Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Race Report

Thought I'd take a brief moment and report on my race on Saturday. Lake Sonoma is a new race (3rd edition) but already becoming a classic due to the challenging course and time of year. It's a great tune up race for those doing Western States. In fact, seemed almost everyone I spoke to was doing WS. As you might infer, the field was thick with talent.

The course is an out and back route along Lake Sonoma. The course is primarily single track with a number of water crossings and constant climbs and descents. In fact, there is 10,500 feet of climbing with an equal amount of descent. The biggest climb is just before mile 25 and then again over the last few miles. The scenery was stunning to say the least.

I was not too confident going into the race. This past year I have had less than stellar performances and have fought a number of illness' and injury. But I did fee somewhat healthy going into the race. Regardless, my goal was to finish with a smile on my face.

My pre-race meal usually involves pizza and a beer or two. As things would turn out, after my 5th beer of the night, I figured I should go to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night with a mean headache and wondered why I had so many beers. Oh well, I took some Tylenol and figured I would run the hangover away....after all, I had some practice with this in training. The alarm finally went off and I started getting ready.

My pregnant wife and 18 month old were along for the race as well. I contacted the race director about hitching a ride with someone else to the start so my family could sleep in a bit. I was put in contact with Hal Koerner who was staying at the same hotel. For those of you unfamiliar with Hal...well let's just say he's a legend in the Ultra community winning the last two Western States race among a long list of other races. I was a bit excited. Hal and his girlfriend Carly turned out to be really cool and we had a great conversation on the drive to the race. Both were really down to Earth and I think this got me a bit more motivated.

My strategy for the race was to go out slow and then pick it up if I felt I could at the turn. At the mile 12 aid station I picked up Martin, a veteran Ultra runner who was training for WS. He was a great guy with lots of advice and enthusiasm. He pushed my pace a bit and we ran together up until mile 25. I was dragging just a bit and knew my family and friends would be there. We said our goodbyes and he took off without me. I changed socks and shoes, applied sunscreen, changed out bottles, and headed out again. I often take a little longer in the aid station with my wife and son but feel it's worth it.

As I headed down the long descent which would be followed by another long climb, I tried to push my pace in order to get my muscles moving again. I felt pretty good and kept focusing on getting water into my body. I quickly arrived at the mile 30 aid station where my crew was waiting for me. Here I ditched my water bottle and chose to stick with just my hydration pack. Just as I was heading out, I decided to take some tylenol and asked my wife for another kiss. As I was taking off, I was chatting with a young guy from Oregon. We were talking about the possibility of finishing at 12 hours. Just about then this guy runs by and makes some remark about needing to run faster. Well, I wasn't sure if the guy was talking smack or not but I took it that way. Somehow, my mind and body said go and I was off!

From mile 30 to the finish, I picked off runner after runner. In all, I passed 25 people and eventually crossed the finish line at 11:25. I had a blast and felt great the whole day. After the race, I picked up my goody bag which included a tech shirt, hat, and high quality Brooks running jacket. There was also incredible post race food including gourmet tamales and buckets of Lagunitas IPA beer. Hands down this race was first class all the way around.

So in my second 50, I dropped an hour from my previous time on a course that had twice the climbing as my first. I will definitely be back next year and plan to go sub 11.

All in all, a great day. And by the way, Hal ended up winning the race, breaking the course record by 20 minutes with a 7:08...roughly 8:30 minute/miles....unbelievable.

Update: here are some incredible pics taken by Laura of the day


Flo Hedwig said...

Congrats again! Great race report. Makes me want to go out and run right now!!!
See you out there...

Rogue Valley Runners said...

Great run Zac, wish you well this summer with your 100 mile endeavors. Nice meeting you too.


Meng said...

A BIG Congratulations to you Zac! It sounded like you had a lot of fun while also beating your previous time.