We’ve had this trip in the books for a while. When Stonegate presented me with the idea of running the Oregon Coast 50k, I was all-in because I love a good race destination road-trip ESPECIALLY when that destination is in Oregon.
When I signed up for the race, I decided that I truly wanted to run it. Maybe the correct phrase is “race it” but in a middle of the pack kind of way. 🙂
I started training in July. I told Stonegate and Burning Girl (who was supposed to join us but had last minute family obligations), that my intention was to push it hard(er) on this race than I have for our other road trip races. I don’t normally run “hard” in the fall, instead I use this time as more of a recovery period from a gnarly spring race schedule. Yet, something compelled me to want to run harder.
The Oregon Coast 50k boasted an elevation gain of about 4500 feet. I tried not to let that get in my head. That is probably the lowest elevation I have raced on trails in a long time, but I know better than to underestimate any race, especially a coastal race.
I had an A Goal (place top 3 in my age group), a B Goal (place top 5 in my age group) and a C Goal (finish standing and smiling). The day before, Stonegate and I played “tourists” a bit over zealously and man, did we both feel a tad bit tired! Oops.
The race had a 9:00 am start time which is something completely foreign to me! Most ultras start in the dark and super early. Stonegate and I really didn’t even need to set an alarm for this one. What did require some juggling, was our pre-race fueling but we managed okay by making huge smoothies and taking selfies on our hotel patio.
They have you head to the finish line and then they bus you to the starting line up the road. The race starts on the beach! The bus ride was quick and painless. Some runners had to stand but no one seemed to mind because the weather was gorgeous. I guess in years past it has been rainy and pretty gloomy … it was sunny and quite warm for us.
Stonegate and I were pretty excited. The energy around was happy and everyone was so nice and talkative. Jason, the Race Director let us all get situated on the beach before we took off running.
Boy did everyone RUN! The whole race started off crazy fast! I was hoping it was just the excitement and that everyone would eventually settle down. I mean, 6 miles all along the sand … that can be brutal on your body if you’re not careful. Stonegate stuck with me. My first mile rang out on my watch. …
Stonegate: I feel like we’re going really fast.
Me: Well we’re doing about an 8:30 pace according to my watch.
Stonegate: Okay then, you go ahead, I am going to slow down dude. I don’t want to start out too fast.
Me: Okay! I am sure you’ll catch up to me soon!
I felt okay and not like I was pushing to keep the pace so I tried to just settle in and run. A few groups passed me so I assumed that I had slowed a little bit.
Now don’t get me wrong, the ocean was GORGEOUS. You had the beautiful Pacific to your right and an adorable coastal town to your left but six miles, on sand … is a really REALLY long time. It was for me at least. I found my mind wandering, “What will I eat later today?” and “What do I have to do on Wednesday again?” I tried to zone in my thoughts and focus on my form like my coach instructed me to but every so often I would drift.
At the end of six sandy miles you literally hit a rock wall. You then have to climb up some steps (that felt like boulders at the time), and then you run along the most beautiful path!
I sort of felt like a weight had lifted off me when I left the sand. I am not a sand loving runner. 🙂
You then run through the coastal town of Yachats (pronounced Ya-Hots). The first aid-station is here, Mile 7 except that I never actually SAW the aid-station. When I crested the grassy area, I saw a ton of elite-looking guys changing their shoes but I never saw a table and I didn’t really want to waste time looking for one. I decided to fuel with what I had on me. In hind-sight, I probably should have fueled a tad earlier in the race given the later start time.
The course was extremely well marked. We were assured at the start that if there was a major turn that there would be clear markings and signage and there WAS! I only had a few moments when I was alone on the trail, that I had those “Oh crap! I haven’t seen a ribbon lately!” thoughts but to be fair, there were no turns or any other trails around…you just had to follow what was natural and in front of you.
There were more stairs much to my dismay but not a ton. Not like at Stinson Beach or in the Bay Area. I just kept moving. Then we hit our first climb and it felt like a ton of bricks had landed on my chest! “What the heck?!“
I decided to fuel thinking that maybe I was in need of calories. However I could barely chew because my chest felt so tight. I pulled out my inhaler and actually took a puff. I can’t remember when I have had an allergy attack like that. I say allergy because I never had it again and Stonegate had the same thing around the same spot on the trail! Something was blooming that my allergies didn’t like.
Around this time, about 20 people passed me on the uphill deflating my inner fire a bit. How on Earth did they have the strength and power to climb like that?!
I decided to power hike as best I could. I knew I was on the first of the three climbs and that the second one was way bigger.
When I got to the top and started on my way down, I was eagerly looking forward to bombing a downhill! The trail however was super technical with lots of tree roots and rocks. Still, I did my best trying to open it up on the down.
I was flying down a hill, somewhere at about the 12 mile marker when I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my left quad! “What the heck!” I yelled. I had thought that I was hit with a be-be gun! I didn’t stop running but the pain was intense! I looked down and there was a stinger sticking out of my quad! “A bee?!”
I was seriously just dumbfounded. I kept running afraid to stop and have it blow up and swell. I haven’t been stung by anything since I was like 8 years old so … I had no idea if I was allergic or not.
It burned, it itched, it stung. I didn’t stop. Finally, I came to Mile 14 and the Cape Perpetua aid-station. I grabbed a hand full of grapes and I asked the guy there if they had bees around here and he goes, “Oh yea! We have an angry bunch that just stung a ton of people!” Great. Well at least it wasn’t a be-be gun. 🙂
I continued on a bit, knowing that the big second uphill was coming. I was starting to feel a little bit better around mile 17 or so. The views were just outstanding and really were lifting my spirits.
“Just keep moving Pam, you can do this. You trained for this.” That’s what I kept telling myself at least. Then I ran with a guy for a little while who was talking about the 100 milers he had done and how he was excited to have his Western States Qualifier. He lived in Ashland and I told him that was our race destination spot last year!
THEN! I was stopped dead in my tracks on the trail. There was a bunch of runners and some guys just yelling. Turns out, there was a Yellow Jacket’s nest in the middle of the trail with tons of angry yellow-jackets.
One dude said, “I am going to go for it!” and he ran straight through! I felt like I was watching him in slow motion … BAM stung in his calf … BAM stung in his quad.
I turned to the girl next to me and we were like, “Um nope! No way. No how!” We followed the other group that had to bushwhack their way FAR around the buzzing yellow jacket’s nest.
By the time I reached Cooks aid-station (mile 19.5) I was already coming back to life. I was excited that this was essentially the “turn-around” spot which mentally always helps propel me in races.
I ran into that aid-station ready to be in and in out but then I looked at the table and saw mini dill pickles! Oh my. I’ve never eaten pickles in a race before though I hear a lot of runners like them. I had a quick mental battle of “should I or shouldn’t I?” in my head and decided to grab one and walk out. It was THE BEST PICKLE ON EARTH! 🙂 Seriously, that little dill pickle recharged me and I floated out of that aid-station light as feather!
One more aid-station to go and the biggest down hill section of the race was next! I honestly felt like I was flying down the next section. It was one of the few NON technical downhills in the course. I am going to assume that the intense thick tree cover interfered with my pace on my Garmin. 🙂 I know it did with the mileage because the race came up short in distance according to my Garmin but we were under some pretty thick tree cover for a lot of the race.
I just kept running. I’d pass a few people here and there. Sometimes they’d pass me back. In my head, I had settled on my C Goal but a part of me wasn’t giving up completely.
I came across one guy who was laying on the ground. I asked if he was okay and he said he had swelling in his knee. I asked if he wanted any Advil and he hopped right up and said, “Sure! We can keep walking so that way I won’t slow you down.”
I handed off some Advil and wished him luck and continued on my way. Finally, I came to the last aid-station! Woo hoo! I was getting excited knowing that I was getting closer and closer to the finish!
I chatted with the aid-station volunteer. I asked him if anyone dropped here earlier because of bee stings and he said he had a lot of drops, but not sure if because of bee stings – Stonegate is allergic and I had been worrying about her all race.
I continued on my way running all the ups and the downs. When I encountered any stairs, I walked. 🙂 FINALLY I was dumped back onto the pavement! Yes!!! I could smell the finish but I knew that I had to run a lot of pavement first.
I looked up and saw a woman that had passed me earlier in the race. She had looked SO strong too. She powered up all those hills like they were nothing. A small part of me was excited to have caught up to her.
I ran along side her and she seemed excited to have someone to run with. I told her to go ahead and she said she was out of water and that she couldn’t go any faster. I asked her if she wanted my handheld water bottle, “Are you sure!? You don’t mind?” she said. “Of course not! Go ahead, I have plenty.”
The two of us ran through the town together. Then we made the turn onto the grass. The woman said, “Come on, we have about 400 yards. We can do this! I don’t care about time.” In my head I was thinking: First of all, how does she know it is 400 yards and second of all, my C Goal had turned into “finish this BUT finish under 6 hours” since I was way off what I had hoped I would finish in … so for ME, I did care about time, MY time. It wasn’t about beating anyone but myself. It always is.
We were running across the grass. Everyone was cheering. I saw the finish and that it was a little up hill and something just turned on inside me and I went for it. I sprinted as hard as I could. I saw the clock and I pushed it!
Whew!!! I did it. I was done, thank goodness, I was done! That is one helluva race. It is unassuming in many ways, but don’t be fooled, it’s a doozy of a race and I was thrilled to be done!
The woman came up to me and thanked me and said, “When I saw you turn it on, I said, I don’t have what she has!” 🙂 Then the Advil guy finished shortly after and he thanked me for the Advil.
I found my drop bag and waited for Stonegate to finish. She texted me so I knew that she hadn’t dropped because of an allergic reaction but she had been stung.
I changed out of my smelly shirt and ran back out on the course to find her. I ran through the town with her until she reached the finish! What a day!
I finished in 5 hours and 53 minutes.
I was Second in my Age Group!! 🙂
And 17th female out of the 91 that started the race.
I will take it! I conquered my A Goal after all despite feeling like I had run a terrible race. It just goes to show you, never give up, never quit. Give all that you have left to give!
Stonegate and I didn’t hang around the finish for long. We were hungry! 🙂
We headed back to our hotel, showered, stretched, had some champagne (a tradition), hummus, carrots, crackers, chips and salsa. Food never tasted so good!
Later that night, being that we are both Plant-Based and know the importance of post race fuel being key to recovery, ran out to the store and bought kale! We made a rice, bean, kale and salsa dish in our instant-pot that night which was perfect!
Overall, I am happy with the race outcome. It was a gorgeous race, super well marked and well run. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone even though I had some dark(er) moments out there. I was able to pull through and not wallow for long … there is always a silver lining, there is always something you can do or try to pull you out of your funk. No one can do it but you.
In the end, it was the best road-trip ever. I am in love with Oregon and I finally got to visit and run on the coast. It was everything I expected it to be and more.
I truly am blessed to have a friend like Stonegate who seeks and cherishes adventure like I do and a husband who is willing to let me go and explore and feed my soul on trips like these. I missed my family immensely while I was gone, they would have loved the Oregon Coast. I guess we need to head back all together. 🙂
Until next time Oregon!
Some of my favorite road trip photos from our four days of fun!
I really enjoy STR events because they are fun, low-key, well marked races and they typically really challenge you (which I like) and they often are on trails that you wouldn’t normally find yourself on, which I also really like.
The Ruck a Chuck 50k is entirely on the Western States trail, which is pretty awesome in and of itself.
First let me start off by saying, I was bad blogger this race. I took only one photo the entire day! So all photos in this recap are from STR and Chasqui Runner (THANK YOU!) and from Not Chris.
The day started with my Garmin dying. I’ve been having charging issues and needless to say, it was going to be a Timex kind of day for me. Which is fine, it was just kind of a bummer to not have my mileage, pace or elevation at the end of this race.
Not Chris however did have his Garmin and he was running his very first 50k! He’s been running well and if we’re honest, he really didn’t officially even “train” for this race, he just kept his mileage up. He’s a stud.
The parking at Driver’s Flat is limited so Pigeon and I carpooled to the start and were able to score a spot and chill.
The weather was warmer and dry and having remembered last year how humid it was out there, I started this year in a tank top. So glad that I did.
Love seeing so many familiar faces at these races. Lots of good people. I even met a few people that I “know” from social media only and that was super cool.
Paulo gathered us at the starting arch, gave us some final instructions and then passed the megaphone off to a friend to count us down.
We were off and running the 3 miles down the road to the river. Last year I remember really blowing this section up, yelling at myself and then stopping to use the restroom at the bottom as a way to calm myself down.
This year we flew down (Not Chris said we ran a sub 8) but it didn’t feel like we were flying super fast. I did tell Not Chris that we’d have to stop at the restroom at the bottom. I didn’t share with him yet that I’ve been battling an unsettled tummy for the last two days. I hated to stop but it was unavoidable.
Our plan was to stick together all day. His main goal was to finish feeling really good and to fuel better than he did at FOURmidable. My goal was to not race. I was supposed to “jog” nice and easy – Not Chris’s job was to make sure I did that.
After our bathroom stop we continued on. I noticed that for some reason, it was hard for me to breathe. The trees and flowers have really been blooming lately and man, have my allergies felt it. It felt like I only had one working lung instead of two.
Not Chris was LOVING the views and the raging river on our right. He was mesmerized by it all. I love when people get to see new trails for the first time.
We settled into a run and then hit the single track section and so the climbing began.
The course is very runnable. The trails were much clearer (the over grown grass section was gone) but in some sections, it seems the rocks have multiplied.
I tried to just focused on running and hiking. My lungs took a while to come to life but they did eventually. My stomach however, was always just one step away from being a problem.
Not Chris and I bypassed the first aid-station (mile 2.7) and the next one wasn’t for another 7.5 miles. We chatted along the way, having a good time and enjoying the day.
Everything was so green and pretty! The flowers were in bloom and the ticks were out. That was the one thing that I was super nervous about but hey, that’s mother nature for ya!
When we made it to the Cal 2 aid-station (mile 10.2) we couldn’t help but laugh. They were the happiest bunch of volunteers! The aid-station was fully stocked with everything you could need (including beer and shots) and they were cracking jokes. I almost didn’t want to leave … Not Chris I think was overwhelmed as he took some time at this aid-station. 🙂
On our way to Cal 1 we ran into a fellow co-worker of ours, Brad Rogers. The three of us chatted for a bit about work and running. Then I ran into Shavi! Shavi and I have never really met but we have many mutual friends so I said “hi” and introduced myself.
The down into Cal 1 (mile 14.6) is pretty steep but I knew that once we reached the bottom, aid would be close. Last year the race was shortened due to a rain storm and the aid-station was our turn-around. THIS year, we had to run past the aid-station a mile, grab a wrist band and return to the aid-station.
Not Chris and I barely stopped at the aid-station. As we were reaching the turn-around spot, we ran into lots of friends on their return. It was such an energy boost with lots of whooping and hollering.
Not Chris let out a bit “WHOO HOO” when we reached the bucket holding our wrist bands. We grabbed ours and headed back, eager to get to the Cal 1 aid-station (mile 16.6).
Once through we started our climb out. The section leading back is a gorgeous single track that’s super runnable and boy did we run! Last year this was the section where I ran into my Tommy Lee Jones friend Roger. Funny enough, I ran into Roger within the first 3 miles or so during this race and he laughed remembering last year’s brutal run and how he helped me push to score a nice finish. This time I said, “Don’t even think about it Roger!” 🙂
At one point, I think I was hallucinating as I told Not Chris that I saw the Cal 2 aid-station through the trees. Not sure what the heck I saw but it sure wasn’t the aid-station! 🙂
When we finally did come up on Cal 2 (mile 21) I was looking forward to the sections ahead. The descent out of Cal 2 is super fun. A switch back down that can really give you a boost of energy. Before we left the aid-station though, we laughed with the volunteers again. They were a riot, they told us to give them a good “YELP” review. 🙂
Not Chris took the lead and down we flew. I was no where near the speed I was last year as my ankle (that I tweaked the weekend prior) was starting to bark at me, a lot. Still, I think we ran down pretty well, excited to be on our way home.
Not Chris was thrilled because he ran his farthest distance ever on this down hill. Followed by his first ever marathon distance when we hit 26.2.
At one point on our way back we passed a guy on the trail and he said, “Trailmomma?!” and I turned and said, “Yea!” He said, “Hi!” So whoever that was (I missed the name on your bib), you totally made my day! 🙂 It also made Not Chris laugh … “Did that guy just call you Trailmomma?” 🙂 I hope you had a great race too!
When we hit the fire road that runs along the river, I was feeling a little bit better tummy-wise (though still bloated – started the race that way but what are you gonna do?) but I was also having some swelling issues. My fingers had started swelling as I was starting to retain water. I stopped consuming anything salty and luckily, there wasn’t much farther to run. The temps were humid and it even sprinkled on us a bit but it was still warm. Warmer than I think I anticipated and ultimately was a bit behind in my hydration.
We reached the final aid-station at Gate 101 (mile 28.5) and prepared ourselves for the climb out. It’s a nice long climb up a dirt fire road. We started out hiking, neither one of us eager to run. Then, as we both tend to get, we got bored and would pick “trees” to run to. “Okay, run to that second big tree! Now, run to that tree on the left!” Do what you have to do to move.
We turned a corner and I noticed a speed sign that was just littered with bullet holes. We both were looking it, talking about it when I turned my head right and saw the arches! “Hey!!! Look! HA! Let’s go!”
The finish line totally took us by surprise! We both started running and smiling.
I saw all of Not Chris’s family off to the side and they were cheering for him. Even his dog looked like he was cheering!
Woo hoo! We crossed the finish line smiling. We both had reached our goals, but I was beyond proud of him. He has the potential to run much harder than he did and I know he will some day, but it was so nice to watch him reach his goal and to see his family there at the finish witness it too.
Another awesome 50k in the books. Thanks Single Track Running for a great event, a challenging course and a well executed race.
Thanks Not Chris for keeping me company all day. You looked strong, ran well, kept me moving and my mind off my stomach. Man, the bloating and the swelling was not fun but that is what these training runs are all about right? They make us stronger. They help us figure out what we need to work on. I’ve been super lucky the last few years to have some stellar uncomplicated runs and races. I can’t always rely on the fact that everything will be perfect, but I can rely on myself and my ability to problem solve as I go.
As it turns out, Not Chris ended up second in his age group and I ended up third in mine! Woot woot! I’ll take that. 🙂
And a shout out to my hubby Vans, as he also raced this weekend on Sunday and he also came in third at a gnarly (muddy) mountain bike race in Cool.
Overall, a great weekend. I raced Saturday morning, Vans raced Sunday morning and our girls had their swim team clinic on Sunday afternoon. Perfection.
Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with SingleTrack Running at all and was not paid or compensated for writing this report. This is the fourth race of theirs that I have done, and I truly believe they host stellar, challenging and thoroughly top notch events.
This was only supposed to be a training run and then Tommy Lee Jones started egging me on, lighting that internal fire that is always simmering inside and the rest was history including an uphill battle to the finish.
On Saturday it dumped rain all day; a lot of rain. So much so that Paulo, the Race Director emailed all participants AND sent out a Facebook blast detailing that the race course had changed due to the condition of the road/trails. Uh-oh. Now instead of starting at the bottom near the river, we were to start at the top in the upper parking lot area of Driver’s Flat. They also had to adjust the back end of the course to account for the three mile difference at the start. Ultimately, the course ended up being shortened by a mile or so which is better than the alternative which was lengthening it by three miles. (Good call Paulo!) 🙂
When I arrived at the starting area, I was a dork and basically was the first person there. Stonegate (like the great trail friend she is) had offered to drive me but she couldn’t wait all day and I did not want Vans and the girls hanging out in the mud and rain forcing me to run and finish faster. This was a training run after all remember?
So upon arrival I got out and asked Paulo if he needed any help. Why not put me to use right? He had me start handing out bibs to the runners as they arrived. This turned out to be great because I finally was able to put names to faces! I finally met Clint, a fellow plant-powered runner and Facebook face (Hi CLINT!!) and a few other runners.
Soon it was almost go-time and of course the skies opened up and dumped rain for few minutes. I second guessed my out-fit choice and changed my top at the last minute (tip: always go with your first instinct). We gathered at the start where Paulo did a quick pre-race briefing reminding us that we were to follow pink ribbons. He also told us where the NEW turn around spot and aid-station was located.
They counted us down and we were off! Everyone started running the long three mile downhill and were all commenting on how brutal this will be on the return, at the end of the race.
BUZZ!!! (my watch) Mile 1 – 8:30 Uh oh, that’s a bit fast, slow it down, don’t blow out your quads on the first mile.
BUZZ!!! Mile 2 – 8:30 Grrr, I thought I slowed it down!? Okay, look there’s a bathroom! Go use that restroom over there and that will help slow you down and push you farther back in the pack.
When I emerged from the bathroom I just continued running along the river. I stopped a few times to take some photos (the only photos I took all day – stick with me and you’ll see why).
Two girls were in front of me were talking. Eventually they moved over and let me pass. Then we hit some up hills and I heard them chatting away, so I let them pass. I just needed quiet as I was trying to get a sense of how my body was feeling. I just couldn’t find my groove.
Roughly at mile 10 we entered the second aid-station at Cal-2.
The volunteer yells out my bib number AND yells out that I am fourth female and that number three is still in the aid-station. “Oh don’t tell me that!? It’s too early to tell me that!”
Sit tight girl. This is a training run. Do not go and chase it. Let.it.go!
I let three other women pass me out of that aid-station. I refused to go chase it. I was letting it go. However, while I was in this conga line of three women and one older gentleman leading the way, I couldn’t get my stride right. There was plenty of climbing and I was hiking a lot but I would either end up on their tail or I would slow down to the point of walking. It just didn’t feel right. The next aid-station was the turn-around and I just wanted to get there.
Soon we started seeing the lead runners on the return. First female went by and DANG she looked strong! She was flying. Second and Third females came by a little bit later and gosh darn it, it if wasn’t the two nice chatty women I let pass me earlier … the voices started again …
That could have been you. You were up there. Now you are 7th! Shut up! Training run remember!?
It was a SUPER steep down to the aid-station (mile 14 ish) at Cal 1. I ran in and realized there was nothing that I wanted. The volunteer asked me my bib number first since I was at the table and the other three women were filling their bottles. I told her my number and left.
That was tricky girl. Are you trying to get ahead or are you starting to race? Just getting ahead. That’s all. I am sure they will catch me.
Soon I came upon Roger. Ahh, Roger. Many trail runners know Roger. He is a great guy and a great runner. I met Roger a few years ago at Diane’s Thursday night race series. Roger and I used to push each other out on the course. Roger, if you don’t know him, sounds (and kinda looks) like Tommy Lee Jones. I kid you not, his voice is amazing and if you didn’t know it, you would think Tommy Lee Jones is running with you. It makes me smile every time I hear him.
ROGER: Hey Pam, you want by me?
ME: Nope, I just want to get some distance between me and those ladies back there.
Roger just chuckled. I should have known then with that innocent sounding chuckle, what was about to unfold.
Roger and I ran steady and strong for a very long stretch. It was probably my longest stretch of running the entire day. I FINALLY started to feel my groove, after 15+ miles.
All of a sudden, Roger stops and moves to the side.
ME: What are you doing? Dude, you are pulling me!
ROGER: Look, there’s number three. Go get her. You got this!
ME: (sigh) DAMN YOU ROGER! Damn you!
Roger chuckled his devilish chuckle again. 🙂
Off I go in front of Roger running steady. We knew the aid-station was coming up very soon. I just really wanted to get to there. The third place girl, (her name was Stephanie), let me pass. Roger checked in with her. I knew she was tired because when I was running behind her earlier in the day, she had said she had run 17 miles the day before marking the very course were running right now. My heart ached for her, she is clearly a VERY strong runner.
We all enter the aid-station, I reach for a cup and I feel someone pushing me sideways …
ROGER: Go! Get out of here. Go!
ME: What the?!! Okay okay …
I took off like I stole something. The next two to three miles were a steady but technical downhill. I had not been opening up my down hills this entire race, but now, I did.
BUZZ! Mile 20 – 9:25 Legs feel good. Tummy is a bit off, but I feel good.
BUZZ! Mile 21 – 9:21 Please god, let me have gained enough distance to keep this lead. Who am I kidding, if I could just bomb that, so can everyone else. Run, just run!
The next stretch was the longest between aid-stations again, something like 7.5 miles I think and that last aid-station would be the final aid before the dreaded three mile climb to the finish.
I just ran and ran. I had even moved ahead of Roger by quite a bit and then he’d catch me and pump me up some more. He even went so far as to tell me that he thinks I could catch female #2. HA! Funny man that Roger.
Finally I reached the section I affectionately called Tick Trail – it was so over grown with long grass and weeds that you couldn’t even see the trail and I imagined with every step, all these ticks jumping onto my legs. THAT made me run faster let me tell you!
Finally, I was dumped back onto the fire road that I knew led to the final aid-station. However, it took FOREVER it seemed until I got there.
VOLUNTEERS: Hey! Looking strong, what do you need?
ME: Can you please just douse my bandana in cold water? How far to the finish?
VOLUNTEERS: About 2.7 to 3 miles, unfortunately all up hill.
I silently groaned a little bit but there was nowhere to go but up to get this done. Off I ran and then I hiked. I tried power hiking. Pigeon was in my head. She had texted me earlier that morning to “power hike that last hill like a bear is chasing you!” Well, as it turns out, there WAS a bear about to chase me!
ROGER: Hey, there is a chick behind me.
ME: What!? No! You aren’t just saying that to get me to run up this hill are you?!
ROGER: Nope, she surprised me by coming up quick behind me at that last aid-station.
ME: Son of a B!*%$! I didn’t set out for this Roger!
ROGER: Well, don’t kill yourself but you got this!
Off I ran, my legs barely moving, shaking with every single step that I took. Last weekend I climbed 3 miles with Stonegate, motivating her up that hill. I used the same tactics on myself …
Okay girl, run to that rock. You can run to that rock and then walk. Just get ahead every chance you can.
I rounded a corner and something caught my eye ….
Holy crap! You caught the number two girl! Hmmm, she doesn’t look THAT far ahead … Nope, forget it. Focus on the girl behind you. You’re barely hanging in.
I am not kidding when I say this hill took FOR-FREAKING-EVER to climb. I passed one guy.
GUY: Hi! (being all friendly and nice despite huffing and puffing) One helluva way to finish huh?
ME: Can you look behind me please. Is there a girl there?
GUY: Nope. I see nobody.
ME: Good. Thanks.
Off I ran. Or I thought I was running. As I reached the top of that switchback I turned and saw her, the girl that was in front of me when I ran in that conga line of girls earlier in the day. She looked strong even then. She looked like she should have been running in front of those girls. She also looked like she wasn’t struggling one bit on that hill we were on.
Move it! Come on! Run, run a stretch now to get ahead! Come on legs! Stop shaking and run!
Female #2 turned and looked at me and then started to run too. The chase, it seemed was on, everyone was trying to get up that hill as fast as possible. I wanted to yell out to the number two girl and say, “It’s okay! I don’t care about #2! I just want to keep #3!” But come on, if I had gotten close enough …. 🙂
I kept straining to hear music. That’s a cue to all the finish lines right? But it occurred to me that there might not BE music at the finish.
Oh no, don’t rely on the music! But how will I know where the finish is? I can’t see it! All I see are these damn hills in front of me!
I had to laugh. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t super smiley but I wasn’t angry and laughing is the best way for me to release tension. What else am I going to do on a monster climb like this?
Then, I see two men standing there. They don’t look like hikers; they look like guys who hang out at finish lines (yes, that’s how my head works in moment’s like these). I reach them, I see female #2 ahead of me and I ask them …
ME: How far?
THEM: Not far, 100 yards.
ME: 100 yards?! (In my head it was as if they had told me it was 100 more miles)
THEM: Up that hill!
ME: (internally) Come on! PUSH!!!!
Finally, I see the finish arch. I see Paulo running around with his camera. I see female #2 pushing as hard as she can, she’s about 10 yards in front of me. I am running as hard as I possibly can. Everyone is cheering!
Oh no, are they cheering because they think I am going to catch her OR are they cheering because the girl behind me has finally caught me and is going to do a sneak attack to the finish line?!!
Talk about paranoia! Haha
RUNNNNN PAM RUNNNNNN!!!!
Finally, I cross the finish line and RD Paulo comes over. I think he doesn’t know whether to high-five me or give me a hug and all I want to do is lay down. I bend over and he kind of escorts me gingerly to some chairs, female number two was in the same state, bent over, legs shaking.
Holy crap, you did it. You made it. You climbed that beast. What the hell man!? I thought this was a training run!? 😉
One minute later, female #4 crosses the finish line. Wow, what a day.
Roger was next and I had enough strength in my legs to get up, cheer as loud as I could and give that crazy man a hug and say thank you. Again, thank you Roger for your support, encouragement and for giving me the pep talks I needed. I could not have done it without you.
So, the final verdict was Third Place Female overall (I was less than 20 seconds behind second) and first in my age group. The course was shortened so I could not go by time but I think I might have had a decent 50k time overall – so long as it wasn’t a four mile hill climb to the finish instead of three. The race (according to my Garmin) also had 7,548 ft of elevation to it. Wow.
Unfortunately, I didn’t stay too long at the finish as I had to jet home. I didn’t want to miss taking my favorite seven year old to her swim clinic lesson. Originally I didn’t think I would be able to make it but I guess with a finish like that, I had some extra time. 😉
So what worked and what didn’t? (Sorry, hang with me, the end of this monstrosity is near).
First, I tried my home-made plant-based fuel that I blogged about. I knew going into it, that it was too salty. When I tried it during the race, it just was not going to happen. It also had the texture of muffin batter something I was NOT going for in the creation process. Back to the drawing board on that.
Overall, I was not handling anything but fruity sweet flavors which is not my normal. I brought a gluten free almond butter and honey sandwich with me but the gluten free bread is SO dense that I almost choked eating it. I managed one square and left the rest for the drive home.
I need to work on the calorie consumption as I don’t think, looking back, I consumed a whole ton on this run. I had my usual go-to items like fruit leather, applesauce and jelly-beans (for that quick rush). I may go back to making muffins. They pack a good 300 calories per muffin but they require time to eat but since I am not racing my next race, I should have some time. 😉
Overall, I am happy. It wasn’t what I set out to do but I am happy that I was able to pull it together in the end and really push myself especially when at times, I didn’t think I had anything left to push. I feel good. The muscles are not too sore (yet). I still feel a little dehydrated and I need a few more hours of catch-up sleep. That’s the only downfall of having an ultra on a Sunday, as Monday it was back to work/school for the whole family.
Tis the life of a trail running mama I guess! Thanks for reading, I know this was incredibly long, but the good ones usually are.
I want to also thank all the volunteers who were part of this race. From marking the course in a rain storm the day before to being out there on the course the day of the race. Also my fellow trail runners were all super friendly and supportive cheering everyone on their way back to the finish. Love this community! SingleTrack Running put on another great race. Thank you!
Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with SingleTrack Running at all and was not paid or compensated for writing this report. This is the second race of theirs that I have done, and I truly believe they host stellar, challenging and thoroughly top notch events.
Saturday was my first race of the 2016 season and it definitely was a race to remember. So settle in and grab a drink, this is doozy of a report. 🙂
I chose Single Track Running’s FOURmidable 50K because I thought it would be a good indicator of where I am in my training so far. It touted a high elevation and a tough course. I have never run one of their races before but I knew the general area where I would be running … or so I thought.
If you’ve been following me, you know that I spend almost every weekend in Auburn and/or Cool running these trails with my friends. Up and down K2. Up and down Cardiac. Up and down the hill to the Overlook. I’ve done it all countless times but when you string so many climbs together in one single day? Woah, talk about a death march!
I am truly a lucky girl because I have two amazing friends who offered to drive me to the start of the race and send me off with laughter, hugs and positive vibes.
I honestly don’t think I could have had a better start to a race. It meant more to me than they will ever know. I was calm, I was happy and I had no stress because of their generosity and friendship. Pigeon was texting me all morning as well, sending advice and good juju too.
The start was chilly but I could tell it was going to be a warm day. I was worried that I should have gone with a tank top instead of a t-shirt, ah well, too late to worry about that now.
The starting area was gorgeous. A beautiful fog was layering over the valley making for the most amazing views for the start of a race.
There was a bit of confusion at the start as it was hard to hear Paulo, the Race Director talk over the loud speaker. There were four distances to this race and they started at different times. The 50k and half marathon started at 8 am and the 35.5k and 13k started five minutes later. I know that some of the 35k people didn’t understand that (despite countless emails detailing the day’s starting times) and they ended up starting with some of us 50k runners.
Paulo counted us down and I was off and running. I didn’t really look around me to see how large of a crowd it was because it was combining two distances (remember I started with the half marathoners too).
Off we ran DOWN the Damn Hill, the same hill that I have had to run UP for the American River 50 mile race so many times. As I was running, I realized I was going at a pretty good clip. It was downhill after all. A girl came up next to me and told me that she really liked my hat. 🙂
I said thanks and just kept running. My watch buzzed and I looked down, Mile 1 = 8:46 pace. Woah. That’s pretty fast when I have 30 more miles to go … I told myself to be careful. I just felt good. Everyone was flying granted most were probably doing the half marathon. Whoops.
Watch buzzes a mile later … 8:45 …. um…what are you doing!? Then we get thrown onto some single track trails that wind us down towards the very bottom of Cardiac and that’s when it all came to a halt.
My legs felt like jell-o when I started climbing. My breathing was labored. My body felt tired. All I kept thinking was “What in the heck?! See! You went out too fast!” But I just kept climbing. I didn’t push the pace. Luckily I was solo on the climb most of the way so no pressure from behind or in front.
Eventually though, a few people caught up to me and I let them pass … that deflated me a little but I just kept telling myself, you have miles and miles to go.
When we reached what I thought was the top of Cardiac, the spot where my friends and I usually stop, catch our breath and continue on down the canal..but instead, we kept climbing. Cardiac apparently, goes even HIGHER than I knew was possible. Geez. But it was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous!
That was the first of the “FOUR”midable climbs in the race. That is what I kept telling myself. Just count the climbs and you’ll be fine.
After cardiac we wind our way back to the starting area for the first aid-station. I was in and out in about 15 seconds. I didn’t need much. I threw out some trash and that was it.
Then we dipped onto some trails that I have never run before that take you down and under the Auburn Damn Overlook. It was beautiful. I was just beaming!
Then we were dumped back onto the Western States Trail and were on our way to No Hands Bridge. I found myself behind this girl who was flying whooping and hollering down the trail. Her energy was infectious! I latched onto her tail and flew down to the bridge running a 9 minute mile. She of course, was only running the half.
No Hands Bridge, mile 9.2 aid-station – in and out less than 20 seconds. Instead I hiked up towards K2 eating what I brought in my pack.
The climb up K2 (the second of the FOURmidable climbs) was not nearly as fast as it had been last weekend but it was steady. One foot in front of the other. At the top, where I normally stop with my girls and take a breather, I realized I couldn’t stop. I had to keep going. There was one girl who literally ran up K2. I was floored.
I texted my friends … and they texted me back with this … causing me to crack up while climbing K2, thanks girls!
Again when I thought we would go one way, the course had us going a different way. What fun! I was trying to figure out where the heck we were and if I had been on these trails before. I was definitely by myself. Some guys had passed me and then kept going. Finally I reached the Knickerbocker Aid-station (mile 13.0). I asked the volunteer (who was super nice) which way the 50k runners go because at this point, we had some 35k runners with us (the ones who started at the wrong time).
The volunteer pointed across the street and said, “Well, you’re going to do a little four mile loop and then come back to us here and then go that way.” Inside I laughed, “a little four mile loop?” … I knew what that meant … the third of the FOURmidable climbs, Old Auburn Damn Hill … another brutal climb.
It was getting warm and fast. The girl from the first mile had caught up to me and we ran together for a while chatting. I also ran into TrailTurtle Shannon who I haven’t seen out on the trails in a long time. Always a pleasure seeing her.
Hat Girl started telling me that she is out here twice a week climbing Damn Hill and K2 while her daughter is in school. She said she saw a “nest” out here a few weeks ago that was HUGE. I was like, “What kind of nest?” Thinking it was going to be a bees or wasps.
Nope, she meant a bird’s nest that was SO large, a couple of humans could actually fit inside. What in the hell?! I stopped to take a photo when she showed me, and she took off! ha Sneaky sneaky. 🙂
She was quite a ways ahead of me up the climb. When we reached the aid-station (mile 17.6), I think she saw that I didn’t really stay long. Less than 20 seconds and I was out, walking and eating. She was quick to join me.
She ran off up ahead while I was content to eat and hike some. Eventually I caught up to her and another girl (the one who ran up K2) and they moved to let me pass. So I did.
But Hat Girl was quick to stay with me. She left the girl she was with and was behind me. I have to say, I have never been on these trails before. I knew we were in Cool but I had no idea where we were. Some of it was the Way Too Cool course but some of it took us off where I don’t think I have been before. I could see highway 49 and it felt like I was in the backyard of the homes that lined the highway. Crazy!
This was the LONGEST stretch between aid-stations and I had no idea at the time, that it was that far. Seeing that aid-station tent off in the distance at the fire-station in Cool was a HUGE relief. Thank goodness.
I had a burst of energy. Not only because of the aid-station, but because I knew that I was on my way to the finish. I’ve run this route (again, or so I thought) a million times and I was anxious to get to that downhill section that leads back to No Hands Bridge.
At the aid-station (mile 23) this girl dressed head to toe in pink came up behind Hat Girl and I and said, “You two are hard to catch! I ‘ve been chasing you girls forever!” I laughed and then she took off! I probably stayed the longest at this aid-station, mostly because they were so chatty (really it was probably 30 seconds). Off I went and Hat Girl was right with me.
When we reached the section where we normally turn right to head back down towards No Hands, the course had us going straight. WHAT??!! My heart screamed inside a bit. Noooooo! I wanted to turn RIGHT! Whhhhyyyyy! Straight we went. We eventually came back around but man, that was a hard detour to swallow.
Pink Girl was gone. Hat girl was with me. We reached the downhill section that I have been bombing lately and I turned to her and said, “This is the section I have been waiting for!” Poof, I was gone. I had a enough juice in the legs and I just motored. My average on this section was an 8:50 mile (and it was muddy).
I caught up to Pink Girl who was not backing down as she took off even faster. We were both talking as we were running about how awesome this section is!
We reached No Hands and the aid-station (mile 26.8) and I threw away some trash. Pink Girl I noticed didn’t even stop. She handed a water bottle to her family and left without grabbing anything. I grabbed a cup downed it and then started eating and walking across No Hands. I texted Vans to tell him that I had 4 miles left and that it would take me an hour.
I put my phone away and started running. I eventually passed Pink Girl who it looked like was finally taking a moment to eat. I passed her and said that I’d probably see her again soon.
I just felt, good … so I kept running on all the flats. I’d stop and power hike when I’d feel like my legs were about to fall off, and then the sensation would pass and I’d start running again. The trails were FILLED with people hiking and carrying strollers and they didn’t quite know trail etiquette.
Run walk run walk up and up and up I climbed. I heard a noise behind me and I turned and there was Pink Girl! “Girl!” I said, “You just come out of no where! Man you are killing it today!” She laughed and said she had no business trying to keep up with me but this girl was strong. We talked for a bit.
She said that the downhill section we had just bombed took a bit too much out of her. She was also a mom of 3 and had been up all night the night before with her youngest who was sick and that all 3 of her kids had been sick during the week. Geez, I can’t imagine how she runs when her whole family is healthy!
I took off running and she said she wasn’t there yet. I thought for sure I would see her again. Back towards the Overlook we were climbing but just as we were supposed to go right, the course had us go left onto a trail that I have never in all my times running out there noticed before! Where are we going!?
It was an awesome single track and there was a guy in front of me. Trying to take advantage of the down again I picked up the pace. I joked that while I loved this course change, it scared me … what goes down must come back up …and we were going very steeply down towards the river.
The guy let me pass him and then finally, I turned a corner and saw it, the massive climb with various runners sprinkled way up high. Holy moly. We have to climb that to get to the finish?!
At first I felt strong and then my legs started to shake and feel weak. I kept thinking about the guy behind me but eventually I think he even stopped because I no longer heard him. One foot in front of the other I told myself. I remembered Vans’s note to me this morning ….
Just keep going! So I did. Hands on knees hiking – I kept trying to stay up right to help my breathing be better but dang was this a climb! Then, I heard it … someone yelling!!! That means we were close. We had to be close!
Boom, a little boost of energy and I was climbing a bit harder …. I knew my family was there, I knew it and I wanted to get there fast. The guy behind me had mentioned earlier that we were on track to be sub 6 hours. I refused to look at my watch when he said it but I glanced down while climbing and knew it wouldn’t happen, not with this climb.
Finally I reached the top, saw my girls and Vans and almost melted. I had to run a few more yards to the finish. Everyone was cheering and my legs just felt unattached to my body! I finished! From my watch, it looks like I PR’d with 6 hour and 8 minutes (Official Results say 6 hours and 9 minutes).
I was handed a very cool wooden medal and told to go pick out a hat or a beanie … how cool!!!
As I was doing that, I saw Paulo, the race director. When I got near him I said, “I don’t know whether to hug you or hit you!” 🙂 But he got a hug and he said, “Congrats! Third female!” and he handed me this cool wooden award.
“What? No!” I said, “You have to be mistaken.” He said they just checked and I was third female! After all that battling with Pink Girl and Hat Girl, I ended up being third. So many times when they got ahead of me I just said to myself, “Forget it, let it go, just run your race.” And you know what, I did. I did run my race and it apparently worked! I was also first in my age group. 🙂
This race was incredible. Definitely one of the hardest, if not THE hardest 50k I have done. Mt. Tam 50k is probably the next closest but I do think FOURmidable may have been a smidgen harder.
The course was well marked. There were sections where you really had to pay attention otherwise you might miss a turn but overall, it was extremely well executed. I am a little bummed because there was a ton vegan food at the finish and I didn’t have ANY of it. 🙁 I completely forgot and was busy with my family.
I worked my butt off training for this race knowing there was a lot of climbing. I also know that I need to keep up that amount of climbing if not double for what lies ahead.
As always, I will post my recovery meal but know that post race is always an exception in my world. Our fridge is on empty in terms of food this weekend and since Vans and the girls were at the finish, Vans had a little something up his sleeve … with a little help from me too …
Two vegan tempeh tacos and one vegan chorizo taco (for Vans) complete with two wonderful glasses of Syrah as the girls played off in the distance as the sun was setting. Perfection. #goodhusband
Sorry, I know this was the longest race report ever. Hey, it was the first race of the season, give me some slack. 🙂 It is not every day when I PR in a 50k AND get 3rd female. I am still blown away and completely blessed by all the wonderful people in my life. Thanks for reading!
Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with Single Track Running at all and was not paid or compensated at all for writing this report. They truly put on a stellar event.
Well the day finally came. I have been talking about running the Salmon Falls 50k over these last few blog posts and yesterday was the day.
I will warn you now, this post may be a bit long and I have TONS of photos but none of which were taken from me during the race. All of them are compliments of Vans and his awesomeness as being the best race husband and dad ever. This post is for him because without him yesterday, I may not have smiled half as much as I did. I needed him yesterday and he was there 110%.
You know how when you hear a lot of hype about something and you inadvertently build high expectations about it? That’s how my training has been. I felt ready. I felt trained. Yet come race day, not everything happened the way I had envisioned it. Isn’t that always the way?
For the first time, in a very long time, I had a great night of sleep. Squeaker didn’t wake me up throughout the night as she had these last few weeks. I went to bed at a decent time and I woke up a half hour before my alarm was set to go off. I was excited.
The weather was unpredictable. The entire week the forecasters had said it was going to rain on race day. It rained the night before which meant the trails were going to be muddy but it also didn’t rain for very long … so there was hope that things would be semi dry for race day. The temps were colder than they have been but I decided to go with what I have been wearing for almost all of my runs these last few months. My “uniform” so to speak.
Pigeon was set to arrive at my house where Stonegate would pick us up and take us to the race start. Stonegate is running Way Too Cool next weekend and we were lucky to have her chauffeur services to the start. Tri-Girl also met at my house as she had decided to sign up for the race.
The race is a point to point starting at Magnolia Ranch. There were strict parking or rather NO parking rules. Stonegate got us there in plenty of time. We were able to enter the main parking lot and hop out of the car to register with Coach Nikon, the Race Director. It is always great seeing his smiling sarcastic face first thing in the morning before a race. His races are always a class act and well put together. He has probably the best volunteers around too and you can’t have a good race without great volunteers.
After signing in, Pigeon and I hopped back into Stongate’s car while Tri-Girl decided to get into the mile long porta-potty line. This gave us a good reason to sit in the lot waiting for her. The park rangers were there and we were watching. Unfortunately, the line was not moving super fast and so Stonegate had to move the car to across the street. Long story short, we kept missing Tri-Girl as she was trying to get back to the car. Poor Stonegate probably drove back and forth about a million and two times trying to find her, drop us off and then drop her off. :)Â We saw so many awesome trail friends at the start. This race was full of smiling friendly faces. It was so nice to say hi, get hugs and catch up with everyone.
I was starting to get excited and a bit nervous. At some point during all of this pre-race waiting, I heard something that unfortunately I let get into my head. This person didn’t mean any harm or ill will at all. My head just operates in a certain way and my brain reacted (or maybe over-reacted?) and went into over drive. This would haunt me for most of the race and cause me to battle internally over and over with myself. I was trying to will myself out of the negative mental spiral I was putting myself into but combined with all the other little things that didn’t go as planned, it made for a long and interesting experience out there.
Finally, Coach Nikon had us gather at the start. I loved the low-keyness to the race. He gave us a pre-race briefing and pep talk in Coach Nikon fashion. He said, “We used over 9 rolls of tape to mark this course in addition to trail chalk. If you get lost, I want to know how you did it.” 🙂
He counted down and we were off. I would venture to guess there was close to 180 people in the race. While not large, it still made for an interesting start jockeying for position on the very wide trail. There were some puddles and mud and then all of a sudden, we were at our first shin high stream crossing. We were not even at one mile yet! That’s how you start a race!
It starts with a pretty good up hill climb with some switch backs along the way. Â Pigeon, Tri-Girl and I were close together. We saw some friends along the way like Miss P and we all sort of ran together trying to get out of the congestion a bit. For some reason, the congestion was bugging me. I like to have space and there was none at this point. I was also starting to feel my stomach sloshing around a bit. Uh-oh. That is not what I wanted right off the bat.
I climbed, ran and hiked hard. There were some good down sections too. Tri-Girl took off. Pigeon and I tried to conserve our legs and our energy knowing what was to come. This is where my brain started taking over again. I could not shake my thoughts so I ran, harder. Pigeon told me not to go chasing some girl down the hill. She knew I was itching to just open it up but it was too soon.
The trails are gorgeous through these sections. I truly wished I had my camera. At some point, we caught up to and passed Tri-Girl. Running the downs and trying to hike the ups. As Pigeon and I were running there was this guy next to us who started talking about “the hill.” He was worried, “It is the biggest hill in the race. You have to walk it. It is huge.” This got Pigeon in a bit of worrisome state as she had not been on these trails prior to the race. She’s only run a certain section of the course. She turns to me, “How big of a hill? Like a Diamond Peak hill?” I told her, no and that she’s already climbed it once before. He was talking about the hill that was at the first aid-station by Cronin Ranch. It was a hill but it was a long gradual hill and she has climbed far worse in her days. It was also at this point that I looked down at my garmin watch and realized it wasn’t working. At all. I had no time no mileage. Crap! I tend to use the time feature often when it comes to fueling. I had forgotten to power it down and then restart it before the race. Again, something I didn’t plan on happening.
However, I knew we were getting close to the aid-station (4.43 miles into the race). I turned to Pigeon and told her my tummy was not happy. She told me to sprint ahead and go use the bathroom that we remembered was at this particular aid-station. So I did. I sprinted like I was on fire. I ran so hard trying to get ahead and when I reached the aid-station and all the wonderful volunteers who were so ready to help me, I ran right past them. They looked confused but they must have figured out I was going to use the bathroom except the bathroom was SO FAR AWAY. I am not talking a couple of yards, I am talking VERY far away. I was sprinting my little heart out and then just started freaking out that it was too far. When I turned back to look at the aid-station, Pigeon was just getting there. Forget it. If I had continued on, I would have been so far behind. Instead, I turned around. I convinced myself that I would just make it to the next aid-station.
When I finally reached the aid-station Pigeon was talking to the volunteers. Pigeon said, “that’s Trailmomma!” A lovely woman smiled at me and said, “Hi Trailmomma! This is Dizzy!” pointing to another runner. I have to apologize to these two, I was so confused. I thought at first, she was telling me that this guy was dizzy. However, she was trying to tell me that both of them read my blog and follow me and that his name is listed as Dizzy in my followers list! Dizzy I am SO sorry! I must have looked totally confused. So I want to give a shout out to Dizzy and that super wonderful volunteer whose name I did not catch who follow me! Thank you SO much for being out there yesterday and thank you for following all my crazy running stories! 🙂
Next it was time to climb Pedro Hill, the big hill that other runner was worried about. I just put my head down and climbed. I’ve been working on my climbing over the last few months and it has been paying off. I finally feel strong when I climb (most of the time).
Battling the demons in my head and the alien in my stomach, I just climbed and climbed. We finally reached the top with its amazing views and started running the nice long down stretch. What goes up, must come down.
The next aid-station was at mile 7 (Norton Ravine) but there was no bathroom. The next aid-station after that where there WAS a bathroom was at Skunk Hollow but that was 5.8 miles and a lot of rolling hills away.
This is where my brain took over. There are some pretty good climbs and some technical sections during these 5.8 miles. I was not in the mood for chit chat. I pulled ahead of Pigeon and just hiked the up hills hard or even ran some of them. I ran the downs pretty hard too. It was almost as if I was trying to kill the negative thoughts through my head. My Â tummy felt better when I was running compared to when I had to stop and hike. I just motored.
For a while, Pigeon was not behind me. I couldn’t even see her. My legs felt good and strong which bothered me because I felt I could have run even better if I wasn’t dealing with that alien in my tummy.Â At one point you get to a switch back area and I could see Pigeon. I looked down at her and she looked up at me and I mouthed the word, “bathroom” and she goes, “is that’s whats going on?” 🙂 That made me laugh. Pigeon and I know each other well out on the trail. She is training for a 100 mile race in July. Yesterday was a training run for her, not a race. She needed to get the miles in AND be able to run today on tired legs. For me, she knew I was excited about this race. Us separating in races doesn’t happen often but it goes without saying that both of us supports the other one no matter what. If one of us is running strong, the other lets it go and supports her 100%.
So I was gone. I wanted to get to Skunk Hollow (mile 12.8) and I wanted to get there fast. I blew down the Red Dragon faster than I ever have in a training run. Some guy got frustrated with me being behind him and stopped to let me pass. I apologized for being on his tail. 🙂
I could hear the aid-station ahead of me. I could hear the cheers. I also knew there were real bathrooms there! But first, I had the first of many surprises out on the trail!
Vans surprised me by having the girls on the trail! They were a sight for sore eyes for sure!
Vans asked me where Pigeon was and I told him that she was behind me somewhere and that I had to use the bathroom fast. I left them on the trail and headed to the aid-station. I went straight to the bathroom and when I came out I saw Missouri and JCM there with smiles and a sign.
I saw Tri-Girl leave the aid-station and make her way up the hill. I saw quite a few friends here too and stopped to chat. They all asked me where Pigeon was. Finally Pigeon came in and made a bee-line to the bathrooms as well.
I stayed at this aid-station talking to Vans and the girls and few other friends for quite a bit. Pigeon had to say hi to Missouri and JCM and fuel as well.
We were told it was raining at the finish and that the storm was moving our way. It was getting colder and darker for sure and the rain was spitting at a us a little bit, but not too bad. Pigeon and I left the aid-station together. She told me that I had killed that first section and I told her I was fueled by the demon in my head and the alien in my stomach. While I felt better, my tummy was definitely not having a good day and continued to be a worry for me the rest of the race.
Pigeon and I crossed the Salmon Falls bridge over to Sweetwater and back onto the trail. I entered the trail first and again some how pulled ahead. The next aid-station was 4.1 miles away. The trails of Sweetwater are well, pretty darn sweet. VERY runnable with a lot of rolling hills. I just was cruising again. On auto pilot basically, feeling strong and full of emotion. I came up behind a guy wearing a yellow racing jersey. I was so far in my head at this point that I pulled one of the biggest rookie moves ever when it comes to trail running. I followed the jersey instead of the ribbons. What happens when you do that? You go off course. Yup, I got lost. I was zoning and running hard and followed this guy and had a guy behind me follow me. When I heard the road I knew we had made a mistake. Both of the guys were in doubt and swore up and down that there were no ribbons. A hiker told us that yes we did miss a turn and we had to run back. The guys were in doubt. I was angry and told them, yes we missed a turn and just bolted ahead of them running my heart out to find the course again. I was probably a good 10 minutes ahead of Pigeon and when I finally found the course and saw the stream I was supposed to cross earlier (and about 100 ribbons mind you) I called out to her. She turned and looked so perplexed. “What are you doing behind me?”
The moment I realized I had made a wrong turn and basically ran a mile or so out of my way, I deflated. Every ounce of energy that I had, just let out like one big giant sigh. I was done. I was tired of fighting the demon in my head which was not allowing me to enjoy my day. I was tired of my stomach not settling itself no matter what I tried. Now I had to come to terms with the fact that I had run off course and added a mile to my day. Mentally I was done. I let Pigeon get in front and I just followed her legs up the trail. I was tired. I was beat. This was not the day I wanted and truly, I had no one to blame but myself 100%.
Pigeon carried me for a bit. I just needed to check out. We laughed about the fact that I got lost after Coach Nikon’s pre-race speech and I laughed that there really were about 100 ribbons indicating the turn that I had somehow missed. I couldn’t dwell on stuff. I had to let go. I was finally starting to let go of that demon, that pressure that I had put on myself from the start.
The next aid was at mile 16.9, more than halfway through the race. We saw Captain Kirk and Wonder Woman at this aid-station. Always great to see their smiling faces. Captain Kirk laughed that I had gotten lost. He knew the guy who had led me astray. 🙂
After the aid-station, the next one would be 6.9 miles away. The largest stretch between aid-stations of the race. Finally feeling like I had freed myself a bit from the pressure I had put myself under and from trying to control the things I could not control, I let go and tried to enjoy what was left of my race.
Little did I know, that Vans would be my superhero. He knows these trails very well from mountain biking and he knew just where to go to find me.
I was running behind Pigeon when I heard her yell, “Hey!” I looked up and saw two smiling faces that just melted my heart and gave me a boost.
My girls were having quite the adventure on the trails all day and were always happy to come give me a hug when they saw me.
Pigeon even said they were giving her a boost too. Post race, I heard from quite a few runners that my two smiling angels actually gave a lot of runners a boost. I love my trail cheerleaders!
Vans was awesome as well. I told him I was not feeling 100% but that I was doing okay. I told him it wasn’t the day I had planned but it was still a great day.
One thing to note, besides being beautiful single track trails they were also poison oak infested trails! It was everywhere. I used to not be able to pick out poison oak, but these leaves were SO red that it was impossible not to see it.
Pigeon and I continued on. We’d play leap frog with a couple of runners. I was still feeling deflated and content to take up the caboose. MyÂ left knee was starting to bug me. We still had a long way to go too.
At one point as I was running behind Pigeon I saw some movement on the trail in front of her. TURKEYS! Three of them to be precise. Pigeon started running, clapping and yelling “gobble gobble gobble” and she scared those turkeys right off the trail for me. Thank goodness I wasn’t in the lead at this point as I might have completely freaked out. Thanks Pigeon!!
I was trying to fuel the best I could despite the alien in my tummy starting to wake up again. It was always there but it was starting to get antsy again and I was trying to ignore it.
For fuel I had brought a ton of options with me. I had two baggies with salted potatoes. I had my favorite Picky Bars broken in to pieces. I had salted plantain chips and I had ProBar Bolts just in case. I also had (somewhere in my pack) chocolate covered espresso beans which I never even touched.
These next few miles were rollers again and Pigeon was pushing the pace a bit. I didn’t mind. It felt good to mentally check out and let someone else dictate what I had to do. Again, I heard her yell “Hey there!”
More hugs,Â hellos and another boost of energy for my heart and brain. These smiling faces brought so much happiness to me it made me realize that I needed to let go of what I had battled so much on the first half the race.
I knew that Pigeon and I were approaching Spanish House which is a section that I have run many times. I wasn’t quite sure where the next aid-station was, and without my garmin I had no idea where we were mileage wise.
I was starting to feel the burn though. The eagerness to be done. To be at the finish line and not out on the trails. I don’t have that feeling often, but I had it a few times during this last stretch.
Finally we were approaching Fitch Ct. aid-station (mile 24). I heard “Hey Pam!!!” and I looked up and saw Seth from The Ranch Athletics waiting for me with a smile and a hug. Another stellar aid-station. I saw Patrick who I used to workout with all the time. Everyone was eager to help me and asked me what I needed. I admit, I was some what out of it here though. I was trying to ascertainÂ what I wanted to do. Up until this point, I had not touched one item at any aid-station. I ate what I brought with me. Here, I looked at the table. I was done with my food. Then, I saw them. Off on the corner of the table, in a bowl were PayDay bars. PayDay bars is what I used to fuel during my first ever 50 miler. I am not a candy bar person but there is something about those PayDay bars that just spoke to me and so I grabbed a couple.
Pigeon and I left eating and hiking at the same time. There was not a lot of space at that aid-station and it seemed a lot of runners had stopped there. Feeling a bit claustrophobic, I told Pigeon I needed to move. She was fine with that.
I turned to her and said, “So we only have one more aid-station to go right?” And she said, “No we have two more.” My head said no way. I told her I wasn’t too sure about that but she was adamant that we had two more aid-stations. Hmmm, okay.
MyÂ left knee was screaming at me so somewhere in here I took two advil. It seems I end up having to do this more and more near the end of races to ward off the knee pain from getting worse. Except this time, it made myÂ left knee pain completely disappear but caused some screaming intense pain in myÂ right knee and lower back. I guess for 24 miles I had been compensating for myÂ left knee which only aggravated my right? Who knows, but it was a slow pain that just kept getting worse and worse as the miles wore on.
Finally, we approached the marina and Browns Ravine. I knew that there had to be an aid-station here. Some how, I had a spark of energy and was ahead of Pigeon again only I didn’t realize it. As I entered the aid-station, I heard “Good job runner!” Runner? Singular? It made me turn around to see where the heck Pigeon was. I really thought she was right behind me.
I arrived at the aid-station and Annabella was there with a HUGE smile on her face! I asked her, “Is this the last aid-station?” She said, “Yup! Only 3.47 to the finish and you are done!” WHAT??!! Seriously!?
At this point, Pigeon came running in and was grabbing some coke and some pretzels. I said, “Hey this is it!” and she goes, “Yeah only 3.47 to the next aid-station,” and I said, “NO! 3.47 to the FINISH!” Again, she didn’t believe me, it took the volunteers AND the fact that there was a sign taped to the table that said, “3.47 to FINISH” for her to finally get it. Boy, did we laugh about that one. Pigeon laughed hard and apologized profusely. It was funny.
We were now on the section that is basically the start of the American River 50 Mile race. This section I know like the back of my hand but funny enough, I have never ever been on this section with tired legs. This is only a few miles from my house so when I run it, I haven’t run far. Running on this section with 28 miles already on your legs makes it feel like a completely different trail. Tiny little rollers that I normally run up seemed like mountains to me. Yet we knew the finish was near. We could smell it.
Finally we could see the levee that we’d have to run over and we could HEAR the finish line. We could hear Coach Nikon’s voice over the loud speaker. We were almost there.
As we were coming down off the trail and onto the levee, Pigeon yells from behind me, “Is that TiggerT?” And sure enough, sitting perched on the levee like a shining light was TiggerT! What a sight for sore eyes. She smiled and congratulated us. Pigeon and I guilted her into walking the mile to the finish to come hang out with us. 🙂
The levee we had to run was probably the longest mile of my life. You could see the finish. You could see runners before you finishing but yet the distance on the levee didn’t seem to change. No matter how many steps we took, it didn’t seem to get any closer!
Finally, I was off the levee. We had to climb a couple of rollers but I saw that finish line. I saw my girls waiting and all of a sudden I was over come with joy, exhaustion and a desire to just get it done. Pigeon wasn’t far behind me.
I started to run harder. Pigeon and I have a history of sprint finishes at all of our races that we finish together. It is all in good fun. I was slightly concerned my girls were going to jump out onto the trail and run with me, which is fine (sometimes) but I really just wanted to run and be done.
Coach Nikon was on the microphone. I could hear him laughing and announcing that I was coming in and that my running partner wasn’t too far behind me. Would there be a race to the finish?
I knew Pigeon was behind me but I also knew I had a few steps ahead of her. Still, I wasn’t sure if she’d try and pull a sneak attack on me.
I crossed the first mat not realizing there was a second mat that I had to cross. Coach Nikon started yelling something and I had a feeling that Pigeon was trying to catch up and pass. 🙂
I finished one full second ahead of her. She was trying to pull a finish shoot sneak attack but when you have Coach Nikon calling the play by play over the loud speaker, that’s a little hard to do. 🙂
We did it! We were done!! What a long day full of so many lessons for me. I was happy to be done and happy to have so many awesome faces at the finish.
The minute I finished my lower back pretty much seized up. Whatever had been going on with it held off until I had crossed the finish line (thankfully).
Now that we were done, it was time to try and remove the poison oak that was covering our bodies, change and relax.
So many good things happened during this race too. The volunteers were spectacular. The course was amazing. It is such a runnable course that it is deceiving because you spend very little time hiking the way you would do if you were running in Auburn. Here, you can run so you find yourself running a lot more miles than you hike which in the end, really adds a lot to your tired legs.
Missouri made an awesome sign for Pigeon and I. She had it at Skunk Hollow but we didn’t get a photo of it until after the race.
Vans was the best. His support and efforts to get himself and the girls all over the course was truly the lift I needed to get out of my head and back into the fact that I run to have fun. I run to enjoy the day, the trails and my friends. Thank you Vans for being the best trail husband ever. I love you.
Pigeon was pillar of support out there. She constantly was telling me how strong I looked and how smart I was running despite the fact that I didn’t feel smart or strong some of the time. She ran a great race herself. She executed it exactly the way I think she wanted. She ran steady the whole time. She struggled I think with the fact that her legs ran more miles than she is really used to running (compared to hiking massive climbs in Auburn and Tahoe) but she handled it well and had juice in the tank when she needed it. Her spirits were up too. If she had down moments, I hardly knew about them (unless she had them when I was off having my crazy moments ahead haha).
Many thanks to all my awesome trail friends and to Missouri, TiggerT and Coach Nikon. It was a great inaugural race and I know that many other runners were super happy with the course, the race and the volunteers. Like I said, Coach Nikon’s events are well organized and always a blast.
Now I rest. I plan to take a couple of days to figure out what is going with my back. I am not sore other than the low back pain today. I feel well. My quads are not sore, my legs feel like they could go for a run but my back is stiff and tight. I plan to take a couple of days off maybe to rest and stretch. Next weekend is the Way Too Cool 50k race and I plan to be out there supporting Stonegate through her first 50k finish.
And of course, in typical Trailmomma fashion, I have other things up my sleeve so stay tuned for more. Oh and if you made it through this entire blog post, you need a medal! Wow, talk about a long winded report! 🙂 I also have not proof read this (duh, it’s way too long haha) so please excuse the typos .. eventually I will fix them.