Rio Del Lago 100 Race Report – Daisy

In this Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run race report, runner Daisy C shares her experience of the race. Find out her advice for running this ultra course!

Race: Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run

Runner: Daisy C

Date: 11/4/17

Location: Folsom Lake (East of Sacramento, CA)

Results: DNF at mile 84. Rattlesnake Bar aid station

rio del lago 100 race report
Dawn, Daisy and Dan

Strava Activity Link:

I’ve given up Strava for the time being. It was too much of a distraction, and I’m trying to reduce my fixation on technology and instead finding the joy in running again without it. For the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile, I ran without turning my Garmin on. I simply used the watch to know what time it was and used a small, folded pace chart I made to calculate mileage and when I “needed” to get to aid stations. This way, I felt far less pressured. As I gain experience at this distance I am realizing that minimizing variables like worrying about my watch, GPS, pace, etc. is key to me staying in a positive state of mind.

3 Bests – What aspects of the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run did you like the most?

  • The location can’t be beat, because my family lives in the Roseville/Sacramento area. It is easy to fly into Sacramento from Seattle. I was super excited about the mild weather too, but more on that…
  • I also like the course for the most part. It is deceptively challenging. There is beautiful single track rolling along the American River Canyon. Even the muddy, steep sections were entertaining. And running across No Hands Bridge is pretty damn special.
  • Added bonus was that my crew and family could see me at multiple aid stations before dark. It is also easy for crew to get to you, with easy parking and access.

Not so much – What aspects of the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run didn’t work for you?

Not finishing! However, I have found some deep meaning in the DNF process. It’s not necessarily a negative. Overall, there was nothing about this race I didn’t like. Honestly.

rio del lago 100 mile run
I felt so good! Coming into Rattlesnake Bar for the first time.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

  • I paced myself extraordinarily well for the first 50 miles (sub 12-hour) and was well ahead of my time goals. I was never pushing myself too hard and felt relaxed and strong. This was HUGE! I embraced the challenge and was smiling and happy to be out on course. And NO FALLS! I have a history of nasty falls. I’ve worked hard this year focusing on weight training and core work to stay balanced and the ability to stay upright while navigating technical trails. It is a practice I will continue, as I feel stronger and faster as a result of going to the gym 3x week.
  • I didn’t waste any time at aid stations. My crew had a bottle ready for me to trade out, snacks to put into my pockets and off I went. I was hydrating, eating every 30-40 minutes and I just felt “in the zone.” It was by far the best race mileage I’ve ever had. As well, I managed to stay mentally sharp and positive, which is something I’m proud of and have been working on this past year. I credit this new skill for getting me through these miles so successfully. It will continue to be an asset in my tool box for future races!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run to help the next runner

  • See above. 🙂
  • Get your head together BEFORE race day. Just like training miles, nutrition and gear. If you can’t master the mental game, challenges on course will break you down.
  • Make a race manual for your crew highlighting your gear, hydration, fuel, etc.
  • Practice with your crew what you will need at aid stations so they can be prepared for your arrival and you will avoid wasting time. Aid stations are not REST stops until later mileage. DO NOT sit down until you need to change shoes or need foot care. It took me years to learn this, and maybe that’s what it takes. But I will say that keeping time in aid stations to an absolute minimum is crucial to my success at every distance.
  • Study the elevation profile and anticipate climbs, downs and course details beforehand so you know what’s coming up. RDL is tricky this way!

What did you learn about the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile that will help you next time?

  • Climbs late in the race, no matter how small seem monumental. As the miles go on and on, so does your capacity to struggle.
  • Training in 2018 (and from now on) will include strategies for dealing with fatigue, pushing through the hard stuff and managing a strong sense of focus to finish no matter what.
  • *Read the book How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald if you’re looking for inspiration and strategies.

How did you feel about your DNF?

Despite my awesome first 50 miles, something happened to my left shin around mile 60-65. There was never a moment when I injured it by falling or slipping. It just started nagging me a bit on the Goat Hill climbs. After that it had progressed to a hot knife stabbing pain that forced me to limp and cringe with every step. It was red, swollen and had me questioning whether or not I could keep going by the time I picked up my second pacer at mile 74.

I came into the aid station in tears and saying I wanted to quit. My crew wasn’t hearing any of that nonsense, nor was Arya, who was all geared up and ready to forge on. I give my crew strict instructions to never let me quit. They know that their role is to tell me anything I need to hear to keep going. Quitting is not an option. Arya and I left the station after I warmed up and had dry socks and new warm layers on.

By mile 80 it was apparent my staggering jog and walk wasn’t going to make the time cut off at mile 84. Arya was very kind to me as I sobbed on the side of the trail. The staff at Rattlesnake Bar was also very supportive. They know how crushing it can be to DNF. My crew embraced me and got me into the warm vehicle and a short ride home to my sister’s house (she was ahead of me by an hour or so and still running. She finished in 28:40).

After a shower and nap I was feeling OK. My shin, not so much. My heart and brain were calm. I was disappointed about not finishing, but even more so I was immensely proud of the race I did complete. I have never felt so strong and focused before. It was clear to me in those moments that I had reached a new level of ultra running status. I had a sense of accomplishment and resolve that I belong here. This is my community, my family and I feel at home on the trails. I find peace in the work it takes to get here. The discipline and the time it takes is a routine that has comforted me when nothing else would. It makes me raw, vulnerable and unrelenting. I’ll keep at it. I hope my experiences can inspire others to seek challenges and growth through running.

Do you have other tips for ultra runners?

If you come upon a downed, unconscious runner STOP and HELP. I’ll admit my brain was a little foggy when my pacer Dave and I were climbing Goat Hill and found a runner passed out with his very concerned pacer needing serious help. It took me a few minutes to kick into ICU RN mode. I was able to assess that he had likely caused his heart to slow down too much while vomiting and heaving and he was hypoglycemic. We managed to position him off a narrow trail and raise his legs and make him eat some sugar. He slowly woke up confused, mumbling incoherently and unable to stand.

By this time, runners behind us were wanting to get past. The pacers and I managed to carry and push him about 1/4 mile UP a very steep sections to a safe spot off the trail. Another runner had gone ahead to alert folks at the next aid station. Dave and I stayed with him until he was able to stand unassisted and could tell us a few pertinent details. This is the reality of ultra running. Sometimes people get into trouble and will need help. Be prepared to assist if you can.

rio del lago 100 mile run
Coming into Overlook at mile 44.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Run

  • You will be climbing an 18% grade trail past the 100k point, and believe me it will challenge even the strongest runners. You will also run through a section called “Meat Grinder” twice, once at about 35-40 and again at 90-95. It’s not particularly technical, it’s just annoying as hell.
  • The Sierra foothill trails are normally pretty dry. But when it rains heavily they can become muddy FAST and in the later sections from miles 50-70 it will be deep, sticky, and slippery. Mud will get everywhere! You will use your hands to climb at times, because it is the only way to traverse some of the steep switchbacks in the dark.
  • There is also poison oak on the course. If you go off course to avoid deep mud you will get a dose of notorious poison oak rash! Be warned and stay on course!!! Cutting through bush to avoid mud also damages the vegetation and is not cool.
  • This year due to trail work and wash outs they had to scrap an aid station after mile 44. This meant an 11 mile section with no access to water and some appreciable climbs. You need to leave the Overlook aid station with plenty of fuel and hydration. I’m not sure if the section involved will get repaired by 2018 according to locals.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes. Google Sierra foothills and American River Canyon.

rio del lago 100 mile run
Dave and I about to head out together.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes, but only in sections, NOT overall. The first 20+ are on a mix of gravel, asphalt bike trail and dirt. This first section is mostly flat. If you go out too fast you will likely kill any hope of doing well later in the race, because the climbing doesn’t really start until after mile 44.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

RDL has been around for more than 25 years. These folks know how to put on a race. Lots of volunteers and helpful, experienced people. Course is well marked.

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.

This is a late season Western States 100 qualifier. It usually doesn’t sell out until late September to early October. Easy to find on Ultrasignup.

Aid Stations

The usual (yawn) aid station food. I’ve grown so tired of all the crap food supplied at races. And NO veggie broth —this was a big disappointment. Thankfully my crew had hot miso broth for me! I rarely eat anything at aid stations anymore and rely solely on my own food. That said, the staff was very friendly and ready to fill my bottles and offer encouragement.

Weather and typical race conditions

Northern CA weather in early November is usually quite mild. This year was really no exception, but the previous week it had been into the high 80’s! I literally brought every conceivable item of clothing from tank tops to Polartec layers anticipating cold nighttime weather. By midweek the forecast called for low temps and rain. The RDL Facebook group was filled with people complaining about the rain. I was secretly amused and mentally prepared to face anything, because I live in the PNW where I run in the rain and cold 5-7 months out of the year. No problem. And it rained! Nonstop. Until about 2am. Thank you nature. The full moon was lovely once the sky cleared up.

rio del lago 100 mile run
Always kiss your crew captain!

Prepping for a race? Here is a coach-approved checklist for preparing mentally and physically!