Wha' whaaaaa'! It is officially Friday, and I am one happy camper because that means no class today :) This week, it also means that it's five days post-Rio Del Lago 100 and I'm chomping at the bit to get back running! Always a sign of a great race.
So, yea, the race was a resounding success once again for the House of Dunmore. The hugely improved Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run gets highest marks in my book. RD Julie Fingar, et al. took an historic race that floundered in recent years due to poor direction and organization (sorry, but it's true) and have made it into a seriously classy event. Bravo! The organization, the volunteers, the amenities, the course, the volunteers, the food, the volunteers, the food…everything was thought of and everything was so well done. It was a small race, only 112 runners, but you would have thought that this was the Grand Prix of running with the way it was executed. Aid stations never left you wanting for more, and we didn't even need to travel with Gu because the stations were completely stocked with it (Gu Roctane, too, which is high class!). And great swag on top of everything! Of course, the entry fee does make your heart skip a beat at first, but in retrospect it was totally worth it.
I had such a great time with all-star crew Uncle Steve and Gretchen when I ran back in 2010 so we got the band back together! Reunion concerts usually fall flat and leave you wishing you had spent your time a little more wisely, but this reunion trumped the original by a landslide. Uncle Steve and Gretchen were amazing and we couldn't have had better folks out there greeting us at each aid station, ready to attend to whatever it was we needed or wanted, and with smiles and laughs. Gretchen even gave us a few Rockette-worthy high kicks a couple of times!
The night before, we congregated at Yardhouse in Roseville to talk shop, but mostly to just catch up and enjoy amazing food and libations. Geof's beautiful Cousin Deborah joined us, too!
"We're getting' the band back together, man!"
Okay, so to the stuff you are actually "reading" this for :)
Race morning, all fresh and ready to go for a little run in the woods
Geof and I were eager to get a 100 mile race in before the year ended and RDL fit in perfect with everything else going on, so we made the leap and agreed to run it together. School has been…ummmm, insane…this semester so while training started out really great (speed work, specificity, loooong runs, back-to-backs), it began to flounder a touch near the end (as in, a three-week taper) on account of my classwork drowning me, and Geof taking on a nasty head/chest cold. My legs haven't been the same since school started on account of stress and less sleep (I'm assuming) so I didn't have really high hopes for this event, but we did set an early goal of 22:30. After three weeks of tapering, we decided to scale back our expectations a tad, and aim for sub-24 as an 'A' goal, sub-25 as a 'B' goal, and not dying as a 'C' goal.
Thankfully, we met a "B 2.0" goal :)
The race began with great fanfare at the start/finish at Beal's Point and we were sent off into the night across the levies spanning Folsom Lake (which was disturbingly almost totally empty). The course changed a bit from the last time I ran so I wasn't sure what to expect, other than it being almost completely trail (which is a very good change). As the sun began to peak up we wiggled our way around the 'shore' of the American River (also disturbingly low/non-existant in many places).
Rule #1 in ultrarunning: Never trust the person in front of you. We blindly followed the runner in front of us, assuming the orange arrows were guiding us along the right trail. They were not. We found ourselves in the middle of a riverbed (which was empty, don't worry), orange arrows having petered off. A large group of fast dudes were making their way towards us, pissed. Oh, crap, we went off trail. But the arrows were pointing in that direction! We blindly, again, began to follow the fasties as they bushwhacked across the riverbed, arguing about ways to get back up the bluff to the trail. It didn't feel good, and after some time we decided to cut our losses and bushwhack back down to the riverbed and retrace our steps to where we went off-trail in the first place. Thankfully, it worked out and we found where we went astray. The arrows were apparently leftovers from a previous race. Doh! Oh well. We probably lost 15-20 minutes, and some steam, but whatever. Better then than later in the race! And at least it was light out.
The first couple of aid stations came and went and we just kept on moving forward. After an hour or so we made up all the ground we had lost, having caught back up to and then passing everyone we had been running with before getting off trail, so that was reassuring.
After Dowdin's Post 1, Geof flying down the trail alongside the American River. What a stud!
The legs and body were feeling great and I was in one of the best moods. Geof was struggling to fully embrace the day, but he pulled us along well, and when I stepped ahead of him, he stuck right with me.
I tell you what, even when he's not feeling all that great mentally he still runs really well. I'm always impressed with his ability to almost separate the two and not let his mind muddy things.
Now, I'll take a moment here to talk about my head. Since we were running together, I needed to let go of my competitive goals. That sounds bad, but what I mean is that competition was not what I was there for. I was there to run with my husband and just enjoy the day, no matter what it brought us. It was hard to switch gears like that. Geof is a super relaxed guy, so I was doing my best to follow suit and just let things be. And I did. I was enjoying the heck out of myself! No pressure, no concern, just running with my husband. Running within my training, running within myself, and running relaxed and carefree. This did wonders for my head, and the first ~75 miles went by rather dreamily.
Running across No Hands Bridge 1. Love this shot.
The day was starting to warm up, but with 75 as the high, we weren't worried about heat being an issue at all. The sun was out, not a cloud in sight, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day (and it was!). At Cool Fire Station, we joined the Olmstead Loop for two rounds, running counterclockwise and then clockwise. This gave me a chance to see what was happening up in front. And showed me where I stood in the women's field. I was in third. Well, that's cool and all (ha, no pun intended), but not important. So I shelved that knowledge, put my head down, and just ran. Olmstead wasn't as bad as I remembered it. Though the course marking was severely confusing at first (a LOT of people were running the wrong way, running short, or too long) but we managed to make sense of it by trusting our gut and not following anyone in front of us :) Gretchen and Jamie F. decided to do a little jog before we made it back to the aid station and they caught up to us midway through the first loop. It was fun to chat with them and catch up some more! I was starting to feel a little tired and warm, so we took ample walk breaks on our way back to Cool, where we restocked, stuffed ice in my running bra, and then headed back out for our second loop in the opposite direction.
Another thought. This course is insanely runnable. So it was really hard to walk. We had to force ourselves into walk breaks so that we didn't overdo it too much. Note to self: this would be an excellent race to race :)
We got passed by a gal as we were in the final mile of the second Cool loop and she was out of sight before we knew it. Okay, now I'm in fourth :) But, whatever, not my deal today.
One more stop at No Hands Bridge, and a quick inhaling of cheddar potato chips. We were now over halfway done. Wow, that went fast!
Chip stop at No Hands Bridge
I was sticking to Gu gels and Coca-Cola as fuel for the day and it was working quite well, but those potato chips were heavenly.
We grabbed our headlamps at No Hands Bridge as the sun was starting to go down and we weren't sure how long it would be before we needed light.
American River, on the way back to Auburn Dam Overlook 2
Taking our time running back to Auburn. Photoshoot time!
We made it back to Auburn without needing light, woohoo! But it was definitely only a couple minutes before dark was officially happening. We changed into warmer tops and gloves, ate more chips, cleaned out our socks (the dust was insanity!), and hit the road back towards Maidu and the channel. It was officially nighttime, but only about 5:30 or so I believe. Daylight Savings is a trip.
I don't recall much in this section, other than that I was still feeling like absolute gold and couldn't believe my legs felt so dang fresh. They never got any worse than they were at mile 20 so I have zero complaints on that front. I guess we were better trained than we gave ourselves credit for :)
At Dowdin's Post 2 we fueled up on the most delicious chicken noodle soup I have ever had during a race. I think it was laced with mojo and crack. I wanted to drink the entire pot. Another runner was there with his pacer. "I saw your headlamps getting closer and closer to me, and I was like 'Ugh, they can't catch us!' So we gotta go!" As we exited the aid station well ahead of him, I wanted to apologize for the spanking we were about to issue him. He put up a good fight, though. We didn't see him until the finish, maybe 20-30 minutes after us. Not bad for a first-timer ;)
I should explain the course a bit. The new route heads north from Beal's Point, up to Cool, two laps of the Olmstead Loop, head back to Beal's Point, head back out to Horseshoe Bar, and then finish at Beal's Point. So there are a couple of points where you can see those ahead of you. I liked this…a lot.
What I didn't like was what they affectionately refer to as The Meat Grinder (between Granite Bay Horse Assembly and Horseshoe Bar). It was a total suckfest. No chance to get a rhythm at any point in there. The rocks and undulations and twisty-turny single track was nothing short of anger-inducing. I love a technical trail, but this was just stupid, compounded by the fact that it had to be run four times. By the time we reached Beal's Point at mile 78 I had mentally withered. I seemed to have left my good attitude at the Horse Assembly, four miles back. Now I was letting in the demons. With 22 miles left to go, I wasn't sure how my head was going to make it. My body was just fine, but my mind was playing games. Knowing we would see Steve and Gretchen every five or so miles kept me going. They were a vision each time we rolled into an aid station. Gatorade and chips became the only thing I wanted, but still choked down a Gu each hour, holding my breath as I swallowed so as to avoid tasting them. In retrospect, they were fine, I was just trying to be dramatic in an effort to exhibit my distaste with life at that moment :)
While on the one hand I could not believe that we had been moving for 15, 20, 24 hours, as it felt like time had just flown, I could, on the other hand, recall every single moment. I felt each foot strike, each minute tick by, every Gu I swallowed, every swig of water from my pack, every breeze. It was semi-surreal. But then again, these things always are surreal. Who does this kind of thing?!?
After leaving Horseshoe Bar for the last time, and passing the #4 woman for good finally (we had been back-and-forth with each other for awhile), I began to feel my mood take a turn for the better. Less than 11 miles left. We were going to do this.
Honestly, I am constantly amazed at the human body's ability to do certain things. And I never ever think it's a done deal until it's a done deal. I always feel optimistic and sure of my ability to achieve most things I go after, but I don't let my ego get the better of me. So as the sun began to tickle the horizon while we rolled into Horseshoe Bar for the last time, I handed my headlamp to Gretchen and opted to just use my handheld light for the remainder of the time, and I felt a sudden sense of calm. I could smell the barn, and dang it smelled good. We ran the entire way into Beal's Point, taking in the gorgeous sunrise, reflecting on the day, on the course, on the whole experience, stopping just once to pee in a bush. We made our way across the four levies, the finish line in sight the whole way. Not a soul was ahead of or behind us, and Geof remarked we could slide under 26 hours if we kept running.
So we did. We rounded the final corner and followed the arrows to the finish line arch as our names were announced: 25h:51m:45s Music was playing, a cool breeze was blowing, and the sun had yet to fully show its face. It was absolute perfection. That is one dang good finish line! We had to get weighed and our blood pressure checked one last time (I stayed the same weight start to finish, a new first for me!). A young girl walked up to me with an armful of swag, including a framed photo emblazoned with 3rd Place Female. Whaaaaaat? Third?! I thought I was in fourth! Someone must have fallen asleep at an aid station because we never passed another chick.
Now that was a pretty gosh darn good surprise.
We managed to cover those last ~5 miles quite a bit faster than we had run all day…droppin' it like it's hot. The finish line is a powerful motivator, especially when pigs in a blanket are awaiting your arrival. Yes, they had a full spread for runners and their crew. Made to order pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, mimosas. It was fantastic!!
Speaking of sausage, I had some serious sausage feet going on, which then led to this happening…in public. Toesocks and Birkenstocks were made for each other :)
Obligatory finisher swag shot
What a friggin' great experience! Even with the tough last 25 miles. Every race can't be perfect, but you can do your best to hang on when the going gets a little tougher than you hoped. The best part is knowing that we could definitely shave a few hours or more off our finish time. My legs had a lot of life left in them, and judging by our recovery, we both had a lot left in the tank. We were definitely better trained than we thought :) So we'll be back to this one for sure. It was such a well run event. Everything had been thought of and executed expertly. Bravo, NorCal Ultras, bravo!
A big, huge thank you to Gretchen and Steve for giving us their weekend and being such amazing crew. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
Now it's time to relax and enjoy a weekend free of long runs…we needed this last week off, for sure. But we are ready to get back to running, and SKIING!!!
Here's a fun video recap of the day made by Ultra Sports Live.
P.S. I wore my Brooks Cascadia 8s and Injinji socks the entire day and my feet were awesome afterward. I love those shoes :)