Way Too Cool 2017

Saturday was my fifth Way Too Cool 50k. I think that is my personal “record” for the most times I have ran a particular race. Chicago Marathon might be close — can’t even recall how many times I have ran that one.

Not sure what it is exactly that draws me back to Cool time and again but it could be a few things. It could be that it’s considered the “kick off” race for the trail season. Or that so many members of the Marin running participate it’s almost like a homecoming of sort. Maybe that I know the course pretty well by now. But most likely it’s because the trails and scenery are so incredibly pretty. Let’s just go with that one.

This year was pretty special for me in that one of my closest buddies, Rob, was running it as his ultra debut. The two of us trained together over for the past several months which made the training part of it much easier and more enjoyable than years past. A four hour training run goes by much quicker when you’re running with a good buddy.

Anyway, I made the decision that this year I wouldn’t really “race” but rather run with Rob and help him through his first ultra. I’ve raced it enough times now not to really care about time and this approach was far more meaningful and fun.

Long story short, we took the race out at a measured pace and cruised through the first loop (eight miles) just where I thought we should be. Maybe a tick too fast but nothing major. At that point, I wasn’t quite certain how my day going to go. I felt ok — pretty good— but didn’t seem to have a lot of “pop” in my legs.

At mile 19 or so I realized we were beginning to separate from one another a bit. Rob is a tough hombre who NEVER (and i mean NEVER) complains. He puts his head down and gets it done. Army training will do that I imagine. But he hasn’t run longer than 20 this year and eventually the mileage of an ultra is going to catch up to you. Same thing ultimately happened to me.

As a sidenote, at the 21 mile aid station, while waiting for Rob I drank two cups of hot chicken broth and crackers and for the countless time in a race, that really saved me. I left that aid station feeling terrific and from mile 21 through 26.5 (right through the infamous Goat Hill) I was really running well. Whereas others around me started blowing up left and right, I was just nice and steady and consistent. I probably coud have picked up the pace but I was at the marathon mark and didn’t really see the point in possibly blowing myself up.

I waited for Rob at the Goat Hill aid station for a while. Long enough that I actually started going down the damn hill to look for him, which I quickly realized was a mistake. I bent over to tie my shoes and my back immediately began to seize. That was my first — and as it would turn out, only —major issue of the day. Knowing Rob well enough to know that he wouldn’t really mind, I figured I better get going before the cramps really started. As it turns out, Rob ended up following a group and making a wrong turn before Goat Hill — hence his delay. I knew something was up there.

I ended up cruising from 26.5 to 29 thinking to myself that I could run 50 miles if necessary — I really felt that good. And just as I thought that, out of nowhere, an 800 pound gorilla jumped on my back. Funny how that goes in an ultra. It wasn’t too much of a struggle running the last 1.4, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was anxious to see the finish line. Eventually I did, hitting the line in a time of 6:13 and change. I was a little surprised by my time as in races past I was well below 6 hours (5:38, 5:35) but I didn’t really care much or pay it any heed. I met with Wiley and we waited for Rob, who finished around 15 minutes later with a great big smile and one of the best finishes I’ve ever witnessed in my life. As he was coming to the finish, the announcer said —”now coming down the finish line from Saratoga, CA, first time ultra runner Rob Sellers. You, sir, are an ultra runner.” It was awesome and I really wish I taped it. It was a great finish to cap a great run and I’m super proud and stoked for Rob. He killed it and I think (hope!) he had fun in the process.

Anyway, all good and for the most part the two of us were really no much worse for the wear, which was another objective: to be done and feel like a human being. I ran my mile yesterday and had barely any residual soreness and felt even better today. I also read this morning that because of trail conditions the course was slightly rerouted and included a new hill, which probably explains the overall slower times of most participants.

So, that’s about it. Comes down to this: a pretty epic experience with a buddy — something I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Except, possibly, the overall win. :)

Also want to give a shoutout to our other buddy, Wiley. He wasn’t able to make it to the start line due to injury, unfortunately, but he was an awesome crew member and seeing him on the course and finish line energized the two of us. Standing out in the cold for six hours waiting for your buddies isn’t the most fun task in the world but he did it without complaint. He too is the man.

As to next year? Well, we shall see.

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