As the 2nd largest 50-miler in US, the American River 50M is a big production. I was joined by ~630 runners on a beautiful course from Folsom to Auburn. The American River 50M course is a combination of bike paths, single track trails and fire roads, though the first 25 miles are mostly flat. The real fun begins in the second half. My plan was to get to the 25-mile marker at Beal’s Point in around 3:30 and then…Well, there wasn’t much of a plan beyond that. Just figure it out when I get there. Apparently the first few years of the American River 50M, the course ran the other way. So to honor that, this race report is in reverse chronology. Here’s the Strava activity from my run.
American River 50M
Sitting on my chair at the finish line, sipping a lukewarm IPA with a box of chilled pineapple wedges and a veggie burger, I was still pleasantly surprised with a 2+ hour PR for a 50 miler. Yes, Lake Sonoma 50M is a different course and all, but I ran most of the AR50 second half. And I finished in 9:11. I was pretty stoked and content. No cramping, no bonking and not to mention, no injuries. Gotta love the little things in life. They really all that matter. This run was almost completely powered by Pita Pockets (Trader Joe’s), stuffed with Hummus and Olives. I probably only ate 3 Clif Shot gels. Especially in the later part of the race, the Pita Pockets tasted so much better and I didn’t gag.
Bottom of Last Gasp
3.2 miles to go is what one of the volunteers told me. This was the moment of truth. A 1,000ft climb after running 47 miles. Walk, run, walk, run. Only thing mattered now was getting to the finish line. A brief stop at the Last Gasp AS for 2 cups of coke, a water refill and at it again. There was a small glimmer of hope for a sub-9:00 sometime ago, but the Gasp took it away. Saw the 3 mile marker and knew I was almost there. Rounded the bend onto Pacific Ave to cross the finish line at 9:11. Politely refused the medal, but took the awesome fleece. And a good samaritan bought me a $1 coke. Thank you!
Horseshoe Bar – 12 miles to go
I was almost out of water when I got here. At this point, I was in a trance and was just focused on moving and getting to the next aid station. The ritual was frequent gulps of Roctane/water, splash of water on the face, salt pill every hour, eye drops for my contacts, and periodic bio breaks (and a color check – yes, I know, TMI). This was also the last AS when I broke out the Pita Pockets. Stuffed my trucker hat with ice and I was on my way. The rolling, mostly-shaded single track trails were so gorgeous. I ran most of it, even the short hills in a state of disbelief, since in Lake Sonoma 50M, I walked so much on the 2nd half. These miles are the fuzziest in my mind with an intense focus on moving forward. Thanks to amazing volunteers who were patient with my bleary-eyed self.
Granite Bay – The Meat Grinder
I’d say this was the hardest stretch of ~9 miles on the course. It was hot, exposed and the trails were technical. I really had to watch my footing and there were some steep step ups/downs. The going was slow. Checked on a pacer patiently waiting by someone dry heaving. Some race reports mentioned a water-only AS at mile 5, but didn’t see it. Back at Granite Bay, I had filled out both of my 0.5L Salomon soft flasks, one with Roctane and one with water. Was hoping I wouldn’t run out and just like that, Horseshoe Bar shows up.
Beal’s Point – Half Way There
Got there in ~3:40, almost close to plan. Without a crew/pacer and knowing I won’t be thinking straight, I’d left instructions for myself. And it helped! Followed them to a tee, grabbed a new set of Pita Pockets, stashed by headband & arm-sleeves away and grabbed my trucker hat (which was handy as it got warm). I was in and out in 5 minutes. All the drop bags were so neatly organized and the aid station was super well run. The next 5 miles were right along the lake with great views. Ran with Miguel Vivaldo (met him at Big Basin 50K last year) for a while, a 15yo who’s got grand plans of breaking the WR for under-19 100 miles.
The First Half
Woke up at 2:30am, downed some oatmeal and drove up to the finish line and found a great spot. When I boarded the bus at 4:10am, I thought I was hallucinating. Wasn’t the moon almost full just an hour ago? Turned out to be a Lunar Eclipse! When we started running at 6:00am, the golden moon hung over the lake on a beautiful sky while I tried to stay close to someone with a headlamp and not trip in the dark. 🙂 Lot more asphalt than I care, but enough dirt on the side of the bike trails. Made sure my pace hovered around 8:30 min/mile and just relaxed into it. The miles were easy, the morning chill keeping us cool and everyone was chirpy and cheerful. Ran by Walker bridge, Powerhouse and other historic locations. Shout out to Travis Fitzgerald (in sandals!) & Mandi Logan (first 50 miler and a 9:28 finish!) whom I had the pleasure of sharing a few miles with.
Did you run the American River 50M? What was your experience?
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