Lake Sonoma 50 Race Report

Travel and Foreword

50 Miles. Or in this case, 25 miles of running and 25 miles of dragging ass. I’ve taken time to let the race sink in before writing this hopefully burn off some of the frustration (through running of course) for such a poor performance. I’d love to have an excuse for what happened, but I don’t. I have trained harder in these last couple months than I did pre TNF 50, and am even further along than I was at this point last year.

So what happened? The only thing I can hypothesize is that I was lacking in long training days. Aside from 2 runs I had in Arizona a couple weeks ago, I have been limited to faster 10 to 15 mile runs on my treadmills. This is in part due to the unpredictable weather Alaska has experienced this year, creating less than ideal trail conditions across south central. Not an excuse, but the only observation I can make on my training shortfalls thus far into the season.

I discovered when traveling for TNF 50 that the ideal time to come into town for a race (for me at least) is 2 days before the race. So with that knowledge I flew into Santa Rosa on Thursday. The airport is in Santa Rosa is quite small and forced me to take a 3 hour layover in Seattle, but was significantly closer to Healdsburg and far easier to navigate from than SFO. I landed around 6 pm and was fortunate enough to get a quick 5 mile run in before night fall on the road. I felt halfway decent, although my HR was a bit higher than average, somewhat expected I suppose considering I had been up since 4:30 am and traveling for 12 hours.

Friday morning I buzzed over to Healdsburg Running Company (HRC), a fairly new establishment here that puts a premium on customer satisfaction and service. After picking up my bib (Max King happened to be hanging out in the store chatting with people, pretty neat!) I decided to go do my last shakeout run on the last couple miles of the course to avoid any surprises during the race (wouldn’t want to Spangler it! ;-)). The section I ran on was quite straightforward with maybe one section that someone could make a mistake at, had the course marking not been the best that I had experienced outside of Alaska.

The Race

I gotta throw a big shout out to James McCanne who hooked me up with some Rock tape to help minimize the foot pain I have been dealing with. They were sold out at HRC, but he had is finance bring up his roll Friday night, then was willing to crawl out of bed at 4:45 am to answer my call. That’s 5-Star service for sure! Us racers staying in town were also fortunate that the local Starbucks was open at 4:30 to provide that cup of coffee to satisfy prerace rituals.

So after collecting the tape and coffee I made my way to the race start. Part of my pre race shakeout the day before was also learning the drive to the start so I didn’t get lost en route to the start, something that nearly happened a couple of weeks ago taking Jim, Harlow, Willie and Vin to Crown King Scramble 50K. There was a surprising amount of people parked already considering that I was more than an hour early. I quickly found a parking spot, packed my gear for the day, warmed up, visited the restroom and chatted with a few folks. Nothing felt out of ordinary prerace, heck even the temperature was a comfortable 46F or so, awesome weather as far as I was concerned.

The race started without a hitch for the most part. Billy Yang posted a short clip from the first mile of the race to give everyone an idea, here is a link, Lake Sonoma 50: The First Mile, I’m in orange and just off the back of Krar. The course starts on the road and travels 2 miles before we dove off onto single track. I felt like it went out maybe a bit hot, but considering that passing on single track can be tricky, it was somewhat to be expected. I seemed to be feeling the best on the climbs, but the descents I was nowhere near my typical self, likely due to this somewhat persistent foot injury that I have struggled to find the source of. I yo-yoed with Gary Gellin (he ended up having an awesome race!) for the first 20 miles, out climbing him and a couple others then they would slowing catch up to me on the downs.

I typically stick to the 1 Vfuel per 30 minutes and have to problems energy or GI wise, but today that was not the case. For what ever reason I just couldn’t get my stomach to cooperate from about the 1 hour mark all the way to the finish. The obvious result of the lack of calories came with me basically tanking around mile 25. At this point I even considered dropping, but for lack of anything else to do I decide to at the least make it a solid training run. So I plodded along, chatting at aid stations and trying to remind myself to have fun, while it seemed like everyone passed me (about 20 people passed me between mile 25 and the finish by my approximation, I had been in approximately 12th when I dropped off pace).

Around mile 35 or so the 4th place woman caught up to me. We chatted a bit, but she was clearly in survival mode as well. I had started to feel a bit better so I elected to unofficially (since pacers were not allowed by the race rules) pace her in. About the same time another fellow runner by the name of Victor Mier caught up to us and joined in the ‘fun’, as it would turn out he had been a handful of minutes behind me at TNF and had a similar goal time for Lake Sonoma. We ran together for the remainder of the race chatting and taking in the sites, attempting to quell the urge to run harder, which would only result in longer post race recovery time.

Post race thoughts and reflections

Those last 15 miles took what felt like an eternity, but that what can happen at the 50 mile difference. After two less than stellar experiences at the 50 mile distance I do find myself searching for motivation and even questioning myself. It’s been humbling, especially with how bad this race went, to a near crimpling point. I’ve attempted to take it in stride and treat Lake Sonoma as a 50 mile training run, I even managed to hit the ground running with an 8 mile run on Sunday and another 4 miles today before my flight. The legs are sore, but nothing like what I experienced after TNF, likely due to the rolling nature of LS50, which doesn’t beat up your legs quite like the long, fast descents seen at TNF50.

Considering a number off racers dropped off in front of me, maybe this results isn’t as bad as I consider it. I’m not sure how many dropped at the moment, but based on finishers’ numbers it was probably around 40 runners, including two professionals in Rob Krar and Micheal Aish. Had I hit my goal time of 6:45 I would have finished in 6th or 7th place, but as it stands this will just have to go down as a long run in wine country on a hot day around a lake. There were definitely some times mid race that I wanted to pull the plug on running altogether, hopefully after a couple more days I can channel that negative energy into training for a competitive racing season in Alaska and the northwest.

Looking to the future

Coming off this poor performance I have plenty of time to prepare for the back half of the season, which is stacked with (2) 50km, (1) 100km and (after a couple months break/training) TNF 50. For now the focus will be leg speed and climbing strength to refocus for a couple road half marathons and mountain races in the immediate future. The mountain racing will culminate with Mt Marathon as I was fortunate to have been selected in the lottery, and with a stacked field, as well as it being the Alaska Grand Prix Championships, it’ll be hard not to make it a priority. This training will also be part of the build up to Crow Pass Crossing, which will require both to place well in what is expected to be a hotly contested race.