Back in November, right around the time I started my taper leading into CIM (California International Marathon), I was all sorts of fired up about running. My body felt great and I had a ton of energy due to the taper, so what better time to register for a bunch of races? Well, that’s what I did. I registered for the Carlsbad Marathon, the Salmon Falls 50K and Chanoko 50K. Somehow, I managed to talk Cortney (aka Thing 2) into registering for Chanoko as well – as her first 50K no less! Please note that she is clearly the more intelligent and level headed of the two of us as she didn’t think it would be a great idea to register for all three races.
You can read all about my CIM experience, but let’s just say that I spent most of December and January doing absolutely nothing, but recovering from a terrible virus and watching my early season race ambitions implode. I have since come to the realization that registering for races during the taper phase of any training plan is the equivalent of online shopping while inebriated – it seems like a great idea at the time, but then the alcohol wears off and rational thought sets in along with buyer’s remorse.
Fast forward to January – I was forced (doctor’s orders) to cancel on Carlsbad. Fast forward to February and my attitude toward running became less “fired up, let’s do this” and more “f&#k that, I’m skiing!”, so I bailed on Salmon Falls too.
It’s a damn good thing that Cortney had signed up for Chanoko, and I felt mildly guilty for talking her into it, otherwise I probably would have bailed on that as well. So, fast forward to March and our daily conversations went something like this:
Cortney: “Are we even going to be able to finish this thing? We’re SO under-trained.”
Mone’: “Sure, just think of it as a long hike. We could hike 30 miles right now, no problem right?” (note – I was trying to convince myself as much as I was trying to convince Cortney)
Come race day, we followed our normal routine at 5:00am and started the drive to Auburn Overlook Park. We arrived in plenty of time to park, poop and pick up packets (in that order, thank you very much).
There was a brief moment of confusion in which I didn’t seem to be registered for the race. I’ll take this opportunity to confess that my first thought was “Oh well, I’ll see you at the finish Cortney. I’m going to go hang out at a coffee shop and take a nap in the car.” Alas, I was registered for the race after all! Equal parts ‘whew’ and ‘dammit’!!! After pinning numbers and last minute gear checks, we commenced snapping pictures and cracking jokes to pass the time until the start.
The weather was absolutely perfect – it was overcast, but not raining; cool but not cold. Perfect running weather! Moments later Mark, from TBF Racing, literally wheelied in to the start on his mountain bike, dismounted and briefed us on the course before signally to GO!
The course runs along the North Fork of the American River and Folsom Lake to finish at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area – Granite Bay. While it starts at an elevation of about 1,300 feet and finishes at about 475 feet, for a net descent of about 825 feet, there are plenty of rolling hills throughout the course. In fact, over the course of 31 miles, we climbed about 2,700 feet.
The timing of this race is absolutely perfect from a scenery standpoint. While this area can get a bit dry and dusty in the summer months, we had a lush, green backdrop for race day. A week before St. Patrick’s Day, we half expected little leprechauns to jump out at us while we gabbed away on course. Instead, we encountered deer, butterflies and wildflowers. The scenery was stunning!
The first 15 or so miles or so flew by as we were catching up on all of our various topics of conversation: kids, family, kid drama, family drama, appetites, bodily functions – you know all of the important stuff. At one point, we realized that the flags marking the course were bright pink and matched our shirts. From that point on, and to the annoyance of anyone around us, we began shouting “PINK RIBBON!” any time we came upon a flag. It was as much entertainment as self-reassurance that we were still on course.
At the 17ish mile mark, the course began to meander through a part of the Folsom Lake shoreline that is sometimes underwater. For whatever reason, I didn’t think to stop for pictures, but it was oddly creepy. The topography went from lush green forest to swampy, eerie, driftwood covered badlands. Don’t get me wrong, it was still really pretty, just weird-pretty.
We emerged from this section at about 23 miles into the course, at which point we could look to our east and see the finish line. I’ve run a few races like this where you run past the finish line, when you really just want to be done, only to have to keep going for another 5-10 miles. Oh, how sadistic race directors can be! All kidding aside, the race directors did a great job on this inaugural 50K. The aid stations were well stocked and manned by extremely friendly volunteers!
I’m not going to lie – the last 8 miles… how should I say this… sucked! The course diverted away from single track trails and onto fire-roads, gravel and the paved American River Bike Trail. The fire-roads weren’t so bad, but we had to cross two different levies out to Beal’s Point where we turned around and then back across those two levies to finish up. The gravel, combined with the daunting visual made this a bit hellish. Sadistic race directors [sarcasm]! It didn’t help that both of us had entered the pain cave at this point. Cortney’s lungs were acting up a bit and my right knee was locked up and becoming very painful. In reality, these last 8 miles would have made for a fun and fast finish had we been adequately trained.
Nonetheless, we pushed through, fueled by piss and vinegar, to cross the finish line in seven hours and ten minutes. Cortney finished first in her age group – not bad for her first 50K!
Thus far, I’ve only signed up for a handful of races since Chanoko. “Recovery Phase Race Signup Syndrome” is totally different than “Taper Phase Race Sign Up Syndrome”, right?