C Talley Run

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

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Race Recap: 2015 Way Too Cool 50K

Way Too Cool weekend started out a little different this year. I usually head up to Auburn on Friday and go straight to Auburn Running Company to pick up my bib. This year Auburn Running Company with help from Auburn Alehouse was hosting a screening of Journeyfilm’s latest short film, The Long Haul. The film documents Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe’s fastest known time effort on the John Muir Trail.

Before the film Western States race director Craig Thornley let us know that the proceeds of the film were going towards the American River Conservancy‘s effort to purchase 10,000 acres adjacent to the Granite Chief Wilderness. Purchasing this land will help to ensure the continuation of the Western States Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup. Next was a quick intro from filmmakers JB and Jen Benna and then it was time for the show.

The film was put together as an afterthought from iPhone and GoPro footage but it doesn’t feel like it. The scenery is breathtaking and would have stolen the show if it weren’t for Hal and Mike. Hal Koerner is a known personality in the trail running world and the film portrays him as the goofball we expect. While I know who Mike Wolfe is I haven’t really seen much of him before and his personality really shines through in the film. It is a fun film and I would recommend it to anyone interested in trail running.

Since I chose to go to the film screening I didn’t have time to pick up my bib. That meant I would have to wake up a little earlier and pick it up race morning. Not a big deal and if anything I might get a better parking spot because of it. WRONG! I ended up getting there about 6:30 and had to park about three quarters of a mile away. Luckily bib pickup was a breeze.

The past two years I’ve tried to start this race conservatively and failed miserably. The first mile is on a paved road before hitting the Olmstead Loop Trail and everyone jockeys for position before hitting the single track. If you get stuck behind a slower person you could be in their conga line for a while as you wait for an opportunity to pass. This year I gave in to history and went out at a decent clip knowing I wouldn’t hold myself back.

After a quick mile clocking in at 6:43 we hit the trails of Olmstead. Shortly after the trail begins we normally have to cross Knickerbocker Creek.  This year someone carried a small bridge down down to the creek which was nice but in a way takes a little something away from the race. Two miles later I paid for my lack of time training on the trails and clipped a root which sent me rolling down a grassy hill. Luckily I was at the back of a line of runners and was able to easily hop back on. I’d end up falling on this loop one more time but it wasn’t as exciting but it was a solid reminder to keep my eyes on the trail. Around 6.8 miles into the race you have to cross Knickerbocker for the second time. This section is significantly wider and deeper and always fun to blast through. I ended up finishing the 8-mile loop in 1:01:33 which is about a minute and a half faster than I’ve done before.

Way Too Cool 50K Course Map

Way Too Cool 50K Course Map

The next section of course is mostly flat with a few rolling hills. I just cruised this hoping to recover a little and took the opportunity to down a GU before the biggest downhill section on the course began. Last year I pushed the downhill too hard which led to blown out hamstrings later in the race. This year I chose to float down the hill.

After crossing Highway 49 you run along the Quarry Trail which parallels the middle fork of the American River. This section is mostly flat with a few small climbs thrown in to keep it interesting. Shortly after grabbing another GU and exiting the Lower Quarry aid station around mile 11 I realized I was on a 50K PR pace. Knowing my history of blowing up on this course and the fact that all the climbing is packed at the end of the course I pushed the thought away. The one thing I couldn’t push away was a rock in my shoe so I had to make a quick pit stop to remove it.

16.7 miles in you reach the Maine Bar aid station. Unfortunately by the time I got here my stomach was starting to turn on me and all I could stomach was a boiled potato. I was planning to get down at least one GU an hour but the thought of one at this point wasn’t appealing. Onward and upwards!

Around mile 18 you hit the first climb of the course. It’s roughly two miles of climbing and then about a mile down to the Auburn Lakes Trail (ALT) aid station. In the past I’ve had to hike most of this for various reasons. This year it seemed relatively easy to climb and I passed a few runners here. Not being injured or sick for the first time here made a huge difference.

Way Too Cool 50K Elevation Profile

Way Too Cool 50K Elevation Profile

After a quick bottle refill and an orange slice at the ALT aid station I headed back onto the trail. This is another section I’ve always regretted not being able to run well. It’s a few miles of rolling downhill until you get to the infamous Goat Hill. Even though I was feeling really good I was running cautiously. I wanted a decent time on this course and I didn’t want to blow up for the first time on it. I locked into the easy pace of the runner in front of me and let him  lead the way.

Around mile 23 I looked back and noticed a group of three runners gaining on us. Less then a half a mile later they were on us and I stepped off the trail to let them pass. After stepping off I realized I recognized the group. Jen Benna was leading with JB Benna and Tim Twietmeyer (5X Western States champ) right behind her. The guy I was pacing off didn’t yield to them so I was able to hop on to the back of their group. Jen and JB passed the other guy and were quickly gone but Tim stuck with us for about a mile. It was kind of cool to run directly in his footsteps for a while.

The dreaded Goat Hill didn’t seem so bad this year. I still had to hike most of the third of a mile long climb but I ran some of the middle section where it levels a little bit and made it to the top about 45 seconds faster than I had in the past. It’s a small victory but I’ll take it.

After topping off my bottles at the aid station at the top of the hill I checked to make sure I was still on pace for a PR. In theory, I still could break my ‘A’ goal of going sub 4:30. The only thing standing in my way was one more rocky climb at mile 29. I ended up making it up that hill about a minute and a half faster than I previously had but it wasn’t enough. After a short run through the grassy meadow and I crossed the finish line in 4:32:18.

2015 Way Too Cool 50K Medal

2015 Way Too Cool 50K Medal

After crossing the finish line I headed over to the Athlete’s Village to grab some grub which was catered by The Cork and Fork and the famous Way Too Cool frog cupcake. Then I waited for my friend Kayden to cross the finish line and secure a huge PR of his own.

Way Too Cool Finishers

Way Too Cool Finishers

My previous 50K PR was 4:42:42 at Fort Ord and my fastest Way Too Cool time was 4:47:54 in 2013. After a pitiful racing year last year I’m celebrating every success this year and I’ve had a few good ones. As proud as I am of my performance, it is humbling to run in this race. Way Too Cool draws incredible talent and I finished 100th overall. Patrick Smyth of Nike’s Elite Trail Racing Team set the course record of 3:04:48 and Megan Roche set the women’s record of 3:41:56 that day!

Way Too Cool Frog Cupcake

Way Too Cool Frog Cupcake

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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Sub 6! Courtesy Jim Bahl