Fast, challenging, scenic, and fantastic. The Lake Sonoma 50 is a popular race, attracting some of the best in the sport. One of the wonderful things about the LS50 is the course allows you to see the leaders as they loop back. Watching them run is staggering. The power they exhibit is intense. Commentators will often use the term “raw power”, but I feel “honed, calibrated, and expertly crafted” best describes the level of performance on display.
If you live in the area, go check it out. There are more stories and pictures of the elites and front runners here on the URP site. If I could take the time to train like they do, who knows what I could put down. Till then I am a family man with a wife and kids, and a working man with a full time job. I am a student working on his MBA, I have obligations, and interests other than running (very few though!). My travels on those trails was a little more…sinuous.
Leading up to the LS50, I was able to take part in the official training run, on a section of the course. As I had not spent any time in the area, I figured it was a good time to get to know the local hills. I am very glad I went. Knowing what I was in for on race day made a HUGE difference.
If you ever have the option to train, hike, walk, or even YoutTube a course before a race – DO IT.
The trails were wet and muddy, but a real blast. I got to meet some fantastic people and make some new friends, which getting in my longest, and most elevated, training run leading up to the event. My Suunto put me at about 23 miles and 4,500 feet in elevation gain. The LS50 is 50 miles and around 10,000 feet. I was happy to have the experience, but I was terrified. I hurt way more than I would have liked to for only hitting 4,500. It was going to be interesting.
Besides that wonderful run, March kicked off an insane 4 week stretch. I was only able to get a couple other 20+ mile runs; no real, good, long back-to-backs; and minimal overall weekly mileage. I spent the time with family; traveling to five states, accruing over 14,000 air miles, driving 3 rental cars and a 36 foot truck that broke down twice… all while getting in only a few miles here and there.
While my legs didn’t get their best work, my spirit was filled. Endurance sports take more than training muscles – the spirit needs exercise, too – and running 1 mile happy is better than 5 with a frown. I chalked up the lost time on my feet to building time in my heart and head, while keeping up with core workouts and yoga. Even 10 or 15 minutes a day can make a huge difference in overall health and fitness.
The Final Four…..point seven
The week leading up to the race was beautiful, warm and sunny….in California.
But I was on the East Coast where is was cold, dreary, and wet in Washington DC.
Still, I had a good time.
Upon my return home, I was able to enjoy the lovely California weather for a short afternoon. On Friday, I took a cross country flight, hoped on BART (the train) for an hour trip out of the city, then jumped in the car to drive the last hour and a half north to Healdsburg. Jet-lagged, tired, and hungry, we enjoyed a delicious pre-race pasta dinner at the Spoonbar. Tropical John and the folks at HRC really know how to entertain!
Unlike other races, I was able to get some good rest, but not enough to make up for the mounting sleep debt of jet lag that had been building. Still I was going in mostly rested, which is not always the case!
Saturday brought a new day, and new weather. The day of the race was to be grey, wet, and cooler. Good thing I slept in from all that jet lag.
After arriving quite literally 10 minutes before the start, with only enough time to buckle up, and get safety pins for my bib, I started more or less last. I battled GI issues for the first mile and spent a good amount of time behind a large boulder staring at moss. I blame travel and bad food for the week, stirred up by the first few miles and nerves.
I started my GPS almost a mile late, but later on it would not even matter – the cloud coverage had everyone’s GPS off by upwards of 3, 4, even 5 miles by the end of the day.
After getting my guts in order, I spent the first 13 miles at a comfortable pace; getting into my grove which I had not had time to establish. I met some wonderful people, and made some new friends. I eventually turned up the heat a bit and pressed on, hoping to stay ahead of the rains that were predicted later in the day.
It didnt ever end up raining hard, with only a smattering of light mistings here and there. The sun even stuck its head out for the briefest of moments. I had in a relatively new pair of Earth Runners, and they held up fantastically. I was the only runner in huaraches there, and enjoyed the occasional stream crossing better than most. It was a good day and I was having fun.
I laughed, hooted and hollered. I kept a decent pace, and watched my speed up and down hills. I felt strong at the half way point, which was fantastic considering I was so roughed up after the 23 mile training run. My aid station time management was good….almost too good.…and later I paid dearly for it.
Around mile 35, my quads phoned up to my brain and told me they were having about the last of the downhill they could deal with. I accepted their resignation, and took to plodding gingerly down the larger slopes, while managing my time by putting more into the uphill. It was all going well.
Until the mile 38 aid station.
I was going into a deep glycemic debt. I had burning aerobic for a while, and now my glycogen stores were toast. The problem was I had been feeling so good, I just kept moving. I had been staying hydrated, staying on top of my electrolytes, and had been managing my pace and aid station times well. So, at mile 38, I pressed on, grabbing a few snacks and trotting on down the trail. I had been eating well the whole race. Sandwiches, cookies, bananas, and all kinds of good stuff. I just didn’t take the time to put in enough simple foods.
For further reading:
About 20 minutes later, however, I walked slowly along staring into the forest, wondering what I was doing. Not in a self doubting, “why I am out here?”, but more like a drooling-on-myself stupor. It finally clicked what was wrong and I checked my stores. I opted against drop bags, and had burned through all the stuff stashed in my vest. I didn’t have any honey packets left, and water was not going to pull me out of this one.
I found a Stinger Waffle in my pack, and ate it as best I could. It helped, but I could not stop fantasies about soda, candy, fruit, and more soda. I fell in with a group of 4 runners who helped me keep my pace. By focusing on them I was able to stay moving. The next 7 miles took my 2 hours. I stopped at the final aid station and drank an entire can of soda, and ate some fruit. I felt human again, and finished off the last 4.7 miles in better condition.
I reflected on the choices that got me there, and the lessons learned that I would need to remember in the races to come. If I had taken 10 minutes at mile 38, I would have saved myself 30 minutes, overall, I suspect. I had been focused on putting a good effort out, and did not stop to check in with myself. Something to be cognizant about, though; at 2 am on the trails of Tahoe, I won’t have a pacer, or even see another person. You cannot afford to get into trouble out there in a situation like that, so care must be taken. Remember to listen to your body.
This now probably reads a bit like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, particularly the beginning. However, it was not. Although the whole event started rough, I kept a smile on my face through it all. After a hectic crazy month, I wasn’t sure if I was under trained, or close to my target level. All I knew is I was happy, and that was all I needed.
Good things happen, and bad things happen. Ultra running is the management of problems, solving them one at a time as quickly as possible and moving on to the next. Going in with the right attitude will not only allow you to run through the issues, but do it with a smile.
Big thanks to the organizers, volunteers, and sponsors who make this amazing race happen. LS50 has the attraction because of what you all do.
A sunnier training run…
– The Winged Ling