It seems like it was so long ago, but the Saturday before the Boston Marathon, I ran and finished my second 50 mile ultra in Northern California at the Lake Sonoma 50. I ran with a good friend, Chris. We also ran the NFEC 50 last December together and knew I would be in good company. I was attempting to qualify for the Western States 100, which would require a sub 11-hour finish. It was a “UNRELENTING” course with 10,500′ elevation gain (and an equal amount of loss).
This is how it went:
About as unofficial as it can get, we gathered at the start, the RD said a few words and the crowd just ran. I don’t even think I heard a “Go!”
We started off at a comfortable pace and the energy was obviously high, as is typical at most races. Somewhere around mile 8, I started to feel like my foot was at the beginning stages of developing a blister on my left forefoot, in the metatarsal region. NOT GOOD with 40 miles to go.
I had a drop bag at the mile 12 (and 38) aid station with a pair of road shoes. I had a decision to make: switch to road shoes or stick with my trail shoes? Either way, it would be one I would have to commit to. I noticed that my foot seemed to be slipping on the downhill, so I decided to stick with the trail shoes, tighten the laces and hope.
A few miles in and I noticed a difference. My foot was more stable and it didn’t seem to be getting worse. So far, so good, but not even close to be done with this adventure.
The course was absolutely beautiful. It took us up to see gorgeous views and down to run through and over river crossings. Spirits were still high.
We hit the halfway point a little over 5 hours, putting us on perfect pace. We both felt good even though it was starting to get warm. We stayed hydrated and dumped water on our heads/hats to stay cool. The course was an out and back around the lake, so it was just a matter of returning to the start.
Around mile 35, I could see that we were slowing down. We were still moving close to pace, but the energy was dropping.
As we reached the mile 38 aid station, we felt like we were toast. It was great to see wifey again (she was also at 25) and it was nice to know we only had 12 miles to go. Sounds crazy, but it’s the little things.
Blister update: I was still moving pretty good. Downhill was tough. I could tell it was getting bigger/worse, but it was doing far better than I anticipated. Onward we go.
Around mile 44, I knew sub-11 wasn’t going to happen. We had hit a wall and just wanted to lean against it and rest for a minute. Like training had taught us, just keep moving forward any way you can. We had trained on tired legs, so we knew how to fight through it.
LONGEST MILE EVER! We crossed a sign that said “1 mile to go” and it just lasted FOREVER. Even the lady we caught up with was curious as to how long this mile would go on for.
We started together, we finished together.
11 hours 39 minutes 57 seconds
It was a 25-minute PR from my December 50 miler (actually a 47+ mile course due to weather), so I was feeling pretty good about the improvement on a further course.
- 50 milers are hard, respect the distance.
- I have a lot to learn about running them. This race reminded me of my first couple marathons where you learn through experience.
- Blisters at mile 9 are terrible. Finishing 40 miles later makes you forget about it. Walking the next day reminds you.
- Around mile 30, I told Chris that 50 miles seemed like enough. My desire to run 100 miles was getting smaller with each mile. But I still wanted to come in sub-11, I wanted the choice to be mine. (Update: I may feel different later, but I see myself staying in the 26.2-50 mile range.)
- Having family and friends at the finish line is a remarkable and wonderful thing. This would take much greater meaning 2 days later at Boston.
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What is the farthest distance you have run?
Ever think of going further?