Lake Sonoma 50 Race Report
I finally got a chance to tackle Lake Sonoma this year. I was signed up last year but injury knocked me out of the race just days before. It has become one of the most popular Ultras in the country and I was excited to toe the line with the elites to see how slow I am.
I arrived early and really too early as I am one of the first in the parking lot. The good news is I am able to take my time and get my bib and get ready to rock’n’roll. It also gave me some time to chat with some fellow runners from Truckee and close by to home with whom I have been running with most of the winter.
The gun goes off as promised at 6:30am sharp and not a second later. We are off and of course I am out running hard way too early but hey we only live once. The first few miles are on the road before we drop onto the dirt for the remainder of the day.
The first two aid stations come in a blur and I quickly realize that I’m running way too hard to maintain this pace to the finish. I am cruising at around 8:00 min/mile and running in a rather large group. I hit the warm springs aid station second in the group and purposely move like a snail to ensure the other 8 to 10 leave before me.
Hitting Lows Running Strong
Ultrarunning can certainly be a social sport but letting everyone go and running solo for a while was the best decision I made all day. This allowed me to settle into my own race and enjoy the incredible trails of Lake Sonoma. While Lake Sonoma doesn’t contain huge ascents and descents it is a beast of a course that just keeps hitting you in the stomach, so pacing is very key.
I don’t see another runner for the next 7 miles as I make my way to my first visit at Madrone point. I am caught from behind by a few runners as I again move very slow through the aid station. Mainly because I am putting Tailwind from a bag into my water bottle. Nonetheless I am ready for company again as I hit my lowest point all day.
When things don’t feel well running the best cure is to have other runners to queue off and that is exactly what I did for the next 7 miles to the half-way point. The slog up the day’s biggest climb didn’t treat me well at all until about 75% of the way up where I was able to find my legs again.
Half Way Home
I hit the half-way point which is one of my highlights of the day. The reason for this is my lovely wife and daughter are there waiting for me. My daughter is very happy to see me and really finds every little way to help me restock. Of course my wife plays the biggest role but just seeing how happy my daughter is here makes the hurt go away for a few.
(Just after the half-way and starting to cruise down a nice long downhill.)
I like to pride myself in having a strong second half in all of my ultras but I was certainly questioning my ability to pull this off in this one. Funny things happen in ultras though and we go through many highs and lows. For the most part the lows had been conquered.
I am able to catch one gentleman on the way back to Madrone aid station and this got my confidence going a bit. I do get passed by the eventual 5th place female but thats ok it gave me someone to chase the rest of the day.
I cruise into madorne basically with 3 of us and I am able to make quick work of the aid station as I knew I had enough tailwind to make it to the wulfow aid station. This is a harder section then I remeber though and continues the theme of the course just trying to beat me up.
The Race Begins
I feel like wulfow is really where the race began. I left the aid station and quickly spot a few runners ahead of me which I push to catch but as it would be the rest of the way it takes a while to track each one down.
The Sonoma field is very deep and full of many good runners and everyone of them puts a fight up in the second half to put distance on them once I pass them. We were really lucky with weather but on the way back to the warm springs aid station the sun finally breaks out.
I go through an entire bottle in only 4 miles and realize I won’t have enough Tailwind to make it to the finish but do refill at warm springs. Right after warm springs is a very large creek crossing (There are many from here on out) where I take liberties to dunk my head and get my hat as wet as possible. Regulating body temps will be key for the rest of the run.
The last 12 miles are very rolling like the rest of the course but it is a total elevation gain to the finish. Fortunately the trails are about as nice as they come and the views are awesome.
Miles 38-41 are spent running solo until I approach two more runners. Once again this gets me motivated to race and I am able to make my way past them. This however would not be the last I see of them.
The Home Stretch
The course at mile 45 forces a small out and back to the island view campground. This is where the end of the race got really fun. I noticed a gentleman from earlier had caught back up to me. I get to the aid station first and get out first. Only 4.5 miles to the finish!!!!
The individual quickly catches up to me on the climb out and I also realize there are also 3 more runners within 2 minutes of us. I played the aid station smartly and drank an entire can of coca cola. I talk to Brian as we make our way to the top of the hill before we plunge down our final downhill of the day.
I am not sure what happened here but I am able to find another gear and hop in front and take on the pacing duties. By the bottom of the downhill my new friend informs me he will see me at the finish as his legs are done.
I am able to start running uphill again but still hike the steeper sections when I pass a spectator. A general rule of thumb is never listen to spectator intel on the course as it is generally false. None the less I am informed I am in 24th place. At this time I also round a switch back and 2 other runners are now with my friend Brian. Oh boy I am gonna have to work to the finish now.
This sets off a adrenaline rush and I am able to run my first sub 9:30 mile in I am not sure how long. I was no longer able to see any of the other runners even on multiple switchbacks.
The final mile of sonoma is not easy. It is the most technical trail of the day and all uphill. I keep grinding though and finally reach the road crossing. The finish is in site and I am able to run into the home stretch where my favorite part of the entire run occurs. My wife and daughter are awaiting about 20-30 yards from the finish where my daughter Siri joins me for the home stretch where I finish 31st!!!!! I think the following picture explains it all.
Following the race there was lots of time spent hanging around the finish and enjoying some racer 5’s. I also want to say congratulations to Gretchen Brugman, Chris Perillo, Eric Toschi, Paul Sweeney, Betsy Nye, and Carrie Hyatt on great performances at Lake Sonoma.