This was the 33rd edition of Dick Collins Firetrails 50. I ran the Golden Hills Marathon last year and this one’s been on the list ever since. It was a fantastic day with so many familiar faces either running, pacing or helping out at the aid stations. Coming out my first DNF at the Ohlone 50K, I was a little anxious. Didn’t care much about the time, other than wanting to finish strong and with a smile. I hadn’t run much since my last race and the longest run was about 12 miles. Except for the diligent use of standing (only) desk at work + the Power Breathe session every day. Here’s my Stava activity from the Firetrails 50 with a GPS-fail for the last 5 miles.
With roughly 8,000+ feet elevation gain/loss, Firetrails 50 is a series of hill repeats with the longest one from the turnaround point all the way up to Steam Trains. My strategy was simple. Never to bother with the time or the pace. Reset the lap at each aid station and only focus on getting to the next one. A Clif-Shot Gel every 2-3 miles, 1 or 2 salt pills at the aid stations and home-made Pita + Hummus & Olive as I walked out of the aid-station. Even at the turnaround aid station, I spent just about 3 minutes to reload and leave.
The raccoon fight on a branch about the restrooms was interesting, especially only 5 minutes prior someone said why wait in line when you can use the trees in the dark. The muggy fog and the hazy lake at 6:30am was beautiful. Ran with Brian Mulholland and William Dai for the first few miles. Embarrassing moment? Asking a volunteer which one was the lap button on my Ambit3, since I haven’t been running with a watch for a while. And I can’t see that close in the low-light conditions with my contacts on.
The miles went by effortlessly and I just stayed focused on eating, hydrating and getting to the subsequent aid stations. The 4.5 miles from Big Bear Gate to Skyline Gate was my favorite (out and back) – redwoods and solitude. All the uphills were 15 strides of pitter-patter running followed by 10 strides of power-hiking.
With my ultra minimalist shoes ($30, 2mm stack height with no insole), the initial descent from Steam Train with a very rock, gravelly terrain was slow, but kept pushing down. Reached the turnaround point at ~4:40. Refueled and back to 15/10 hike/run strategy up the hill. Luckily made it close to the top before the fog completely lifted. Waved to Char Kuperstein, Kenneth Drews, Leigh-Ann Wendling, Jill Puleo and Jacob Messier heading towards the turnaround point.
I don’t remember much about miles 30-40, other than I kept moving. Also switched to Roctane and Coke for the last 15 miles. From Big Bear Gate at mile ~42, I started bombing down every little downhill. It was 3:40pm (first time I looked at the clock all day) when I got to Clyde Wooldridge aid station with just 4.5 miles to go. With tired math, I (incorrectly) figured I could break 11 hours in 1:20 with an easy pace. Except half a mile in, it dawned on me that the race started at 6:30am, not 6:00am. From here I ran like a mad man with a crazy frenzy that overcame me. I was flying down every little hill, sometimes at sub-6::30 min/mile pace as I was determined to get it done now. I was grunting, pushing really hard as I flew through the finish line at 9:55, 17th in age group. A very pleasant surprise and a post-DNF treat to myself. And of course, I collapsed after I crossed the tracking mat, fully depleted but happy.
Overall, the day couldn’t have gone better. Great friends and volunteers, a near-perfect cooperating weather, short miles between friendly aid stations, no cramping or bonking and remembering to smile most of the way. Other than some minor chaffing at the usual places (nothing that a little vaseline can’t fix), I woke up next morning a little sore, but still in one piece. I gotta say, I like 50 milers. Need to look for some interesting ones for next year. Any recommendations?
Oh and lastly about Monsters of Massage. Holy crap. Imagine a Lamaze class where you are breathing so rapidly as if you are giving birth (for a guy, that’s saying something) while simultaneously trying to tap out of an MMA fight? Painfully awesome and Ve Loyce (below) is the bomb! I was able to walk again without my hamstrings and calves doing the twitchy dance.
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