AJW - American River 50

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

American River 50 Mile Report

By Andy Jones Wilkins

The American River 50 miler is one of the great Spring Classics on the ultra circuit.  I had only run it once before this year and given the timing and my run-up to Western States in June it turned out to be a perfect tune up race.

I arrived the day before the race and had the honor and privilege of hosting an outstanding panel discussion with Bill Finkbeiner, Gloria Tagasuki and Holly Adams at the pre-race pasta dinner.  It was a wonderful homecoming of sorts as I had a chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

The morning came early and it was fun to banter a bit with Scott Jaime, Ryan Burch, Nick Clark, Dave Mackey and Craig Thornley before the starting gun went off at 6am sharp.

I chose to run with the La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0’s and they turned out to be the perfect shoe for the event.  Even though the course features 27 miles of pavement before transitioning to technical trails on the approach to Auburn the Crosslite 2.0’s worked beautifully.

My strategy for the day was to run the first 27 miles at a conservative, conversational pace and then pick things up for the final 23 miles up to the Overlook.  Keeping this in mind I hit the marathon mark in 3:16 and thought, at that point, I might have a chance to squeeze in under seven hours.

Once the race transitions to trails it is a really beautiful course rolling along the river through forests and a few open spaces.  The temperature was perfect for running and I must say the miles were floating by.  It was along this stretch that I began passing people – many people.  For some reason, it appeared as though quite a few of the early fast runners were falling off their paces and it actually made it kind of un for me to keep my head in the game.

Not surprisingly, with about eight miles to go I set my sights on catching and passing my good friend and fellow Western States obsessive, Craig Thornley and right around the 44-mile mark I caught him.  After trying to make a decisive pass I felt a few calf cramps coming on so I backed off and he got right back on my tail.  From there it was not until around the 48-mile mark that I was able to put a bit of a gap on him.  With the last two miles all uphill I put my head down and hammered the hill.  With one mile to go I realized I could get in under seven hours and I relaxed a bit.

Rolling into the finishing area was a blast and it was great to welcome Craig just a minute or so after me.  The post-race party was, as usual, like homecoming and I wiled away the afternoon in the sunshine with good friends.

To add to the fun, I dusted off the Crosslite 2.0’s and ran a 28-mile training run on the Western States course the day following the race.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend.  Next up for me is the Granddaddy of the All, Western States!  I’ll be sporting the Crosslites again and attempting to push through to my 7th consecutive top-10 finish.  Stay tuned!

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