Race Reports

The 2015 American River 50 Race Report

My First 50

It’s been two weeks since the race, bouncing about here and there…
Time for reflection.

The more time that passes brings a greater sense of accomplishment and wonder to the feat (or feet….heh). The patina of history, I suppose.


The calm before the storm
After a trip to visit family, and a subsequent business trip to Denver, I found myself a week and a half from the AR50, and the middle of my tapper week feeling…foggy… As I got home and settled from a week abroad, I went to bed feeling weaker and less than my best. I assumed it was jet lag until a few hours later, with a raging fever coming in over 100 and the mean cold sweats.

I spent two days like that. If I missed a dose of vitamin I, my fever came back along with the chills and fever pains. I had already committed to the Livermore Half Marathon and most of all, I needed the miles. With all the flying and travel my tapper week mikes were lower than scheduled, and although I may not have needed them physically, I needed them mentally. Missing the half marathon would have been a bitter pill to swallow. If I couldn’t run a half marathon with the flu, how was I supposed to get through 50 miles? 100??

I woke Saturday to find my fever was gone for good, even if my sinus cavity was still filled with cement…which…unfortunately it remained till the AR50. So Saturday morning, I took my daytime flu meds, 2000 mg of vitamin C, and miscellaneous other vitamins and pills and set off for Livermore. The race was less than amazing. Luckily I was able to get in a healthy breakfast and keep it down, because after I started moving I could not take any gels, calories, or fluids other than water for the first 7 miles. I was sick and miserable. I was able to get down a couple SaltStick pills, thankfully, and that helped. I spent 7 min in a portipotty at the half way mark, trying to convince my body not to shut down. Sometimes running is less than glamorous, and sometimes it is downright horrifying.

I was able to cram a few calories the last half but still felt miserable the rest of the way. I did it, and had felt great for having completed it. It was the mental hurdle I needed to get over. I was ready for the big one.

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Finisher’s medal and my good luck coin I carry with me, a gift from my son.

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Ready for 50.

Unfortunately during the race, I felt my sandals needed adjustment but wanted the damn run done so badly, I ignored it. I paid for it with a nasty blister on the inside of my foot, just under the ankle bone from the loose straps rubbing. After my post race ice bath, I drained it, cleaned it, and covered it. It wasn’t going to heal completely before the AR50, so I figured I would just tape it.

The AR50 is very good about information dissemination, they send out a lot of emails in the days leading up with reminders and last minute messages to make sure everyone shows up ready to go race day. Each time I saw another one in my inbox, it drove me wild. I was excited, nervous, terrified, thrilled….It was a cardio workout just checking my email.

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Delicious pre-race pasta!!

Friday night before the race we went to the pasta dinner and had a marvelous time. Although there was no open bar, and the pasta selection was limited; the speaker Matt Fitzgerald (no relation), and the hosts from Trail Runner Nation made it worth every penny. Matt was an excellent speaker, and his message actually put me at ease a bit – or at least helped as much as it could considering how nervous I was about the following day. We even picked up a copy of his cookbook. The guys from TRN put on a fantastic show, with prizes and audience participation. It was an evening well spent.

IMG_20150403_200553520_HDRI was too spun up to get any rest, so we took a walk down Folsom’s main street under the rising full moon. After an ice cream cone and a lovely evening stroll it was time to retire for the evening. We went to the hotel and crawled into bed where I then proceeded to stare at the clock…all…freaking….night.

I only got two one-hour periods of sleep. I was going out of my mind.


Race Day

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It’s the FIII-NAL COUNT-DOOOWN!!


If you have ever been hiking in boots, you know duct tape is you best friend. As far as preventing blisters, or protecting ones you have, it’s amazing. Although I have since started hiking barefoot/minimalist, I pulled this technique out of the old hikers handbook and taped up my feet before the AR50 to protect the blisters, wrapping the tape under my foot, to the other side.

A horrible, painful, stupid mistake.

I spent the first 30 miles cruising along in my Earth Runners huaraches, but paused far too often to scrape rocks and sand out from under the heel of my foot. I thought back to Colorado and wondered why I was having such a problem with debris now, when I did not before.

At the halfway mark, I saw why. The tape was peeling away from the skin, collecting dirt, sand and rocks and holding this mess to my skin. It was like running with sandpaper almost literally glued to my feet. The pain altered my form causing me to put undo stress on my feet and my body, demoralizing me so badly it cost me a lot of time. I peeled off the tape, threw on my five fingers for the last 20 miles and cranked them out, as fast as I could muster – which, was not very fast the last half.

I felt so dumb. I paid for it, but at least I finished.


The Course

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Racing under the blood moon

The first 30 miles are easy single track, and paved bike/running path, with some good elevation fluctuations, beautiful scenery and fantastic conversation with your fellow runners. People pace differently, but the “first half” of the race is in the morning, where you can put down some fast, not-so-challenging miles before the heat of the day is upon you. Of course, don’t burn yourself out before you get to the back half!!

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Stopping at the halfway for a delicious Bricks Bar snack and to let my feet rest. This is where I peeled off the tape and realized the error of my ways.

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The Meat Grinder was the real bastard of the course. Mile 31-38 or so. I went dry in my bottles despite having just filled up, as it was midday with the sun out and keeping it hot. With little shade in that section of the trail, it made for rough going. No water meant eating was difficult, and the terrain was not like the south side, where I normally run.

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A friendlier section of the grinder

There used to be (from what I have been told) an aid station at mile 35, where some guys in boats brought in ice cream to the middle of no where. Sadly, with the drought as bad as it is, this is no longer possible, as the trail is now quite a distance away from the water’s edge.

Please conserve water, California. Pretty please.

The Meat Grinder

The Meat Grinder

Coming around the bend to the next aid station at mile 38 was one of the best moments of the race. It was everything I needed, at the moment I needed it most. After re-hydrating and pounding as many calories as I could muster, I threw a few salt pills down and set off to finish what I started.

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Cooling my heels.

The final 3 miles were everything that people say they are:

Uphill hell.

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They should rename the last 3 miles the “Snails pace 5k”

My pace up this inclined demon was slower than my usual pace on back country camping trips. I was feeling it all over, but I was getting it done. There is one nice thing though, 2 miles from the finish, and half way up the awful incline is a crew of people at an aid station called Last Gasp.  Let’s just say it was the best aid station of them all. Cheers.

THANK YOU TO ALL THE AID STATIONS, VOLUNTEERS, AND PEOPLE WHO HELPED MAKE THE DAY AS AMAZING AS IT WAS.
You all deserve a medal of your own.


Final Thoughts

Crossing the finish line was slightly surreal, but less than what I was expecting. It sounds weird to say; a lot of people get an emotional rush when they cross, some even start crying. I suppose I was already in the mindset for it, starting at mile 40 or so. While at the aid station there I realized I was now so close I could finish, regardless of whatever happened, or however slow I may need to go. It wouldn’t be fast, but it wouldn’t be a DNF. The feeling of completion increased the closer I got. Getting to the last 3 miles, although miserable and uphill, were gratifying in a way. I was so close I could break both ankles, and crawl up with my hands before the cut off time. I hadn’t crossed, but I knew I had done it.

Coming up to the last 500 feet, my wife joined as I crossed the finish. It was a good day.

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My time of 10:50 was not as fast as I was shooting for…at all…but each hurdle taught me something new, or drove an old point home. Logistics and planning go a long way with distance running. It can make you or break you, and significantly change the outcome of any race. Also….don’t run barefoot with duct tape. Bad idea.

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Muscularly I was feeling pretty beat up, and had some severe swelling in my right foot from bad form. The bad form brought on by beat up feet from my “sandpaper tape”, but within a week I was running again. Carpe runem.

Wings out.
The WingedLing

0 thoughts on “The 2015 American River 50 Race Report

  1. I think this is amazing. I have done 3 marathons and they seem almost impossible. ..the thought of running another step boggles my mind. And to have been sick just before…well I’m sure that impacted your race and made it even harder. I’m pretty sure I would have cried at the end. I did after my first marathon. Great job!!! And lesson learned on the duct tape that sounds super painful!

  2. Awesome! Congrats. I ran the same race (this being my third one). VFFs all the way for me, keep wanting to try out the sandals at some point. Great finish time btw! I finished around the same time last year…. I didn’t have a super great run this year, so unfortunately I added an hour.

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