The first race of a new year is behind and I’m stoked with how it turned out. It wasn’t a perfect race by any means but it was another learning experiencing and by taking a different approach, taking what I learned at TNF50 I was able to have a way better go at my second attempt at racing 50 miles.
The race we fun and the whole trip was pretty rad. Friday afternoon Maggie, Kerri, and Tom met with Paul and Jenny up in Dana Point and we took the Catalina Express over to the island. Soon enough we were checking into our hotel, packing our drop bags, and then heading to packet pick up. Good food (and beer) options were a bit hard to come by in Avalon this time of year. A lot of places are shut down for renovations or for the winter season. However we did find a place that tacos, burgers, and the most essential part of the pre race meal… good IPA. We got there just in time and got the lost pour from the Green Flash West Coast IPA keg.
Race morning came a bit too quickly for me. I’ve been sleeping in quite a bit lately and getting 8-10+ hours of sleep a night so getting up for the 5am start was a bit rough. After some coffee, rice cakes with nutella and almond butter we jogged down to the start.
It was cold for sure and I was a bit under dressed. This was something I took note of at North Face. All the top dudes were wearing way less clothes than I was even though it was rainy and cold. In North Face I quickly warmed up and had to shed clothes during the first 10 miles. So for Avalon I went with less and was fine. Just a running shirt (Velo Hangar), shorts, arm warmers, skinfit gloves. and a hat. I also wore the Pro Compression marathon racers. they are mid length sock and just what I like for trail racing.
Soon enough we were off and my plan was to hold back a bit but by no means let the “players” get away. Fabrice Hardel was racing and that dude has won tons of races (including chimera this past year) and had won Avalon the past 2 years. I knew he was the one to watch. right off the line he and another guy took off pretty quick but I sat back and ran in 3rd/4th with another guy right with me. A little over a mile in we hit the dirt and I was right on their heels of Fabrice and my plan was to not to ever go to the front.
we hit the aid station at 5.4 miles and we were all still together and rolled right through. Somewhere in the next couple of miles Fabrice and I got away from the other guy. We chatted it up and I was feeling really good. It took everything I had to no go around him and start ripping…. everything. We hit the next aid station at 11.9 miles, ditched our head lamps and kept rolling. I was taking a gel every 20-30 minutes and supplementing with bananas at the aid stations and I was feeling awesome. after some more climbing next up was a long descent down to Little harbor and the 18.9 mile and the next aid station. This aid stations was supposed to have our drop bags but when we got there the trucks with the bags had just arrived so we hit the aid and kept rolling.
I only had one gel and a 1/3 of banana rolling out of aid station but wasn’t worried. There was another aid station at the turn around at 26.7 miles. Through this next stretch I stayed right on Fabrice’s heels… I mean right on him. I am not sure but this could have been pretty annoying… sorry dude. I was just trying to contain myself. I felt great and the pace easy. we went through the marathon (26.2) in 3:09 but again we were ahead of the aid station. there was nothing set up yet and they weren’t there. at the turn around fabrice lifted the pace a but and I was feeling like I really need to get some food in me. so I made the decision to not follow his lead. I sat back to conserve. At that point (27 miles) I didn’t think I’d have any aid until we got back to the 18.9/34 mile aid station. that would have been another 7 miles and I was already getting kind of bonky.
around mile 28 we started the climb back out of two harbors and luckily I was able to bum a bar off a racer heading out to the turn around. i took down bar a quickly as possible running up the climb. I wasn’t going great on the climb but I was still moving. I went through the 50k mark in 3:46 and started to come around a bit. I started rolling the descent down to the mile 34 aid station and to my drop bag. I made sure to eat a bunch at the aid station and get my bottle & gels out of my drop bag. The final 16 miles were going to be tough with a lot of climbing. At this point I though Fabrice was out of reach so I had a new goal; sub 6:30.
The rest of the race was pretty uneventful. I kept running, no walking, kept taking in calories and water and felt pretty good considering. I saw tom and kerri with about 3 miles to go and got a little boost from their cheers. It was way different than North Face. I was still running pretty strong over 40 miles into the race and then bombed the final 3 mile descent to cross the finish line in 2nd place in 6:24. Fabrice ran a super smart race and easily took the win in 6:10. The last 2 years he’s won in 6:43 & 6:44 so we were definitely pushing the pace about out there on Saturday.
I am super stoked with the race. Holding back early on definitely paid off in the closing 20 miles. I am still learning too. I should have carried more calories with me from the start. If I would have I would have been fine during that “rough” section when I didn’t have any. In these trail ultras you have to be ready for anything and everything… and more so if you plan on running at or near the front of the race. I wasn’t prepared and it cost me.
I was a bit nervous in the closing miles and thought there was a good chance of getting chicked by maggie. she ended up first lady and finishing 3rd overall.
After the race it was party time… or at least as much as you can party in avalon when you are smashed from running 50 miles. We never found any really good beer, but we found french fries, a snuggie party, and sweet buffalo statue.
tom and kerri. support and party crew.
showing the buffalo who’s boss
boat ride home. nap attack.
Next up will be the Bandit 50k and then the Old Goats 50 miler.
*thanks for the photos Kerri & Maggie!