I’ll explain Diesel Mode later on, but when I ran Skyline 50K last year, I finished in 5:04. I ran the San Francisco Marathon just two weeks ago and it took a full week of nursing my ankle and calves before I could run again. Asphalt does that to you. I was hoping to crack a sub 5:00 this time around, but given how little I’ve been running in the last two weeks, wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. But sometimes the stars do align and I managed to finish in 4:57 (it was close!), 5th in my age group. Here’s my Strava activity from the run:
Woke up at 2am dreaming that I was running down the last major downhill starting at mile ~20 trying to make up time. By the time I got out of bed at 5am, it was 64°F and was looking like a warm day ahead. I was keeping it simple this time by sticking to Clif Shot Gels and really trying to minimize amount of time spent at aid stations. When I got there, the crowd felt a lot thinner than what I remembered. Talking to the RD later on, I learned that there were apparently 50-folks less than last year. Apparently some USTAF-certified ultra with prize money in two weeks. Anybody know which one?
I was worried too much about the weather. Luckily the overcast kept things cool until my last 3 or 4 miles, which was awesome.
As we headed out, the lead pack was off to a fast start. I found myself behind them as they slowly pulled away further and further. Fell into a steady rhythm and kept up a comfortable pace running up most of the hills. I was running without any water and wasn’t planning on getting any until Big Bear AS at mile 9.
Very brief stop at Grass Valley AS and off again through Bort Meadow AS working up the hill. Last year, I reached Big Bear AS @ mile 9 around 1:24. I had a 10 minute lead on that time so far and was keeping up pretty good.
The downhill to Big Bear was pretty fun and made a note that we had to climb back up this thing on the way back. The ground was a little hard and I had to watch my footing. Tried to run on dirt patches on the edges.
The climb out of Big Bear AS towards Skyline Gate was pretty steep and I ended up power hiking it. I could see Paul pull away from me, but I would get a little closer on every little downhill. The weather continued to be amazingly cool and so I kept pushing up to Skyline Gate AS. Last year I’d gotten there in 2:15 and it was looking like I was going to make it 10 minutes faster. I don’t think I’ve ever run 15 trail miles with a decent ascent in ~2:00 hours! Hey, there’s hope.
Another brief stop there, fill up electrolytes, stuff down a gel and I was on my way to my favorite part of Skyline 50K. The French Trail with amazing redwoods. This part always slows me down as I stop to stare at cathedrals and think about how long these things have been standing. We are but a fleeting moment in the life of these redwoods.
Took a deep breath and starting chop stepping down roots and stumps descending into amazing redwoods. I remembered a pretty steep climb in here somewhere and I wasn’t disappointed. Part hiking, part running, made pretty good time until the redwoods gave way to madrones and oaks and I knew I was nearing Big Bear AS. Got there in about 3:05, 5 minutes faster than last time around. Hmm. I was slowing down. More electrolytes, wash down another gel and now for the last big ascent.
Let me now explain Diesel Mode. I heard this phrase from Jean Pommier who in turn apparently heard it from Hal Koerner. When you are digging deep, either climbing up a steep incline or the final stages of the race and you absolutely don’t want to walk, you pull your hat down all the way. All you can see is just a few yards out and you just keep chugging. Pretty descriptive huh? My Diesel Mode started right about here and didn’t stop until I crossed the finish line.
This is the part I dreamt of at 2am. I simply just had to push myself downhill. There was someone else that passed me and that was a good motivation to push harder. After that big climb, it was nice to let loose and flow downhill. Very brief stop at Bort Meadow (Hi Mark Hauber!) and the long road to Honker Bay. It was going to be close. I ran with William for the most part and we kept playing tag. Every little downhill, even with the tiniest grade, I accelerated (while still in Diesel Mode) but never walked. I wanted to get to Honker Bay before 4:30.
After what felt like eternity, pulled into Honker Bay AS at 4:27. Last year, I remember stopping by for a chit chat, taking pictures and just goofing around. This time it was all business. I knew I would gag on a gel if I tried and I really didn’t want to walk at this point. So two cups of coke, refill on the electrolytes and I was off again. If I managed to keep up a 10 minute/mile pace, I could barely make the sub-5:00, but I had to try. Hat down again, Diesel Mode on. The sun was out now, my legs were cramping and I just had 3 miles to go. Eventually saw the the finish line arch and pushed a bit more. Sprinted across the finish line as I saw the clock ticking past 4:57. Collapsed, fully depleted, took me a good hour to get my sugar level back up.
And oh about the food at the finish line. Someone had made (unfortunately, didn’t get her name) a Quinoa Salad with Tahini in it. Oh-so-good. If you read this blog, whoever you are, please post the recipe in the comment! I would love to try and make this one. All in all, a fantastic day out in the East Bay hills with amazing volunteers. I’ll be back here in October to run the Dick Collins 50M. I think I’ll need to bump my miles/week just a tad bit more than 20. Yes?
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