Tuesday, June 14, 2011

San Lorenzo River 50K Race Report

Running among the redwoods
Those of you who read my blog regularly (all 5 of you) know that on Friday I almost had to go to the hospital ER with severe leg pain. I thought it might be an embolism, a pinched spinal nerve, or perhaps some kind of alien death ray weapon. As it turns out, my chiropractor, Dr. Kristina Irvin, was able to get me straightened out. While she performed a variety of treatments including chiropractic adjustment, massage, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound, she basically diagnosed me with cramps due to an electrolyte imbalance and recommended that I take some supplemental calcium. Sure enough, a couple hours after taking some calcium-magnesium-zinc pills the pain gradually eased and then completely subsided.

I took Saturday off completely just to make sure everything was OK and to give myself a rest day before the Coastal Train Runs - San Lorenzo River 50K that I was already signed up to run on Sunday morning. I was planning to play it by ear depending on how my legs felt during the day and evening on Saturday. Everything seemed fine, so on Sunday morning I woke up, slipped into my running gear and drove up over the mountain from San Jose to Santa Cruz.

Crossing the River
The race starts in Santa Cruz at Harvey West Park and takes you through a beautiful redwood forest alongside (and through) the San Lorenzo River. You actually cross the river midstream four times during the 50K course. The water is only about waist high (perhaps shoulder high if you are on the shorter side) and it's not moving too fast, but it's still a challenge -- especially towards the end of the race when you already have 28 miles under your legs. Luckily the race director was kind enough to string a rope across to provide some assistance. Though in the interest of full disclosure, I still managed to find myself completely submerged under water during each crossing (and not all of them by my own choice).

I didn't really have any personal aspirations for this particular race other than to finish without killing myself or pushing too hard. With my 100 miler coming up in just two weeks, I basically just wanted to get in one last long(ish) training run before the big day. Considering my recent cramping problems, and having just raced 50 miles the previous weekend at Rancho Cañada del Oro and Calero Park, I just wanted to run smart and easy today.

Although I had planned to go out slow and conservatively, I somehow found myself tucked in between Quicksilver Ultra Racing teammate Adam Blum and Über-triathlete Lauren Swigart (both of whom were doing the shorter 30K event). Adam and I stayed together for much of the first half of the race, taking turns doing the work. Running as a team we managed to successfully follow the course markings while many of the other front runners apparently took a wrong turn and ended up running part of the course backward.

Anyway, somewhere around mile 13 I started to pull away from Adam a bit and found myself running alone. I knew there were still a few runners ahead of me, but I wasn't sure how many of them were doing the shorter distances (1/2 marathon, 30K and marathon) and how many (if any) were doing the 50K. So I was pleasantly surprised when aid station volunteers informed me that I was the first 50k runner to come through the aid station. Sweet!

Now the pressure was on. I had the lead, but could I keep it? And if I could hold on for the win, would I also be able to better the course record of 5:07:21 set by Mark Dowds in 2010? Suddenly my plans to run conservatively evaporated. I found myself ratcheting up the pace ever so slightly and running some hills that I would have probably otherwise walked. I wasn't sure how much of a lead I had, but based on my rudimentary calculations (OK, based on my trusty Garmin Forerunner 310XT ; I suck at trying to do math while running) I was pretty sure I would take at least 10 minutes off the existing course record if I held my pace.

Woo hoo!
Luckily it was all smooth sailing to the finish line. Well, aside from getting stung twice on the neck twice by bees and almost nearly drowning myself in a mere four feet of water during the final river crossing. But luckily I survived to tell the tale and took home the win and a new course record, finishing in first place with a time of 4:48:41.

Congrats to second place finisher Jason Serda came in shortly afterwards in 4:57:41. And congratulations also to 64 year-old Quicksilver Ultra Racing teammate Jim Magil who finished strong in the middle of the field -- running on a torn miniscus! Man, you're a stud Jim.

Here's a link to the official results, and here are my Garmin stats.


Greg said...

Nice write up and race, John. Congrats! Is that a mustache in your finish photo?

Anonymous said...

Hi Greg,

Thanks, I had a great day. This was my first time ever having back-to-back wins and course records (with Calero 50M win and CR last weekend and San Lorenzo this week).

And yes, I was indeed sporting some upper lip and lower chin facial hair. Though I am not sure it actually grew in thick enough to be considered an mustache. LOL.


Toshi Moshi said...

Congrats, John! You look good in those pictures. I know you'll do well at at Black Hills! I never realized about Ca Mg side of the electrolyte imbalance. Thanks for bringing it up.

Anonymous said...

Great job!!!! You are a true inspiration - good luck in the black hills. Can't wait to read/hear about it.