Race: Lake Sonoma 50
Runner: Ashley Nordell
Location: Healdsburg, CA
Results: 8:21:27, 7th female and 33rd overall
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
The scenery, the organization, the location (wine country!)
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Out and back course, very crowded
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
Not necessarily a race oddity, but I have run it the last two years and both times finished the same place and with the exact same time (1 min difference). The first year I felt great and had a good day, the second year I felt terrible and struggled all day.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
I feel like I nailed the nutrition, which even after 15 years of Ultras, is often still a struggle. It was hot and I was able to keep my stomach together and maintain steady energy.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
The heat can be a factor this time of year. Carrying enough water between aid stations is important. Practice descending – there are some good descents near the turn around that you can gain time on, but you don’t want to blow your quads if you haven’t prepared them properly.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
I feel like I did not properly recover from a big race I did a month prior to this one. I tried to squish in one last week of training between the two races when I should have just focused on recovery and trusted my training to carry me through both races. So while a month ago I had a great race, I ended up struggling at Lake Sonoma, which was the goal race.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
The race is constant climbing and descending. The longer climbs are around the half way point, but the beginning and end are a series of constant short, steep climbs and descents. Save enough in your legs for the final 10 miles.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
The course is beautiful!! Green, lovely views of the lake, a combo of pretty forest sections, grassy Meadow-like sections, and open lake views.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
Yes! It’s not all as smooth as it looks in pictures. There are some technical sections, and it gains 10,000 ft over 50 miles.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
One of the best organized races I’ve run!!
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Yes! Also one of the most competitive races I have run.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
The race is lottery entry (Dec) unless you get an invitation from the RD. Secret tip if you are ok camping – there is an awesome campsite right on course near the start/finish. No one seems to know about it – it hasn’t been full either year I stayed there. It has port-a-pots, so not only can you walk over race morning and not deal with parking chaos, you don’t have to wait in bathroom lines either!
5 fully stocked aid stations and 4 water/gu aid stations. Very well run!
Weather and typical race conditions
Past two years have been warm, but it’s spring, so can be wet sometimes too. I got a tick this year and terrible poison oak, so be prepared.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
I ran out of water a couple times and carried two bottles. But it was a hot year and we haven’t had any heat yet where I live.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Somewhat – there are a few crew allowed aid stations, but allow for plenty of drive and park time.
How’s the Swag?
Patagonia!! Best swag race I have run!
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
I would give it an 8/9 out of 10. My only downsides, other than the long drive from Oregon, are the out and back course and the number of runners. I usually gravitate toward smaller, more low key events. But it is a great race to test yourself against some of the best runners, and although it has a lot of smooth trail, the climbs and bit of technical trail even the playing field slightly from pure leg speed. I prefer long climbs and descents, so personally it isn’t the best course for my strengths.