Sunday was a fun day of running. The field that Molly put together for the men’s field at the fall edition of the Whoo’s in El Morro 50k was the fastest, and deepest that I’ve competed against in socal. The chance to get to race against guys like that is why I like to race… it’s also awesome that all the guys are good dudes off the race course as well. Sure it makes getting the win or earning a spot on the podium that much harder but those things aren’t why I race. If I just wanted to chalk up wins I would just cherry pick and run races that weren’t that competitive. I would rather race guys like I did on Sunday and get 10th than earn a shallow victory in a race where nobody showed up.
I found out Sunday morning that the late edition to the field that Jon told me about was Tim Tollefson. The only reason I knew who he was is because my good friend Mario had recently posted an article about him after he won the 50k National Championships while taking down Max King’s course record. Now I love racing against the best but I’m also pretty realistic about my own running ability. I know I’m not afraid to go out hard and suffer but I don’t have near the speed/talent of guys like Tim… but that also doesn’t mean I’m just going to sit back and not see how close I can stay to them… because people do crack and blow up. After warming up a bit before the race I told maggie I was either going to end up on the podium or 30th…. meaning i was just going to go for it.
so I toed the line with all the fast dudes and was ready to rip. I didn’t dial back my training as much as I had for the Noble Canyon 50k but i felt rested and ready to dig deep. the gun went off and Immediately Tim was off the front which increased everybody’s pace. I knew he was on another level so I was more concerned with all the guys around me. Chris Kollar (recently moved to LA from montana.. another mega fast dude) were side by side and Igor went ahead trying to chase Tim. We were running fast considering we had to run 30 more miles on the day (well fast for me at least. first mile in 6:03 w/ 130ft of gain).
when we hit the first climb just past a mile I was on Chris’ hip, igor was ahead, and tim was already pulling away. i was kind of surprised the other guys in the race were holding back and we were gapping them. I expected a full on pack racing together at least for the first half of the race. half way up the climb we caught igor and I tried to encourage him to come with us but he didn’t. He probably couldn’t understand me because I was breathing so hard. I was already in the box! At that point I knew the pace at which Chris was climbing was bit too hot for me but I decided I was going to just do my best to stay with him so I could get away from everybody else.
As we crested the climb he had a ~10 second gap on me but I was able to bring him back on the descent. About 3 miles in Chris and i started chatting, a cool dude for sure. at around 4 miles, right before we hit the single track, I told him good luck and that I was going to back off a bit. I couldn’t see anybody behind us and I didn’t want to explode so early. He ended up getting about 30 seconds on me in the next ~6 miles. I could still see him around every corner and on the climbs but I wasn’t closing the gap.
at mile 11 I climbed back up to the fireroad and hit the out and back to the 12 mile aid station. I was feeling pretty rough. I saw tim and he was about ~5 minutes ahead of me, and then I saw chris who just under a minute ahead. I hit the 12 mile aid station and got another bottle from maggie and told her that it could get ugly. I left and was still feeling a bit smashed from running a really hard first 12 miles but had to put my game face on. It was an out and back so I knew I would see how far the guys were behind me and wanted to look strong as I passed.
On the out and back I saw everybody coming. Jesse was first and I had about 3 minutes on him, 4 on Jon, 5 on Igor and 6 on Chris (Price). I started to feel a bit better as I hit the 15 mile turnaround. It was another out and back so I’d get to see everyone again. Tim was still way off the front and Chris K. had probably put some more time into me but everybody told me it was about a minute or two to him. After heading back up the climb I saw Jesse and now had about 4 minutes and my gaps on everybody else were growing as well. I was starting to feel better but Jesse definitely had me nervous. I was still within his and Jon’s striking distance… and they are two dudes that I knew would battle until the end.
Heading back to the 18 mile aid station I definitely started to feel better. I got another bottle from Maggie and once again had a chance to check the gaps. I was feeling better at 18 miles than I was at 12. I now had 5 minutes on Jesse and Chris K. was probably around 2 minutes ahead of me. At that point I knew closing on Chris probably wasn’t going to happen unless he totally blew. My concern now was holding off Jesse and Jon.
I just continued to run steady on the climbs and flats and roll the descents. I hit the mile 22 aid station and couldn’t see anybody ahead or behind me. I drank some coke and bombed the descent. I immediately got a side stitch and started to hit a rough patch. I worked on getting rid of the side stitch and just moving forward. I knew i would have to have a pretty big blow up to give up 3rd place but I kept looking over my shoulder expecting to see a charging Jesse. I never start a race with any kind of mantra or anything but some times they come to me in races. On the final steep climb i just kept saying “strong and steady” in my head. I wasn’t moving fast but I was moving.
I got to the last aid station at mile 26 and was feeling better. I drank some more coke, poured water over my head, and got back on it. I was able to finish at nice clip and just sneak in under 3:40. Super stoked to be able to hang on to 3rd place in that field.
Tim (3:25) and Chris (3:34) finished 1 & 2 and are honestly out of my league when it comes to speed. I’ll take finishing behind them and holding off everybody else any day.
I’m very happy with how the race played out and that I was able to stay on the gas long enough to get 3rd. I love having Maggie out there cheering and crewing for me. It always gives me a boost when I see her out on the course.
The next race I’m really focusing on is The North Face 50 on 12/6. I was able to get into the “elite” field so it will another chance to take a beat down from a bunch of fast dudes… and there’s going to be a lot of them.
My training and racing are going very well right now but I’m going to switch things up a bit. In both of the 50k’s I’ve raced in the past month my legs really started to feel it after 20 miles. I know that’s a normal thing but it’s been a bit more than when I’ve run 50k’s in the past. I’m pretty sure that’s from the lower volume running (~45 mpw) I’ve been doing. I am going to add just a bit more running in between now and North Face so hopefully the last 20 miles won’t be a complete death march. Nothing really gets your legs ready for the pounding of ultra running more than just running… and running a lot.
Molly’s race is awesome. It’s grown so much over the course of the past couple of years and I hope it keeps getting bigger and bringing faster guys and girls out to race. We’re pretty lucky in SoCal to have a bunch of great races and race directors.