Going into Lake Sonoma 50 I was hoping to accomplish a few things:
I wanted to use a time sheet to set my pace, stay on my nutrition without going overboard, have fun, and push myself into an uncomfortable pace for the majority of the race.
When setting up my pace sheet I knew I had become a stronger racer than I was last year (for my first 50miler). I was thinking I could put myself right around Jon Olsen's winning time from last year or better if I was having a good day. Going into the race with this written out plan helped me realize early on in the race if my pace was reasonable and when I should be seeing the next aid stations.
The Race Start
The race started off pretty quick right at 6:45am. As the twilight faded into morning sun 155 runners went loping down the trail. I stayed back in about 5th place for the first 6miles. I started to get into a comfortable rhythm then and started picking up my pace a little. Soon I found myself running in third place when leaving the mile 12 aid station. I had one of those wonderful runs where the weather is perfect and my body is feeling pretty happy. The miles were just clicking away. I was running the climbs at an efficient pace and new the leaders couldn't be too far ahead of me. When I came to the ridge that takes runners to the turn around I new I would be seeing the leaders soon. First I saw Hal Kronner who is awesome to watch run. I new from my time chart he must be about 8min up on me. Just when I was heading down into the aid station I saw Bob Shebest about 2min ahead. I quickly topped off my bottle and reloaded my Gel-Bot and was off. I kept getting glimpses of Bob ahead of me and I new I was closing on him. Views of the Course
On a big open down-hill I put my training to use and pushed to close the gap on Bob. Just when I was about to catch him I couldn't see him anymore. Turns out he missed a turn that took him slightly off course. At this point I pushed to put a little of a gap between the two of us. Miles 35-45 were a little slow and relaxed for me. I ended-up in a gap about 15min behind Hal and what I thought was a comfortable gap between me and third. I was running fine just not pushing the way I was hoping to going into the race. That all changed while I was leaving the final aid station.
Coming out of 45mile aid station there is a quarter mile out-and-back that racers need to do to check in (we do this same section at the beginning of the race as well). Just when I was about to exit the section Bob came running in looking strong and quick (SHIT!). I had been told he missed this section at the start of the race and was going to do it twice now, but that still meant that he was really close to me. I started to push my pace to where I didn't think I would be able to hold it. Somehow I was able to keep this fast pace the entire final 4.7miles. By the end my legs were tired and happy to be done. I'm really glad that I saw Bob there because it made me really push myself the way I was hoping to be doing for this race.
I ended up finishing in second overall with a time of 7:24:15.
I stuck to my nutrition plan throughout the race and only started to fall off it in the last 4miles. Early in the race I had a Gel-Bot malfunction. I was trying to suck gel from my bottle but nothing was coming out because I hadn't cleaned the lid well enough last time and some gel had dried inside to clog it. I grabbed a gel out of my shorts so that got me through to the 12mile aid station, where I quickly unscrewed the top and pushed the plunger to dis-lodge the crystallized gel, working fine again (phew).
This was my first race in my La Sportiva jersey. I was really excited about being out there in it even though I felt like a big yellow dot that could be seen from miles away. I used my Raptors which gripped the muddy spots of the trail very well. I could have used a much more minimal shoe out there but with all the stream crossings
Deep spot of water crossing
I wasn't sure how much mud there was going to be. There were definitely a few moments when having the extra grip was nice.
The race was excellent just like the previous year. In many ways Lake Sonoma 50 captures what I believe to be the essence of trail ultra running. The community is spectacular, the trails are rugged and remote yet fair, the support is excellent and everything you could want without being overwhelming, there is great competition, the views are awesome, and at the finish line everyone is sitting around together talking about the day over tamales and beer. I am already looking forward to heading back there again next year.
Many thanks to all the support out there. Just as last year it was wonderfully organized, and everyone was incredibly helpful. Special thanks to Tropical John for organizing the event. See you next year.
Thanks Kevin Luu for sharing the photos.
Some friends and I were lucky enough to stay up in Sonoma that night and do some wine tasting and good food eating the next day. Some of the highlights were: