Monday, April 6, 2009

American River 50 Mile Endurance Run

We left Thursday AM and it was snowing in Whonnock, California here we come! We had 2 short flights to take us to Sacramento. It was warm, clear and windy when we arrived. We had pre-ordered a GPS with the rental car as we have a bit of history in Sacramento for getting lost! Funny thing, it was the same lady working at the rental car counter who was there when we rented a car in 2007 for Western States. We were wondering if she remembered that we cut the key chain to separate the 2 keys. :) Checked into the hotel, great place, perfect for our needs with a kitchenette and continental breakfast layed out in the morning. We located a grocery store to load up on some essentials for the room. At the recommendation of the concierge we went out for Mexican Food downtown Sacramento. Excellent Salsa! Friday AM was package pick-up at a local running store. There were plenty of people swarming around the sale bins and picking up their race day packages. We both found some bargains! One item they were handing out was a sample of a body wash to use post-run to wipe off the toxins from the Poison Oak that we will encounter! That's a first! Another first was the warning of rattlesnakes (and they weren't kidding!) I guess that's why one of the aid stations was named Rattlesnake Bar. When we were finished with the running gear bargains we found a mall with a Nordstrom's and Macy's to do a little more shopping. It was a beautiful day so we thought the State Capitol and Gardens would be a must see before heading back to the room for the packing of the drop bags. We opted to not attend the pasta dinner and information session and went out to a quaint Italian restaurant that supplied us with enough food for our post-run meal as well! The alarm went at 4AM for breakfast and last minute preparations. We were close to the start and found a place to park the car (the event finishes in Auburn). It was really cold and the line up for the portable toilets was long! We both found a spot behind a bush and then headed over the foot bridge to the start line. It became apparent that we really don't know anyone else here! It was dark and cold when the gun went at 6AM. We ran on a flat "dyke" like road along the river bank and then looped back towards the start before heading out to run to Auburn. I now know what an American bike trail is! A miniature asphalt road with a yellow line down the middle! We ran on this path along the river with an occasional rise for 50km. (in trail shoes!) I noticed that many runners around us appeared to have a run/walk plan for this flat section. After an hour of running I said to Neil should we be taking walk breaks? His reply was, at the aid stations...which amounted to about 3 strides as I drank a cup of water. Overall I was really pleased how this first section went as we headed into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada's for 30 km's of trail. The trail was spectacular with wild flowers blooming every where. The views of Folsum Lake were picture perfect. There were many snake skins and lots of Cougar scat on the trail. The trails were narrow and lined with Poison Oak just as they warned us. At times we were so careful putting one foot in front of the other with arms in the air to make sure not to touch the foliage with our skin. The aid stations were well stocked and of course despite the careful packing of the drop bags we did not require them. (which is good!) The last 10 miles were tough. A mile is so much longer than a kilometer! I was so looking forward to 6 miles to go, as that would be 10km, a distance that seemed measurable. I wore my iPOD for most of the journey and it was so helpful in moving me along and blocking out the sounds of the "rattles" in the brush. Neil commented on lots of "rustling/rattles" after the event. Mile 48, 49 and 50 were a steep uphill for 3 miles. I was power walking and passing many people, I thought I was going good! Neil was now pumped for the finish and kept encouraging me to run it. All that kept going through my mind was that 3 miles was 12 laps of the track and I really didn't think I had that much run left in me, especially at such an angle! I think I shocked him as I started to shuffle up the hill catching him on the last corner. The finish was in sight...but was it really! They made us go around the corner, over the grass, another left and there it was! 11 hours, 6 minutes...DONE!
After crossing the finish line an official came up to us and asked how do you train in CANADA for a 50 mile run? I was with him momentarily reflecting on the snow and ice we have had this winter. The next bit of business was to secure a spot on the 1 bus that was taking runners back to the start in Sacramento where we parked the car. After careful, diplomatic negotiations we payed $15 each for the 1.5hour ride on the yellow school bus. The noise level was incredible with all the post-run endorphins flying! The funniest sight was the runners hobbling to their cars after getting off the bus! It was a march of the Zombies along University Ave. After rubbing the arms and legs with the "Poison Oak" detox cream we showered up and enjoyed the evening in our room with pasta, wine and reminiscing of the day! The flight home was delayed coming out of Sacramento but I took the moment to recharge as the photo above reflects. A great weekend away and a fantastic ultra. Next time I might be more prepared for 50 km on the road (by wearing road shoes) and then change into trail shoes for the second marathon of the day!
Thank-you Neil for being such an awesome running partner!

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