Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Lake Sonoma 50

     After an eight week stretch of running roughly 60 miles per week including five 50k or longer runs, a 39 mile week followed by only 10 total miles during the week leading up to the 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 had me feeling anxious and even a little slothful.  Such is the madness of the taper.

     I ran this race last year on a considerably lower training base (I averaged ~20 miles per week less during the 4 months leading up to last year's race) and figured I would be able to run significantly faster this year, with the same effort.  To find out if that would indeed be the case, I gathered up some things, brought myself to Healdsburg where I grabbed my race bib, enjoyed a nice pre-race dinner, went to sleep and then to the start.  Oh, I also bought a shirt at HRC because I forgot mine.

     Rain was featured on the race-day menu.  It fell for the majority of the day, mostly in a gentle and soothing way.  I will spare you the details of every single one of the fifty miles I ran and instead just mention that this course is beautiful, like really really good looking.  The trails navigate through several zones.  Miles of old growth oak groves, then redwoods, steep open grassy hillsides, and pristine views of Lake Sonoma around every corner.

At the start.  Photo: Chris Jones
     As needs to be done in something like a 50 mile race, I ran and ran and ran.  I hiked up hills and ran down them.  At mile 23-24 during a ~2 mile, 1,000+ ft. climb, I started hitting a low spot.  The feelings were familiar and I quickly credited the lull to a lack of and need for calories.  I was hoping to hold out until the mile 25 turnaround where I could access my drop bag and chug some Vitargo (something I've been experimenting with for Western States).  I decided the risk of having a full-blown bonk were too high so I chomped up a gel.  I started to feel better quickly.  I arrived at the 25 mile aid station, drank my Vitargo, ate maybe half a cantaloupe, hugged Chris Jones, and started the LONG journey back to the finish.
Halfway done!  Photo: Chris Jones
     The Lake Sonoma 50 course is described as "relentless" because of the constant climbs and descents provided by the course.  Relentless sums it up nicely.  I joked with myself to help stave off the reality of just how far away the finish was.  "Hah, if I hurry, I only have to run for 5 more hours!".  I cruised from aid station to aid station.  Up and up, down and down, through mud bogs and streams.  At mile 45, I caught up to my friend Katie.  We teamed up and pulled each other through the last 5, mostly uphill miles until finally, after 11 hours 43 minutes and 46 seconds, we high-fived Tropical John Medinger at the finish line.  It was a great day.  I didn't feel too beat up and ran the course in 37 minutes faster than I did last year.

       I was happy to find that my buddy Jerry (who I ran with for a while in the first half, but beat me by almost an hour!) had brought my truck close to the finish.  I hopped in there, grabbed my post-run protein shake, then started chowing down on vegan tamales.  Until next time, Lake Sonoma!

Cruising in with Katie.

50 mile run done!  Photo: Chris Jones

Lake Sonoma 50 Mile course and elevation profile.
     Oh, speaking of the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile elevation profile, which is known for being a relentlessly hilly and challenging 50 mile course.  Check out this comparison of Lake Sonoma 50 to the Western States 100 elevation chart.  #seeyouinsquaw #nothingtofear


Monday, February 22, 2016

FOURMidable 50k - would the wheels stay on?

Image property of Single Track Running

     This week I enjoyed my highest weekly mileage total of the year (~56), which was highlighted by running Single Track Running's FOURmidable 50k.  Showcasing some of the most scenic and challenging trails in the Auburn/Cool area, I consider this event to be a "must-do" for locals and out-of-towners, alike.  The course does an excellent job of linking up the areas most popular (and infamous) climbs via beautiful segments of run-able single track trail, much of which many runners (even locals!) will experience for the first time during the race.  This being my third consecutive year running the 50k, I knew exactly what I had coming and I knew the possibility of an epic meltdown on the course was possible, if not likely!

     I ran my fastest 50k at Jed Smith 50k two weeks ago.  I ran 22.5 miles on the Western States 100 course last weekend.  I had a cold all week and awoke feeling congested and exhausted.  I felt primed for an epic bonk.  Fortunately I do my best not to linger on such expectations and knew that the wheels were just as likely to stay on as they were to fall off.  My goal for the day was to put out a hard, but not "all out" effort, and run relatively even splits (even effort).

     I meandered down to the start/finish area about 20 minutes before the start, chatted with a whole pile of my favorite people, and waited for someone to yell "GO".  My friend Terry and I ran together from the start.  I immediately thought that might be a mistake as Terry generally finishes ahead of me in races.  Within a half mile, our friend Jen caught up to us and a pack of three was formed.  We had all finished the 2014 Cuyamaca 100k within 1/2 hour of each other, so we had a bit of a running reunion going.  We chatted, we ran, I bumped into Erin, the running super star, and while everything seemed to be going great, the exhaustion from my cold was clearly present.  The first few (downhill) miles felt somewhat challenging due to the lethargy.  At this point I was positive that I was in for a long, difficult, and potentially miserable run.  I welcomed the idea and figured it would be great mental training for States.



Mingling at the start.

Mile 2 or 3
     Winding downward through the hills, we arrived at Cardiac Hill.  We climbed the 800-900' over the next mile and continued on.  I ignored the thoughts of my cold or tired legs getting the best of me, we chatted, we ran, the miles continued to pass.  By mile 8 or 9 I realized that I was actually feeling pretty good, but figured that would change very quickly as we approached K2, or training hill.  We ran to the base of the hill, then trudged and joked and chatted away the next mile, while gaining over 1,000'.

    Things stayed positive while cruising along the Olmstead Loop Trail towards the next aid station, around the 13 mile mark, where I lingered a bit longer than Terry and Jen.  I wondered if I would fall back, parting our ways here, but I caught up to them almost immediately after I left the aid station.  For the 3rd time, we ran down to the American River, this time gaining our elevation back via the Knickerbocker climb.  After 18 miles, we had now tackled three of the four major climbs on the course.

     Our pack of three had become isolated from other runners and we joked about being in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place and how we would have a nasty knock-down drag-out fight in the finisher's chute to decide who wins.   By now, our pack of three had transformed into an indefeasible team.  We were all experiencing similar levels of fatigue and whenever anyone tried to slack off of the pace, another would push it (despite complaints to continue with the slack) and keep us moving.  As one does in a 50k foot race, we ran and ran and ran.  We cruised down the descent to No Hands Bridge from Cool and next thing you know, we only had 4 miles to go.  4 deceitfully challenging miles.

     We ran the mostly gentle, sometimes steep ascent back up to Auburn and when we gained nearly 4/5 of the elevation needed to reach the finish area, the course sent us careening back down towards the river.  Switchbacks and everything.  We knew that every foot of elevation we lost would have to be re-gained in order to get to the end.  Jen decided she would repeatedly slap Paulo (the race director) for creating such a dastardly course.  Eventually we started to climb again.  Having run 31 miles together, we decided we had to cross the finish line together in some memorable fashion.  I was set on coming up with some synchronized dance, similar to something children would do while performing for The Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Un.  Alas, I had no takers.  We considered all jumping across, but decided we were too tired.

     Finally, when there were no more descents to descend and no more climbs to climb, we joined hands and ran it in for a 3 way tie.  The wheels stayed on, we finished in 6:41:58, about 7 minutes off of my fastest time for the course.


      While this has been a nice story, history will tell quite a different tale....
I won, Jen got 2nd, Terry was last.

Cool medal.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Western States 100 training, Jed Smith 50k, do not stand still, etc.

     The surreality that comes with being a member of the 2016 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run's entrant list is upon me, as is training season.  Race day is a mere 129 days (4 months, 8 days) away.  The seven weeks of training I have completed thus far accounts for nearly 25% of my planned training for the race.  I'm happy to report that to date, all is going well.

**** My small donkey, Burrito, finally has a friend! ****

     My plan of building base miles while training for the 2015 CIM and taking a running break for the rest of December seems to have set me up nicely to hop into my WS100 training.  After running CIM on December 6th, I proceeded to rack up mayyybe 20 miles during the rest of the month.  By the ringing of the new year, I bursting with the desire to hit the trails and run far.

     My training officially kicked off on January 5th and has sent me on a journey of 276 miles while climbing more than 34,000 ft (2016 running totals to date):

     Multiple trips to the mountains, a new personal best at the Jed Smith 50k, a herd of two small donkeys, dogs, baby, family, friends, and miles; oh, and I met and ran with Eric Byrnes, Lance Armstrong, and American 100 mile record holder, Zach Bitter!   What else could one ask for?  Let's take a gander at some highlights!!

Michigan Bluff to "The Pump" and back:

Hiking with Tyler & Lucy:

Skiing with Dad:

AnotherMichigan Bluff to the pump+ & back!:

Max, the good cow:

Memorable sunrises:

More hiking with Tyler & Lucy:


Water is officially back in our lives!:

Mountains and snow!:

Trails with Lucy!:

Jed Smith 50k, new PR (5:25:03):

Castle Peak!  Open year round:

My adventurous trail companion:

Western States 22 mile training day... with Eric Byrnes and Lance Armstrong??:

Logging some miles with Eric Byrnes during is 40 mile 40th bday run!

Logging some miles with Eric Byrnes during is 40 mile 40th bday run!

Love is in the air:

Lucy, Lucy, Lucy: