After more training runs in the rain than I can count, race number one of spring race season was here. I felt…unprepared…not as unprepared as North Face, but not nearly as ready as I was last year. I’m not even really sure why…probably that hip injury and the four months I took off from running had something to do with it. But, that’s life…
Getting to the race was way easier than last year. I have the ability to work from home a couple of days a month, so we left just after noon and I worked on the way to Auburn. Wayyyyy less traffic. Took just over three hours compared to the five plus it took last year. Of course, last year the world would’ve ended if I worked remotely, so couldn’t leave the South Bay until 3:30, but that’s a story for another day ;).
We got to Auburn and headed right to Auburn Running Company so I could pick up my bib. Number 600, that’s fun. Then we quickly checked into the hotel, the same Super 8 as last year and I’m pretty sure the same room. We grabbed dinner at Auburn Brewing Company (much better than the highway side Carl’s Jr.). It was delicious – nothing like pre-race mac and cheese and some good beer to match. Wendell, Leng and the kids joined us later on, so it became a nice dinner with friends. Fun way to chill out and relax away the pre-race nerves.
Since we already had our bibs, Leng and I were less concerned with getting to the start super early. Brian was also with me this year, so I wasn’t as worried about a long hike to the car post-race either. This meant we didn’t need to leave until 6:30, we could get up at 6. A delicacy on a race morning.
Getting to the race was easy…easier than I remember. And, parking wasn’t too crazy either. We had about an hour before the race started, but stayed in the car as long as possible – it was freezing out! No rain this year, but way colder than I remember.
A quick stop at the porta-potty and it was time to start. I said quick hello’s to Brazen Mike from last year and Leng and I took a fun photo with Penny and her chicken. The first mile and a half passed pretty quickly, though not as quickly as last year, I later learned.
The first eight miles are all pretty much on single track, winding in a circle back to the fire station. I remember this part last year, and how it forced me to keep running (not necessarily a bad thing). This year, there was some running, but for some reason, I remember it being more congested than before…there were certain points traffic just stopped. Somewhere around mile three, I noticed the shirtless kamikaze descender man from last year. Good news – he was in front of me. If there’s someone that’s going to fly down the hill and possibly take people down, the best place for them is in front of you. But, I ended up passing him and didn’t see him again.
The trails were very much like I remembered them, the knee (now thigh) deep water was still there, it was overall pretty runable, and before I knew it, I was back at the start getting high-fives from Brian, Wendell and the kids. I grabbed some food and electrolytes from the aid station, chatted with Brian a bit, and I was off. The music playing as I ran reverse through the finish line got me going again, and I was on my way to the quarry.
Miles 8 – 13.1
The path down to the quarry was also much like I remembered it, but far less treacherous than it seemed last year. I also felt like I was in no man’s land for most of the three miles, which was odd considering there were over 900 runners. I got to the highway crossing and down into the quarry, and found a bunch of other runners.
I made it a point to run more through the quarry this year, which resulted in slower mile splits. I was still about a mile and a half ahead of where I’d planned to be, so whatever, I’ll take it. After what seemed like forever, I saw ‘aloha’ signs and around the corner was the next aid station. I grabbed some electrolytes (who knew they had tea flavored and that it would taste good?), Sprite, and snacks, thanked the volunteers, and I was off. Before I left one of the ladies asked if I wanted my pack refilled. I told her I thought I was good…a decision that became a rookie mistake and impacted the rest of my day.
Miles 13.1 – 21
Two-ish miles after the aid station, you start the climb out of the quarry. Last year, I remember feeling like I was done somewhere around mile 19. This year, I wanted to be done around mile 17 and was out of water by mile 18. Not good…not good at all. I also started to feel the acid reflux fun I’d experienced during Lake Sonoma come back. And I thought I might break Coach Lindsay’s no puking in the gym rule, but, it was three miles to the aid station. Three miles, three miles, I can do this….then, two miles…two miles, I’ve got this….so on and so forth, until I was making my way down the steep hill to the mile 21 aid station. I felt my knee hyperextend just before I got to the bottom…luckily, no damage done, and the guys behind me gave me a friendly warning to be careful.
I was so glad to be at an aid station. They helped me refill my pack (even though I couldn’t get it open), gave me some broth, and hooked me up with Vaseline (damn chaffing). I didn’t stay too long before I bit the forest oasis goodbye and headed towards the infamous Goat Hill.
Miles 21 – 26
The next few miles passed as a blur…nothing too noteworthy about them, and I remember being frustrated I wasn’t at Goat Hill yet. And then I hit what I thought was Goat Hill…except it was some random course reroute. Up a mini Goat Hill in preparation for the bigger one. Finally getting to Goat Hill, it was definitely tougher than I remembered it being. I still didn’t stop going up it, but definitely slower than last year.
I hit the aid station, no Larry this year, but I did get some more broth and a salted potato, along with some liquids and Vaseline, before I was on my way. So ready to be done….
Miles 26 – Finish
Leaving mile 26, I was able to run more than last year, I think…but still overall slower. I met a couple of ladies who asked me if this was the hardest 50k I’d done….unfortunately no. It just didn’t seem like it was my day.
More trails, a few creeks, and a lot of mud later, I hit the last aid station. Not sure why there’s one so close to the end, but I didn’t stop there this year and just jogged through with a wave.
Coming out of that aid station is about a mile of trail that rivals the dipsea, but without the stairs. Just what you want at mile 30…short, steep, climbs. That part ends with about a half mile that winds to the finish line. 30.5 miles, just over eight hours (40 minutes slower than last year :(), and a lot of ‘am I there yet’ moments, I’d finished my second Way Too Cool.
So, with one finish under my belt, I look towards Lake Sonoma. Where last year, Cool was the vote of confidence heading into my first successful 50 miler, this year, I think it was a wake-up call. I need more long runs…probably more double days at the gym. I’m not even sure I care about getting faster at the moment (let’s be honest, if I mearly run after mile 32 at Lake Sonoma, I’ll be in better shape), but I do want to do as much prep as I can so it’s a good experience for as long as possible. Here’s to an extra week of training runs, more long runs, and hopefully a good race at Sonoma.