Yes, it was quite a weekend. It started out on Friday as I made my way down to Sacramento to pick up my race packet. As a thank you to runners for picking up their packets early, Fleet Feet was giving away another technical AR50 t-shirt, nice touch. My parents were coming into town from the Central Coast and we happened to all be in Roseville at the same time so we were able to have lunch together. Another nice treat.
Returning to Nevada City I made a stop in Penn Valley to pick up my race packet for Sunday's Daffodil 5K not knowing if I'd even be able to make the start. But I may as well keep a positive attitude.
After a restless night of watching the clock slowly pass the hours, it was finally time to get up and make my way to the Auburn Dam Overlook where I caught a bus with other runners to the start in Sacramento. During the ride it was fun to listen to all the different conversations going on, races people have been doing, hopes and fears for the coming day, etc......Surprisingly, I just seemed on autopilot. I wasn't nervous, didn't give much thought to the leg, and was just looking forward to getting started.
Start on Guy West Bridge
We exited the buses (there were 2 full size school buses to transport people) and joined the masses in front of the porta-potties. I then found a single propane heater that folks were gathered around. The weather was clear and cold and the heat felt good. Finally lined up on the bridge and Mark Tanaka buzzed by me rushing to the front of the line. I was lined up in the top 1/4 but it still took me about 20 seconds to cross over the timing mat after the gun went off. The path was narrow and crowded which forced a slow pace which was perfect. After awhile I remembered about my leg and pleasantly realized it felt better than it had in 2 months.
Crossing the American River
Things thinned out a couple miles in and I found an easy stride. To tempt fate I was also wearing a new Nathan hydration pack that I hadn't worn in any training. I know, never try something new on race day but the pack was great, comfortable the whole time with no chafing spots. I was very happy with it and it enabled me to not have to get water at every aid station which shortened my time at them.
Look who I found on the side of the trail, Helen and Norm Klein
I ran the first 30 minutes then got into a 15:2 ratio of run/walk which I kept for the first 27 miles of the race. The miles flew by on the bike path and I stayed on the dirt sides as much as possible to limit the time on pavement and that was helpful. I felt great coming into the Nimbus Dam Overlook at 19 miles, my time was about 3:20. The next section of singletrack up to Negro Bar was a pleasant surprise. I've always taken the bike path but the trail was a lot of fun. Had to make a pit stop along the trail (and try to avoid the masses of poison oak) and about 6 people passed but it was worth the stop.
On the bluffs above the River
Heading up to Beals Point involves some hills that I remember from the Helen Klein 50 last November. I stayed strong and steady but the miles were starting to take a toll. I reached the marathon mark in 4:52. After Beals we got on some rollers and fun singletrack going into Folsom Lake. A group of about 5 of us formed and we motored along the trail. I was keeping my time at the aid stations short and I was quickly making my way back onto the trail. This is when it got really hard for me. The trail became an endless series of ups and downs that made it hard to stay in a rhythm. Mentally, this was a low point for me. I had started to think that a sub 11 hour finish was possible but my slow pace through this section made me start to doubt that.
Crossing Folsom Dam
Finally I reached Rattlesnake Bar aid station and I was wiped out. A volunteer asked if I was ok and I could barely answer him because I was afraid of crying if I tried to speak. He asked if I wanted to sit down and I said "no". Chairs are purgatory at this point in a race. I was able to eat some soup and drink some Pepsi and that helped. I was really worried that the rest of the course was going to be like the last 10 miles and if it was, I knew I was going to have to dig deep. My time at Rattlesnake was about 8:25 so I knew I had 2:30 hours to go 9 more miles if I wanted to qualify for Western States.
I was able to make a couple of calls to my family who were unable to crew for me to let them know how I was doing. My parents were planning on meeting me at the finish with my 2 daughters and I wanted to give them an idea of when to get there. Hearing their voices and their confidence in my ability to finish this race gave me a huge boost.
After Rattlesnake, the trail flattened out and went through some beautiful meadows with outstanding views of the river. The whole course is beautiful and I wanted to take more pictures but I just didn't have the energy and I didn't want to disrupt my rhythm to pull my camera out. My attitude improved and my energy returned as I really started to enjoy the gently rolling trail once again. I was surprised at how good I started to feel again. I hit the bottom of Last Gasp hill and decided to plug into my MP3. I had been carrying it for 46 miles but not listening to it. To my surprise, as I started to walk up the hill my quads tried to cramp up. So far I had had no stomach or cramping issues. If I stayed in a run/shuffle my quads felt ok.
Final miles up Last Gasp
So I ran when I could, shuffled on the steeper sections and before I knew it, I was almost at the top. There was one guy behind me and my goal became to stay ahead of him. I picked up the pace, put a huge smile on my face and raced to the finish line and my waiting family. Stopped the clock at 10:39:18. It was a great day. I finished 293/467 overall and 17/30 in my age group. Results can be found here.
Me, Caitlyn, Sara, and my Dad
Now the goal became how to recover best for a 5K race the next day. I stiffened up considerably on the drive home and even the smallest stair became a huge obstacle. My injured left leg had given me no problems during the long run, it felt better than it had in the last 2 months. But now I was starting to feel it. I got myself into an ice bath and I had my whole family laughing with my pathetic yelps as I lowered myself into the cold water but I knew I had to do it. Had a pretty good night sleep with the help of some Advil PM and I woke up feeling pretty good. Then I tried to stand up. Ouch. I went outside and walked up and down the driveway a couple times then did a slow shuffle and finally a slow jog just to see if I could eventually run. The verdict for the 5K was a go.
Caitlyn waiting for the runners
We got the kids loaded up and headed to Penn Valley about 20 minutes away. Got there early because I knew I would need a long warmup. Saw some friends who were pretty surprised to see me there. I was surprised at how well I was feeling too. Especially how the leg was doing.
Feeling good (for now)
Almost 500 people were signed up for the 5k and 10K so there was quite a crowd. I started towards the front and the first couple hundred yards are downhill and the pace was high, too high. At the first slight uphill I quickly slowed. I was feeling pretty miserable at my inability to summon more speed but there just wasn't anything there. The fact that most of my training during Feb and March was cross-training with ZERO speed work was becoming evident. Oh, and the fact that I ran 50 miles the day before. Started feeling better at the turn-around and I was able to pick it up a bit. I just concentrated on giving it everything I had and tried to not look at my watch. Time didn't matter, effort did. I made the final turn into the park and there was a slight uphill to the finish line. I dug deep and gave it everything. Crossed the line in 25:34, good enough for 4th place in my age group, 44/209 overall. Results are here.
Me and my two fans
My friend Jenni who had a great race finishing 2nd in her AG
So now it's been a couple days. I was able to go to work on Monday but it was sure hard climbing into the fire truck. I can now do stairs without holding onto the hand-rail and I have an appt with my PT for my leg this afternoon. I know I didn't do the leg any favors by running on it but I was happy with how it felt at the time. Looking back, I am thrilled I was able to accomplish all my goals. Not only did I finish AR50 but I qualified for WS. Not only was I able to walk the next day but I was able to race a 5K. I don't mean that to sound like I'm tooting my own horn but based on my lack of running these last couple months and dealing with an injury, I just didn't know what to expect. I know what I wanted to happen but that's not always what does happen. I'm thrilled with how things turned out. Next challenge is a 5K race on April 26 and the Big Sur marathon on the 27th.