March 21, 2011

AR 50 Week Eleven


Eleven weeks already!? Amazing how time flies, and speaking of which, AR 50 is now just a few weeks away - yikes. This week I tried to find a balance between recovering from Way Too Cool and also keeping my mileage up there since I'm not in taper quite yet. So it wasn't my highest mileage week, but I had a good recovery run early in the week, a (surprisingly) fast double digit run midweek, and a chance to run the entire trail section of the AR 50 course on Saturday (mostly solo and in the pouring rain, howling wind, and excessive mud, no less). I'm calling this week a win!

Rest. Decided I needed one more rest day from my 50k on Saturday, slept in a bit, and didn't feel the least bit guilty.

4 miles, 9:51 avg pace. This was my first run since Cool so it was more of a recovery run to stretch my legs and see how I felt. I was a little slower than usual but otherwise felt pretty good. Still amazed how much less sore I felt after this than all my marathons... I had perfect timing on this run and just missed the rain : )

10.2 miles, 9:05 avg pace. Had a later start for work so I took advantage and squeezed in another medium-long run to work. Wasn't sure how double digits would feel after Cool but it ended up being a great run. I ended up with a negative split and had a few sub-9 miles, too. Finished at my usual Peet's, got my coffee and snack, and just barely got ready in time to start work. I love when a good run sets the tone for the rest of the day.


4 miles, 9:08 avg pace. Had the day off from work so I postponed my run til later in the afternoon. It rained all day so when I finally headed out I was rocking my polka dotted Nike raincoat : ) Ironically though, I barely was rained on at all! I took my pup along for the run and decided to switch up my route for once and ran a 2 mile out-and-back on the main street in my neighborhood. It was amusing to see all the looks I got from people driving by in their cars, probably thinking I was crazy to be out running in that kind of weather! I tried to keep the run easy and didn't feel like I was pushing it very much, so I was continually surprised to see my pace in the low 9s every time I'd look.

22 miles, 14:12 avg pace. A local trail runner was kind enough to host an unofficial AR 50 training run and I jumped at the chance to participate. Since the first half is on the paved bike trail which I've covered either by foot or bike, I'm quite familiar with it and know what to expect for the most part. The second half, on the other hand, is entirely on trails that I'd never run before this weekend. Despite the heavy rain, persistent storm, and resulting flooding, a handful of runners showed up. There were two options, either 31 miles or 22 miles. I opted for the latter, having just run 31 miles a week earlier, and met up with fellow runner Mary at Beals Point in Folsom. The start was very informal and everyone just sort of took off whenever they were ready. The first couple miles were on paved roads and wide trails before turning into single track. It almost looked like we might luck out with the weather, and it did hold off for a couple hours, but eventually the clouds and rain took over. I stuck with Mary for a bit early on and was grateful for the company but my pace is a bit faster so eventually I went on ahead.
along Folsom Lake, looking like it might be a nice day...

Thankfully the trail was marked very clearly and I managed to make it the entire way without taking one wrong turn! I was quite proud of myself for that. The trail itself, however, was an absolute mess. We've had a near deluge of rain this past week up in Northern California, resulting in overflowing rivers and lakes and messy trails. I'm not just talking about mud, but entire sections that were flooded. At least every few miles (and usually more often than that) I found myself ankle deep in water. But of course, there was plenty of mud, too. The first 15 or so miles of the route took us along Folsom Lake with some great views over the water, despite the ugly weather. The rain did hold off for the first couple hours, but then it made an appearance along with some gusty winds that made thing that much more fun : /
 Folsom Lake
the sky getting darker...

The first 10k or so were along some pretty rocky single track that had us going up and down constantly. The hills weren't long or even super steep, but they were technical, and the constant starting and stopping was really frustrating. I just wanted a runnable section so I could get into a rhythm. Needless to say this first part was a bit slow-going. There were only a handful of runners out there and I kept leap frogging the same guy for a while. Then I caught up to a couple women who'd also run Cool and stuck with them until just before the first aid station at mile 11. It was nice to have the company and just "follow some feet". It got me out of my head and made the miles go by a little faster. The aid station  at Horseshoe Bar was manned by some amazing folks that gave up their morning to sit out in that awful weather just so we could have the chance to run the course. I made sure to give them a big thank-you before moving on.
the start of the rocky section
a small sign of spring amidst the storm

I was alone for almost the entire second half of the run, which ended up being both a good thing and a bad thing. I got a bit of a second wind after the aid station and there were also a lot more runnable sections which made things go by a bit faster. On the other hand, it started to rain and I was quickly soaked, but on the bright side, as long as I kept moving I was never really cold. I encountered the worst of the water on this half, some sections actually looking more like a pond than a trail. Around miles 15 (I think) we crossed over a bridge near a power plant and on the other end, beneath some bluffs, there was a sign warning about mountain lions. Several years ago a female runner was attacked and killed by a mountain lion in Auburn, and it was believed that it lept down from a ledge overlooking the trail. Recalling this and seeing these bluffs, I quickly became aware of just how alone I was (couldn't see any runners in front or behind me), I totally psyched myself out. I spent the next 5 miles with one eye scanning the area for potential mountain lions waiting to strike and my heart rate much higher than it should've been. At one point I bent over to stretch only to jerk upright a second later, remembering that mountain lions tend to attack people who look small or weak. Looking back I know how unlikely it all was, but my mind was not functioning properly after 3 hours of running on new trails, in a storm, by myself.
this happened quite a bit

I eventually caught up with a couple runners and was looking forward to having some company, only to find myself passing them pretty quickly and never saw them again. At this point in the run, I was focused on one thing only: getting to mile 19, which would also be the start of the infamous 3 mile long hill known affectionately as Last Gasp. I was a little nervous since this would be my first time on Last Gasp and I didn't know what to expect. I'd sort of built it up in my head and all I could think about was that 3 miles was an awful long time to be going uphill and how long it would take since I'd probably have to hike the damn thing. I finally emerged from the single track and made it to the base of the hill.

The first half mile, of course, was ridiculously steep and had my cursing out loud to no one in particular since, once again, I found myself alone facing this beast. I somehow made it up the first mile, and even managed a couple short bursts of running when the incline lessened up a bit. Still, that mile was clocked at 17+ minutes. Things actually got better as I continued to climb, and I actually ran more than a half mile of the next mile. I felt surprisingly good, even though the rain had really picked up again. One bonus of the climb were the views overlooking the American River Canyon, including a huge, gushing waterfall crashing down the opposite canyon wall. That next mile came in at a much more reasonable 12:22. I managed to run a few sections of the final mile which eventually emerged at the Auburn Overlook. Finished that one in 12:42. I was glad to have conquered Last Gasp and it was good to know that the incline gets a bit more gradual as you go up. But then again, come race day I won't be starting it at mile 19, it'll be 47...that could be another story.
waterfall across from Last Gasp

I ran a loop around the parking lot til my watch beeped 22 (a total of 5 hours, 12 minutes) then I grabbed some potato chips and chocolate milk at the final aid station. Once I stopped moving I got cold pretty quickly, though, so I didn't hang out for too long. Mary was already there, which confused me for a sec since she never passed me, but come to find out she had to stop early on due to a bad calf cramp. She still met me at the Overlook and drove me back to my car at Beals. Such a nice friend! I felt pretty good after, if not a little tired (more so as the day wore on) but during the run my hips really gave me problems. Strangely, though, they felt better when I was running than when I walked, so that was good motivation to keep moving. I wished I'd brought some ibuprofen to take since it worked so great at Cool, but instead I've got another appointment with my PT this week. I'm glad I got to preview the course, but I don't plan on running those trails again until race day. I don't want to be too familiar with the course and know what's coming. And hopefully they'll seem like totally different trails without all the mud and water : )

Rest. Had tentative plans to run with Diane this morning but she opted out. I woke up to more stormy weather and decided I'd had enough the day before so I decided to take an extra rest day and give my body a break.

Total: 40.2 miles


  1. Sound like you training is going well...good job at wtc. American River is a great race, have fun ou there!

  2. That's a really strong week for the week after your first 50k! I think you are definitely ready for 50. :)

  3. Hmm, tried to post yesterday but I guess I didn't submit. The short of it was, you are not alone in your obsessive thoughts about mountain lions while alone on isolated trail stretches (esp. around Lake Natoma in the eve. for me). However statistically insignificant, it can happen, it has happened, & I can't get it outta my head. It's best to be safe & be aware.

    I liken it to swimming in the ocean. I know shark attacks are exremely statistically rare, just try not to think of it next time you're swimming alone out there. :)

    Great pics of the trails around and above Folsom. Looks like a beautiful trail run & I will definitely check them out!