When I left the house for the start of the race, it was not raining. By the time, I parked at the starting line on the east side of Cal Expo, it was raining lightly. The race started at 6:00 a.m. in the pitch dark. Over the next hour, it rained harder and harder. I had purchased a jacket for running in the rain on Friday night and was reasonably comfortable in spite of the steady rain.
My plan for the race was to run for 25 minutes and walk for 5 minutes. My goal was not to run any mile under 10:00. In training, I have been able to run a 10 minute per mile pace and walk 5 minutes of every half hour and maintain a 11 minute per mile pace. Over the course of the day, I was able to keep this pattern, although not the pace, up for more than 9 hours.
The first nineteen miles are pretty flat and easy; the course follows the bike trail up the river. Sharon, Jack and another friend met me at the Nimbus Dam Overlook. I had originally planned to walk through this aid station without really stopping. I ended up spending five minutes changing into dry socks, shirt and hat.
Leaving the the Nimbus Dam Overlook, I got a taste of what the afternoon was going to be like. We left the bike trail and climbed away from the lake on some horse trails. Dropping back down to the lake at Negro Bar, the course climbed along the bike trail to Beals Point. It actually stopped raining for about hour as I headed towards the Folsom Dam.
Joe and Cindy Larkin, Sharon and Jack met me at Beals Point with more dry clothes. Unfortunately, at this point, it started raining again. It would rain steadily for the next six hours.
After a short jaunt along the shore of Lake Folsom, Cindy, Joe, Sharon and Jack met me again at Granite Bay with even more dry clothes. Larkin joined me at this point and ran the last 18 plus miles with me. Starting at this aid station, Larkin started getting me to drink a couple cups of soup every time we stopped; this seemed to have a major impact in keeping my energy up over the next few hours.
While I was very familiar with the first 32 miles of the trail, I had never covered the last 18 miles before. I had a rude surprise. The nine mile stretch of the trail from Granite Bay to Rattlesnake Bar is a narrow undulating hiking/horse path. With the rain and the fact that more than five hundred people had been over the trail already that day, it was a muddy slick mess with large puddles and rivulets. Additionally, the rain caused the poison oak to droop into the trail, lots and lots of poison oak. I struggled through this section and was looking forward to getting to the Rattlesnake bar aid station. The only aid station in this stretch did not have any soup which I think helped contribute to my struggles.
Although I had been posting pictures and splits to my weblog through 30 miles, I gave up after Granite Bay. I stopped taking pictures partially due to the fact that I did not have any cell phone coverage and partially due to the fact that I was struggling to maintain my footing in the mud and dodge the poison oak. I have some regrets that I did not get any pictures while we were on the muddy trails in the canyon.
As we approached the Rattlesnake Bar aid station, someone sitting under an umbrella by the side of the trail said that it was about 1/2 mile to the aid station. Although I should have known better based on my GPS, I latched on to the fact like a drowning man. Over a mile later, I was not happy. It turned out to be more like a mile and a half to the aid station with me muttering to Larkin most of the way.
I changed my hat, shirt and socks again at Rattlesnake Bar. From there, after having some more soup, I actually felt stronger. Although still extremely muddy and slick, the trail was slightly better after Rattlesnake Bar.
At this point, I went away from running 25 minutes and walking 5 minutes as a pattern. Instead, we walked up the uphills and jogged the flats and downhills.
I am not the most sure-footed beast. I was sure that I was going to end up slipping and falling in the mud. Although I staggered a couple of times, including once along a narrow section with a long steep rocky drop to the lake, I never fell.
In the days leading up to the race, there was a fair amount of e-mail traffic questioning my sanity. I had said in my e-mail that unless something goes horribly wrong that I intended to post a picture to my weblog at least every hour. One of my favorite e-mails said that if "something goes horribly wrong, those are the postings I want to see on the weblog." As we are running, I shared this with Larkin. He and I laughed about him using the camera phone to take picture of me bleeding on the rocks on the shore.
I really appreciated having Larkin with me on the trail. Although a lot of people had pacers with them, there were a number of people out there by themselves. My idea of a good time would not have been stumbling along in the mud and the rain by myself for five hours. Having covered this part of the course on foot and horseback, he also knew the terrain which helped.
As we reached the point where we started climbing steeply away from the lake, it actually stopped raining. In hindsight the rain did not brother me as much as I thought it would. The rain and the cloud cover contributed to keeping me cool.
While the rain was not much of an issue, I could have done without the mud and the treacherously slick trail. I told Cindy after the race that one of my regrets was that I could not really enjoy the scenery in the canyon. The trail was so slick that you really had to focus on where you put every step.
I ended up finishing in 11 hours, 49 minutes and 53 second for a pace of 14:13 per mile. Overall, I was 405 out of 477 finishers. The race was limited to 500 people. I had originally projected finishing in about 10 hours and 50 minutes, but between the long stops at the aid stations, the mud and the steepness of the course in several places I was not able to carry quite as much speed.
All in all, I am very satisfied with the end result.
My body held up great the whole day. I did not have any pain. My knees, back and hips did not brother me at all!
Larkin, Cindy, Sharon, Jack and I finished the day having Mexican Food for dinner in Auburn.
I have gotten a lot of questions about why I was running an Ultra. I have run regularly for more 30 years to manage my weight and stress. I have done a few 10ks, half-marathons and marathons. I have always enjoyed challenging myself. It seemed apt to attempt the 50 mile run as a way to celebrate 50 years on this earth. I also made an attempt to run the American River 50 with Larkin in 1989. It was an extremely hot day with temperatures into the 90s. I dropped after 31 miles because I was worried about hurting myself. It has nagged at me that I did not finish the run.
I set running the 2007 American River 50 as a goal more than two and a half years ago, I am proud of achieving this goal.