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.