Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mendocino 50K Race Report

Saturday morning I woke to my buzzing telephone alarm signaling that it was 5:30 am and time to hunt down some coffee and food before the race. I glanced over at Jess covering her head in her sleeping bag and Watson snoring soundly in between us. I opened the door of the car and stepped out into the church parking lot that we’d pulled into just four hours before. The ocean air was damp and salty, and my right ankle was still tender.

The Monday prior to this I went on a quick flat run as the start of my taper week. Everything was going along as planned until, with about a half mile to go, I slipped on a rock and rolled all of my weight onto my ankle with a definite “pop”.  “SHEEIIITTT!” I thought as I gently trotted the rest of the way home. What a great way to begin the taper.  

 The rest of the week was uneventful, but having to work on Friday Jess and I didn’t leave Reno till around 6:00 pm. As if the trip was not going to take long enough, a surprise Spring storm was dumping snow on Donner pass making it slow going for quite a while till we dropped down in elevation enough for it to turn into rain. Keeping the theme of a proper taker week, my pre-race dinner consisted of gas station beef jerky and some trail mix (I’m so paleo!). After a long windy drive we arrived in Mendocino a little after 1:00 am. After a few passes through town we parked the car in a church parking lot set the alarm for 5:30 and passed out of a quick pre-race sleep. 

In the morning, trying to harness the advise of my college rugby coach, I groggily taped the shit out of my weak ankle and lined up on the shore of the Big River with all the other runners. 

Casual race start.

The race began casually skirting along the ocean front cliffs and along the roads through town. At one point we hopped onto a steep muddy trail, crossed a creek, and followed the ropes up the steep hill on the other side. “Hmm maybe this course will play into my strengths after all,” I thought. Nope. 

Zack Bitter, Yew Ferrara and I all came into the first aid together. I knew that there was a climb after, and knew this was my only real strength for the day, so I did what I could to work hard, but it soon turned into rolling single track and Zack and Yew trotted off. I just did not have the wheels to keep up. After that it was just me, my tender ankle and the plethora of poison oak to keep me company. The course here was spectacularly beautiful. Most of the single track winded through drizzly redwood forests skirted with brilliantly green ferns. 

The second climb of the race was a gradual fire road, and for a moment at the top I came into sight of Yew up ahead, but again he seemed to be able to float off once the trail leveled out. Damn. The last ten miles of the race were on a flat (I mean flat)  jeep road that follows the Big River back to the race start. I had planned to hammer these last miles out at about 7 minutes per mile, and for about 5-6 of them things were going to plan, but just before the last aid station my left hammy started to cramp up. From there on I stopped looking at the pace (which certainly fell off). I shuffled along the last four, or so, miles as my attitude toward my endeavor began to fade. With about a mile to go Michael Robert caught up with me. I didn't seem to have much ambition left, and so mumbled, “Go get em,” as he passed. I finished out the race in 4th place in 4:18.

Aside from falling apart at the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I could not believe how beautiful it was, and although it may have been a little flatter that I would prefer it was certainly a good day to see what the legs had in them. 

 A big thanks to the race director for letting me jump in at the last moment, and to VFuel for stocking all the aid stations with yummy gels and drink mix (it was great not to have to worry about carrying any extra food as I knew every aid would have all my favorite gels on hand). 

Gear List:
Shoes: Inov8 Terraclaw 220 (Certainly my favorite shoe right now) 
Socks: Drymax Trail Crew Socks (to try to fend off the poison oak) 
Clothes: Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts (tried and true), and Capeline 1 L/S Crew Top

Naked Running Band (holds a soft water bottle to keep my hands free)