Monday, April 12, 2010


Race: American River 50M
Date: April 10, 2010
Location: Sacramento, CA
Time: 10:10

I do not remember ever running the last miles of any ultra marathon as fast as I ran the miles from 31 to 47 in the 2010 edition of the iconic American River 50-mile race.

I'm putting down numbers (approximate ones at that - my memory is, at best, suspect) just so I can look back, years hence, and get an idea of how much knowing AND coming to love the course helped in each subsequent AR race I have run.

Year 1-31M 31-50M
2006 6:00 5:34
2007 5:56 5:13
2008 6:31 4:51
2009 6:16 4:23
2010 6:14 3:56

The first thing that leaps out is that the last 19 miles have gotten faster every year. This year's section from 31 to 47 was something that amazed me a lot. I was on fire and it only let up some once I got to the final climb up from the river.

I have grown to love those last 19 miles. Rewind to 2006, my first AR50, and I remember running that race in lots of mud, fast flowing rivulets and streams and mid-shin deep water crossings once or twice. I detested those 19 miles. I then encountered them twice in the 2006 Rio Del Lago 100M 5 months later. A portion of that section, going south, made me lose a huge chunk of the 45 minutes buffer I had built up. You get the picture. Those 19 miles were my bete noire until 2008. During that (2008) race I told myself that there was nothing I could do about the course. What had to be done had to be done in my mind. I have come to love them now. They are so different from the first 27 miles, to Beals Point, that they add a lot of character to AR50.

My first 27 miles were uneventful.

(The early miles. Photo courtesy of Brian Harvey)

They were pretty much a copy of 2009 i.e. marathon in around 4:55, Beals Point just past the 5 hour mark, slow down between Beals Point and the next AS at mile 31 and then a resurgence/renaissance in the last 19 miles.

(Coming into the first AS. Photo courtesy of Daniel Fabun)

(Second AS. Photo courtesy of Daniel Fabun)

(A few miles after the Nimbus Overlook AS. Photo courtesy of Brian Recore)

The only difference is that I ran those last 19 miles way, way faster than I did last year.

The first 27 miles to Beals Point were largely uneventful save for the fact that for 3-4 miles before Beals Point my blood sugar was lower than I liked and that led to my slowing down quite a bit. It did not recover until I switched to Coke in the 31 mile AS.

I have been in the zone before in races (2008 AR50, 2009 AR50, 2007 Miwok 100K) but this time around it felt like there was no Rajeev, just a body moving along doing what it loves doing most. I never looked at my watch after leaving the 31 mile AS and it was only an accidental glance at a volunteer's watch in the Manhattan Bar AS (mile 43.92) told me that it was 2:46 p.m. I was in shock! I knew I had run fast, the miles between Aid Stations were passing by in a comfortable and fast blur, but this was ridiculous.

Now I was on fire! The goal had become a sub-10 hour 50M (finish before 4:00 p.m.). I picked up the pace even more. I fell in behind a lady and her pacer who were moving at the same pace as I was. We blew by so many runners that I lost count. We finally reached the left turn from the river that starts climbing to Last Gasp. This is where I backed off a bit. I walked most of that hill. I ran/walked to the Last Gasp AS and went through. The final 2.8 miles were a run+walk that saw me finish in 10:10. Probably the best race I have ever run.

I wonder what next year will be like.