My alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning and I know those of you taking the shuttle to the start most likely got up earlier. But I am not a morning person. I am not complaining, just stating a glaring fact. So I was only half awake when my husband dropped me off at the start at around 4:45 a.m. Why so early when my race starts at 6:15 a.m. you ask? Well, they close the road into Brown’s Ravine at 5:00 a.m., and don’t open it back up until 6:30 a.m. Most people get dropped off or take the shuttle bus to the start. It was very dark and cold as I walked around the parking lot trying to stay warm and squinting in the dark to recognize the people who were milling about. I did manage to find my friend Diana and we went to huddle together on the curb since I didn’t want to be on my feet for an hour before the race. At this point I sent out a desperate Facebook plea to anyone who had a car at the start. Minutes later, our friend Sonia came out and found us shivering on the curb and took us back to her warm car that her husband was manning. We left the car once to take a porta potty break, but pretty much stayed in the car until close to the start of the race.
I started off the race running with Diana and Sonia. We went up the road out of Brown’s Ravine and then turned right onto a single track trail. After about a mile and a half, I started getting warm and decided to take off my light jacket and arm warmers. Thankfully, I didn’t need to start with a head lamp since it was light enough tat 6:15 to see where we were going. I had to walk as I was putting my jacket and warmers in my pack and lost Diana and Sonia in the process. However, I met Latisha at this time. Latisha flew in with her family from North Carolina on vacation and was also running her first 50 miler. She was running around my pace so we ended up running together. Obviously, she didn’t have any crew, pacers or race support so I told her to stick with me since I had an awesome crew who would help her out too. Our first aid station was Folsom Point at mile 4.97. I spotted Diana at the restroom there waiting for Sonia. This was a Fleet Feet Folsom aid station so I knew a lot of the people working it, including two of my crew members, Leah Cox and Nicole Simone who had her GoPro recording. I gave Leah my jacket and warmers, high fived Kirk and Sam and scooted out of the station not needing to grab any food or drink at this time. I didn’t see Latisha and thought she was in front of me, so I ran a little faster to try and find her. As I started walking up a hill , I heard her call out to me from behind. We were now back together again. I had my Garmin set to buzz every 45 minutes to eat and I started taking a salt pill at the top of the hour starting at 3 hours. And of course I ate in between at the aid stations to supplement.
From here we jumped on the road down Folsom Lake Crossing and went across the bridge by the dam. I also met up with Diana and Sonia at this point along with another running friend, Mai. Once crossing the bridge, we turned and made our way down onto the parkway towards Folsom. The early miles passed quickly. I chatted with Latisha about the area and where she was off to after the race. We saw my husband Dirk and Nicole by the foot bridge going into Folsom. Nicole was also holding a placard with my face on it. Very cute. Dirk was taking pictures of us and Nicole was still recording with the GoPro. We started making our way around Lake Natoma heading towards our 2nd aid station at Willow Creek, which was mile 12.77. This was the Buffalo chips aid station and my friend Waiman was working there. It was great to see her and say hi. It is also a no crew access aid station, so I made sure to eat a few things, drink some Nuun and grab some GU for the road. Diana and Mai took off ahead and I did not want to catch them. They were going a little faster than I wanted to and I promised Dirk I would not get to Beal’s before 11:00. Plus, I remember John lecturing us not to do the first half too fast, so I tried to keep it slow. This is also where I first spotted Amy Delaney. She was all over the race, so I got to see her multiple times. She was like a little gnome that would jump out of the bush to say hi and take your picture. I so appreciated that. Again, it’s always nice to see a familiar face, plus she got a couple of really good shots of me. Now we took off towards the Aquatic Center.
After going through the Aquatic Center, we crossed the Hazel bridge and made our way onto the bluffs. It felt great to be back on the trail again. Being up on the bluffs provided us with an awesome view of Lake Natoma. We followed that trail and finally came down on the trail that runs parallel to the parkway, which eventually led us to our next aid station at Main Bar. This is also a no crew access aid station that lies at mile 16.98 of the race. It was very small, but a much welcome sight. Again, I ate some of the food and also made sure to drink some NUUN. However, I also decided to try some coke since it was so appealing. I should have known better from Way too Cool, but I couldn’t stop myself. We soon took off down the road that led us through the horse stables where volunteers made sure we jumped back on the trail and back on course to Negro Bar. This was a nice part of the trail and it dumped us out on the parkway right before Negro Bar. Negro Bar is a FTR aid station, so I knew I would see a lot of people there, which helped my energy level. It is at mile 20.18 of the race. I said hi to Tony who was on his crutches cheering people on coming into the aid station. He was supposed to be running this race, but was obviously dealing with a knee injury. I my saw my crew of Leah & Nicole offering me the different foods I had them pack for me. I choked down a couple of Tums since the soda I had earlier was coming back to haunt me now. My hydration pack would get me to Beals so I didn’t have them fill it. I also saw Pamela Lim who was working the aid station and got to say hi. ow it was time to head to Beals which is sort of the halfway point.
Beals is mostly uphill from here. It is a long and slow incline along the parkway. And here is my rant about about the bicyclists. AR50 is a big race. It is the 2nd largest 50 miler in the United States. There have been signs out on the parkway about the upcoming race. If you are a regular cyclist in this area, then you know that this race is happening. As we are making our way uphill to Beals, this cyclist yells at us from behind to get out of his way. he was being pretty obnoxious so at this point I was getting hot and I was certainly tired. So I yelled back that we were in a race and we were not moving out of his way. And I did not move. He yelled something else obnoxious as he was going by, which I tried to ignore although I was pretty riled up about it. There seemed to be more bicyclists out on the course this weekend than I have seen in a long time. There were some nice ones too that said encouraging words, but those rude ones really got me going. Later, as I was reading another friends race recap, she witnessed a bicyclist get off his bike and confront a racer. I am glad I did not witness that.
I told Latisha that she will like Beals. It is a large aid station with a mat you have to cross so they can catch your time. It is at mile 24.31 of the race. We arrived at Beals at 10:57, so a little under my projected time of 11:00. We climbed into Beals and found Leah at the top of the hill waiting for us. She took our hydration packs to have them refilled and we made our way down to where our crew had chairs waiting for us. I hugged my daughter Claire who instantly recoiled as she realized how wet and sweaty I was. I had assorted food laid out in front of me to eat. I ate one thing and took a few more to put in my pack. I think Latisha was amazed at the support that was provided us. I had an awesome pit crew and felt well loved. I decided to take an Imodium since my stomach was still bothering me. This is also where I got to pick up my first pacer, Melissa Stephens. Melissa is very entertaining and always has colorful stories to tell. As we started out of Beals, we made a pit stop at the bathrooms with no luck, then headed out again. We ran along the levee until we hit the single track trail again. Here, Melissa talked quite a bit, which was nice. I remember getting on the subject of bald , hairy men and seeing that Jody Braninburg was laughing at our conversation. Melissa scolded me when I started to walk, and mouthed off to her when she was telling me I needed to run. At one point, I tripped and fell to my knees. However, it was a minor soft fall and I did not injure myself. It was only worthy of half a point. We eventually came into the Granite Bay aid station at mile 29.45. Out crew enveloped us and grabbed our packs to fill them up. I ate some more at the aid station and picked up my next pacer Krissy Atkinson.
Latisha was still with me as well. this next stretch proved to be a challenge. it was going to be 9 miles until the next aid station since there was no trail access in between. It was also getting very warm by this point. Krissy ran ahead and pointed out all of the exposed rocks and roots on the trail. She told runners in front of us that we would be passing and would sometimes just run ahead and wait for us if we started walking. I always had to walk as I ate, so I would make sure to yell at her when I started walking to eat so she wouldn’t get too far ahead. I was already hot and tired when we hit the meatgrinder. It was a very tough section that was rocky, hilly and exposed. Especially since we were hitting it at around mile 35 in the middle of the heat. I was having a tough time and fueled some more and made sure to drink my pickle juice. I also took an an extra salt pill, but still felt like I was bonking. I ran of of water a mile before the aid station. I was not feeling especially well as we climbed the hill into the next aid station at Horseshoe Bar which was mile 38.14. Thankfully, if was staffed by my Trail Mix group and boy did they take care of me. I was way overheated and feeling rough when Brad grabbed me to give me a hooker shower. He dumped the sponge in the bucket of ice water and released it down my back. The he repeated that over several parts of my body so that I was soaking wet. Deanne had grabbed my pack to refill it while I was cooling down. I wandered over to the table where Nancy and Gabe were working and managed to eat a few things. I grabbed a couple of GUs and put them in my pocket for later. Then John came over to me with a cup of ice and said he was putting it in my sports bra. Man, that ice felt so good. I stayed the longest in this aid station, but I felt I needed to. I was overheated and bonking and needed the extra time to recover a bit. We finally hit the trail again on our way to Rattlesnake Bar. I was soaking wet, which felt great but would haunt me later when I hit the shower.
Rattlesnake is a great aid station to come in to. It’s pretty big and there are a lot of people there. It is at mile 40.94 of the course. I didn’t stay a long time, but long enough to get what I needed and say high to some more friends who were hanging out. I also picked up my final pacer Dana Katz. We took off and Dana proved to be a hard ass out there, which is what I kind of needed. She made me run when I needed to, warned me about any protruding rocks or roots and scolded me when I walked and it wasn’t a hill. She also carried every kind of pharmaceutical drug i might need out there. However, I felt my body start to break down at this point. A few times I had to slow down because I was feeling light headed. I was excited when we came into the Dowdin’s Post aid station at mile 43.92. I ate a few things and was thrilled when Bob Dierks came out and gave me a hug. We almost missed the chicken broth and grabbed cups to drink as we walked out along the trail. That chicken broth really hit the spot. We powered on and met up with some more running friends. Dana was passing on her drugs to other runners who were in rough shape along the course. Martin Sengo benefited from some Ibuprofen that she handed to him. We started going up a hill and I was having a really hard time catching my breath and started hyperventilating. I had to use my inhaler at the top and take a break before powering on again. We finally reached the Last Gasp aid station at mile 47.00. My stomach was feeling better so I decided to drink some Sprite because it sounded and tasted so good. I don’t care if my stomach doesn’t like it, I can put up with it for 3 miles.
The last 3 miles of this race are uphill. We started to power walk to get to the end. There were a few places that flattened out where I could run a little. But honestly, I was pretty much mentally and physically done. My body was not cooperating with me and I couldn’t wait to finish. We came upon the 3 mile sign, then 2 miles and lastly the one mile sign. As I got closer, Dirk came down and also walk/ran with me. I could hear the finish line at this point, but we were still going uphill and it seemed so far. As I finally reached the top of the hill and turned the corner, Claire was there waiting for me and ran with me to the finish line. I saw so many friends lining the way to the finish cheering me on that I fed off of their energy, which propelled me to the finish. I told people that I would complete it in abut 12 hours. I did it in 12 hours and 4 minutes. I’m sure I could have completed it faster if it wasn’t so hot and I didn’t completely melt down, but I am happy with my race. I waited at the finish for Latisha to come over. I left her somewhere as we were going up the final three miles, but wanted to see her cross the finish line.
I felt so much emotion finishing this race. I am continually amazed at what your body can do when you keep on pushing it until you think you have nothing left. This race was not only physically challenging, but quite mentally challenging as well. It was a great way to usher in my 50th year!
I also felt blessed at seeing so many people along the course cheering for me. It really lifted my spirits and gave me energy when I needed it. Since I fell twice during one of the the three training runs prior to AR50, here is my current scorecard: Trails 8.5 Runner 8
Next up: Dirty Secret Trail Run.