American River 50 Mile Endurance Run :: A First Timer's Recap

A couple of weeks ago, I ran the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run. Just typing that is crazy.

Before I get into the race details, I should explain how and why this became my goal. I started training with my running group in June 2013 because I wanted to run a marathon, specifically the California International Marathon in December. I knew I needed to get in shape after doing nothing (exercise wise) for a year after graduating from college. Courtney and my mom joined as well.

Long story short, at the end of that training season, someone mentioned training for an ultra marathon with the ultra group. All three of us thought it would be fun, but wanted to run a marathon first. After the marathon, I was in so much pain, I swore I'd never run that far again. A few weeks later I had signed up for the ultra group and the American River 50 Mile race. Never believe what a runner says right after a race.

The ultra group ran trails all around the area on Sundays to prepare for the race. It was hard and tiring but so amazing to run farther and farther. 

I was incredibly nervous about the cut off times leading up to the race. I really wanted the Patagonia finisher's jacket. Let's be real, I'm not going to run 50 miles without getting something. Anyway, when we completed our last training run a week before the race, all the anxiety was gone and I went into planning mode. I prepared my clothes for the race, my pack with all the essentials, crew stuff, and food.

The morning of the race Courtney and I woke up at 2:30 AM, to leave by 3:15 AM to get to my Mom's house by 4:00 AM, to get to the starting line by 5 AM. Thankfully our timing worked out and we were early. I tried to stay in the warm car for as long as possible, but eventually I needed to use the bathroom and had to brave the cold. I was a little nervous about the cold since I was wearing shorts, a short sleeved shirt, and light pullover, but my logical side knew it would warm up and I should fight the urge to put on more layers.

Eventually we forced ourselves out of the car to watch the first wave take off. We found our running group and I hit the bathroom one more time. Lining up at the start was weird. The 14 weeks of training were over and it was time to run the race. This illusive goal was finally here and it was pretty scary.

Finally we started and it felt good to get moving. We started in the very very very back so there were only a couple of people behind us. I felt we were going too slow, especially following someone I knew I was faster than, but the Mothership, our 'leader', encouraged me to take it slow and allow the natural separation of paces to occur. After that I calmed down and went with the flow as much as someone with my personality can.

I saw that Courtney recapped the race according to aid stations, which I thought was a great idea since that's how I got through the race....breaking it up and just thinking about getting to the next aid station.

Folsom Point | Mile 4.97 :: The first 3 miles went by so fast that I was surprised by how quickly (relatively speaking) we made it to the first aid station, about 5 miles in. There were a couple of SacFit members who cheered us on and made sure we had everything we needed (or wanted to drop off). It was so motivating to see people you knew and who knew you cheering you on. It really makes a difference.

Willow Creek | Mile 12.77 :: This was the first aid station that your crew could meet you, so we knew Dan was going to be there.

Leading up to this aid station I was having some serious digestive issues, but there was no where to take care of business on the trail so I was forced to run through the uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. I was also dealing with tight and ache-y hips. I began to think about how hard the day was going to be if the pain continued.

Once we got to the aid station, I bolted for the bathrooms which were in the far corner of the parking lot about as far away as you could get. After, I was so relieved. I picked up a few small snacks at the aid station table and we kept moving.

Main Bar | Mile 16.98 :: Finally made it up the Hazel Bluffs/Big Lots!

A runner from our group who wasn't was able to run the race was at Main Bar and dressed in superhero garb. She was pinning stars on SacFit runners.

I was finally getting hot in my light pullover, so I decided to take it off. Courtney thought it was really funny that an aid station worker asked me if I wanted to leave my pullover there because there was a box of stuff to give to Ken (our running group leader) and I responded with wide eyes and 'you know Ken?!?!?'.

Negro Bar | Mile 20.18 :: This is the first place we saw Courtney's family (Dad, Sister, and Uncle) and Heather. We had Marissa (Courtney's sister) and Heather taking photos and helping Dan.

I was okay on water but refilled my baggie of Endurolytes. 

Beal's Point | Mile 24.31 :: As we rounded the corner coming into the aid station and saw the party, I was so excited to be almost half way done. Plus we had allotted 10 minutes at this aid station. Even better was that we were very close to getting on the trails. Marissa and Heather were waiting for us and ran us over to the other side of the park where Dan had set up.

I used the bathroom AGAIN and I felt so much better. I changed my socks, refilled my water, ate some Pringles and I was ready to go!

Granite Bay | Mile 29.45 :: I think we came into this aid station right on pace for a 12 hour finish. So it was a quick in and out. Sarah (crewing for Scott) asked if I wanted ice; it was getting hot so I topped off my pack.

We almost missed Heather and Marissa, but they showed up right as we were leaving. 

Buzzard's Cove | Mile 34.67 :: By the time we got to Buzzard's Cove, an Express Station in the middle of nowhere, we were about 3 minutes off of a 12 hour finish time.

My mom was starting to feel kind of sick, so we convinced to her to have some soda even though she liked to brag that she hasn't had soda since August 1st. As odd and counterintuitive as it sounds, the quick calories, sugar, and caffeine give you a burst of energy without having to consume actual food. It's liquid gold during an ultra. 

Just a note about Buzzard's Cove...they had to boat everything in and carry it up a huuuuge hill. So glad there are people willing to volunteer and do that! 

Horseshoe Bar | Mile 38.14 :: The miles leading up to this aid station were some of the most boring miles of the race. By the time we got there we were significantly off the pace for a 12 hour finish, but I was okay with it.

I had some soda, so did C as the Nuun she had been drinking was giving her problems. My mom had to go to the bathroom, but there was one porta potty and a line, so she decided to wait until Rattlesnake.

As we were leaving the aid station, someone behind us starting throwing up. If you know Courtney, you know that she CANNOT deal with that. She literally pushed me out of the way to pass and ran with her hands over her ears. The guy kept throwing up for quite some time and kept running. It was a little scary hearing the sounds a body in distress makes.

Rattlesnake Bar | Mile 40.94 :: This was the aid station I had been looking forward to the entire race. I knew that if I could make it to Rattlesnake, I would be single digit miles from the end. That being said, the last mile leading up to it was pure torture. As it dragged on, I thought every corner that we turned was the last one before the aid station, but I was obviously wrong. My mom was struggling and Courtney and I like to make fun of her for making some interesting noises at this point in the race.

The course was a bit weird in that you had to run down a pretty steep hill to get the aid station and run back up the same hill to get out. It was difficult to navigate when there were runners going both directions.

I hit the porta potty here and then grabbed some soda and snacks. In our race planning we decided to only have pacers for the last 9ish miles. So Rick (Tammy's pacer), Marissa, and Heather were ready to run us in.

Dowdin's Post | Mile 43.92 :: This was another aid station that I was really looking forward to. It was organized and staffed by our running group, which is a huge boost of motivation towards the end of the race. It was nice to see smiling faces of people that knew you and hear 'Go Sparkle Twins!'.

Courtney was having major foot pain by this time, so Rick pulled her aside and tried to get her to stretch it out. She was pretty ornery so he gave up pretty quickly.  

I was so ready to be done by this point and my mind had shut down, so I asked Ken (who couldn't finish due to cramping) the distance to the base of Last Gasp. He told me and said it would take us about an hour to get there. He was right, we were at the base of 'The Beast' in 59 minutes. 

Last Gasp | Mile 47.56 :: At this point in the race I had to keep telling myself to just get to the base of 'The Beast' and I'd be at the finish...just a 3 mile hike. Let me tell you, it was so difficult to get there. Everyone was struggling especially my mom who was at the rear of the group. [Rick was leading, then Tammy, Chelsie, Courtney, Me, Marissa, Heather, and my mom]. We sent Marissa to run behind her and 'encourage' her. She was a drill sergeant, but kept my mom going.

I had a Gu about a mile before 'The Beast', which I was so happy to see. Tammy and her group quickly passed us by, but towards the end (by running the flats) we were able to catch up. Marissa was still pushing my mom and Heather was walking next to Courtney, silently pushing her. I was just so happy to be on 'The Beast'.

We all came up the last little hill together, but at that point I had gotten some energy and took off towards the finish line. Courtney ran with me and we yelled at my mom to pick it up. I hit the turn, got on the grass, and ran through the finisher's shoot. I came into the finish line crying. I was so overwhelmed with what we'd just done. I'd just accomplished everything that I had worked for and it went even better than I could have imagined.

Finishing :: I was still crying as I was handed my jacket. The guy asked me if it was my first 50 and I blubbered a yes and he gave me a hug. We got our medals and were swarmed by our running group. It was pretty amazing. My Dad was there as was Courtney's Dad, Aunt, and Grandma. Her aunt and grandma even brought flowers for us!

I got a massage and headed over to the finish line area to watch others from our running group come in. 

I'd thought mile 30 to 40 would be the hardest part of the race because it was that gray area between the farthest I'd run (32.5 miles) and Rattlesnake Bar (single digit miles to the end). I was SO wrong. Miles 10 till Beal's Point (24 ish) were the hardest as I dealt with digestive issues, hip pain, and a bad attitude. Thankfully things got better, but I was surprised at where I struggled during the race. 

I think I did well with my hydration, fueling, and electrolytes. Once I got the poo out of my system (towards the beginning), I was good to go. I didn't have any of the dizziness of nausea that my mom and Courtney did and I really think it was because of the Endurolytes. 

As amazing as it was, in the 'afterglow' of the race I've become quite lazy. Maybe it's 'runner's depression', but because I have nothing to work towards I haven't been running. Before the race I was operating on fear; completing my midweeks because failing to finish this race was not option. Now, with that fear replaced with freedom I haven't been dedicated or even interested in running. It's a chore now. I need to figure out how to get motivated again.

1 comment:

  1. I know how you can get motivated...get a heart rate monitor ;)