Since the Lake Sonoma 50 was my 17th shot at the half-century distance, you'd figure I'd have it all down-- training, tapering, pacing, hydration, nutrition. Finishing? No problem. Even 6 days after my last ultra.
Hee hee hee....
The drive from my brother's to the lake early morning Saturday, March 28th, takes about 70 minutes. The last 13 miles off Route 101 winds through beautiful wine country, though it's too dark to see anything.
Chau Pham checking in, John Medinger, Lisa Henson, ?, run100s.com Stan Jensen
After check-in and a trot to the bushes when it's apparent the wait to the double Port-a-lets is longer than the 10 minutes until the start, I'm ready. No water to put in my bottle, but since I drank a bottle on the drive and it's still chilly, I figure I'll be okay running dry until the first aid station.
As always, Jady Palko darts off way ahead of everyone, and maybe 1 or 2 others behind him. I intentionally try to keep up with Ron Gutierrez, whom I haven't seen since Stevens Creek 50K last September, when shin splints (I think) prevented him from finishing. Ron ran the inaugural Lake Sonoma last year when it hit over 90 degrees, but with only one bottle he was forced to drop on the return. He pushes the pace, running with the determined intensity of having a score to settle, and soon enough I can't keep up with him, despite running faster than I think I should be. Too fast for 6 days after a 50k, and too fast for the terrain that is mildly technical while the lighting still dim. Around this time, eventually winner Jon Olsen passes me, obviously better able to control his pace at the start than I.
Jon Olsen, new course record holder
I soon realize that this race is a great complement to the Diablo Trail 50K (actually 54K) I ran 6 days ago. Where Diablo has lots of expansive views over ridges, Lake Sonoma involves weaving in and out of forest, on more technical single-track, with changing views of the same lake.
After the first stream crossing, I see two very fat downed trees above with 3 ribbons tied onto them. I climb over them, banging the front of my left ankle, which I soon realize produces the same effect as mildly straining it-- it's tight the rest of the race. Over the logs, the trail heads both left and right, and I hesitate. The guy right behind me says "it must be this way," heading right. Only 45 miles later on the return to do I realize that the trail to the left was simply the trail winding around the downed trees, and that my clamber was a waste of time, energy and ankle comfort.
The first aid station, Island View (mile 4.7), is accessible to volunteers by boat, and to runners via a quarter mile detour off the main trail. Because I carried an empty bottle from the start and the next aid is 7.3 miles, I down two cupfuls of Gu2O and a Gu gel, in addition to stasing a gel in each pocket and getting my bottle filled.
Heading out, it seems the many heading into the aid station behind me are closer than I'd thought, perhaps compelling me to push the pace a little. Two guys stick close behind me for the next few miles. One tells me "Thanks for doing all the work...you're setting a great pace!"
Great pace or not, I balance my mild left ankle pain by inverting my right ankle on some uneven surface hidden by leaves. I limp only briefly, figure I'm okay for this race, but decide that I should take it down a notch, lest it cause problems in the upcoming weeks.
One of the guys drops back, and I start chatting with the other, a newbie defector from road to trail running, Nathan Yanko.
photo by Steve Patt, 2008 race
Soon after is the long awaited Rancheria Creek aid station (mile 12.1), named after the creek. Not long after we encounter another creek, but without any hesitation, just run right through it.
The Liberty Glen aid station (miles 20.2 and 29.8), like the Rockpile Road halfway turnaround aid station, is atop a large hill.
Near the lake at the 22 mile trough, I see 2 guys in military fatigues carrying crossbows, which is slightly disconcerting....
Jady Palko finishing just under 9 hours and 10th overall
Although I think that maybe I can catch the guys in places 2nd through 4th, I'm pretty happy with how I'm running. I figure that seeing how close everyone is behind them, they are going to hammer it down the hills. Thirteen days before a 150 mile race, I figure I should give my knees a break.
me coming down one of the hills after the turnaround, photo by Anil Rao
Apparently those guys ahead of me feel good enough to pick up the pace, since I don't see them ahead of me, even when climbing bigger hills. With no runner to reel in, I decide to relax a bit, listen to my body, and make sure I end this race able to recover in 13 days for my next one, 3 times longer.
As I turn a corner and suddenly hear a sudden loud noise-- mountain lion?!-- it turns out to be two mountain bikers, but I'm still alarmed and have to veer out of the way. Other than this incident, I do a good job relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
photo of the far side of the lake by Steve Patt, 2008 race
The views indeed are great. Although it's warming up, it's not unbearably hot, and I help stay cool by soaking my sleeves with the sponge bucket water at the aid stations.
RD John Medinger had given me bib #41, I am guessing because I am 41 years old. My 42nd birthday is in a few days. So perhaps it is only fitting that in the transition from mile 41 to 42 that I get into big trouble. Within the span of a minute, my tank empties, I am unable to run, then I get lightheaded and almost pass out. Happy birthday!
No one does until I'm at the last aid station (mile 45.3), which comes none too soon. Joe Palubewski comes shortly after me, then leave, telling me I will probably catch up with him. "No I won't," I tell him, but he's gone before I can explain.
Joe Palubewski (5th) & Ron Gutierrez (4th)
Screw 5th place. I'm hungry. I am SO not leaving anytime soon.
For those unfamiliar with Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is a pretty good children's book, aside from the unforgiveably huge biological inaccuracy of saying a caterpillar turns in a cocoon before emerging as a beautiful butterfly (only moth caterpillars turn into cocoons; butterfly caterpillar change into chriysalides), the protagonist, after a gradual increase in his intake from Monday to Friday, goes on this feeding frenzy on Saturday, eating through about 12 food items, mostly high calorie stuff like a sausage, a pie, and piece of chocolate cake.
Well, like him, I basically go all-out at the aid station, eating about 4 of the little PB & jelly sandwiches, a handful of pretzels, 4 pieces of watermelon, and washed down with 2 bottlefuls of Gu2O-- a lot for the last aid station of a 50 mile race. I would never recommend this to anyone, but I as I do not want to tank again in the 4.7 miles to the finish, I can't control myself. I do all this in about 5 minutes (my average aid station stay is under a minute). I grab a huge handful of pretzels and energy chews, wrap them in a napkin, and stick them in my largest back pocket. It's ridiculously bulky, but since I'm so full and bloated from my feeding frenzy, I figure I can manage. As I head out, I continue to work on the stash, popping 2-3 gels and pretzels each at a time every 5 minutes, the whole way back.
Amazingly, no one else catches up with me during another positive split. (For the 7.4 mile stretch, it took me 98 minutes on the return versus 64 minutes on the outbound; for the final 4.7 mile stretch, 68 minutes return versus 40 minutes out.) I am prepared to sprint if someone starts approaching from behind, but having endured enough exhaustion, I figure I'm allowed to be relatively a little lazy.
Heck, I'm just happy to finish, and to learn that I can still screw up my nutrition on 50-mile run #17. I actually don't think I've hit the calorie wall nearly that bad during an ultra (prior catastrophes due to low sodium). And I'm still wondering, does having just raced 34-35 kilometers 6 days earlier have something to do with it or not? Questions, mysteries..... Ultrarunning rocks!
As it turns out, I came pretty close to being chicked, as talented local Suzanna Bon finishes less than 2 minutes after me.
Suzanna Bon, female winner, 7th overall, and race volunteer organizer, with wine bottle prize
Nathan Yanko ended up passing all the 40-something runners, coming in 2nd place. I told him too bad no rookie award. I don't feel too sorry for him, though, because he'll have a nice collection of overall and age-group awards in a few years.
Georgeanna Quarles with finisher's jacket
The post-race food hits the spot and is equally first-rate. Two varieties of freshly made tamales by a local vendor.
Last time I photographed these 2, Darla (nee Brader) (2nd place woman, 13th overall) and Chris Askew (21st overall) I was past ready to go to bed....in the cramped backseat of my sister-in-law's Jetta after last year's Kettle Moraine 100 mile.
Gratitude to him also for letting me borrow his Prius-- I got over 60 miles per gallon on the drive back. Thanks, George!
Other blogged reports:
Jon Olsen (overall winner and new course record holder)
Kelly Ridgway (3rd place woman)
finisher Anil Rao's photo gallery
results with splits
Garmin Forerunner recorded map on Motion Based website
1st published Friday, April 9, 2009 at 3:30 p.m., Central Time, 21.5 hours before the start of my next race.