Sarah and I woke up at 4:30am and I consumed my normal breakfast of yogurt, banana, and Ensure. It'd only take us about 15 minutes to drive over to the starting line at Brown's Ravine Marina on the edge of Folsom Lake. Once there, I put a couple VFuel gels in my shorts and was ready to get going. After some quick instructions from the RD, the first wave of runners started the journey to Auburn.
|Getting ready to start the 50 mile journey to Auburn|
Most of my training up to this point was geared at being able to run comfortably at 7:30 pace for 25+ miles. On a rolling course, I assumed that wouldn't be too much of a stretch. So, I started just the way most of my long runs went, around 7:15-7:45 pace. This put me at about the back of the first pack of runners, maybe around 20-25th position. After a short time on pavement, the course took a turn onto the dirt surrounding the south side of Folsom Lake for a couple miles.
Everything was really going well. I felt light on my feet, lots of energy and relaxed. This carried on through the first aid station at Folsom Point just before the 5 mile mark. Checking my watch, I was still right in line with my goal pace. As we made our way out onto Natoma Street I spotted Sarah who was stopped at the side of the road & gave me a quick 'high-five'. It's always nice seeing her smiling face!
I latched onto a couple runners hitting low 7 minute splits over the next few miles and as we made our way down onto the American River Trail, I was feeling quite confident. We followed the trail for the next several miles as it wove it's way south along the American River. I talked with another runner named Ethan for several miles as I enjoyed the scenery. I entered into the Willow Creek aid station just before 13 miles and knew I would have a quick exchange with Sarah taking a couple new gels, water bottle and an Ensure. I had drank Ensure during a couple long training runs and they never upset my stomach. Today was no different, it went down easy and I kept motoring along.
The next section of the trail would take us across the American River and north on the trail and up to the Nimbus Bluffs. Still cranking out 7:30's, I was feeling pretty good. I was drinking quite a bit of water and downing gels every 30-45 minutes or so. Exactly what I planned.
I made it into the next aid station at Main Bar, roughly mile 17, and backed off the pace a bit as it was feeling a touch quick. The next couple miles I comfortably ran around 7:50 pace and started to feel a little bit better again. Although I had lost ground on a couple of the other runners, I knew I was still at the beginning of the race and needed to conserve my output. In theory, it should have worked, but my body had other ideas.
I must have been around 18-19 miles in when I decided to take a couple salt tabs as the weather was starting to warm up. First salt tab went down fine. Second salt tab...got stuck in my throat. I stopped running, coughed and gagged for a second then took a swallow of water, but that thing didn't budge. Then my gag reflex acted on my behalf. The tab came out, but so did about half the contents of my stomach. Ugh, I've never thrown up in a race before and that really tweaked some muscles in my body. At least it was over and I got moving again.
Well, turns out it wasn't really over yet. About 30 seconds down the trail I heaved again clearing out the rest of my stomach and straining some more muscles. I took a minute and just stood there waiting for more to come out, but it seemed like it truly was over. I tried to stretch a minute and with another swig of water, I started slowly jogging down the trail once again.
Not more than 5 minutes later, I threw up again. Three times. What the hell? I didn't know what was going on, but knew I needed to get to an aid station and refuel what I had just lost. I started running again, but my legs weren't quite working correctly. I was running...well, I was jogging...well, maybe 'jogging' is too strong of a word, shuffling is probably more accurate considering I was doing about 13:30 pace.
Eventually, I made it into the Negro Bar aid station, saw Sarah, grabbed some gels and more water, told her I got sick and shuffled my way out of there. Only 30 miles to go. Shit, it's all of a sudden going to be a really long day. I tried to shake it off consuming water and gels, but my body just wouldn't get going. I was only able to run for short spurts, maybe 300 yards before I needed a walking break. How did I hit such a wall at only 20 miles in? How was I only able to run at about 10 minute pace max? That vomit session really shut my body down and it was not interested in running at all.
I came into the next aid station at Beal's Point, about 26 miles in, with one thing on my mind: DNF. I didn't even care. At my current pace, I was looking at another 6+ hours on the course. However, Sarah wouldn't let me drop. She said "It's only a 50 miler, you can't drop." It's becoming more obvious that I've really warped her sense of distance with this ultramarathon stuff. So, I listened to my wife and didn't drop. Instead, I downed a Red Bull and some orange slices and got my ass moving once again, even if it was extremely slow.
|Looking good, but feeling like a bucket of crap at Beal's Point|
As you can imagine, I was dropping further and further back in the overall standings. Not that I really cared at this point, but it's still a crushing blow each time another runner passes you...and it was happening a lot. Not a lot changed for the next 15 miles. I ran and walked. Got passed a bunch. Still felt like a big pile of crap. I was averaging 13:17 per mile over this part of the course.
About a mile before the Rattlesnake Bar aid station, mile 41, I all of a sudden started to feel better. Not great, but better. It's like my body was semi-ready to run again. I had about 10 miles left and wanted to make up as much ground as possible. In that mile before the aid station, I passed about 7-8 runners. I got another Red Bull in me and charged out of the aid station and back onto the trail with the idea to pass as many runners as possible.
This last portion of the course was really quite pretty. The singletrack trails are gorgeous with some sections perfectly smooth and others with rocks and roots. It also felt good moving at a faster pace again. I felt like I was flying compared to the previous 20 miles even though I was only averaging about 9 minute pace. However, that's not too bad considering I had already run 40+ miles and had been running in the 13+ minute per mile range only a few miles ago.
The last 3 miles of the course is up a big hill and I knew I could make up some ground. I hit the last aid station with about 2.5 miles to go and one of the guys working asked "how many are you going to catch?" That sort of lit a fire, like I still had something to prove in this race. Anyone who is within 3-4 minutes is probably within reach. I got after that hill and ran about 95% of it with a couple short walk breaks to catch my breath and passed another 9-10 competitors. That felt really good.
|Heading towards the finish line|
What felt even better though was seeing the finish line. My watch said 8:12:46 as I crossed, but official results didn't match. Weird. Either way, it certainly took a lot longer than expected, but it was a battle that was more difficult and rewarding than any other I've experienced thus far. With that said, I've got some unfinished business with this course and will be back again...hopefully with less vomiting and muscle straining!
|I could only smile and laugh about my rough day at the American River 50m|
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