Sunday, May 3, 2015

Canyons 50K

Canyons 50K - 9,000 feet climbing, 9:28

As usual, busy week at work, so I only packed my race gear Friday morning, booked Auburn Comfort Inn Friday afternoon. The Quality Inn where Karen & Ken was staying was sold out, as was Super8 where Kevin was staying.  Picked up Kevin at 7:25 pm from the BART (only 10 minutes late) then headed up. My plan worked - no bad traffic, and we were in Auburn a little after 9 pm. Kevin was good company on the drive up as I was extremely sleepy from long busy past week. I had two separate friends visiting Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, then work events til late on Wednesday and Thursday. Too busy to buy Frappucino for the morning, and I forgot to pack Buff or Cap. Karen saw my Facebook post & brought over an American River Buff for me. And the Comfort Inn had a vending machine where I bought a Starbucks DoubleShot for the next morning. However, the room smelled like stale smoke, and when I asked to change the woman said they were booked full.
Thing to different #1: Don’t pack gear at last minute! Get race bag ready at least two days before.
Thing to different #2: stay at better hotel for Western States Training Weekend 

Got to the start in plenty of time, 6 AM, even enough to re-park car in better spot, use porta-potty, and take pictures with Pen & Kevin.

Started, headphone cords all tangled, walked at back of pack while sorted out. Could definitely feel that I’d run 50 miles two weeks ago. Passed people on initial descent down canyon. Walked hill up to Michigan Bluff station. 
Thing did well: Asked people if they wanted to pass, tried to be courteous.

Michigan Bluff - A runner was asking the aid station volunteers if the homemade cookies had gluten. The volunteers said they didn't know. I asked if "the cookies were made with love?" They repeated they didn't know, then got my joke.  Ate cookies, thanked volunteers. Descended down the canyon. Decent speed but didn’t hammer. On long climb to “The pump” aid station, the 100K’er started coming back. Got off trail to let returners pass. Chatted with Monique, a Marin runner. She’d gotten into Western States, but then gotten a stress fracture in training camp, couldn’t run. Strong cautionary lesson to take it easy. 
Thing did well: Thanked volunteers, ran own race. 

After Michigan Bluff was a “5 mile out and back”. It was one mile of flattish where there was a one man impromptu water aid station with a bongo-playing dude & Alvin! It was nice to see Alvin, we took some pictures. Then a long, long descent that kept going down and down and down. At the bottom was a stream with a waterfall. Ian Sharmian’s blog said he tried to soak in all the streams. I took off my pack and soaked my front and then my back completely. It was quite hot, in the high 80s and low 90s. The girls with me followed my lead and started dousing themselves too. 
Things I did well: Took S-Cap every hour, tried to keep body temperature down. 

Long long climb to regain all that we’d lost. I walked a bit with Laura, where we had ultra one-upmanship. 
Laura “Good training for running States!”
Me “Yep, I’m running States too.!”
Laura “My coach has run Western States 5 times!”
Me “My coach has WON Western States 14 times.”
Oneupmanship aside, fun to talk to Laura, she’d run Javelina also. She said her coach advised her to put ice in her sports bra. 

Finally back to the pump aid station, where I learned the climb I’d just done was the famous “Devil’s Thumb”. As I left the aid station, I passed a 100K runner who was laden down with enough gear for a small battalion, saying “Good job!”. He replied with
“Thanks, Ma’am”.
“Are you in the military?”
“Yes, how do you know?”
“You called me ma’am”. 

More climbing and descending down and out of the canyons. I was feeling a bit depressed. Though I was moving at a decent speed despite the heat, this was quite hard. I was grateful I was only doing 50K, but then would think I was going to run 100 miles in these conditions. How could I finish under the 30 hours cutoff?

The runner in front of me shrieked and pointed as she ran up the hill. A large, four foot long snake was slithering on the side. As I came up, I could hear the snakes loud rattle. UHOH. Not just a snake. A Rattle Snake. I tried to remember what to do when one saw a rattle snake and came up with nothing. I hoped it would slither away, but instead it curled up about a foot off trail, rattling loudly, it’s head in a triangle position. Not good. Not good at all. I debated what to do. Run by quickly? Throw rocks? Paralyzed, I waited. A slower runner came up behind me. 

“It’s a rattle snake, what should we do?”
“I’m born and raised in the city - no idea.”

I was really hoping that the other runner would go first, but he was as scared as me. Finally, very slowly, I walked as far on the opposite trail side from the snake as I could. I was scared. Snake stayed still. phew. 

After that liveliness, the rest of the race was tame. Climb the canyons, run the downs, finished at Foresthill at 9:28, near my personal worse (9:39) for a 50K. But I took it easy like a training run, and it was a hot day. My coach was proud I’d taken it slow. 

Things to do different: Bring back up music just in case iPod dies
Experiment with cap & ice. 

Things I did well: Relentless forward progress. Now I realize I’d done some of the toughest sections of the Western States course - the actual race will not be all so difficult. 

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