Sunday, October 01, 2006

Rio Del Lago 100M - Yeah!

Sweet success - I completed my first 100M run! Last weekend I was able to complete my first 100 miler, beating challenging conditions. The whole week before I had been battling a persistant cold with stuffy nose and head. To make matters worse I had to fly to London on a quick turn business trip, not returning until Friday morning in San Francisco. I was worried the long travel and resulting jetlag would make the cold even worse - but I proved to be unstoppable :-)

Race start early Saturday morning from Cavitt School yard.
The first hour is spent on rolling hills on gravel bike roads along the American River. I was glad I brought a headlight, several other runners had skipped their light - and had to stumble around in the dark for the first section. I led the field for the first 5 minutes...I contribute it to having a good headlamp.

After 45 minutes or so, the trail narrows to a single track hiking trail along the shore line, very runnable and with just minor elevation changes. The trails can be rocky in places twisting around every corner as it continues north. Trail markings were Ok but definitely not superior - if there was one suggestion to Norm for next year - then it would be to put some more effort on the markings.

I passed by a couple of aid stations and filled up with some bananas and water - but generally just kept going for the first couple of hours. After just over 2 hours the trail starts climbing over a few smaller hills, only to suddenly hit the steep Heartbreak Hill that climbs from 500 ft to 1400 ft in less than a mile - power hiking is the only way to get up.

There is an aid station half a mile after coming up the hill, and I finally was able to fill up on fluids - advice for next year is to bring 2 bottles from 3rd aid station since the section to up after the hill is quite long.

I came into the Overlook aid station at 3.20 feeling in good shape. This was the first weight check and I was doing OK. I had learned my lesson from TRT and started drinking earlier in the run. I dropped my headlamp and running top since it was already getting warmer. I continued down along the WS100 trail, decending quickly for another 4 or so miles to aid station No Hands Bridge at 4.25.

Then the trail climbs back continuously for the next hour arriving at Cool Fire station at 5.20. The following section was the most tedious part of the race, with the course doing a loop around the grassy fields, along dirst roads, passing across a couple of creeks, to return back to Fire station at 6.30 - a bit boring and very hot. Remember to bring a lot of water for this section if it is a hot day and this can be a good section to do some power hiking to recover from the earlier climbs.

The run down to No Hands Bridge was relaxing and quite fun to make good distance and to get some shade among the trees. The trail markings were a little sketchy at time - it is good to study the map in advance for this section. Over the Bridge and then back to Overlook aid station at 8.44, I dont remember the trail was so steep...I power hiked some of the steeper sections here. At the aid station I swapped socks, and loaded up on some energy bars and fluids. During the early parts of the race I had suffered from some stomach troubles and this had continued for the last few hours, but it finally started to stablize which made me feel better about fluid intake and not having to jump into the bushes any more... The temperature had been around 60 degrees at start but would be around 90 degrees for much of the day - making for warm conditions.

The run along the drainage canal is nice and easy, then hits the steep downhill at Heartbreak Hill, back down to the river level. This time I was prepared for a lengthy part until next aid station - so I had loaded up with extra fluids and more - arriving at the aid at 10.20.

The trail back to the Cavitt School was nice running, I was very happy with the pace I was able to maintain - running on flats and downs, and power hiking all ups. The run had started going down, and my headlamp was in my dropbag at Cavitt School - but the last 30 minutes was in more or less complete darkness, luckily this section is bike trails to running and route finding is very easy. I called home to let my family know everything was going great and all was fine this far.

I arrived back at Cavitt School after 14.10 (i.e., at 8.10 PST). The aid station here was great, warm soup, helpful volunteers, I got my iPod, new socks, and changed to bigger shoes, and put on a light wind jacket. My personal goal for this run was to complete my first 100M, second goal was to do it without injury, final goal was to try do it in 25 or so hours. At this point in the race I was really happy with how thing had been going and I was confident I would be able to complete the remaining 33 miles in less than 15 hours (to make the 30 hr cut off). During my Tahoe Rim Trail I did a lot of power hiking during the second lap on that 50M course and I decided to do the same for the remaining part of the RDL 100M race. I figured that even if I only walked all the way it would not take me more than max 10-11 hours to complete.

The following section is very easy terrain - flat and mostly on bike trails and gravel roads. The aid stations are well placed 3-4 miles apart, and less in some cases. After 17.40 I arrived to the main aid station before the trail drops down across the main bridge over the river. I had drop bag at this aid station - and I also grabbed some nice hot soup. At this point I had started feeling a little tired and drowsy - but kept power hiking at good speed all along.

After the aid station the trail circles down/under/over a bridge/road/bike trail to come out on an easy dirst trail continuing along the bike trail and road leading towards the turn around point at around 83M. I reached this at a few minutes around 2 AM after racing for approx 20 hours. It was great to sit down - I had some extra soup and tried hold on to the energy. This was the longest I had every run straight so it great feeling, and I was certain I would make this 100 miler - but also knew there was quite some distance still to go (16 miles...).

After the turn around I started meeting many of the other racers, most of them were 30 minutes or an hour or more behind. I did not feel any worry they would catch up - since I didnt care much now that I knew I would be able to complete my own race. I continued - the aid stations were great, helping with soup and encouragement, and after the second to last aid station the sun started coming up and I was able to turn off my headlamp. I was really glad with the performance of the lamp, I used rechargeable AA batteries and they did a good job during all of the night. My time for mile 67 to 83 and from mile 83 to mile 100 was virtually the same - so I was holding a very steady pace during the night. The last few miles passed slowly - but finally I arrived back at the finish line at Cavitt School - after 25 1/2 hours of racing. It was a great feeling. I was very tired - but maybe more by lack of sleep than a complete physical exhaustion. I believe the fact that I walked the last 11 hours allowed my body to stay relatively fresh throughout the last 3rd part of the race. In future races, as I want to break 24 hours, I will need to run a portion of the last section.

Conclusion: Rio Del Lago is a great first 100M race. It certainly is a challenge, but the easy terrain in last part of race make for it a doable race if one just keeps going. The logistics is good with easy access for pacers and friends. Race director Norm is doing an excellent job, volunteers are helpful and truly amazing.


Linda V said...

Well done, bro!
We knew it wouldn't be long before you cracked your first 100M race. How about posting some pictures of you during the race?

Faithful Soles said...

Absolutely incredible post and story. I would be grateful if you would link your blog to my web site so that other ultra-runners who visit it can read what you have to say. You are truly an inspiration!

Jason The Running Man said... 100 miles. Great blog.