Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Scenic Sequoia 50k

"I'm really nervous about this one"
They say the most important sleep you get is two nights before a race. Liars! I was already tossing and turning nervously on Thursday night in anticipation of my return to the 50k ranks. It had been 10 months since SweetH20 and with its 5k+ elevation change Sequoia would present a considerably more challenging course than either of my previous 50ks. In total, I was anxious to get to the starting line for about five days.

"Peet's?" - "Sure"
Per our (now usual) tradition, Will and I stopped at Peet's to take in calories in various forms. We were discussing our respective race strategies, and I was wondering whether Will would be able to set a course record for the 30k distance just like he had done at Woodside a few weeks ago. We were also surprised at how nippy it was outside, mainly because of some surprisingly strong winds. What to wear, what to wear? Always a hard decision going into a race. You'd think that after almost 30 years on Earth, we'd having this dressing ourselves thing down.

Mud, Mud, Mud
So, it was a little muddy out there, but nothing too, too bad. I was surprised at the number of people I overheard being annoyed at the mud (which wasn't bad at all compared some other places in the area like Tilden). Really? This is a trail run...in Northern California...in the winter. You can expect to get dirty. And besides, what is better than caked dirt on your calves? (ok, a pint of Ben & Jerry's). They're like battle wounds...except they wash off right away.

The First 15k
The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. Tall Redwood and Sequoia trees everywhere; little creeks created by recent rainfall were dancing down hills. But while the trails were stunning, my legs were heavy. Ooops! What to do? Spend lots of time at aid station #2. And so I did.

The Second 15k
Three minutes at Aid #2 did wonders for me. I found my stride and started passing lots of 50k and 30k runners. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be passed myself the whole rest of the day. Nice! The surprising thing is that the majority of my rejuvenation occurred on the biggest climb of the day (I'm more of a downhill runner).

The Final 20k
At 30k, we passed by the finish line. I could smell the chili and hear everyone laughing, but the hardest part of the day was still ahead of me. Needed to get out of there fast. Somehow I had positioned myself to run a PR and IT WAS ON! I pushed, pushed, pushed...running by myself most of the way. Once I hit the final aid (Moon Gate), I knew the PR was mine. The question was: what would my time be? I attacked the Cinderella trail as hard as I could. Despite it's unimposing name, it's a steep, rocky mountain bike trail (complete with jumps and everything) that is just painful to fun down with any kind of velocity. I may have been screaming like a lunatic. Can't really remember.

In the end, I finished in 5:24, a 23 minute PR. It was good enough for 19th overall in a strong field with many good performances. 14 people finished under 5 hrs (compared to 6, 4, 0 and 0 in previous years). Local runner Caitlin Smith ran a stunning 4:22 in her first 50k coming in second overall (read her account here). And Will ran another course record in the 30k. I'm worried about what he'll do once he moves up to the 50k (you know it's just a matter of time, buddy!).

Thank you to Sarah and Wendell as well as all the volunteers for putting on another outstanding race. I especially enjoyed the crew manning the Moon Gate aid station for rocking the tunes. Jimi Hendrix rocks!


willgotthardt said...

Good stuff Dave...congrats on PR.

Will G.

Jo Lynn said...

Well, it was a little muddy but the beauty remains more of a memory than the mud.
Great work!

David Ray said...

Dude, that's huge! Nice report too! I, too, don't know what people are thinking when they are surprised to find mud out in the woods. It's like they want bike paths everywhere. Whatever, good one from you definitely.

Scott Dunlap said...

Great work, David! Congrats on the PR even with a tough course.


wcaitlin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wcaitlin said...

I completely agree about the sleep thing. I got shitty sleep all before that race and well, it didn't seem to have much of an effect. Congrats on your PR and thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope to meet you at a race soon.