This past weekend was the iconic American River 50 mile trail run. Brit, Matt Mo and I were Folsom-bound Friday afternoon. After a quick bib pick-up and pasta throw down, we went to the hotel.
Fast forward to the cell-phone-alarm-symphony that brought the thunder at 3:05 AM .No this wasn’t by choice. Actually, it was b/c it’s “what we signed up for”. In order to make to to the starting line by 6, the roads shut were shut at 5, so that left us needing to catch a bus at 4. Oh yeah! Treats.
We arrived at the starting line at 5:45 ish. We tried napping on the 40 minute bus ride, but apparently 4 am isn’t too early for people to discuss the entirety of the race course. Yes -every single freaking aid station – in full detail, at a louder than desirable decibel level. We arrived to the starting line. Pitch black. Cold. We followed the masses because that’s what you do at running events, even though nobody really has a clue what’s going on. That led us to the porta potties. With temps. being in the 40s and standing around as the only thing to do for an hour, Brit decided to find shelter in the bus. Well, the busses were leaving. Bummer dude.
We “chilled” for an hour until, we could finally start moving towards the starting line. After moving towards the starting line, all we had to worry about was moving towards the finish line. Let the adventure begin.
It felt great to get moving. The sun came out and it stayed out. The first half of the course just rolled along. Then, after about mile 30, there were mountain bikers. Lots of them. Come to find out, they had an event as well. I’m all for sharing the trail, just not when it’s after 30 miles, you’re trying to groove uphill and these hellions are ripping around blind corners right at us. Super sketch to say the least. Fortunately, after an hour or so, that passed.
After that, aid stations came and went. The sunshine didn’t though. It felt great, but running along a beautiful river made the temptation of jumping in all too real. That temptation stayed for the entirety of the race. You gotta love type-2 fun.
I finally got into a groove at mile 41. It was like something came over me. I felt like a possessed mongrel. The ever elusive and much needed “runner’s high” came in full-force. The iron was hot! The time to strike was right now. Those moments are fleeting. I think it’s a disservice when we bow out and shy away from them.
Well, that euphoria faded quickly. Classic. The mile 44 aid station brought was clutch. They even had wine, but offered me none. I have no idea why, but it sounded good at the time.
From mile 47-50, the hill known as “The Last Gasp” was the only thing between the runners and the finish line. There was a guy with a pacer who was ahead of me from 45-47. I was tired of being stuck behind them and was ready to pass. It’s like when you’re on the highway and the car in front of you is going at a good speed, but you’re sick of being behind them, so you make the pass. Same exact feeling. I had faded a bit behind them, but saw the opening and decided to sneak up on em’.
Well, I saw my window of opportunity. I got right behind them. Foaming at the mouth, I started charging. One step later and I slammed to the ground! My water bottles spilled out and dust was all over me. I felt like a complete kook. Cover blown, they turned around and asked me if i was okay. Yep. Fueled by frustration, I bolted. That is until I turned the corner. The climb was gnarly.
I power hiked the rest of it out. Finally, the finish line was in sight! I crossed it and took a quick shower from my gallon of water in the car. After changing clothes, Matt convinced me to get a complementary leg massage. In all honesty, it might have hurt more than the race.
Matt crushed it and finished an hour before me. We hung out, tried to nap, but the adrenaline kept us awake. We waited for Brit to bring it home. Eventually, he rolled up. We were hollering at the top of our lungs. With about 50 yards to go, Brit threw his water bottles on the ground, threw his hat backwards and sprinted toward the finish! The crowd and commentator went bananas! It was the classic Brit move: all or nothing. Watching this scene unfold, Matt and I laughed hysterically.
We hobbled to the finish line and chatted Brit up. We got to the car and went straight for coffee and pizza. That’s right. An unorthodox combo, but the challenge ahead was the 3.5 hour drive home.
As the sun set in the east, we quietly made our way back home, satisfied with an adventure-filled day. These adventures always bring out everything our senses have to offer. The physical and mental agony of suffering coupled with the euphoric, emotional high of surviving is a raw display of vigor. That vigor is best encapsulated when folks near the finish. It’s an electrifying scene that charges the atmosphere and those in it. I am just stoked that the boys and I got to be a part of it.