Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dick Collins Firetrails 50-Miler Race Report

Sean Lang and I shortly after we finished. I want one of them new Cascade Crest 100 shirts. I think they're pretty sharp. I guess I'll have to go back up there and earn one. We met pre-race and ended up running part of the morning together. It was good running with you Sean.

Kevin Swisher, Harry Walther and Brian Wyatt, lounging in the grass post race. As well as I did, I couldn't catch Kevin who had 15.5 minutes on me, coming in 7th.

For the photo set click here.

In the San Francisco Bay Area we are blessed with great races and this is one of them. Race Directors is the legendary Ann Trason and Carl Andersen. This 50-miler boasts a great course; a nice mix of fire roads and single track, lots of tree covered sections, aid stations every 3 to 4.5 miles and just enough hills to make it challenging but not daunting with 7800 feet of total elevation gain and the same for total loss. The race schwag is great and so is the post race bbq atmosphere where they served burgers, beer and ice cream as well as miscellaneous snack stuff. Most runners and spectators take the time to eat and hang out. It's how I got to finally meet first place runner Hal Koerner and second place runner Victor Ballesteros and his wife. I also got to hang with the usual buddies and met more new folks. The race also offers a marathon option. These folks started at 9am somewhere around the turnaround point and shared the same finish line as the 50-milers. I got to know some of those runners as well. I stayed for as long as I could before having to beat it back to San Francisco to return the car rental in time.

I've never had a race where my body threatened to pull the plug so early. Started at the front again like the last event. I'm much more comfortable being up front now, I felt less like a poser this time. It sure did save me a lot of time not having to pass folks in the early stages. There's a very narrow foot bridge about 2 miles in and starting at the front meant not having to wait while runners crossed one at a time. The leaders took off and after a few moments, Hal Koerner blew by as well. Did he start late? Then he blew by again after spending some time on the side of the trail fiddling with his shoes. It was quiet in the front. I did have some good company though. I hung out a bit with my usual competition Brian Wyatt, the fast and beautiful Kelly Ridgway, young gun Sean Lang and got to meet John Price as well as a couple of runners I haven't met before. These were quick conversations since everyone was focused on moving forward fast, much appreciated because so was I.

Photo courtesy of Calvin.

I'm sure footed almost all of the time but at mile 18 I nailed a root and went down. The problem was that I stumbled twice before going down. It would have been better if I had just fallen right away but the body just took over and I watched the train wreck in slow motion. My body tensed incredibly with each stumble and when I finally went down, in poison oak as I found out Sunday morning, my right calf cramped up. Thankfully it released right away but I was getting spasms/twitches as I made my way up and down the hills. I had to stop and stretch and really focus on movements that didn't make things worse. I also shifted more of my weight to my left leg, the weaker more problem plagued of the two.

I come into the 26-mile aid station and the turnaround at 3:56, right behind Brian. As he accessed his drop bag I went right back out on the course after a quick refill. Before the minute was up I was already well on my way and at 11th place. It felt good coming in 4 minutes ahead of schedule and 4 hours for the remaining 24 miles seemed very doable. 2 miles back up the hill the left hamstring starts to spasm too. You've got to be kidding me! So I stopped and stretched the muscle, quick lunges in sets of three. Overall I had to take it a notch down to keep the legs happy. I'm still moving well, just not as fast as I would have liked however this might have been a blessing in disguise.

With 9 miles to go I felt my goal of coming under 8 hours slipping and I decided to rally. The last 10k is relatively flat with the last three miles on a bike path. There are still a few rollers but no hills like we've experienced earlier in the day and I get a good speed going. I had extra energy reserves because I wasn't moving as hard on the hills. At this point my left IT band has joined in the fray. It was sore enough to be noticeable and the pain was slowly increasing, thank God this was just a 50-miler. I stopped at the last aid station at mile 47 for a quick refill and when I tried to start back up again, I get pain and stiffness from the IT. In the short time that I had stopped it had cooled and seized up. At that point I had 30 minutes to finish the last 3 miles and I couldn't get running again. Exasperated but trying desperately to stay cool, calm and collected, I massaged the tendon with the palm of my hand before trying to run again. It was painful but I hoped that once the tendon warmed up the pain would subside. Fortunately I was right and soon I was chugging along at what turned out to be 8 minute miles for the final miles of the race. The smooth asphalt of the bike path didn't aggravate anything and I gave it everything I got. It wasn't until I passed the boat dock did I know for sure that I had my sub-8, barring any major cramping just yards from the finish line - that would have been cruel but definitely possible!

Boat dock...the bathrooms...the grass...finally the finish line! Yehaa 7:55! It was exhilarating to finally cross that finish line after all the coaxing and battling with my body coupled with the achievement of my main goal to finish under 8 hours. Overall placement didn't matter just the time goal. For over half that race I duked it out with my body. It was like a long and heated argument with myself that I finally won in the end.

Coming in 8th overall and 6th in my age group was icing on the cake as well as the congratulatory remarks from fellow runners and spectators. The first person to come shake my hand was Kevin Swisher who I had been chasing all day. Maybe I come back again next year and shoot for 7:45 this time.


  1. I will keep your comments "about convincing your body to keep moving" in mind this coming weekend. Great job.

  2. Nice recap of the race. Way to keep moving despite all the leg issues. Hope that IT problem stays away.

  3. Only a true ultramarathoner would say:

    "...thank God this was just a 50-miler." :)

    Rick, what an awesome performance. Way to fight through and finish so strong! Great report, cool pictures, and an even better race. Once again, congratulations on such an incredible achievement!

  4. Congrats on a well done race! I'm glad that leg held up tot he end for you:)

    Can't believe it's already been a year since the last DC! It seems like you have a good goal for next years race.

  5. Duuudddddeee!! Holy you are one speedy speedy man. I *heart* that pic of you! It's a really nice one! And I still spit on you for being so tan :P ;-) CONGRATS!! ;D

    ROFLMAO you and Lisa would be the ONLY people on the face of the earth that call me Marcelina. Not even my parents do. Why they named me that then . . .I have no idea *shrugs shoulders* LMAO!

  6. Great race report-- and I agree with Jean's comment-- it's definitely a funny perspective!

  7. Well, I'm relieved to hear that you at least had to struggle a bit to run that kind of time :).

    Serious congrats to you for hanging tough throughout the race, especially with a fall and cramps and everything else. You'll never lose the mental game, that's for sure.

  8. I love that pic, Rick! You look so strong and determined. I was really impressed at how well you ran. I hope your recovery is going well. Thanks for the nice comment. That was sweet. Hope to see you in Dec. if not before. Congrats again for a great race.

  9. Again, congratulations on meeting your goals. For the record, I kinda said hi to you. As you were approaching the turn around point, you came toward me and I said, "there he is, hey Rick, good job." I'll be more obvious next time though. :P

  10. You overcame and conquered! Congrats! It looks like it was a beautiful day in the East Bay.

  11. dave: I hope the race goes well. You've been training long and hard for this one.

    mike: The IT problem is pretty much on it's way out after limping around for two days. Went on a short run last night and it was ok. It was slow and I walked up my hills but overall it's feeling good. Time to get on the bike this weekend though.

    jean: Thanks. Had this been a 100, it would have been one of those that I walked in from 20-30 miles out...bleech.

    addy: Time flies. I still remember a group of us hanging out after the race last year.

    marcelina: Ha, I'm always outside you know, getting a tan:) Anyway it was j~mom who I learned "marcelina" from. I like it! Congrats on your first marathon.

    victoria: 100-milers do change your outlook on running. Thanks again for volunteering.

    donald: Yeah man, a big struggle but a good one since it worked out for me in the end. I need some rest, a lot of stretching maybe even a massage before Quad. Thankfully it's another 6 weeks away. Boy I sure wish I was in Hawaii like you:)

    kelly: Thank you. I thought it was nice they were taking pictures out there like a pro and just giving them away. We got some really nice pictures. The run you and Suzanne are organizing in December looks like a nice one and it's definitely on my calendar.

    jo lynn: You know I remember hearing my name. Did I at least say hi back. I hope so, I hope I wasn't so wrapped up with what I was doing that I didn't say hello. I remember rushing, trying to make it to the turn around before 4 hours was up. I hope your run went well for you.

    sarah: Hello, hello. Yes it was a great day for the event. Really nice weather and a great turnout. One day when you are back up and running again I hope to see you and your "boys" out here.

  12. Congrats again. Nice report and pics. What a gorgeous day. And hey, awesome Pacifica shirt. I wonder who the artist could be??? :-p

  13. Well done again, Rick! You definitely need to head up to CC100and earn one of those shirts. No doubt you would be a contender.