Huge thank you to Tropical John, Lisa, Alex, HRC, our Nike Team, GU, UgoBars, SRA Elite, SFRC, Schranz, Billy Yang, iRunFar, the Flagstaff Lumbersexuals, Max, Jorge, Ethan, Ian, and the many volunteers and other competitors on the course. Once again the entire weekends experience was top notch!
An “Aha! Moment”
I’ve had the opportunity to hang around my fair share of finish lines over the years. But as I stood at the finish of Lake Sonoma 50 I connected in a different way then ever before. Perhaps this was because for the first time I too experienced mental defeat early on and had to find a deep intrinsic motivator to continue pressing forward.
As each runner crossed the line, there were so many different expressions displayed. Everything from joy and heartache, to strength and utter exhaustion, each runner seemed to be completing an internal battle that only they truly understood.
Personally, not replicating the gratifying success of my first 50 miler allowed me a much greater respect for what our sport and its’ athletes endure. I felt I had one of those, “I get it”, moments.
You can find something victorious in each finish despite your quantifiable time or place.
Just One Of Those Days
I had moderate expectations for Lake Sonoma 50. I knew I was fit, had a good nutritional plan, and wanted to run a very conservative race hoping to have a better second half, capitalizing on the carnage of a predictably hot early pace from the leaders. Check out Billy Yang’s teaser film here.
After a casual opening few miles with Max, Jorge and Gary Gellin, I began to fear we were in a for a long day. By mile 7 my legs felt flat and were already struggling to respond to the unrelenting rolling hills.
My good friend, teammate, and eventual victor, Alex Varner (and new CR holder!) told Lindsay and I on race morning that the Lake Sonoma 50 course is a “Death of 1,000 cuts”. No particularly large climbs or descents, but it covers the 10,500ft of ascents in constant little rollers that break you of your rhythm. And this mantra played through my mind about 1,000 times… My strava data And HUGE congrats to Ryan Bak for taking 2nd in his first ever 50! Really proud of you, Ryan.
Misery Loves Company
Jorge, Max and I all ran within 1-3 minutes of each other through 22 miles until Jorge began his eventual move up in the field and would end up 4th. Great work, mi amigo! Despite a conservative start, my legs were not having it on the day and I shifted out of race mode and into a mental survival state.
It was a very depressing place to find myself. Knowing there were 28 more miles and hours to be run, I looked for any and every excuse to drop out at the next aid station.
My right hip flexor had become irritated from the abusive ups and downs but I knew it was far from a true injurious state and I couldn’t use that as my reason.
Could I roll my ankle and start limping? Don’t be foolish.
Perhaps I could stop and wait for Lindsay to catch up and pace her into the finish? No.
After meeting Jarrett and our Nike crew at the mile 25 turn around, I decided to at least venture onward to Eric Schranz’s “Golden Shower” at mile 30 where I could likely get a beer and ride to the finish.
I was having a hell of a time running downhill the next few miles and walked a lot of the uphill. When Max regained contact I thankfully latched on and we meandered along together.
We exchanged leads half a dozen times over the next 15 miles, both taking turns conducting our derailed train up and down the roller coaster course. We were treated by many cheers for “Go Max!” and “Nice hair-fro!”. You can probably guess who the latter was for…
On one climb Max “accidentally” dropped his salt tablets and I dumbly stopped and picked them up for him. After struggling to stand up from cramped hamstrings, he jokingly said, “that was all part of my plan”. Rookie mistake, Tim…
We eventually caught up with Rob Krar who was walking his way towards the Mile 38 aid station and made sure he was doing okay. As we entered the next aid station I noticed Michael Aish had just been seated in a chair and looked pretty terrible. I grabbed a bean and cheese quesadilla, some more fluids and Max and I slowly departed on our final 12 mile journey.
Although we had both long shifted from race mode, it was still an enormous mental and physical battle to continue onward. The thought that the final 12 miles may take us 2 hours was really mind numbing.
After a few more miles of slogging along with one another I eventually pulled ahead a little. As I told Max, “I’m not trying to run away from you, I just need to keep moving or I’ll sit down and never finish”.
At the final out and back aid station I crossed paths with Seth Swanson for the first time and wanted to tell him, “Don’t worry, I’m not coming for you” but I figured he probably didn’t care at that point anyway.
Finishing this race was the biggest mental win I’ve had in running after 17 years in the sport.
Yes, physically I was tired. That is to be expected after running for nearly 7 hours. But, when mentally I was ready to give up at mile 22 yet kept moving forward, I will always cherish that.
I thought a lot about how people in the sport talk about these moments being pivotal in overall growth and learning. How you can find out things about your character, it can make you stronger long term and you can learn from these failures.
I also thought a lot about the other athletes on the course. After the turn around it was great passing the runners still heading out, especially Brian Tinder and his bare ass! “I was instructed to moon anyone that looked like a tennis ball”.
Their cheerful and congratulatory words kept me moving forward. I thought to myself, all of these athletes are going to finish, what give me the right to drop out?
Although I didn’t accomplish any greatness in this race, crossing that line is now in my top three proudest athletic moments. Only behind my Olympic Trials marathon qualifier and first NCAA DII steeplechase qualifier.
Of my 5 ultramarathons, over the past 6 months, for the first time I had a nutritional plan that was executed correctly.
A recent partnership with GU made all the difference. I consumed 1 GU Energy Gel every 3 miles and sipped on GU Brew the entire way. Unlike my TNF50 mishap, I did not have any GI distress or need for bathroom breaks.
I did pee twice, however. One of which was while running uphill. I am very proud of that feat!
Final Time: 6:47:15. 7th Overall.
Lindsay Is A Baller
Lindsay completed her first ever 50 miler in 8:06:55 and took 6th in a very competitive field. She said afterwards, “That wasn’t that bad”. Hahaha oh how each experience can be so different.
She has a pretty great race recap but unfortunately she will never write one. But from head butting a low hanging tree and almost blacking out to going dry from mile 38-45 and screaming into the empty forest for help it would make for a good one…Regarding the dry spell, she reports that when she finally found a hiker that was, “loaded with food” and asking him for something to drink or eat, he graciously said, “I don’t have anything”.
She ended up running 16 miles the following day to “shake out” her legs. I think there is some real potential for her should she stick around long enough to discover it…