I basically had a solid race and felt pretty good most of the time while still pushing myself hard and doing the best I could. I felt quite warm in the last hour, with a high of 82F according to my watch. Unusually, I ran alone for the second half of the race and didn't even see any other 50K runners in the last third of the race. I finished 7th overall out of 76 starters.
I met my running friends Margaret and Mor at my house in Belmont at 5:15am. We aimed to arrive by 6:45am for the 7:30am start. Gloriously, there were plenty of porta-potties and I was able to go twice without any wait. We had plenty of time to get ready for the race.
The race starts off with 4 miles of downhill and I kept on reminding myself to take it easy. I guessed that there were 15-20 runners in front of me after the first mile. The air was cool and the surrounding grassy hills were pretty in the early morning sun. I noticed one guy not carrying any water bottles and who was wearing headphones and I passed him at one point on a steep downhill. Sometimes I could see far ahead and I caught a glimpse of the first place guy.
My right shoe felt a little tight on my ankle. Oops. I hadn't realized this while walking around. I was using a different shoe-tying technique, the "lace lock" (video), in the hopes of keeping my feet from sliding around. Be wary of trying new things in a race! It was kind of annoying but I didn't think it was going to hurt my ankle. In a longer race, I would have stopped and retied my shoe.
Once we started heading uphill, I heard someone approaching me. I glanced back and it was the headphones guy. "Good morning!", I said, wondering if he wanted to pass me, but he didn't hear me. Soon, he spoke, asking, "How many miles is a 50K?" This was kind of surprising, but I figured he was accustomed to the metric system. "31" I replied. He said this was his first 50K. I asked if he had run a trail marathon before. "No, but I did a 35K once." We talked a bit about our time goals and I said I was aiming for 5 hours and he remarked, accurately, that we were well ahead of that pace. "Yes, but the beginning has a lot of downhill." I replied. He asked if he could pass, and I pulled aside and wished him luck.
Coming to the first aid station, Sandstone, at mile 4.8, I checked my chart taped to my water bottle, to see how far this next little loop is, until we return to this same aid station, 3.6 miles later. I checked my inventory and I had plenty of water and energy gels, so I skipped this aid station. Headphone-guy was right with me and he skipped it, too!
We were now following pink ribbons and I recognized lots of the terrain. I knew we had a tricky left turn about half way through this loop and I was going to warn headphone-guy but he was pulling ahead of me and he was playing music again I think. This left turn is tricky because the markers don't seem to be on a trail -- it's a steep wide cleared area on the side of the hill. I made the turn and looked uphill and didn't see headphone guy, but I did see the guy who had previously been two places in front. Oh oh. Perhaps half a mile later, headphone-guy caught up to me! He had missed the turn but hadn't gone too far off course. I passed him again at Sandstone.
In the next leg, headphone-guy caught up to me again and we chatted briefly again. He said his name was Avi. He was moving well. I thought for sure I would catch up to him later, walking and dehydrated, but I never saw him again!
A little while later, a fast moving runner approached behind me. I thought he might have been the first place runner from way earlier, but I didn't understand why he was there now. I asked if he was in the 100K. "No, I went off course for a while. This is a training run, so it's no big deal." I joked that he got some bonus miles for his race fee. He pulled ahead and I never saw him again.
I think I skipped the next aid station at mile 12.2. Somewhere in the next five miles, I passed a 50K runner near the top of a hill, and someone else caught up to me, but then on the downhill, I pulled ahead of both them. I ran alone for the rest of the race!
I occasionally had twinges of discomfort in both my IT bands around the outside of my knees. But otherwise, I was moving pretty well and felt pretty good.
While hiking up a steep single-track trail, I heard a bang and a commotion in front of me. I glanced up and jumped off the trail, as a mountain biker was going too fast on the downhill. I don't think he could have stopped in time if I hadn't jumped. I was glad I wasn't wearing headphones. "Whoa! Careful!", I exclaimed. Then I yelled after him, "There are lots of other runners out there!".
I was getting warm in the late morning and in the exposed sun. I ran out of water for about 25 minutes prior to the last aid station at mile 24.6, and I was feeling sluggish. I think I was going about 9 minutes a mile on the gentle uphill coming into the last aid station. I filled up, drank a bunch of sports drink from my bottle, and filled up again. Onward to the toughest climb!
This last big climb is quite a slog -- 2 miles of steep exposed uphill, gaining about 570 feet in elevation on this fire road. I slowly jogged almost every step. I caught sight of a bicyclist and gave myself a goal of trying to reach him. I slowly got closer and almost passed him by the time I made the left turn on to a single track and was heading downhill.
I came across a large enclosure with hundreds of goats. Cute! I said "hi" to them.
I passed a handful of 25K and 100K back-of-the-pack runners.
I was moving well, but was getting desperate to finish. I started hearing the sounds of the race cars at Laguna Seca race track, but still had a couple miles left.
Finally, finally, I sprinted up the last short hill and turned left into the finish chute. Whew!
I had a few cramps after crossing the finish line and I enjoyed laying down in the sun as I cooled off. (The start / finish is on the top of a hill and there was a slight breeze.)
I checked the results, and to my astonishment, Avi was the first place finisher! Way to go, Avi!
Then I happened to glance over towards the finish line -- Mor! I hobbled over to him to greet him. He had a good race, too, with even energy levels. Mor and I chatted and ate and drank a bit. While sitting down on the ground, a bad calf cramp hit him suddenly, and I grabbed his foot and stretched his calf muscle, releasing it.
A little while later, Margaret finished! She had a fine race, too.
What went well
- Basically everything -- I didn't trip or fall, didn't go off course, and had pretty consistent energy levels.
- My new Hoke One One Speedgoat 4 Wide shoes did well. I like the wide version much better than the standard width.
- Wearing gaiters and carrying one 20oz water bottle worked fine.
Things to improve
- I was getting the beginnings of two blisters on the tips of two toes. There was also one small spot where a nail of one toe had bumped into an adjacent toe. I still want to improve my foot protection for my upcoming Quicksilver 100K and Tahoe 200.
- My socks left an imprint in the skin on the top of my feet! Their stupid logo, "Feetures!", was so thick that it was pressing into my skin too much. That will be the last time I wear those for a long run!
- I had tried a new way of tying my shoes, using all the eyelets, and it turned out that my right shoe was just a bit too tight. In a longer race, I would have stopped and retied my shoe. During the race, it was just a bit uncomfortable occasionally.
- Took 2 S-Cap salt pills and one ibuprofen during the race.
- Weighed about 170.4 lbs.
- GPS watch data