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: 2013 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run

ar50_clif

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.

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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.

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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.

american-river-50-elevation-profile

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!