Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lake Sonoma 50 (Long Overdue 1st Race-Recap / Blog Post Nonsense)

I have put off this blogging thing for some time now as I've thought it is silly to vomit my thoughts into the 'cloud' for only a handful of people to stumble upon. I could be wrong though, maybe some peeps out there care what I gotta say! Blogging is a huge trend in trail-running now too so I guess I better get with it. I decided that I will give it a try and start blogging for a few reasons:

1. Race recaps will be very useful for me to look back on and see all the stupid mistakes I made. I have read other people's recaps of a race I am looking into too so maybe it will be useful to others out there.
2. Now that I am out of school I should probably write every now and then to ensure that my IQ does not drop to zero.
3. Share experiences to the few that may be interested.

Most likely I won't put a ton of time into making these posts nice and clean, so ignore my rambling and grammatical disasters. Also sorry it took so long, it takes a long time for me to think back on these races and really grasp what happened. So here it goes...

I originally signed up for LS after The North Face 50 at the end of last year. That was the first competitive long race I had done and I saw what real ultra racing is all about. I learned that it's not just a really long survival run and is an actual race. So I ended up entering the loto for Sonoma based on its past history of being super competitive while still keeping a low-key trail race vibe (TNF upset me in many ways by being the opposite of this, but that's another story). I definitely wanted to make up for mistakes I made at TNF and do as well as I knew I could at Sonoma.

Leading up to Sonoma I did a good amount of racing and training. Some probably think it was too much racing, but I never felt too beat up and love this trail racing thing A LOT. After TNF I took a few down weeks then did Inside Trail Racing's Pacifica Trail 30k (3rd place) in January, Inside Trail Racing's Ordnance 100k (2nd) in February, Way Too Cool (6th) in March (which I won an entry from Sufferfest Beer Company), and then the Inside Trail Racing's Marin Ultra Challenge / La Sportiva Mountain Cup 25k (2nd) a week later. 3 out of 4 of these races I was behind the man himself, David Roche. I met him a few races back and knew he coached a ton of great athletes. He had been trying to get me to drop my mileage and do some workouts for awhile. After getting destroyed by him over and over again I decided to take his advice.

So for the last 4ish weeks leading up to Sonoma I incorporated workouts he was giving me as well as taking in all of the awesome knowledge he had to share. It really has been nice having some guidance and support in my training. I am a very difficult person to coach because of my stubbornness and obsession with running lots o' miles. He has been open and really allows me to make the final calls. It was all very new to me adding workouts. Although there were some flashbacks to college days doing workouts, overall I was still able to enjoy some pure running and always being on trails. My confidence remained high as my average pace for runs drastically dropped from the shuffle I do when pushing 170+.

I had tried to preview the course a few weeks before race day with my amazing gf Jennie. We chose probably the worst possible weekend. Camping in the pouring rain led to inaccessible trails. I got a taste of the course though and saw that the insane rolly elevation profile was no joke. It made me a tad worried as there truly were no major climbs, where I usually am best.

Jennie and I arrived in Healdsburg on Friday evening. My entire family came down for the race, which meant the world to me. It was their first time seeing an ultra so I knew they would have an interesting day! Before din-din I met up with Meghan Hicks of iRunFar for a little interview. It's always great to get some recognition even though it was my first real interview and I am awkward... I guess a lot of runners are though! This did put some pressure on me as I really wanted to live up to the hype. I probably let my nerves affect me too much for this race. Come morning though I felt surprisingly ready. Much better than I did during my first real taper for this race. Perfect weather and springy in the legs. Can't ask for more!

I actually really enjoyed starting on the road for the first 2.5 miles. It allowed me to chill and see everybody who showed up to the start. Mario Mendoza seemed to be the only one ready to rumble as he shot to the front. I instantly thought of Roche at Way Too Cool and moved into second behind Mario. It then became apparent that it was a very sustainable pace and then he dialed back until the chasers and I caught up as we hit the trails. It was a group of about 8 or 9 running single file on some beautiful trails. Within another couple miles there was nobody to be seen behind us. I was the only one to stop at the first aid as I was trying to drink my bottle between each aid. This had me drop to the back of the pack. Ben Koss ran ahead of me along with a Japanese runner who I had heard great things about. Ben let a bit of a gap form between us and the lead group of six. I stayed with him as we were only a few second back. I remained here until about a mile till the mile ~12 aid. I had lost sight of the main pack right before rolling into this aid and once I got there I could see them in the distance already stringing out. I knew someone dropped the hammer. I would later find out that Jim Walmsley was going for it.

I guess we're doing this thing. 
PC: Oscar Mejorada 

I went quick through the aid with the help of my fam and gf. I knew it was race time now as everyone was trying to link back up to that single file. Part of me was extremely upset that I even let a gap form. I could still see Mario and Dylan so I tried to relax and just grind. My greatest weakness was still very apparent as every downhill I would lose time. I hit a bit of a bad patch from around miles 13-18. Usually I hit a bad patch early because of stomach issues, but this was just fatigue in the legs which was very weird. I think it was because of the rollers and taking the legs longer to get into the groove. Finally I got to the only 'real' climbing section before the turn around and things got much better. I was moving very well and knew No Name Flat was close. That is when Jim passed me going the other way. I didn't realize how much he was destroying the course till I finally did get to the aid. He was at least a mile and a half ahead of me when I saw him! Absolutely insane...no way was I gonna pull a miraculous W that was for sure. I continued to move well till No Name Flat and the confidence jumped back as I saw Mario heading out of the aid probably one a minute or so ahead of me.

Rolling into No Name Flat
PC: Todd Williams

I grabbed what I needed from my lovely crew including some tunes and took off. I usually only use music in training and not races but I wanted to really mimic my training at Sonoma. Climbing out of No Name Flat Mario was surprisingly nowhere to be seen. I thought to myself that he must have saw how close I was and took off, so I focused on taking off also. I reeled in Matt Flaherty who looked to be battling a low patch. I knew I was in 5th now and used this to motivate me. After pushing all the way back to Madrone and still not seeing anyone else I became a little discouraged. The next 8 or so miles felt extremely long. I had heard it is the most important section because of the relentless hills catching up to people. It serves as a kind of 'do you really deserve to be in the position you are in' section. Although it was dragging on a lot, I felt as if I was really staying consistent. I only hiked once for about 5 seconds and was working the entire time. Glancing at my watch though it was clear my splits had gone to sh*t. I tried to ignore this and focus on grinding. Once I FINALLY got to Warm Springs aid again and saw my crew I knew it was time to give whatever I had left. I heard that Mario now had 10 minutes on me, but I tried to blow that off. I knew that anything can happen in the last 10 of any ultra.

Hurts so good. Somewhere before mile 38.
PC: Todd Williams

It is funny where the mind goes in that last 10ish miles of an ultra. I love that pain so much and hate it twice as much at the same time. I'm not big on mantras but for some reason I kept repeating a phrase over and over. "Believe, relax, don't make it harder than it needs to be." This seemed to really help me. I am super proud of how I finished this race. I had basically ran alone for the last half of the race only seeing other runners/spectators on the out and back as well as aid stations. After mile 40 I had no clue where the next guy ahead of me or behind me was. I was totally in my own head grunting through the never ending single track. I never really gave up on myself at any point. Even after I thought I broke my toe at mile 44 after slamming it into a fallen down tree. Many curse words were yelled.

Last stretch 
PC: iRunFar

I had run the last 3 miles during my preview run on the course so the adrenaline of being close to the finish allowed me to push it in well. I think I was yelling that entire stretch like a mad man, which I have done the last few races. I think it helps me somehow soak in the intensity of the situation and smile no matter the mistakes I had made the previous hours in the day. I need to learn to tap into that adrenaline earlier before the last section. I ended up finishing in 6:37, only six minutes back on 4th and seven back on 3rd. This was tough to hear cuz that is nothing in a six hour event and I knew I could have been up there. Even though I didn't come for the Golden Ticket it sure would have been nice to get one and the podium had always been the goal. At the same time though I was proud at finishing that last section stronger and making up time as well as running 25 minutes faster than at TNF.

Crossing the finish was awesome. My entire family and gf were there as well as a ton of fans. The Tropical John I had heard a lot about truly did put on a great event. The trails were absolutely awesome for a fast yet challenging 50 miler. The single track all day was just too enjoyable. I will definitely try to make it work so I can come back next year. Thanks to everyone who came out to watch as well as the support from my family and Inside Trail Racing. Thanks for reading too.

Get a beer in me after a race and I'll talk nonsense. Jennie knows...
PC: Todd Williams

Final thoughts:
1. First time I actually ate & drank enough. Plan was finish bottle between aid no matter what and Gu every 30 minutes. Finished bottle almost every time between aid. After hour three I decided I needed more Gu. Ended up going through I think about 16-18 Gu/Chomps.

2. Gear choice was best I have used so far. Finally ditched the handheld and found a belt choice that works. Used Simple Hydration bottle along with the FlipBelt. Got the idea from Eric Schranz at URP and gotta say it worked great...except major chafing/cutting on my back. Didn't notice till afterwards. I'll suffer through that any day for the efficiency.

3. Altra Instincts were great as always. Tried out the new 3.0s. Didn't need much grip for this course so they were just dandy.

4. Never let a gap form. Subconsciously I think I held back thinking I would reel them back in. Stupid. Need to suffer early just to stay in contact. I can handle it.

5. I never made any real conscious moves/surges except for prior and a little after the halfway mark. I do not know why. Maybe because I was alone most of the time.

6. I need to stop being nervous. I haven't been for a long time until Sonoma. I had lots of confidence leading up to this race so there was no reason to get any doubts at all. At least it went away at the start.

7. I continue to improve as well as enjoy myself A LOT and that is all that can really be asked for.

8. I think Jim Walmsley has a real shot at winning Western in his debut 100. He is that good. Also, Tim Freriks made me upset by how much he destroyed me. 6:17 in his first ever ultra?! That ain't even funny. Huge future for that guy.