Race: American River 50 – http://www.ar50mile.com/

Runner: Daisy C

Date: 4/2/2016

Location: CA

Race starts at Brown’s Ravine on Folsom Lake and ends in Auburn at the top of the dam outlook. Fitting.

Results –

This was my first 50 miler and my finish time was 10:56:18. I was nervous about being in the first wave, but it worked to my advantage, because the tighter single track was never crowded and I was able to pass people easily throughout the day. That was a huge confidence builder! If I had been in wave 2 the trails were crowded from reports of other runners. I was able to stay in that awesome place between large packs. Serious bonus!

I went into the race with an “A” race plan to try for 10 hours. Getting a sub-eleven result was awesome. I felt good all day.

3 Bests:

  • Seeing my family at aid stations.
  • The ability to have a pacer at mile 32.
  • The gorgeous single track that winds along the river during the second half of the race. I grew up in the area and it was so nostalgic.

Not so much:

The amount of road/asphalt bike trail you run on during the first third of the race. But since it let me PR my marathon time I won’t complain too much.

The start area gets closed to cars at 5am, so you have to get dropped off before then for a 6am start or catch a bus from the finish at 4am. Logistically it wasn’t a problem for me, because my parents dropped me off. However, if you don’t have that luxury the early arrival can be hard. It was cold and dark, so I walked/jogged around for 45 minutes to keep warm and peeled off my puffy, stuffed it into my last drop bag before the start.

Highlights:

There were so many highlights during this race. First, the fact that I felt good all day was fantastic. I got my groove early on and just stuck with my plan. The weather was nearly perfect. It warmed up considerably, but the aid station staff were quick to cool you down and load you with ice. Ice in the bra at mile 40. The best!

Having my sister join me at mile 32 to pace was a blast. She was all business. I feel very fortunate to have had her experienced eye and wisdom with me. She kept me on task, never asked me “how are you?” Instead she made sure I was eating, hydrating, laughing and moving.

Lessons:

  1. Do the training leading up to your races. If you show up prepared, you’re less likely to have a bad experience.
  2. Keep your head in the game and don’t let the mental garbage get the best of you.
  3. Know your gear. If you train with Matt, enough said.
  4. Fuel early and fuel often. Drink. A lot. I sipped every 15 minutes, and drank big at stations. Hot races require your utmost attention to this or you will suffer!
  5. Smile. All day. No excuses. Have gratitude that you have the physical strength and mental fortitude to run ultras. Thank the volunteers. Hug other runners. Share your enthusiasm, because it might just help someone who is struggling get to the finish and not doubt themselves.
  6. Watch out for poison oak and wipe down at the finish.

Aesthetics:

The American River canyon is gorgeous. Once you get past Beal’s Point the trails are lovely. There were wild turkeys, Hawks, tons of wildflowers.

Difficulty:

This is a great novice course. The trails are in good condition. The last 10k is all climb. This is only difficult because you are tired. There is a section between miles 32-40 called “meat grinder.” Many local folks and beginners think it is pretty technical, but compared to PNW mountains trails and races I’ve done, it’s pretty straightforward.

This is one of the oldest 50 milers in the country, so it is well run with friendly staff, plenty of aid stations and no major kinks. It isn’t as popular as it used to be and frankly, that’s fine with me. They give you a nice Patagonia jacket at the finish.

Competition:

I’m only competing with myself. ????

It does attract some strong runners! I was quite happy to have Nikki Kimbal in my age group!

The race typically sells out a month or so after it opens in the fall. Go to the AR50 website for details. There are local hotels in Folsom that will shuttle you to the start. You would need to fly into Sacramento, and rent a car to drive about 45 minutes east. Packets are picked up in Folsom at Fleet Feet.

Aid Stations:

Pretty good. My favorite one was before the last big climb and had disco blaring. This totally got me hyped. We danced. I typically don’t eat any junk at the tables, and stick to bananas and filling my bottles. But they are stocked with the usual stuff.

Weather and typical race conditions:

Early April in this part of CA is typically warm. Temps can range from 60’s-90’s. That said, early morning temperatures are usually in the low 40’s. There have been rainy conditions in the past, but this is rare. There are some great tree shaded trails, but large sections are exposed and hot.

Gear:

I always take a cotton bandana to soak with icy water and tie around my neck. Good sunglasses, your favorite wicking shorts and tank (that you’ve been training in!). I wear a pack with a hydration bladder, but you can run with handhelds too, because aid stations are usually every 5-8 miles at the longest. Sunscreen or you will get burnt. I saw a ton of people wearing gaiters, but I find them annoying and they make your feet too warm, the dirt is gritty, but it wasn’t a problem for me.

Spectators:

None allowed at start, but plenty of opportunities along the course. Granite Bay can get crowded, and it requires a $12 day pass for folks to park. Otherwise, I was able to see my peeps at 4 stations. That was fun!

The Overall Score:

4 stars (out of 5). Only because the start is wonky due to gate closures and the high percentage of road/asphalt early on. This is a great race and I am planning to race again next year and PR!