Inside Trails
The first mile was all on pavement as we made our way to the trails and we ran into Alyssa who was also doing her first 50k.  The first 8 miles of the race had us doing a loop that would have us running back past the start line.  This was also our first aid station.

As soon as we hit the trails it was single track for the majority of the way back to the start.  Within the first 2 miles we hit the first on many creek crossings which offered one of two options - wait in line to navigate the rocks or splash on through.  Knowing I still had 29 miles to go I opted for the rocks this time around.

Still feeling like a trail newbie, I was a little anxious for all the single track - mainly I didn't want to hold anyone up behind me but as we filed into line my fears quickly subsided.  People were really nice and courteous about passing you or letting you pass if you needed to.  I also really liked that the line kept my pace in check.  

Layla and I were still managing to stay together at this point too which made me happy.  Of course it was still early but I had enjoyed having her to run with during Lake Chabot and hoped we still had many more miles together although we had both encouraged each other to run our own races.  

Photo credit Inside Trails
Photo credit Facchino Photography
About a half mile before mile 8 we hit another water crossing.  Despite trying my hardest to navigate the rocks both feet ended up ankle deep in the water.  I was a little worried about blisters but the water was actually really refreshing and within about 3 miles everything was dry.

As we made into the first aid station we were surprised by a bunch of friends cheering us on.  I was actually starting to get hungry and grabbed some shot bloks, a 1/4 of a banana and some chips for salt.  From there on out most aid stations were approximately 5 miles apart so my plan was just to eat roughly the same thing at each aid station. 

From there it was time to start the big 23 mile loop that would eventually bring us to the finish.

It was just over 3 miles to the next aid station at Lower Quarry and we had a great time flying downhill and taking advantage of the opportunity to bank some time.  We were over a third of the way done and feeling great.  

Loving the downhill!
As we were making our way down towards the highway crossing I scanned the spectators and was so surprised to see Samantha and ran and gave her a big hug.  It was such a nice surprise.

After Lower Quarry it was 6 miles to the next aid station at Maine Bar.  As we ran along side the river it was so cool to look up and be surrounded by the canyon walls.  It was also terrifying to know we somehow had to make our way back up those canyon walls. 

After Maine Bar is when the ascent out of the canyon began.  Happy Layla and I were still together we kept a good clip while running but slowed to hike some of the hills.  We spent a lot of the time in a pace line on the single track and enjoyed chatting with others on the course.  Everyone was so friendly and we got some good insight from veteran runners on what to expect ahead.  

Splashing in puddles - photo Facchino Photography
Mostly though I was just having a blast.  Sure, there was some challenging parts (with the most challenging part still to come) but the scenery was beautiful.  The majority of this was shaded so it was nice and cool.  We saw some waterfalls and even got to run on part of the Western States course!  The trails were in great condition.  I even noted that our 30k time (18.6 miles) was faster than the Lake Chabot 30k we had done two weeks prior.

Around mile 20 I felt my energy start to slip.  I don't know if this was because I had told myself the first 20 miles was physical and the last 10 was mental or if it was just a coincidence but mile 19 was my second slowest mile of the race.  As we approached the Auburn Lakes Trail (ALT) aid station at mile 21 and caught myself inhaling a bunch of food so I crossed my fingers I had just gotten low on fuel.

Luckily I think it was just my energy must have been running low as I started to get my groove back and was feeling much better by mile 23.  These next few miles were some fun single track.  I was so happy Layla was still there running with me or I may have stopped to walk.  We weren't always talking but just knowing someone is there silently pushing you along is very helpful. 

Right around mile 25 we hit the infamous Goat Hill.  It climbs about 500 feet in less than half a mile - definitely "hands on the thighs" hiking but once you reach the top you are at the marathon marker.    There was a very nice man standing at the top shouting encouragement.  Once at the top one of the volunteers asked if I was okay and needed anything.  My pack was out of water and I wanted to refill it although I was really struggling to get the darn thing out and I think I may have ended up just thrusting the whole thing at him.  He was so awesome and fixed the whole thing up for me.  I can't say enough good things about all the volunteers.

I also remember looking at my watch and seeing I made it to the 26.2 marker faster on a trail race than I had run my first marathon.  It reminded me just how far I had come as runner and I what I was about to accomplish.

At mile 27 Layla and I celebrated the longest distance either of us had run and started the calculations to figure out our estimated finish time.  The goal had always been to finish with a time that started with a "6" but secretly when I started training for this endeavor I hoped to finish in 6:30 or better.  We knew pending any catastrophes we had our "6" in the bag but under a 6:30 was still a possibility.

Soon we were crossing over highway 49 again into the last aid station where they had a sign saying only 1.4 miles to go.  Layla and I looked at our watches, looked at each other and knew that if we got moving that 6:30 was ours.  

Of course the first .4 miles after the aid station was a uphill but we powered up it.  At the top we could hear the finish line in the distance and that was all the motivation we needed.  I dug deep and pretty soon we were rounding the corner to the finish line.

Photos courtesy of Samantha
Photo credit Facchino Photography
Photo credit Facchino Photography
 Ultramarathon Finishers!

The next few minutes were kind of a blur.  There were hugs and pictures and lots of smiles.

It was so nice great having a great group of spectators at the finish and people to celebrate with.

Final Stats
6:25:54 (12:32 min/mile)
75/114 Women 30-39
584/852 Overall

Given that my training didn't go exactly as planned I am absolutely thrilled with my performance.  Coming in under 6:30 seemed ambitious but I am so so thrilled with how it turned out.  I look forward to seeing what I can do with a full and complete training cycle.

We soon said our goodbyes and headed over to the Auburn Ale House for fried pickles and beers and to talk about all things running.
Elevation 4,468

I had an amazing day running I couldn't have asked for a better day to run my first ultra.  Everything just came together perfectly.  Seriously, it was so much fun!  When people ask me why in the heck I want to spend the day running 31 miles it is for races like this.  This is why I run.  I know this is only the beginning of more ultras to come.
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  1. I was waiting to read your recap. Congrats on becoming an Ultra Marathoner! Was it your first trail run? I am doing my first one in SF in June. I'm excited. I want to get into trail running. :)

  2. You took FOREVER to write this!!! Congratulations, what an amazing achievement!!! So excited for you!

  3. Amazing pace!!! So proud of you and so glad I got to be there for your first ultra!!! You are amazing! That is all! :)

  4. Lol..."only" had to run 31 miles. Congratulations on an awesome race!

  5. I was looking forward to this race report! great job on your first ultra! congrats on finishing in such an amazing time :) i am only day dreaming of the day I could accomplish something like that.


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