Last year in 2013, I paced Endorphin Dude for the final nine miles of American River 50 mile endurance race. That nine miles took nearly three hours, and it was an emotional roller coaster for him. He made the final cutoff by 2:11, (official time was 12:57:10) and that was because his last mile was 3 minutes faster than his average pace.
This year, I offered to pace him the second half of the race. Hopefully I could keep him on pace better and improve his time. Also, last year he ran over 100 miles in the two weeks before this race. This year he did not run that much, and he trained a lot harder to increase his time.
The morning started off with Endorphin Dude coming over to my house at 4:30 am to get his bib and use the toilet. I followed him to the race start and quickly wished him and some other folks I know luck during the run. I had to leave before the actual start so I could get over to my volunteer station over at mile 17.
Volunteering that morning at the Maine Bar aid station was a lot of fun. We were the superhero station, and we all dressed up in capes. Some had the superhero underwear on the outside of their pants. Unfortunately for me, they didn’t have yellow briefs to match my yellow cape, shirt and running shorts. Anyway, we watched all the runners go through, including the first guy who was running at a sub 6 minute mile. Not sure if he was the overall winner, but the winner did the 50 miles in 6:27, which is a 7:45 pace.
As I am handing out water and mixing electrolyte drink around 9:15am, I am trying to figure out when ED is going to come through the aid station. He said he was shooting to reach the half-way point in about 5.5 hours, roughly 12 or 13 minute miles. About the time I figured I wouldn’t see him for at least 30 minutes, he comes flying through the station rocking an 11 minute pace!
I got his water filled up, help him get some soy biscuits out of his bag, and tell him to slow the hell down so I can actually meet him at the half way point. Around 10:15am, the runners had thinned way down, and the aid station manager told me I should leave so I could be sure to make it to Beal’s Point to meet up with Tony. It is a good thing he kicked me out when he did, I had just enough time to drive to the exchange, get changed into running gear before he came running down the hill into Beal’s Point. Also lucky, he had the Doggy Nanny with him (if you follow Endorphin Dude on Facebook, you would know that she watches his dog when he travels for races.). She was crewing and meeting us at the accessible aid stations, plus she was able to drive me back to my car at the end of the day.
It was around 11am when ED ran into Beal’s Point exchange. He grabbed a bit of a snack at the aid station and we set off. Up to this point, he had maintained an 11:36 pace for 24.4 miles, and we maintained that pace for a bit farther. The course for the first half of the race was a mix of pavement, gravel trails, and some single track dirt. We had a little bit more pavement after Beal’s, but it quickly went to single track until about mile 48.
Endorphin Dude was doing great, though he did slow down a bit during our second mile together. I am actually quite thankful for this because it was around that point that I decided to start rolling my ankle every 400 yards. I caught a bad root and twisted my left ankle, and for the next couple miles it just kept rolling on me. Ironic, since a few days before this race, I posted a blog about ankle stretches and strengthening. I was also having weird heel pain for a few miles. The day was not starting off well for me.
There was about 5 miles to the next aid station and the up and down on the single track trail was starting to slow ED down. I also got the first of “I am in the zone now, I need silence.” These are the times when he had a good running pace going and he was doing really awesome. He was also starting to experience some nutrition issues. Nothing bad, but it got worse.
We hit the next aid station at Granite Bay, got his water filled up, and grabbed some fruit. I also grabbed some Tylenol to help with my ankle. He had some soda, but no electrolytes, and couldn’t stop burping for the rest of the race. It got so bad that he nearly threw up, but he didn’t. He started having other issues as well. His blood sugar was getting low, and the gels were upsetting his stomach. The next aid station was a limited aid station (they hauled water in gallon bottles down the hill.), and E-dude had some ginger-ale to calm his stomach. This didn’t help.
This was the most technical part of the course. Lots of rocks to climb and the trail even had steps put in because the hills were so steep. There were other challenges to this course. There were several areas where the trail was in a hip deep valley, that was barely wide enough for my butt to fit through. We were also dodging poison oak the whole time. Often branches were hanging down in our faces and were tough to avoid (I took a Technu bath when I got home).
We continued along, slowing down a bunch until we got to the next aid station at Horseshoe Bar. He was almost a zombie getting up that hill. I told him no more soda and to have some electrolytes. They also didn’t have any vegetarian soup (E-dude is vegetarian). He actually asked for the chicken soup, and I had to tell him not to take it because his body wasn’t used to it, and it would make him sick. I got him some oranges and some pb&j and some more electrolytes and he perked right up. Then he hit the port-a-potty and we were off and running again.
He left that aid station like he stole something. He was flying. The electrolytes really helped get him situated. He dropped his average pace (since Beal’s Point) 10 seconds in a mile and a half. We had a few slow downs due to the course, but overall he was doing great. The next aid station was Rattlesnake Bar. This is where I met him in 2013 when he barely made the cutoff. This year we arrived amidst a huge amount of cheering. Some of it, I’m sure, was just that there were runners approaching, but there was a few cheers of “Endorphin Dude!”
We refueled, he had some cake, he took some pictures (because he likes the media), and we took off again for the last nine miles of the American River 50. This time we went out little faster than before. The cheering really lifted his spirits. We also picked up a few other friends of ED who stayed with us and chatted while we ran. Around mile 43, I rolled my ankle. I hadn’t rolled it for about 15 miles, and this was the worst one yet. Luckily, we were going uphill and E-Dude was walking. I managed to keep going, but there was a stretch when I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep up.
We got to the next aid station, at mile 44 and I could tell the fatigue was getting to E-dude. He was asking about how many miles were left and started slowing down. He did good for the next mile or so, then the nutrition issues reared their ugly head. We had to stop so he could gag and nearly throw up. He didn’t throw up, but he somehow found some new energy. He managed to eat a gel pack, and he kept moving forward.
The last 3.5 miles of the race is all uphill with a mix of gravel and pavement. You climb 800 feet in the last 4 miles. The last aid station, Last Gasp, was 2.5 miles from the finish. In 2013, we ran up that hill, and they were his fastest miles of the nine I ran with him that year. We were looking at the clock and I saw that if we pushed it up the hill we could get a 90 minute PR for Endorphin Dude. I told him that we were going to run up that hill in short intervals. We got a short fill of our bottles, just enough to make it up the hill. We ran 30 seconds every 2 minutes, plus any small flat or downhill section we came across.
The last quarter mile we started seeing people cheering for the runners heading for the finish. I was pumping him up and cheering him on through the pain that he was experiencing in his legs, but he wasn’t giving up. He rounded the last corner and saw the finish arch, and sprinted to the finish line.
His official finish time was 11:24:09, a 93 minute PR! He did the last mile in under 14 minutes, and was over 2 minute faster per mile that last 9 miles than in 2013.
Once he realized he knocked out a 93 minute PR, he danced around, got his medal and Patagonia jacket. Then he started taking pictures with everybody in the area. We were off to get some food and he had a massive crash. The adrenalin left his body, the endorphins left his body, and he crashed. Hard. This time he actually threw up. There are pictures, but I don’t think you want to see that.
I went off to check his official time while he went and got a massage. On the way back, I stopped at one of the showers (a shower head attached to a hose and surrounded by a tarp) to wash some of the poison oak off my legs.
After he recovered, we left to go get some dinner.
E-dude did awesome during the 2014 American River 50. There are still some things he needs to improve with his nutrition for future races. All of his training (and not over racing) paid off. He has lost more weight in the last year, and has been smarter about how he runs (like actually training on trails). I personally think that he could easily take another 15 minutes off his time if he did a couple things. First, if he ran a little bit slower in the first half by 30 seconds a mile or so, I think he could have recaptured that time and then some on the second half. Also, if he had his nutrition in better order, I think he could have ran a bit stronger.
Of course, I have not run a 50 miler. Yet.