Slogging It Out At The Lake Sonoma 50 Miler

This past weekend I got to run the Lake Sonoma 50, a gorgeous, but brutal out-and-back 50 mile run that features relentlessly rolling hills and a total elevation gain/loss of over 10,000 ft. From the get go, I felt this was out of my league, but I just had to try. On one hand, I’m really glad to have run the Lake Sonoma 50 as my first 50 mile run. On the other, I really should’ve trained more. What the heck, you only live once. So live and learn. It was a long day for me and I remember this run (especially the second half) as snapshots of imagery.

Lake Sonoma 50 – The Fun Part

Tropical John knows how to throw a pre-race party! You name it and the elites were here. Runners that have run 100 milers, broken course records, guys/gals that make running for a living and are pretty darn good at it. Tried to hide in a corner, but luckily ended up in a table with a few runners attempting their first 50 mile run.

Not a lot of sleep and up at 4:30am, started out at 6:30am on wonderfully cool and misty morning. With a fair bit of preparation for my first 50 mile run, was hoping for a consistent 12 minute/mile (10 hour finish). My plan for food was: Clif Shot Gels,  Clif Shot + Succeed S Caps, Clif Shot, Onigiri every half hour repeating in 2 hour intervals. My Garmin 220 beeping every half hour, I held up this schedule pretty religiously until about 8 hours in. Passed through the Island View AS and got to Warm Springs AS at mile 11.6 in 2:07. Reloaded Clif Shots from the drop bag and headed out. Lush green everywhere, temperatures in the 50′s and just perfect.

Quick stop at the Wuflow AS and pushed up the climb to Madrone Point AS at mile 18.8 in 3:38. Consciously walking up every hill even if it was runnable. Was expecting the elites to be coming back any time now. They didn’t let me down. Zach Miller zooming down the hill with Rob Krar, Chris Vargo, Sage Canaday and Alex Varner following closely behind.

  • Lake Sonoma 50 Start
    How about, see you in 50 miles?
  • Creek Crossing Mile 6
    Creek Crossing Mile 6
  • Foggy At Mile 8
    Foggy At Mile 8
  • Misty Single Track
    Misty Single Track
  • Wild Flowers Everywhere
    Wild Flowers Everywhere
  • Out of Warm Springs Creek AS
    Out of Warm Springs Creek AS
  • Lake Sonoma 50 @ Mile 16
    Lake Sonoma 50 @ Mile 16
  • Mile 18 and still smiling
    Mile 18 and still smiling
  • Rob Krar Zooming Downhill
    Rob Krar Zooming Downhill
  • Lake Sonoma 50 At Mile 22
    Lake Sonoma 50 At Mile 22

The climb up to No Name Flat, the turn around point at mile 25.2 (got there in 4:45) took most of me out. Tweaked something in my glutes on the way up. Was having issues lifting up my left leg and/or increasing the stride length. Thanks much to the couple that got me a chair and helped me out while I fumbled getting my bearings. They even held on to my Leukotape and checked in on me at every subsequent AS while they were waiting for their son. Reload Clif Shot Gels, Onigiri, re-apply Body Glide and Vaseline. Almost lost my contact, but managed to pop it back in. It would’ve really sucked, ‘cos I didn’t have a backup for this in this drop bag.

Lake Sonoma 50 – The Slog Part

Left at 5:03, the sun was up and was warm as I worked my way back to Madrone Point AS at mile 31 in 6:34. Furthest I’ve run so far and still had 20 miles and ~4,000ft elevation gain/loss to cover. Gonna be a long day when you start walking the downhills. Don’t remember much of this stretch. No pictures, no talking. Just one foot in front of the other. A little second wind? Some “flow“? Nope, nada. Just a slog. 7 hours in and a million Clif Shot Gels later, I was gagging on them. One little bite, some water and repeat. Onigiri felt dry. Losing interesting in eating. Somewhere nearby, volunteers cheering and bells ringing. Must be Warm Springs Creek AS at mile 38 and I made it in 8:01.

Sat down. Chowed on an Okara Pattie stashed in my drop bag. Felt Different. Better. Remembered someone mentioning how 50K was their favorite distance. Mine too said the devil on my shoulder. But was too tired to listen to it. Reload Clif Shots and off again. Running was now a shuffle for 10 to 30 yards before walking again. 12 miles to go. Bloat. Needed relief. Up, down, up down, relentless. Island View Camp at mile 45.5 in 10:09. Potato chips and a cup of coke. Vaguely wondered how Zach ran this thing in 6:11. Nuts.

Another lonely stretch, not many passers now. Just me, the hills, knees screaming in pain and tired legs. Curse these hills. Loudly. Oh look a road crossing. And finally. Ran to the finish line at 11:35, spent, but smiling. Jim Atkinson (8:08 finish!), thanks for the kind words and the pictures. Tamale took 20 minutes to nibble through. A cold coke and a sparkling something. Strength returns. Eventually.

Lake Sonoma 50 Finish

Lake Sonoma 50 Finish

With Tropical John

With Tropical John

Most people thought I was crazy running Lake Sonoma 50 as my first 50 miler and in Luna Sandals too. And you know what I figured? With a measly 20-30 miles/week of my running + getting a standing desk at work, it’s sufficient to run a 50K comfortably. A 50 miler though? Needs respect and the training to endure it. As I write this blog, 2 days after the run, I can feel my legs coming back to me. As someone asked me at the finish line, now what? A 100 miler? And I said, huh, I think I’m going back to 50K’s. But that was before the Tamale and the Coke. I do know that when I’m running my next 50 miler, I’m going to train for it. I’ll be back Lake Sonoma 50. I’m not done with you yet. Anna Liao, Nate Dunn, nice seeing you guys out there and thanks for volunteering!

Some stats from the run: I was drinking ~30oz of water between aid stations, went through 15-17 Clif Shot Gels, 4 Onigiris, 2 Okara Patties and I was still starving when I got to the finish line. The eating-a-gel-every-half-hour strategy worked for about 8 hours and I couldn’t stand it anymore after. Gotta be a better way of trickling in calories. Any ideas?

Were you at the Lake Sonoma 50? How was your run?


Absolutely N.O. spam. Join fellow runners to receive no more than two emails each week with tips on injury-free running, race reports, new trail routes, awesome recipes and amazing interviews.

  • A L

    Those tamales at the end were quite tasty. Good to see you going through our aid station and well done on your first 50 miler!

  • Jerome Thiebaud

    Awesome job Kowsik, it’s great reading how you experienced your 1st 50-miler! I signed up for my 1st 50M as well, the Dick Collins Firetrail 50 in October. It sounds like having real food in addition of the gels/chews is key to fuel a full day of running. Banana, dates, dry figs, and adzuki-bean bars are on my list. I think I’ll go for salty potatoes and soup as well to get something savory. See you on the trails and keep the great work with your running and blogging!

  • Gretchen Ammerman

    Hey! I remember you well; it was my first 50 too and we passed each other a few times on the trail. I finished right behind you in 11:38. As much as you sound like you were struggling, you had a great smile on your face every time our paths crossed! It was a great race.