12 February 2012

American Canyon 50k Race Report

In a training week with 83 miles and 18,500 ft of climbing, I'd be happy just completing a 50k.  So, when I found out about the American Canyon 50k on Friday, I didn't hold much in the way of expectations and was more just looking for motivation to complete a long run.

No Hands Bridge.
The 4:15am wake up was harsh but I had to be on the road by 5 to make the 7:30 start at the Auburn Overlook.  Once arrived, I introduced myself to Harlan, the Race Director, chatted with Mark Gilligan, gazed around at the other 100 or so participants, and then got dressed to run.  I overdressed, actually: two running shirts, arm warmers (my HOT wool Pearl Izumis), gloves, PI shorts, calf sleeves, Inside Trail hat, wool PI socks, and La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0 shoes.  The start was casual but quick up front.  I settled into the front with a guy named Robert and then Karl Hoagland busted passed us.  I was a bit surprised since we were already clipping along at just under 7 min pace with 31 miles to go.  No one budged when Karl went by and, after four fast miles, we swallowed him up on the climb out of No Hands Bridge.  I had chucked my arm warmers and gloves at the NHBridge aid station and was feeling sluggish but otherwise fine.

Wednesday, obviously not knowing I'd be racing in a couple days, I ran up Mt. Diablo twice with Caren Spore for a 4.5 hour 8,000+ ft climb workout.  I was paying the price at the race now with heavy legs that filled with lactic acid every time I even thought about climbing more than three feet.

At about five miles into the race, I was loosely settled in with Rudy and Ryan with Ray Sanchez leapfrogging us, but never getting more than 50 meters off the front or back.  Ryan made a move at about mile 6 but I was comfortable and felt it was way too early to worry about it.  Rudy upped his effort slightly but enough to gap me by about 10 meters, so I let him run alone off the front of me for a while.  I eventually caught up to him on a climb and we settled into a solid effort for the next ten miles.  The second aid station was nowhere to be found (supposed to be at mile 11-12 where we cross Hwy 49 but they hadn't arrived yet (I hadn't even looked at the course map or aid station placement, so it didn't faze me at all - sometimes it pays off to be unaware).  We held a nice pace and reached the mile 16 aid station in 2:13.  Rudy had been setting the pace and with a recent 2:47 marathon and low 17 min 5k, I felt we'd have an interesting run over the last 4 miles if we stayed together.  I also assumed that we had a huge lead over everyone but Ray Sanchez, so I was surprised to see three other guys just behind Ray after we made the turn around at the out n back spur to the aid station.  The surprise turned into a little anger.

We pushed the mile hard after the aid station.  I popped a salt tab and took in a giant glob of gel from my soft flask and just as my Garmin rang the mile 17 mark, I upped the pace.  I assumed Rudy would be with me but when I finally glanced back after ten minutes, he was gone.  With over 13 miles to go, I didn't feel comfortable with my lead and pushed the pace figuring that if I reached the last aid station (with 4 miles to go and a steady climb to the finish), I'd have a good shot at it.

Everything felt great.  My legs were still heavy and overtrained but my energy and pace were steady and I felt great mentally.  I never had even a small bad patch in the race and ran comfortably the entire way.  I hit the last aid station at No Hands Bridge, grabbed my previously dropped arm warmers and gloves, and the aid worker said, "Man, you're killing it!"  That got me even more fired up and I sprinted across the bridge.  I had been sporadically thinking about Dave James' course record from the previous year.  I couldn't remember what it was but somehow 4:33 stuck in my head.  I figured I could go under 4:30 if I stayed on the gas.  I also know fully well that Dave is 10x the runner that I am and his time (of 4:42) was VERY soft for him.  Regardless, the rare chance at a course record was motivation for me.  I had gone through the marathon distance in 3:37, so figured the 4:30 was well within grasp.  I hustled over the last 4 miles of climbing and crossed the line in 4:23:02, 19+ mins under Dave's time.  Results

I hung out for quite a while chatting with Harlan and all the other runners as they crossed the line.  It was great to meet Karl Hoagland, Robert, Kevin, Bill (whom I met when he ran the Rodeo Beach 50k we organized), and several others.  Grabbed a quick couple of pints at the Auburn Alehouse and headed home.  Harlan did a fine job with the event.  Getting the aid stations set up earlier is about the only advice I'd offer but I'm certain he figured that out on his own.  The 12 mile stretch between the first aid and second (without the intermediate one) could be a lot to handle for most runners.  Thankfully, I think it only affected the first five guys who came through and I don't drink much anyway (ran the race on less than 30 ounces).

I feel good today.  Another solid week of training and the massive work I've done on my climbing is paying off.  It'll be interesting to see how it translates into the flat, fast half marathon race next weekend.  More so, though, I'm focused completely on the 100s this year (Hardrock, mostly) and am excited to see what happens at those after all this hard work.

Garmin Data from the my race (click "view details" for splits):


  1. How do you carry your fluids and calories?

  2. Ah, forgot to mention that (probably because I don't even notice I'm wearing it)! The Hydrapak E-Lite vest - holds 32 ounces and has the smartest layout of pockets I've seen. We sell them on the www.insidetrail.com online store ;-)

  3. Amazing! Good job on the race Tim. Congratulations on the win!

  4. Solid run. Its only February!

    That bridge looks familiar... :)

  5. Yeah, I've run across that bridge 4x in the last two weeks!

  6. Fantastic. Save some for later (or maybe you are!).

  7. Awesome work, Tim!! Congratulations on your CR!!

    All Day!

  8. Looking like a great start to the season - congrats Tim!!

  9. Congrats man! Glad to see you are finding a good training, racing stride still while IT is blooming.

  10. Niiiiiiice. A sign of things to come I think. Solid work my friend.

  11. Nice work! Sounds like your year is off to a great start - keep it up.