Test Race

While many of my friends were out suffering at Canyons 100k, I chose to suffer a little less and a little closer to home at Folsom Trail Race 50k.

Inside Trail always puts on a good race. Most of their events are in and around the Bay Area, but they venture inland for this one every year and I have run the 35k before. Aid stations are always well stocked and evenly spaced. The volunteers are terrific.This year I decided to step it up. I needed a 50k this month (and another next month) to prepare for my first 100k attempt in June. I also chose this race because I have been mentoring a group of seniors at Sheldon High School to run the 35k for their senior projects. You can read more on that here.

I have realized that the key for a slow runner, such as myself, winning an age group award is in finding a race with a small and specific subset of the age group… I still have not yet found that race. With only 8 in my AG and most of their Ultra Sign up rankings similar to mine, I started the day believing I may be able to earn a place by finishing in the middle of the pack.

Starting out, I was moving pretty easily. My pace was on target of what I had planned and I was only a little concerned that I had gone out too fast and would feel it later. I felt good though and just kept moving. My focus for this race was supposed to be consistency and cadence. At Brown’s Ravine I got through the aid station and started on the single track that borders the lake.

There is a little more climbing to the Planeta AS and, although my place had slowed a little, I was still in the range I had hoped to be. I know I’m going to slow down as the race continues, but I was hoping to conserve some strength and finish strong. From Planeta to NY Creek I found myself kicking a lot of rocks, twigs, roots, holes… I think I found all of them. At NY Creek I was still in the middle of my AG pack and feeling good. I had taken too long at the aid station, so I thanked the volunteers and said goodbye to two of my students that had arrived there about the same time. I took a left while they headed right.

I began feeling the wear and tear from here to Salmon Falls. I was slowing down more than I wanted to and beginning to question my running plan for the upcoming months. There are some climbs that are not too incredibly intense, but at this point in the race, they were taking a toll and I was feeling it. I was running low on calories and approaching bonk status, but I knew I could make it to Salmon Falls and the turn-around point. I spent way too much time there filling up on food and mixing some Hammer Recoverite in one of my Orange Mud bottles for the trip back. The temperature was starting to rise and I needed to get moving.

The course, on paper, was a slight increase in elevation on the way out, making it a slight decline on the way back. If there had been 20′ of snow, it could easily have been my father’s route to school that I heard about growing up. You know, 20 miles, uphill both ways.

The back of my AG pack had caught me and I moved past them at aid stations while they caught me on the uphills. I changed my goal from “age group podium” to “finish upright” and ran with them for several miles. My focus switched to my form so I would, hopefully, stop kicking rocks. At NY Creek I was 20 minutes ahead of cutoff. At Planeta I was 20 minutes ahead of cutoff. At Brown’s I was 20 minutes ahead of cutoff. Running with my new AG friends had stopped the bleeding. I was no longer falling further behind. Nor was I gaining any. The last 3 miles were a gut check and I pushed through. Coming across the levee I remembered what my 12-year-old daughter had said; “Daddy, you have to go faster at the end of the race.” I pushed as hard as I could just to maintain, but it felt like an all out sprint for that mile. I finished 20 minutes ahead of cutoff. Another DFL!

Truth be told, I am done with running… except that I have another 50k in two weeks and my first 100k in 5 weeks. If this race was a test, I give myself a D. I didn’t quit. I beat the cutoff. I didn’t plan my nutrition very well, but the hydration was fine. My push at the end, with my daughter in my head as motivation, moved me from a D- to a D. It reminded me to not take any distance or course for granted and to better plan out my nutrition and pace… and to stick to the plan. I still have a long way to go in 5 weeks to get ready for a 100k. I am so in awe of my friends running Canyons 100k. Congratulations to all those toed the line, who finished, and, especially, earned their WSER qualifier. You all inspire and motivate me. I guess I’ll keep running for a while.

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