After a rough outing at the Way Too Cool 50K I had one thing in mind when it came to the American River 50 miler. REDEMPTION! I was well on my way to a monster PR at the 50K until I tripped and injured myself. I left that race a little disappointed even though I finished close to my PR. This time I planned on leaving everything on the course.
The bulk of the first 27 miles of the course is run along the American River trail which is a paved bike path. My plan was to keep my pace between 7:45 and 8:00 minutes per mile and then run the trails to the best of my ability until the dreaded 3 mile climb at the end of the race.
After a casual start and a seemingly slow first mile in the predawn darkness I found myself running alone. Around the third or fourth mile a small group of runners passed by me running around a 7:20 pace. I decided to let them go and run my own race. I’ve only run one other 50 miler and that one didn’t end so well so as far as I was concerned it was better to stay cautious.
At the first aid station at William Pond a volunteer quickly refilled my water bottle, I grabbed a boiled potato and continued on my way. After such a quick stop I had gained a bit of ground on the group that passed me earlier. The next few miles were much like the first with the exception of getting to say hi to a fellow member at Running of the Ears, MomtoQ&E. Upon pulling into the Sunrise aid station I quickly had my bottle filled and departed shortly after arriving. This time ahead of the group that was in front of me.
The next section included a scenic crossing over the American River via the Hazel Avenue Bridge and the first trail section and climb of the course up to Hazel Bluffs. Climbing isn’t my forte but it felt great to hit this first hill. I even managed to put a little distance between me and the people behind me on the climb.
Greeting us at the Main Bar aid station was a cute group of kids directing us which way we needed to go. They brought a huge smile to my face and made me think of my little ones back home. The trend of a quick refill, grabbing a potato and heading out continued. After leaving this aid station I found myself running with a new group that pretty much stuck together. A large portion of this section was along some tree covered single track that I couldn’t help but run push the pace through.
I flew into the Negro Bar aid station and once again flew right out. The next section of the course was my least favorite. We ended up going along the road for some time and some uneventful paved trails. Along this section we crossed the marathon mark. According to Strava I ran the marathon in 3:25:45 which would be my third fastest marathon. At 03:28:10 I rolled into the Beals Point aid station at mile 26.5 in 26th place.
I spent the most time at the Beals Point Aid station. For the first time in a race I was using Generation UCAN’s CranRaz as a gel. I used one packet as a drink before the race and had one soft flask containing two packets in the form of gel. At Beals Point I needed to refill my flask but was only able to get one packet in. It was making a huge mess and taking too much time so I asked the volunteer to pour some water in the flask and ran out.
I took the first climb out of Beals Point pretty casual and tried to keep that mindset for the duration of the trails. I through the next few sections with Eduardo Vazquez before I started to loose steam and he took off to secure a 13th place finish. This part of the run included some semi-technical sections but nothing too gnarly. The whole time I was continuing to buzz through aid stations. One of the highlights of the aid stations starting at Horseshoe Bar was ice! It’s amazing how quickly ice water can make you feel better when you’re starting to burn out.
Shortly after leaving the Rattlesnake Bar aid station I crossed a trail runner going in the opposite direction and she informed me I was in the top 20. I was a little shocked to hear this but I wasn’t sure how accurate the information was. It really didn’t matter. I wanted to stay in the top 20.
After leaving Dowdin’s Post I was shocked to see another runner up ahead. I wanted to pass this runner to help my standing and secure my top 20 finish so I picked up the pace. After easily passing him we started a short climb where I realized I spent too much energy trying to catch him. I told him to let me know if he wanted to pass me back. He responded, “aren’t you Steven? From the San Francisco Running Company meet up last weekend?” Turns out it was Jack Finn who I ran with for a large portion of that group run and talked with for about 15 minutes after. I’ll forgive him for forgetting my name since I forgot his as well.
Jack and I ended up running together to the base of the final climb. From there we more or less leap frogged each other with me walking stronger and him running stronger. With about 3/4 of a mile to go someone told us we were runners 17 and 18. At that point we pushed towards the finish with Jack slipping in 31 seconds ahead of me. Apparently that guy meant we were the 17th and 18th men because we finished 19th and 20th overall respectively.
With a time of 7:21:13 that was easily my best ultra. The quick aid station stops saved me large chunks of time and allowed me to pass people at the same time. That wouldn’t have been possible without Generation UCAN. Aside for an aid station potato here and there it was the only thing I used as fuel and I never bonked. I can’t wait to see how it carries me through the Ohlone 50K in about six weeks!