Canyon Meadow 50k
So the day has come. As usual I sleep badly and when the alarm rings (Before 6. On Saturday. What an ungodly hour to get up on weekend!) I feel as if didn't get any rest at all.
Quick breakfast and I'm on my way. It never stops to amaze me that there is a fair amount of cars on the highway. What are all those people doing at that time on Saturday? Surely they cannot all be crazy runners like myself?
The drive is uneventful and I get there with plenty of time to spare. It's chilly so stripping down to a t-shirt and shorts is not easy, but I know that before long being cold will be the least of my worries.
The loop starts with a steep ascent. I'll have to do it three times in the course of this race but there is some consolation in the fact that that's where most of the elevation gain is.
Farily quickly I switch to walking. I see some people around me charging up the hill, trying to run no matter what, huffing and puffing. I do feel a certain degree of satisfaction that I did learn something in all those races, as indeed soon enough I easily overtake them on the way down. I also feel a bit sorry for them as such a brave charge will be very costly for them later in the race. But that's something everyone has to learn on their own and it's hard to dispense advice without sounding like an arrogant jerk. Plus you never know, perhaps they do know what they're doing.
Around 12k my right quadriceps starts to hurt. That's a worrying sign as it's way too early for this kind of problems. Not much I can do so I continue keeping it in check and hoping it won't get any worse.
All uphill sections are a struggle but on the way down I'm in my element. That's where I overtake most people. It feels like flying. It feels great.
The first half of the loop is an easy, wide trail, but the second half is more technical. At some point flying downhill I meet a fork in the road and hardly have any time to decide which way to go. A bunch of people follows shortly after so on one hand I feel bad that I possibly misguided all of them, on the other hand I hope they don't blindly follow me and the fact that they are behind me hopefully means I made the right call. Soon after I see the very welcome sign of a purple ribbon.
Fast forward another loop and I only have 8k to go. Last climb. By now I'm very tired but at least my quad is holding up fine.
On the aid station just before the last half-loop one of the volunteers tells me I'm in the top 10. Funny how those races really are about competing with one's own weaknesses and yet hearing that gives me strength. There are two guys just behind me and I'm determined to keep them there.
As it turns out I do more than that. Slowly, little by little, I overtake one guy, then another and yet another one. By now the climb is finished and I only have some 5k to go but I'm completely spent. I'm positioned with one guy some 100m ahead and another similar distance behind me.
The game begins. We're seizing each other up. I'm giving it all I have and then some. But those guys are no easy pray. The guy in front keeps his distance and the guy behind is ever so slowly gaining on me. Finally he overtakes me and in that very moment all my strength is gone. It takes all my willpower not to just fall on the grass on the side of the trail and stay there.
I know I cannot do that though. I walk for a bit and then start to jog. The end is near and even though time is distorted at that point of the race, after a while I reach the finish line.
I cross it in 4:53:29 which is only the second time I finish one of those races below 5 hours (the first one was in Big Basin which was point to point and had negative elevation difference). Sure, with little over 1000m of total elevation gain this is one of the easiest races I did, but given my modest pre race plans I'm super happy with how I did. As it turns out I finished 10th, not that it matters much.
Many people ask me why do I do those races, waking up before the sun is up and bringing myself to total exhaustion. There are many answers to that but today let me offer you one. At the finish line I eat some watermelon and some orange. At home I take a long shower. Both very simple things, right? Yet at that time both of them feel absolutely divine...