C Talley Run

Rumblings and mishaps of a Strava and runDisney obsessed trail and road runner.

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Race Recap – Quicksilver 100K – The Race I Needed

Quicksilver 100K


For the past few years I’ve felt like my best days on the trails were behind me. In 2013 I ran what I feel is my strongest ultra at American River, finishing the 50 mile distance in 7:21:13 for 20th place overall. I followed that up with a personal course record at the Ohlone 50K in 5:57:18 for 15th place overall. After that my results never lived up to my expectations for myself. Luckily that all changed last weekend at the Quicksilver 100K.

I’ll start by getting the one negative about this race out of the way. It starts really freaking early. 4:30 AM! Luckily I live pretty close by so my drive isn’t that bad. The 3 AM alarm was brutal. I quickly got dressed, grabbed my gear, and headed out the door to pick up my friend who was also running the race. If I’m going to suffer this early in the morning, at least it wouldn’t be alone.

We got to the Hacienda entrance to the Almaden Quicksilver Park around 4 AM. Plenty of time to park, pick up our bibs, and hit the bathrooms before the pre-race briefing. After a quick and straight forward briefing by race director John Brooks we were off and running.

One of the advantages of the pre-dawn start is that I got to try out my new UltrAspire Lumen 600 before I head down to San Diego.  WOW! I used it on the highest setting since I was only going to be using it for about 6 miles and it is BRIGHT! So bright that a nearby runner remarked that he didn’t need to bring his own light. It is also so comfortable that I didn’t even feel it around my waist.

The race features in the neighborhood of 14,000 feet of elevation gain so it isn’t surprising that we started with a big climb. About a mile and a half into the race I caught up to Mark Tanaka. I’ve raced with Mark several times over the years so it was nice to catch up with him. He has a robust racing schedule coming up including the San Diego 100 which I’m also running.

2017 Quicksilver 100K Elevation Profile

2017 Quicksilver 100K Elevation Profile

Mark is far more experienced at trail racing than I am and was pushing the pace a little faster than I would have doing by myself but it felt comfortable so I kept up with him. Shortly after rolling through the Lexington aid station at mile 17.9 we were joined by Amy Burton who happened to be the lead woman at the time.

One of the biggest climbs on the course was coming up and Amy knows the course well so I followed her cues and walked when she walked and ran when she ran up Priest Rock Trail which is affectionately known as “Dog Meat.” Somewhere along the way we lost Mark but picked up Jesus Garcia-Fernandez. Turns out that Jesus will be working one of the aid stations down in San Diego so I’ll have another friendly face down there!

Thanks to a trail closure on the trail that heads up to Bald Mountain, we got to do the Kennedy Trail instead this year. According to many, this added a bit of elevation gain to the course from previous years. The nice part is that we got to see all the race leaders as they were heading down. I should have been paying attention to how many people were ahead of me, but I really didn’t care since I didn’t want to push myself too hard this race.

After about a two mile decent and two mile climb back up we were greeted by Chikara Omine handing out popsicles. I would usually pass on them but I’m trying to eat more during these races and it looked pretty good.

Shortly after that, I hit my first low point of the race. I got really tired, really fast. I have sleep apnea and the previous weekend was a rough one for getting sleep in. I had been feeling tired all week because of it and I’m sure the early wake up call on race morning didn’t help. I let Jesus, Amy, and the rest of our small pack of runners go as I slowly jogged my way into the Wood Road aid station, hoping they had some caffeine.

I was in luck! There was a can of Coke at the Wood Road aid station with my name on it. After downing a couple cups I headed back onto the trail. There was one small climb left before we had a nice long downhill section but it was a steep one. Climbing up my quads started to shake. At around 30 miles into the race it was way too early to be feeling like this!

Thankfully, my quads got some relief on the long downhill and I was able to recover. I recovered enough that I was able to catch back up to Amy as we rolled back into the Hicks aid station at mile 37.8.

For the better part of the next 6 miles Amy and I clicked off the miles at what felt like an effortless pace. Then at the top of the last little climb before heading down to the Mockingbird  aid station My quads decided they had enough. Amy flitted down the hill as I entered my second dark patch of the race.

After gingerly making my way down the hill I came to the Mockingbird aid station. I couldn’t have gotten there at a worse point in my race. This aid station is also the finish line! 50K runners were finishing their days and the air smelled of BBQ. I had to get out of there quickly before I seriously started to consider taking a DNF. After a quick bottle refill and a few slices of watermelon I was back on the course.

Little did I know, I was sitting in 15th place leaving the aid station. Considering I wasn’t planning on racing that day and hadn’t really tapered for the race, I was having a pretty decent day. I’m actually glad I didn’t know how I was doing. I made the decision to walk a bit to see if I could recover my quads. I don’t know if I would have done that had I known I was in a decent position.
I was quickly passed by a runner and his pacer and then one more runner on the rocky Buena Vista trail. I really didn’t care. My only goal was to find some flat or down hill section and see if I could run and I knew I would get it after the Buena Vista trail ended.

Exiting the Great Eastern Trail

Exiting the Great Eastern Trail

Once on flat ground I discovered I was able to run as long as the pace was mellow. I was content with that and decided that finishing the race was my only goal at this point. Unlike the first 40 miles of the race, I ran the rest of the race by myself. The only exception was the occasional runner that would pass me.

At mile 52, Mark Tanaka caught back up to me. We had a nice long downhill coming up so I did my best to keep up with him for that section, knowing that he would leave me on the upcoming climb and I wouldn’t likely see him again until the BBQ at the finish.

The temperature wasn’t too high that day, but the next few sections felt warm and took their toll on me. After the McAbee aid station I got a bloody nose. Then at mile 56, right before the Enriquita aid station I pulled over to the side of the trail and puked relentlessly. I instantly felt better so I tried to run again but my quads sized up again. After hiking for a minute I somehow was able to work myself back into a slow jog. I didn’t know how far I had to go to the aid station but I wanted to get there ASAP.  I was overjoyed when it quickly came into view.

Rolling into Enriquita I saw Jesus. He mentioned the wheels fell off for him and I told him I was in just as bad of shape if not worse. At the aid station I was told that I had a 1.2 mile out-and-back and to mark my bib with a marker at the bottom of the trail. I was a little surprised that Jesus was only about 15-20 minutes ahead of me. Maybe I wasn’t moving as slowly as I thought.

Heading down the hill I realized I still hadn’t recovered from my earlier trail side purge. I started feeling light headed and a little dizzy so I started walking down the hill. Then I saw Amy and her pacer cruising up the hill. Again, I was surprised to see she wasn’t that far ahead of me. She mentioned that this was the worst section of the course as we crossed paths but all I could blurt out was a “good job.” Next Mark came rolling up the trail and asked if I was hurting. YES!

Not only was I hurting, I was getting more light headed and decided I needed to sit in the shade for a few minutes and take in some calories. 5 minutes later I was back up and walking back down the trail only to get light headed again. I sat back down and watched a couple runners bomb down the trail. After a couple minutes more I got up and finally made my way down to the markers at the end of the trail.

I was slowly making my way back up when I got light headed again and needed to sit for a third time. Then a couple more runners came shooting down the hill towards the marker and I decided I didn’t want them to pass me so I got up and made it back to the Enriquita aid station.

With one more climb to the top and only three mostly downhill miles to go I felt that I had recovered enough to push to the finish. I certainly wasn’t going fast for the next few miles, but they felt comfortable. I rolled back into the finish at Mockingbird at 12:28:29 and in 20th place.

With a solid race in the bag, it was time to congratulate friends that finished ahead and enjoy a ridiculous BBQ spread while waiting for more friends to finish. Thanks to UltrAspire for incredible gear, I’m looking forward to rocking my Lumen 600 in San Diego in a month and to ASO Sport for helping me recover quickly.  Huge thanks to the volunteers supporting the race and the Quicksilver Running Club for hosting such a quality event.

I think what has been holding me back at a lot of my recent trail races is that I had forgotten how or been unwilling to suffer. I’m proud of myself for hammering out the last 20 miles of this races with blown quads and pushing myself to run when it was very uncomfortable.  Most, if not all of us hit dark patches in these long races and knowing how to push through them is how you reach your goals. I feel really confident after this race heading into the San Diego 100 next month.

Oh yeah, this was also a Western States qualifier so it is nice to have that out of the way. I’ll #SeeYouInAuburn for my fifth consecutive lottery in December.

Quicksilver 100K on Strava


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Race Report: 2014 Way Too Cool

Way Too Cool 50K Logo

Last year at this race I was fighting piriformis issues and I tripped mid-race on a rock. This year I didn’t fare much better. My training was coming along nicely going into February and then I caught the flu which derailed me for a couple weeks. I missed out on running the Fort Ord 50K as a training race and I wasn’t able to get the miles in. Enough excuses, let’s get to what happened.

Even with the minimal training I thought I would have a shot at beating last year’s time if I ran smart. The plan was to go easier in the beginning so I could run more of the climbs which fall later in the race than I did last year. It was a sound theory but once the race started I apparently had forgotten about it. The first mile of this race is on the road and it is FAST. Everyone jockeys for position before the single track starts on the Olmstead Loop. Using Strava to compare my time on the first loop to last year, I accomplished my goal of going slower. By 5 seconds. Too fast!

Way Too Cool 50K Course Map

Way Too Cool 50K Course Map

After the Olmstead loop we headed down to Highway 49. While I was able to run it a little bit slower than last year (39 sec), I think I pushed it way too hard for the little amount of time I had spent on the trails lately. I have a feeling the pounding my legs took here would lead to them failing me later in the race.

Next up is a rolling fire road along the middle fork of the American River. I was able to run this section considerably slower, as planned. Around mile 13 I noticed my hamstrings were feeling particularly tight and was afraid they would blow up if I pushed too hard.

Running Along the American River

Around mile 17 is when you start the first real climb of the course. The climb is runnable for the most part but I had a problem. My hamstrings decided they had enough and were in quite a bit of pain. The lack of training time on the trails caught up to me. I decided to just cruise and or hike the next few miles to give them a rest and see if they would bounce back.

Way Too Cool 50K Elevation Profile

Way Too Cool 50K Elevation Profile

About mile 21 you reach the Auburn Lakes Trail (ALT) aid station. This signifies the top of the first climb and is the start of about 5 miles of very runnable trails. Too bad I still couldn’t run. It was heartbreaking to slowly jog this portion of the course.

Around the end of mile 26 lies the infamous Goat Hill. It is roughly a third of a mile long and you gain approximately 276 feet of elevation which equates to a 20% grade. This year Strava turned it into a segment challenge. Everyone who completed the segment challenge would be entered to randomly win some Strava prizes. I finished 101 out of 215 runners. Since I haven’t heard anything from Strava about prizes I’m going to assume I didn’t win.
Strava Segment ChallengeAt the top of Goat Hill is another aid station. After topping off my supplies I headed down the trail. Once again, this is a runnable section of the course and I was hobbled. It is mostly downhill with a few rolling sections thrown in. Somewhere in this section I ran into Bruce Cyra who I ran a large portion of this race with last year. I hopped into the group he was with for a little while before my hamstrings needed another break.

After reaching the Highway 49 crossing you’re treated to your final aid station before heading up the final climb. This climb isn’t that tough on its own but after suffering through 29 miles it can be a pain in the ass. Luckily after the climb you aren’t far from the finish line where your frog cupcake is waiting for you!

Way Too Cool Frog Cupcake

Mine Looks Kind of Sad This Year

I finished the race in 5:34:54. About 50 minutes slower than I did last year. Given the shape I was in I probably shouldn’t have expected more but if I had stuck to my more conservative plan I probably would have done better. Just a couple weeks later I’ve made huge gains in my fitness and I’m ready to tackle the next challenge.

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Race Report: Ohlone Wilderness 50K


Time to play catch up with my posts!

Finally! After two disappointing results at the Ohlone Wilderness 50K I finally have a result I can be satisfied with. Not happy with, just satisfied. The first year I ran this race I was an ultra virgin. My goal was to win the Zombie Runner Rookie Award given to the fastest male and female runner making their ultra debut. I under trained for the gnarly hills, mismanaged my resources, ran out of water, and ended up finishing in 62nd place in 6:45:44. That was about an hour and twenty minutes off the rookie award. In 2012 I didn’t fare any better. I once again ran out of water and puked my guts out on the course. My time got worse and I finished in 72nd place in 7:01:32 This year I took my vengeance.


Ohlone 50K Start. Courtesy Jim Bahl

Earlier this year I had a bout of piriformis syndrome that hampered my training for Way Too Cool. It stayed in check for much of my lead up to American River but that race seemed to have set it back off. I was once again slowed down leading up to this race and I was hoping my fitness gains from the American River training would more or less hold.

This race starts out with a climb to Mission Peak. It is roughly 4.4 miles to the top and you gain 2,130 feet with an average grade of 9.2%. The smart thing to do here is go easy on this climb. Even though I thought I was taking it easy I ended up running my fastest time on this section by 1:22! That will come back and bite me.

For the most part I was able to keep the decent in check and reeled in a few runners who were paying the price from putting too much effort into Mission. I gave a quick hello to the Laurel Loop aid station crew and continued on my way without stopping. I continued to try to run at a controlled pace for the continued decent into Sunol and for the most part I accomplished my task.  I made my first quick stop at the Sunol aid station feeling much better at this point than I did last year.

Last year I more or less blew up after Sunol. This year I kept my pace slow and was able to run large sections of the course, only walking on the steepest of hills in order to conserve energy. I hit the Backpack and Goat Rock aid stations uneventfully which nice for a change. During last year’s race I ran out of water between Got Rock and the summit of Rose Peak. This year was a major upgrade from last year and I was able to reach the top with little difficulty. I received my Zombie Runner bracelet to signify that I reached the top and cruised down and over to the Magie’s Half Acre aid station. Last year I lost time here by having to sit to rest. This year I filled my water bottles and headed right out.

Shortly after Magie’s I started to hit the wall. I figured it would happen sooner or later on this course and I was happy that it was much later this go round. I ended up getting passed a couple times before I rolled into the Schlieper Rock aid station. I think this marks the the start of the most difficult section of the course. A steep, switch backing decent followed by a mile climb that gains 550 ft and averages a 11.5% grade. I ended up getting passed a few more times here but at this point I could care less and was cursing the course and vowing to never return.

After you reach the top of that dreaded climb it flattens out for a little before the final decent into Del Valle Regional Park. Hoping to break six hours I picked up the pace and pushed to the finish. I ended up crossing the finish line in 5:57:18. Good for 15th place and a 48 minute personal course record. I missed the coveted big wood trophy given out to age group winners by one spot or six minutes and change. Even though I vowed never to return I can’t imagine missing out on this Bay Area Classic next year.


Ohlone 50K Awards. AKA Big Wood. Courtesy Jim Bahl


Sub 6! Courtesy Jim Bahl


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Race Report: 2013 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run


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!


Race Report: 2013 Way Too Cool 50K

Way Too Cool 50K logo

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. 

The starting line of the Way Too Cool 50K with Max King, Chris Vargo and Leor Pantilat
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. 

On the Olmstead Loop during the Way Too Cool 50K.
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.

Heading into Lower Quarry aid station at Way Too Cool 50K.
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
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
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
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
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.