Rock’n River 50 Miler
October 13th, 2012
One year ago, this was the race DW and I spent months training for. It was our first 50 mile
race, and we put in countless hours doing long midweek runs and back-to-back long runs on weekends,
pushing through the pain and staleness of tired legs and building the base to handle a distance like 50
This year, we approached it having run several ultras since then and just generally putting in
mad miles with a whole spread of local ultrarunner friends we’ve acquired along the way. Still, 50 miles
is a long freaking way and should never be taken lightly. DW and I met up with our parent crew and
headed to the start. It was chill, the norm for ultras around this area. Just a scraggly group of trail junkies
pulling themselves together and rubbing the sleep from our eyes, looking forward to the hours of nature
We got a quick rundown on course markings (ha! More on this later) and took off on our
adventure. Instead of following the American River 50 course, as it historically has, the new organization
running the race rerouted it to run along the levees of Auburn, trading fire road for singletrack and a
trip down the infamous “Cardiac”. I felt like a kid playing flashlight tag, my headlight illuminating the
singletrack for which my legs were hungry!
The first few miles flew by in a blur of sleep-haze combined with the surrealism of night
running. Eventually the darkness lifted and we were greeted with the beautiful sight of the American
River rushing to the left as we barreled down embankments and charged up inclines. In all honesty, we
probably took this first 15 a little fast. I felt it but resisted acknowledging it, placing a little trust in our
training and having faith in our ability to recover physically later on.
As we got to the first aid station, I was surprised to see that it was just two guys and a water
cooler. Pretty odd for an ultra. Fortunately, we had our trusty crew there waiting with lots of goodies,
like Wheat Thins, grapes, Ensure, etc. Good stuff.
As the race went on, it became more apparent that the aid stations were not to be relied
upon. Most of them were a couple coolers and a single cup of almonds. (WTF?) I wondered what our
registration had paid for if not basic supplies. Later on, an aid station had peanut butter. Yes! But no
jelly for sandwiches. Boo. Lameness all around. Our personal mobile support crew really saved the day,
providing us with everything we’d packed in our cooler and bringing ice for our packs and bodies.
We hit a span of about TWO MILES without course markings! I couldn’t believe it. The only reason we made it is that we know the trails and know the right direction to keep heading!
The first half felt a bit rough, but sometimes there’s an upswing for me at about 27 miles, so I
really wasn’t that worried about it. I was just hoping for the best! As we reached the end of the trail part
of the course, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the marathon of pavement ahead, but I looked at
it as an opportunity to practice mental stamina, cutting the time into small segments and focusing on
the immediate moment.
There were a few times when I felt pains crop up, and just kept moving forward in the hope that
they’d ease off and my muscles would settle into a comfortable rhythm. It actually worked out! By the
time we reached mile 35 or so, everything was firmly fixed in a nice groove. DW and I had come up with
a run/walk ration on the fly, and it was occupying our minds as the miles passed underfoot.
Near the end, DW’s calf began to cramp, so we eased off a bit. During these races, I find it
very important to keep the big picture in mind. Whether the current race is for training or a goal vastly
influences whether I decide to push it or not. This essentially being a training run, we took it easy and
incorporated more walking. As the end drew near, it was too tempting to pick up the pace, and when it
was time to run we RAN!
The finish kind of snuck up on us. It was strange, since last year the race ran past the finish line
for a mile out and back. This time we rounded a corner and simply had to run up a little incline and turn
a corner. BAM! There it was. We both scooped up the last ounces of guts from our souls and ran it in like
there was a bear behind us!
Sorry for my whiteness. I lost my shirt quickly as it was quite gross.
This race was an unknown for us. We’d done the Day On The Green 12 hr track run just two
weeks prior and this was the first time we’d attempted to run two 50 milers two weeks apart. When
DW first brought up the idea, I thought “That’s crazy, but we’ll never know what our limits are unless
we try to hit them.” I’ve been thinking this a lot lately. I mean, the worst that can happen is we fall apart
and DNF; the best that can happen is our bodies respond well and we get fitter and add to our store of
endurance. So far we’ve been lucky and reaped the latter!
We even won some swaaaaaag.
I’m behind on bloops, so please bear with me as I play catch up over the next few days.
As always, run happy and healthy Loopsters!!!