Race Report: 2019 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run

Friday, April 5, 2019: I planned to be at packet pick up in Folsom when it started at noon, so that I could take my time working my way back to my Airbnb in Auburn by late afternoon. I got a killer Americano at The Pour Choice in old town Auburn, and made my way to Fleet Feet- Folsom and got my bib and swag. It was a rainy morning and afternoon, and I was sure that it would be a rainy race day as well. I lingered over a huge lunch, and was back in my room, making final touches to my race kit and in bed by 7pm. My alarm was set for 3:30am, as I had to be out the door by 4:00am in order to make it to the shuttle that would take me to the starting line in Folsom. I had a relaxing evening, and actually slept well.

Saturday, April 6, 2019: Alarm went off and I got up and dressed and out the door on time. I found a perfect parking spot on the street at the edge of Overlook Park, and boarded one of the packed shuttles. We left the park at 4:15am, and made it to the starting line in Folsom by 5:00am. The race started at 6:00am, so I got my drop bags checked in and used the restroom, and then got back on the bus to stay warm and took a 30 min nap. It was approximately 50 degrees, cool and not windy. I situated myself in the back of the pack for the start, and walked briskly for the first mile. The first five miles are a lollipop loop that takes you up to Brown’s Ravine Recreation Area and back. I resisted the urge I had to pass people, and instead stayed quiet with head down and focused on my plan: start slow and stay slow. My only goal was to finish, and I had 14 hours to get this done. I reminded myself early on that this day would pass too quickly anyway, and to enjoy every mile. I wanted to run the first half of the race with an average pace of 15:00, and I knew that I would have to rein myself in because the first half of this race is so fast! At the first aid station (mile 5), I removed my arm sleeves, but put my jacket back on as it was still chilly. My nutrition plan for the race was primarily gels, and I had practiced having one every 2-3 miles. After the first aid station, we ran west on Natoma Street, past the Johnny Cash Trail Crossing, and across Folsom Lake Crossing. The views of the dam are pretty neat, and I cruised the downhill while walking every uphill. Shortly before mile 8, the course turns onto the American River Bike Trail, and continues past the Walker and Rainbow Bridges (the former of which we got to run across the first time I attempted the race in 2016). The course this year took us across the Lake Natoma Crossing Bridge, and south on the Jedidiah Smith Memorial Trail. This was the only part of the race that I felt uncomfortable, but only because it was starting to warm up and my Ultimate Direction rain jacket was becoming too much. At the mile 13 aid station, I filled up my water, and OMG THEY HAD DONUTS!!!! Seriously, it was the best aid station food I had ever seen. In previous races, I’ve never been hungry at aid stations usually because I was running on pure adrenaline and anxiety. But this race was so different for me. I ate whatever sounded good, and those donuts at that moment were the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I believe they were maple long johns, cut into pieces. I inhaled a few, and was encouraged to take more with me, so I shoved a piece into my vest and one more into my pie-hole. I stowed my rain jacket (it was mostly sunny and gorgeous), switched my music over to podcasts, and took off on a sugar high. I knew that there was a climb coming, and some more dirt trails before the next aid station at mile 20. Somewhere along the trail near the Rollingwood Bluffs, I got to see an eagle sitting on a nest! I saw a women looking with binoculars and asked if she was looking at an eagle. She offered me her binoculars for a closer peek. Pretty cool! I really enjoyed these miles along the bluffs, and descending into the aid station. I felt great, but proactively took an Ibuprofen to keep myself comfortable for the second half of the race. I was having no trouble maintaining my pace goal, but the flat, exposed, uphill miles before the halfway point would prove to be more challenging than I anticipated. I rolled into the Beal’s Point aid station (mile 25) excited to get my first drop bag, and well within time limits. My pace goal for the second half of the race was 17:00. I applied some sunscreen, ate some olives from my drop bag, filled water, and was off again, looking forward to getting off the pavement and onto the gorgeous trails that follow the American River north to Auburn. Miles 25-30 went really fast (I think due to the change of scenery), and after the aid station at mile 30, I knew I had an 8 mile section, part of which was nicknamed “The Meat Grinder”. It wasn’t nearly as awful as the first time I ran the race, and in fact, these miles were my happiest miles of the entire day. The trail is rolling, with lovely views of the river. I stuck with my plan of fast hiking every uphill and jogging all the downhills. I wasn’t thinking about any time cutoffs, as I knew by this time that I was going to complete the 50 miles. No question. I figured that I would get to the mile 38 aid station (Horsehoe Bar), sit down to empty my shoes, and have a few minutes to eat something and get going again. Wrong. While I had been watching my pace, I hadn’t been watching the time, and I was actually getting close to the cutoff for the aid station at mile 41 (Rattlesnake Bar). As I climbed the small steep section to get to the mile 38 aid station, I could hear the aid station crew yelling at runners to keep going as there was only XX number of minutes left before the cutoff at mile 41. I can’t remember the exact time he said, but I trusted him and decided to just keep moving. I shoved a few PBJ sandwiches into my mouth and let him fill my water and I hustled back onto the trail where I really started processing what he had told me. I had about 40 minutes to move 3 more miles. Oh shit, I needed to move quickly! I focused on efficiency, and as I neared the aid station I could hear people screaming “2 minutes to cutoff”! There was a frenzy of activity coming into the aid station- so many people yelling to get across the timing mat and back out. But I had a drop bag at that aid station, and had planned on changing into new shoes for the last 8 miles. But I had to remain fluid with my plan, and heeded the advice of the aid station crew and flew over the timing mat and turned right around and headed out, not even stopping. But that was the last time cutoff, and now I only had to finish the last 8 miles, and I had nearly 3 hours to do it. I was stoked, as I knew I was going to finish for real. It was waning into evening, and I had taken another Ibuprofen somewhere on the trail after the craziness at Rattlesnake Bar aid station. I stopped to take a lot of photos as the light was wonderful. I cruised into Dowdin’s Post aid station at mile 44, and felt a little worn out but still in good spirits. I ate some more PBJ sandwiches, and left quickly. I don’t remember much from the trail between mile 44-48, except that it was beautiful and I took a lot of pictures in the golden hour. My hips and knees were still allowing a slow jog on downhills, but I was mostly fast hiking by this time. The last aid station was a welcome sight, as that meant that the last handful of miles would be on the road that winds up to Overlook Park and the finish line. My hiking game is strong, and as I passed a girl on this section, she said I was the fastest hiker she had ever seen. I smiled and thanked her and kept moving. I had one twinge of pain in my hip in the last mile, but managed to jog more than half of the last mile, mostly out of sheer desire to just be done. I crossed the finish line at 7:52pm, and after grabbing my finisher’s jacket and my drop bags, I was in my car and back at the Airbnb by 8:15. What a day!

I highly recommend this race, as it was well planned and executed, with volunteers who are TOP NOTCH!!! I also recommend staying in Auburn near the finish line, and riding the shuttle to the start, especially if you don’t have any crew of your own to take you.

a view of the starting line arch from the back of the pack
Starting line
a view of Folsom Prison from the bike path
Folsom Prison
Looking back toward Rainbow Bridge
wild turkeys on the bike path
Wild turkeys on the bike path
vague shot of a bald eagle in a tree
There is a bald eagle in this photo I swear
view of the American River
View of American River (N. Fork)
view of American River
View of American River (N. Fork)
Smidge with her finishers medal, official time 13:52:47
Done! Official time: 13:52:47

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s