This race was amazing but it could have been so much more. A series of unfortunate events conspired against me and I wasn’t able to give this race everything I wish I was able to. After my 50K PR at the Fort Ord 50K I was able to get in one more solid week of training before I developed piriformis syndrome which made it difficult to stand up straight let alone run. Once that cleared I was able to get in a decent week of training before coming down with a nasty cold that took away another weekend of training. Despite these obstacles I was still able to run my second fastest 50K.
|Way Too Cool 50K Starting Line. NorCalUltras|
The first mile of the course is paved, downhill, and fast! From there you enter the Olmstead Loop Trail which is predominately single track and also contains the course’s first two creek crossings. You have two options at most of the creek crossings. Wait in line to cross on the rocks or bomb through the water. In most cases I chose the splashier option. I ended up running this first segment pretty conservatively but not by choice. Since most of the trail is single track it is very difficult to pass and the pace was pretty pedestrian at points. Since it’s a long race I stayed patient and didn’t pass until the trail opened up.
|Cruising along the Olmstead loop. Inside Trail Racing|
After finishing the Olmstead loop you come through the first aid station where the volunteers quickly refilled my bottle, I grab a GU and then headed back out within a minute. The next section heads downhill to Lower Quarry and is about three miles long. Shortly after leaving the aid station I noticed a group of about five runners just up ahead. I quickly caught up to them and hitched myself to the end of their train. I was going to let the group do most of the work for me. We ended up averaging around a 7:00 pace for this section but it felt smooth and easy.
|Dropping into the Lower Quarry aid station. NorCalUltras|
At the Lower Quarry aid station I grabbed a salted boiled potato, some GU Brew and headed back out. The next stop was Maine Bar around six miles away. This section features rolling hills and travels along the American River. During this section I tried to keep it easy and chatted with other runners. One of them was Bruce from Washington who had done this race before and finished in 4:20. I figured if I could stay with him I would have a shot of meeting my top goal of breaking 4:30.
I was feeling great as we rolled through the Maine Bar aid station. I topped off my water bottle and continued to keep what felt like an easy pace. Shortly after leaving the aid station I let my attention drift too far from the trail and tripped on a rock. I banged my knee into the ground but was able to roll with the fall so there was limited impact. I popped back up and received some kudos from Bruce for my roll and after a quick check I determined I was fine to continue running. Only after the adrenaline wore off a mile or so later did I notice my back was starting to tighten up in the same place I had been having issues with during my recent bout with piriformis.
|Way Too Cool Course Map|
Around mile 17 you hit the first steep hill on the course. Knowing that the was a long climb ahead followed by the infamous Goat Hill at mile 25 I decided to hike this one. Unfortunately this change of pace allowed my back to tighten further. At the top of the hill I had problems getting going again. At mile 18 I realized my A goal was not going to happen. Maybe I could still PR.
The next few miles went by slowly. I was able to run but was forced into taking periodic walking breaks to relax my back. I rolled into the Auburn Lake Trails (ALT) aid station in a mental funk. I saw another runner dropping at this point and briefly entertained the idea of dropping myself. The only reason why I didn’t drop is because I needed that damn frog cupcake that was waiting at the finish. My youngest daughter loves frogs and I promised I would bring it home to her. For those not in the know, one of the signatures of this race is their frog cupcakes you receive at the finish.
|Way Too Cool’s signature frog cupcake.|
At this point I was focused on running aid station to aid station. The next one was a little over five miles away. At the top of Goat Hill. Ugh! Most runners hike a good portion of this hill. It climbs about 500ft in just under a half a mile. Oddly I felt fine going up this monster of a climb but I was relieved to reach the top and be at the marathon mark of the race. After breezing through the wonderfully staffed aid station at the top I started my trek down to the last aid station around three miles away.
This section was pretty rough. My back was forcing me to take longer walking breaks. During the first two miles of it I averaged 12 minute miles despite the fact they were downhill. I crawled into the last aid station at Highway 49 grateful that I was almost finished. 1.4 miles to go. One climb left.
|Way Too Cool 50K Elevation Profile|
With one mile left there was a sign telling you to go for your PR. Unfortunately I didn’t have a shot at mine. I cruised into the finish in 4:47:54. A little over five minutes off the 50K PR I set at Fort Ord earlier this year. This was my second fastest 50K. I had a great time on an amazing course on a beautiful day. The only problem is that I can’t help but dwell on what could have been if I hadn’t fallen. I loved this race and I’ll be back to see what I can do.
|Way Too Cool Frog outside Ultra Village.|
There isn’t much I would do differently. I fueled up before the race with Generation UCAN‘s CranRaz and I felt like I was solid for the first 20 miles. For the next long race I’m thinking about carrying another bottle of the stuff or putting it in a drop bag to help during the later portions of the race.
My shoe choice for this race was the Montrail Rouge Fly. They performed well and dried quickly after the creek crossings. The only issue I have is that my toe is killing me after toe punching that rock!
My 4:47:54 was good for 120th place out of 852 finishers. Despite my finishing time, I’m pretty pleased with the results considering the hurdles I encountered going into and within the race. I’m now looking forward to the American River 50 miler and Ohlone 50K.