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.

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