Monday, April 6, 2009

Cruising the Trails at AR50

There's nothing better than a day running on the trails near Auburn, CA in beautiful weather with hundreds of other like-minded ultra folks. And with views like this you couldn't have asked for better conditions for this year's American River 50 Miler run from Sacramento to Auburn.

My preparation for this year's race was quite different than last year considering I had a stress fracture in my shin and ran only 25 total miles for the month of March. I did a ton of road biking in and out of the river canyons which enabled me to get a 10:39 AR finish which I was thrilled with.

This year I ran closer to 200 miles in March and am not injured which is great. However, my goal race is in August so I still haven't done much interval/tempo training so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to improve upon my time from last year.

Catching the bus from the finish line to the start at 4:15 AM means an early start to the day but it was definitely made more pleasant since the ride was shared with Scott Dunlap and Gretchen Brugman and the time passed quickly as we got caught up.

The buses arrived at the start and I only had about 20 minutes to get through the porta-pottie line, put on some sunscreen, put my drop bag in the finish line trailer then head to the start. The start line was moved down the levee so I think a few people were caught off guard and had a bit of a late start but since it's chip timed it really didn't matter.

I was surprised when Scott came running up from behind me. He is definitely someone that I usually never see during a race since he's so fast. We chatted a bit then he smoothly pulled away and I never saw him again. Sounds like he had a bit of an adventurous race, you can read about it here.

I settled into a comfortable pace and the miles ticked off. Gretchen caught up to me shortly before the second aid station and we were able to run together for awhile before bio and walk breaks separated us.

Enjoying an early morning buffet

The miles passed quickly along the bike path as I tried to stay on the dirt portion next to the pavement as much as possible. Quite a few people went by me and I wondered if they knew what the second half of the race was like. This is one race that if you burn too many matches in the first half, the second part will eat you up.

Cheerleading chickens along the path

Significant mile mark just before Beals Pt. (26.2)

There's a bit of uphill as you leave Negro Bar and head to Beals Pt. and I was surprised at how tired I started to feel. But I knew my family would be waiting for me at Beals so I just kept plugging along.

Coming into Beals Point

The girls making sure my chip and race number still match

Caitlyn, one of my biggest fans

I got some more S-caps from Pat, visited the restroom, got some food and headed back out. As I rounded the park I noticed that Pat and the girls had crossed the parking lot so I got to give my girls one last hug. Suddenly I found myself very emotional. I didn't want to continue running. What was the point? I was tired, I had just run a marathon, and I was with my family. But I knew I wouldn't stop because I wasn't at the finish line and I'm not a quitter. Plus I wanted to see what this year's finishers jacket looked like!

Hard to say good-bye

As I made my way to Granite Bay I finally started finding my rhythm. I was back on trails and I was feeling strong.

Beautiful trails in Granite Bay

Last year the section from Granite Bay to Rattlesnake Bar destroyed me. Singletrack with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, I could never get comfortable. This year I ran the uphills strong and the downhills on the edge of control. I was having so much fun and passing lots of people which only made me feel stronger after getting passed so much at the beginning. I came into Rattlesnake in 8 hours which is 25 minutes faster than last year.

I hit the bottom of the last 3 mile climb in 9:20 and started doing the math. Could I break 10 hours? On this steep section I was averaging 13-15 min/mi so I knew it would be close. I had spent over 10 minutes back at Beals Point with my family and I started wishing I had about 5 of those minutes back. But I really wanted to try and break 10 so I put my head down and started repeating to myself: never give up, never give up.

The girls watching the finishers

Finally the finish line came into view and I saw Caitlyn run towards me from the side lines. For the first time she ran with me and we crossed the finish line together. It was a wonderful experience. The clock said 10:03:36 but suddenly those lost minutes at Beals didn't matter so much.

Finishing together!

Gretchen and I sporting some nifty finishers jackets

Julie Fingar did a fabulous job putting on this race as Race Director. The volunteers were excellent, filling my hydration pack with ice water and getting me anything else I needed. We couldn't have asked for better weather and I have to applaud all the runners who chose this race to be their first ultra. I hope they all had as good a time as I did. I look forward to taking another 35 minutes off my PR next year! Results can be found here.


Zach said...

Great race descriptions by you and Scott (I kind of just stumbled upon his and then your blogs while looking into descriptions of the AR50) - AR50 was my first ultra and I also thought they did a great job. Congratulations on a solid finish.


Gretchen said...

Nice job Catherine!! I love those pics of you and your girls!
It's really funny how similar our race reports are, I think it's great. Apparently we had a very similar day! :) Next time we'll have to figure out how to line up a few more miles together during the race.
I also grabbed that picture of me at the aid station and added it to my blog--thanks!

Scott Dunlap said...

Given your "lost time" at Beals, I think we'll all give you credit for a sub-10. You have the best crew out there. Congrats! Way to charge at the end.

It sure was neat to run with you a bit at the start. I should forget my gloves more often!


slowrunner77 said...

NICE RUN!!! You and Gretchen are animals. Keep it up, and the pics were great as well. I was just at Granite Beach for the first time last week...your pics make me want to go back already!

Anonymous said...

I just got to read about you day and see all the wonderful pictures.
We are so proud of you and Pat and Caitlyn and Sara. You made me cry. Love you so much. Mom

Robert Fuller said...

Excellent writeup. You should turn pro.

Anonymous said...

Fun to see Caitlyn in her Great Grandmothers cute sweatshirt. xoxoxox