Way Too Cool 50k — March 5, 2016

A few weeks prior to Cool, I ran the Kaiser Half as a tune-up. That went really well — my last-minute race plan was to go in with almost no taper, go out fast, blow up around mile 10 and see how I can tough it out for the remaining three miles. Well, partially due to better than expected fitness, and partially due to favorable winds (miles 8–10 were into the wind, but miles 11–13 with wind to my back), the blow-up never happened. Shaved almost two minutes off my PR, and was generally feeling great.

By next day though, my back and hip started to hurt, feeling like some combination of sciatica and IT band tightness, my plantar fasciitis flared up, and those things didn’t really get better before Cool. Plus I picked up a minor cold that my daughter brought back from daycare on Wednesday before the race. All that combined with the updated forecast calling for 4 inches of precipitation in the day before the race, and pouring rain during, meant that I was in pretty low spirits heading into the weekend.

All that changed by the time I went to bed Friday night. Got to spend some quality time sitting in traffic for four hours with Josh, who not only gave me a ride up to Auburn, but let me share the hotel room with him. Thanks, Josh! When we arrived, we got dinner with Varner, Zack and Jamey. Somewhere between conversations with Josh about running, cycling, and life in general, and the race strategy talk over dinner, I forgot about my aches, got weirdly excited about running in the mud and rain, and was generally pumped about the race!

Morning of the race, after a coffee and a few clif bars, we drove to the start around 7:15, got a decent parking spot and walked over to the new SFRC tent just being set up. It was amazing to see so many SFRC bros and Bay Birds out at a race. After a quick warmup, and a portopotty visit, it was time to line up at the start. Surprisingly the weather was holding up — cloudy, but no rain, and warm enough for just singlet and shorts. 
At the start line, it felt like a Saturday morning run from the store — the same twenty or so people around me as every Saturday at SFRC. I love the energy at the race starts in general, but it was even more amazing with all the friends by my side. The bell rang, the expect cast of characters took off in front at something significantly below 6min/mi pace, YiOu lead the second pack, and I tried to settle in with the next bunch of runners.

Photo: Let’s Wander Photography

While my stoke for the day was at max, I still had no race plan, other than to vaguely try to run an even race. As it turned out, Jonas had a similar idea, and we ran the first 8 mile loop together, along with Josh, Dane, and occasional glimpses of Fernando in front. I was glad that Alex told me the night before to not worry about trying to stay dry — there were dozens of creek crossings, more than a few that were knee-deep or more, and almost non-stop puddles on the trails. Shoes felt a little heavy with water and mud, but otherwise it was a lot of fun to run through the water.

Photo: Aylwin Villanueva

After the 8 mile aid station, Jonas and I caught Fernando and I decided to try to stick with them until the “big” climb at mile 16.

Cruising into 1st aid, feeling good. Photo: Masha Sharoglazova
Photo: Ben Koss

I was feeling good, nothing hurt, the pace felt easy, and Jonas, Fernando and I were chatting for most of the time. I focused on eating & drinking lots, taking Gu Roctane gels every 30 minutes, and drinking most or all of my half-liter hand flask between each aid station. Descent to the river and the flats were great, we passed a few people and I was feeling good. Once the rollers started, I was still feeling fine, but conscious of the fact that Fernando’s pace was just a tad much for me, trying to pay attention to my HRM, and falling behind a bit on ups, and catching up on downs. From the many Saturday runs, I knew that I’m much weaker on the climbs than most of the crew, but can make up for it on the downhills, so when we started the big climb, Jonas and Fernando quickly disappeared from sight.

Photo: Let’s Wander Photography

The climb itself was easy; one guy passed me near the top of the climb, but otherwise I was running solo the whole time, and none of the aches that I worried about pre-race materialized. But as soon as trail flattened, and I tried to push the pace, my left IT band started screaming, which was odd, because it’s always been the right one in the past. I backed off on the pace, tried to focus on form, really enjoyed the cold water of the deeper creek crossings, and tried to rub/stretch the IT band at the next two aid stations. Something worked, because while the pain never went away, it didn’t get so bad that I had to walk either.

Somewhere around mile 23, I was surprised to see a blue shirt a switchback ahead of me, and realized I wasn’t too far behind Jonas. I picked up the pace a bit, and ended up catching him right at the bottom of Goat Hill. I was beginning to fall apart by this point, and I knew Jonas was a strong climber, so after running together for only a few seconds, he took off up the hill and quickly disappeared from view while I hiked up, hands on knees. But I had a good feeling about being able to catch him on the ensuing downhill, so I got out of the aid station at the top (mile 26) as quick as I could, and sure enough, I was with him again a few minutes later. He apparently was dealing with hamstring issues, so I passed him, and tried to keep a good pace, but that wasn’t happening. The IT band was preventing me from going faster downhill, and I had no energy to move fast uphill. With a mile to go, I heard footsteps behind, but instead of Jonas it turned out to be Chris Castleman, who apparently ran a very well-paced race and had enough energy left to be moving quite well all the way to the finish. I made an effort to stay with him, but that lasted only until the next hill, and while I tried again to push on the finish descent/flat, I never really got closer to him than maybe a hundred meters.

Nice mud puddle at the finish line. Photos: Masha Sharoglazova

In the end, I was quite happy with my time and place (3:46:45, 20th overall). I did blow up in the end, but I still ran all the way in, and felt like I managed water and nutrition well, though there’s still room for improvement there.

About five minutes after I finished, the skies opened up, and it really started to pour. I was happy to change into dry clothes, and hide under a tent with some Sufferfest beer. After much rejoicing and race recapping with the whole SFRC crew, Jonas drove us back to SF in a non-stop torrential downpour (so glad it held off until after the race!), and I summoned enough energy for a shower and a walk downhill for more than a few drinks to celebrate my birthday with some great friends.

All in all, a fun race and a great learning experience. Now on to the roads for a bit to get ready for Boston!

Gear list:
Hoka One One Speedgoat shoes
Injiji low cut med weight socks
Dirty Girl gaiters
Adidas compression shorts
Asics shorts
SFRC Racing Nike singlet
Boco SFRC Hat
Band-aid nip-guards
Salomon 500ml softflask
Salomon Sense Hydro S-Lab Glove
GU Roctane gels (carried 5, 2 from aid stations)