O what a race, this Auburn one:
Mud and rain and slip-sliding fun!
Dark before the start; cold bodies,
Few with butterflies in bellies,
Waiting for the sky to brighten.
A tough fight, grit the sole weapon;
Worthy foe, this fifty mile run:
Time to gird Courage’s armies.
O what a race!!
The early miles in rain and sun,
With trail to go ‘ere we were done.
After many feints and parries
And a lot of mini sorties,
The battle with this run was won!
O what a race!!
Date: April 14, 2007
Location: Sacramento/Auburn, CA
Race: American River 50 Mile Endurance Run
Friday, April 13
I picked up Chihping from his home in Fremont around 1:30 p.m. We were on the road, after picking up coffee, by 2:00 pm. We reached Fleet Feet in Fair Oaks by 5:15 p.m. after a few slowdowns by the toll plaza in Martinez and around Sacramento. We picked up the bib numbers and I headed to Mountain Mike’s Pizza next door for a bite to eat.
Anil and Rashmi, his wife, arrived at 10:30 p.m. and promptly went to bed.
Saturday, April 14
The alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. The plan was to park the car in the Finish area and take the 4:15 a.m. shuttle to the Start. Chihping decided not to take the sleeveless running vest and gloves I had loaned him. The bus took off on time and we reached the Start around 5 a.m. It was chilly and we were huddled around the lights, the only source of warmth, that provided illumination for the volunteers in the Registration tent. Such wonderful people these! Out there in the wee hours of the morning to help out.
Anil and I met a host of friends and acquaintances including Carol Cuminale, Don Lundell, Karen Hanke, Fahmida and Gene Weddle.
It started drizzling about 20 minutes before the start and continued to do so for another hour. The race began on time and it was a pleasure to ward off the cold with the warmth generated by hard working muscles.
The first few miles went by smoothly. We met Nancy Warren and chatted with her until she took off ahead of us. She is directing a new race this Fall, the Cool 12-Hour race. We also met Jakob Hermann and his friend Dan Marinsik. Dan has done quite a few Badwater runs and he talked about doing a final one before “retiring” from the race! Jakob looked fit – he seemed to have lost weight since his (and mine) first 100-miler, Rio Del Lago, in September 2006.
Having run this section of the race in many races (’05 & ’06 Helen Klein 50M , ‘06 AR50 and the ‘06 Rio Del Lago 100), I knew that the first 19 miles would be more tolerable if I ran on the dirt shoulder. That indeed proved to be the case. Anil and I walked as and when we felt like which was generally after 15-25 minutes of running.
We made our way to the bridge before the Nimbus Overlook aid station (mile 19) and I decided to test my legs and conditioning by running up the bridge AND up the short climb to the aid station. It felt good! A foretaste of things to come maybe?
We were out of the aid station soon and made our way on the trail this time to the next aid station, Negro Bar. It was wonderful to be running on a nice soft surface. We met up with Carol Cuminale after Negro Bar and we spent the next 4 miles, to Beals Point, talking about her upcoming races which includes the Western States 100. Carol is the RD of the Forest of Nisene Marks Half Marathon and Marathon in Aptos, CA. She is one of the strongest runners I know.
Beals Points was the first of 2 drop bags that Anil had meticulously planned. We got the first of our Ensures (what a drink!) and some amazingly tasty potato soup. All of that food hit the spot.
We got to the levee and made our way past the turnoff down to the Cavitt Middle School and onto the trail beyond. We soon found ourselves in a little train of runners with the doyen of ultra running, 63-year old Barbara Elia, in the lead. What an amazing athlete she is. 320+ ultras and counting. She went on to finish the 2nd Female runner in her age category!
Those few miles were smooth and effortless. The trail was flat and the running easy and controlled. We hit the rollers after that and they continued for the next 15 miles. Up and down muddy slopes we went, living from aid station to aid station. I had hated this section of the race last year and had decided to take a more sanguine approach this time around. The trail was what it was and it was up to ME to make something positive out of it. Once that decision was made I had fun. I flew up the small climbs, ran ahead as fast as I could and then waited for Anil to catch up. This went on for the next 14-15 miles.
Anil and I ran through puddles and mud and had the greatest time doing so. Anil’s left knee had started hurting him (the pavement for the first 19 miles) but he ran along like the fighter he is. I would go ahead and wait for him. We went from aid station to aid station, enjoying the beautiful views and the serenity of the surroundings. For once in my running “life” I was totally in the moment, not thinking about the next step or the next mile. I was enjoying the feel of my muscles responding to each demand and the fact that my clothes were soaking wet as were my shoes and socks did not even register on my mind’s radar.
The first of the final few climbs, up a river bed, came upon us about 3 miles after the Manhattan Bar aid station. This climb had taken the wind out of my sails last year and I was determined not to let it defeat me this time around. As soon as we turned the corner and the climb was in front of me, I told Anil that I was going to take it head on and that I would meet him up at the top. Not for once did I doubt my ability to conquer it. In retrospect, the climb was not as steep as my mind had made it out to be.
Having conquered that climb I was ready to take on the next one, after the Last Gasp aid station (mile 47.6). Anil and I walked about a fourth of a mile before starting the run up that mile long climb. It leveled off and then started descending a bit before starting to climb for another half mile or so. We ran up that second slope too and then the final climb just before the finish.
We ran hand in hand towards the Finish. I finished the race last year in 11:34 amidst a lot of people. The constant rain this year kept the crowd away from the Finish area. The only people we could spot were Finish line volunteers and Norm Klein who was doing the announcements as usual. His singing one line of an Indian song followed by “My buddy Rajeev Patel and his buddy Anil Rao” was the icing on the cake. We finished in 11:09. The race jacket was well earned.
I thank Greg Soderlund and his team of amazing volunteers for helping us, the runners, have a wonderful race. It must have been tough for all of them to stand out in the cold and the rain for hours. They did so with broad smiles and an ever helping hand! Thank you very, very much.