Enjoy as Jason Taylor shares his return to racing at the Way Too Cool 50k in California. – Dave
It’s been nearly two years since my last “race”. In that time I finished PT school, had a baby, started a new career, started a post-doctorate residency…blah blah blah. You know, you’ve all been there. Time is scare, I get it.
For me, I have kept running but at much, much lower levels than previous seasons in my life. This past Fall I got the opportunity to go to the Team RWB camp in Texas and met a runner who highly recommended Way Too Cool 50k. He also recommended the Lake Sonoma 50 miler and I thought I’d sign up for both lotteries. God has a sense of humor and I got into both races. Thus began the slow trudge back to fitness. Training started slowly but I started to see some fitness come back and then in January, my family got the cold that never stops giving. You know the one, the kind that goes round and round like a merry-go-round.
So needless to say I wasn’t planning on breaking any personal speed records at the WTC50k, and my “race plan” was to take it easy, enjoy the day, stop and smell the flowers and generally just try to soak up this new area and the race itself.
The first eight miles of the race is a rolling, hilly loop that takes you south, southwest from the start down a paved road for almost two miles before kicking out onto dirt path and single-track for the remainder of the race. There are something like 1200 runners that go out in two waves, the first wave at 8:00am and the second at 8:10am. My first “outside of the plan” decision was to go out a little faster than my goal pace to try to get ahead of as many runners as possible before hitting the single-track.
Remember the old cartoons where the character would need to make some crazy decision and all of sudden a little angel would show up on one shoulder and on the other would be the little red devil with a pitchfork? Well I’d submit that as runners our angel is our race plan, well thought out, planned and prepared for, and the devil is this nasty, competitive little booger that is just begging for you to go all out. They stand on our shoulders and duke it out while all we are trying to do is just keep from falling over.
The first eight miles actually felt pretty good. I finished in just over an 8min/mile pace with a moderate effort. Surprisingly though as I headed through the aid station at the eight mile mark I noted that I just felt sort of tired. The next aid station was a 5k away at the bottom of the American River canyon. I took advantage of the descent and pounded away. In the back of my head I thought maybe my quads weren’t ready for the pounding but I quickly shushed the thought and continued on. (Score: Devil 2, Angel 0)
At 11.1 miles you arrive at the North fork of the American River and the Lower Quarry Aid station. From this point the course tracks north and to the east, meandering up and down nearly 6 miles before beginning the climb back out of the canyon. A majority of this portion of the course is on wide graded gravel road and there are actually a couple of really short and steep climbs in this section that are worth noting. My quads and calves started to cramp pretty bad by about mile 15 and I started a slow, run-walk combo while trying to get myself to mile 16.7 and the Maine Bar aid station for some liquid and electrolytes.
From Maine Bar there is a climb that starts up to Auburn Lake Trails aid station at mile 21. This was probably the hardest section for me. I think I power walked most of this section trying to keep the cramping at bay. At the top I took a couple minutes to stop and refuel, eat some soup, a bite of potato, a full bottle of water and then refill for the next several miles.
Everybody had been talking about the “climb” up to Goat Hill at mile 26.4 and I wanted to be as ready as possible. A vast majority of the 5.4 miles to Goat hill is easy rolling but much of it is exposed to the sun and heat. It offered some incredible vistas back down into the river canyon that we had previously run up and then climbed back out of. Towards the middle of this section I started to feel a little better. The cramping stopped and I was able to maintain a slow run for the remainder of the race. Well, that is, except for Goat Hill. Funny, now that I think about it, I should have assumed it was about as steep as something only a goat could go up. Still not anywhere near as steep as the final climb at Speedboat 50k but painful all the same.
The rest of the race is pretty much easy rollers back to the finish line. Spectators lined the course for the last 200 meters or so and the atmosphere was hard to beat! One big running party. A finishing chute never looked so good. I was beat! I sat in a chair for probably 15 minutes just to get my bearings at the finish, drank water and cheered others coming in just after me.
I got my frog cupcake and a great experience.
What did I learn?
At 41 years old, I can’t expect my fitness to hang around at baseline just because. I have to train and that means more miles, but more importantly because my time is limited, it means smarter miles too.
I learned that 31 miles still hurts.
I learned that no amount of planning can get rid of that competitive desire once the countdown ends and the race starts. Maybe it’s just the way I’m put together but I should probably embrace it and prepare for it rather than try to be something I’m not. When I want to stop and smell the roses I go for a hike. When I go to run a 50k, I want to run it, and leave nothing on the table. So, I’m gonna embrace the devil inside and just go for it.
Overall, I had a great time. I’m sore, my feet and legs hurt, and I look pretty funny “walking” around the airport traveling back to New Mexico today but this race is great course. I had a blast and can’t imagine a better race to get back on the saddle. The pre and post-race atmosphere, excellent sponsors and a vibe that rivals any race I’ve been to makes this a race I will most definitely try to get back to.
– Jason Taylor
Posted on 13 Mar 2015