Sunday, April 05, 2009

American River 50

Comes a time in many an ultra race
When your reflection says "It is now time
To pull up your socks. To pick up your pace.
To give up the fight is the biggest crime."
So I looked the race Demon in the eye
And, sans hesitation, picked up the sword.
Vanquish him I would or, in trying, die.
So there they stood. His battle hardened horde.
Each one different from the other eighteen.
Sharp was my sword. Furious were my parries.
Each was relegated to a has been,
Felled while trying to fend off my flurries.
Veni. Vidi. Vici. I was Caesar.
Of one more realm I was now Emperor.

Running ultra marathons for 4 years now has taught me one thing - the human brain is an amazing creation of Nature. It is capable of the most mundane tasks and it soars when delivering the sublime!

Having spent all of Friday working, I slept nary a wink (actually dozed off for about an hour) before leaving home just after midnight to drive to Anu's place where Dan Marinsik was to park his car so that we could carpool to the race. We left Saratoga around 12:45 a.m. and hit 880N - > 680N --> 5 North. Before we knew it we were in the outskirts of Sacramento. We soon got onto 80 East and found ourselves in the Dam Overlook parking lot around 3 a.m. We tried our best to sleep a bit but all the cars driving up to park woke us up every few minutes.

It was soon time to get out of the warm car and head towards the shuttle buses. I went off to use the restroom and Dan and I got separated. I tried again to get a few winks in the bus as it made its way towards the Start but to no avail.

It was chilly in the Start area. I picked up my bib number and dropped off my Finish area drop bag. I soon found Karen Bonnett and the rest of the Acme Running Club AR50 runners. We took a few pictures before heading out towards the actual start area.

The race started on time and I soon found myself almost at the back of the pack running at a sedate pace. My stomach warned me that I would need to hit a restroom soon. Remembering that there was a restroom around the 4 or 5 mile mark, I asked it to hold its horses and not ask for attention for another 40-50 minutes.

Right around 7 a.m. I found myself in the line to use the restroom. My turn eventually came and it was blessed relief! I reckon I must have lost 10 minutes or so during that break.

Those first few miles had been spent running with Jose Gabriel and Marissa Licon. They were both trying out Vespa and were very excited about its promise.

After the much needed restroom break, I got into a nice rhythm. I eventually caught up with Shannon Farar-Griefer and Diane Vlach who were running together. I spent the next few miles chatting with them before taking off to run my own race.

The miles went by in a blur. Aid station. Eat something. Joke with the volunteers. Fill up one of the bottles with Cytomax. Thank the volunteers. Leave. Along the way I would catch up with friends or they would pass me and we would talk for a bit until we parted.

It was with a shock, 4:30 into the race, that I realized that I had not taken a single walk break until then. I promptly walked for a full 5 minutes!

Julie Fingar, the RD, had actually put a nice large sign marking the marathon point in the race. I made a mental note that the marathon went by in 4:57. Not bad for a 50M. There were still many miles, tougher ones at that, left in the race.

Beals Point is always a hive of activity and spectators in this race. This year's great weather had brought friends and family members of runners by the dozens. Nancy Warren was in the AS. She is a lovely person and I love her spirit, her cheerfulness and her caring and giving nature. I gave her a big hug and a kiss. I spent a few minutes there eating. I also emptied my shoes of dirt (I had forgotten to wear gaiters). The minute I started running again the race had changed! Both my legs were a sea of pain and tightness. They refused to help me pick up the pace. I walked most of the way to the next AS. People passed me one by one. I spent those minutes singing Indian songs loudly and taking in the lovely views of the Bay and the flowers along the trail.

The 31 mile mark came in around 6:16 into the race. If you are doing the math like I was during the race, the 4 miles from Beals Point to the 50K mark had taken me 72 minutes - 17-18 minutes a mile. The first 26.2, in contrast, had taken me around 11:20 per mile.

I ate a bit more in the AS and soon left it, resigned to a long 18 miles to the Finish. It was during this section that I asked myself if I wanted to try to go under 11:00 for the race. The answer that came back was a resounding Yes. It was like my brain had been waiting for this very signal. I started running. The legs ached no more. The brain had recruited more motor units to help me in my quest. Mile 38 is where I popped a Tylenol and filled one of my bottles with Coke. Now I really flew! I do not use that word lightly. I must have been running anywhere from 7:15 - 9:15 mins/mile pace. I took no walk breaks. I passed every person who had passed me after the levee.

I was eagerly looking forward to the last few hills. I had run up those slopes the past few years. This year was to be no different. The first of the slopes leading up from the river was soon upon me. A third of the way up, I stopped, bent over with my hands on my knees and waited for my pulse to slow. 20 seconds later I started running up again. A third of the way up I stopped in similar fashion again. I refused to walk. I finally made it up the slope and ran the rest of the way to the Last Gasp AS. I filled my bottle with Coke for the last push and headed up the slope. This year that last part felt way easier than it had in years past.

About half a mile from the finish, just before the last small but steep climb, I spotted the familiar figure of my RDL buddy, Karen Bonnett, ahead of me. I yelled out to her and soon caught up with her. We ran up the last climb together and finished hand in hand. 10:39! 30 minutes faster than in 2007.

What a race I had run! It was one of the most fun races I have ever run. The miles seemed to go by faster than they've ever done.

Kudos to Julie and her amazing band of volunteers. Thank you all for another wonderful edition of AR50.

Until next year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was one of the ones you passed Mile 39 Great Job !!

Are you gonna be @ TRT this year

If so C you there

Gene Spazdogrunner Manning