Tuesday, April 1, 2014

WTC 50K 2014 Race

25th Anniversary Magic

The legacy of the WTC continues to shine
Throughout the record setting snowy North East winter (17 storms, 70”+ of snow), I worked to maintain my training. What kept me going was my excitement about running WTC 50K in early March. Since running this amazing course last year, it has become my favorite trail race.

This year was the 25th anniversary running, a special celebration for a legionary event.

Part of my excitement this year was my running buddy Kevin was also running WTC. Kevin had lived out in Davis CA for a few years and was familiar with the trails that WTC runs upon. Like me, he was enthusiastic  about running the race.  We had decided to dedicate the weekend to it.  My original plan was to fly out Friday morning and stay thru Sunday. Last minute work issues brought me to the Bay area the Monday before. At least I would be time zone acclimated by race time.

Being a trail running podcast junkie, I was thrilled to learn Trail Runner Nation would be doing live podcasts from our hotel on Friday afternoon. Serendipity smiled to start the weekend with a few fixes of my runners high. Don Freeman, Scott Warr and guest host/Nike team runner Sally McRae had a great lineup of guests, including Gordy Ainsleigh, The Nike Trail running team, Karl Metzer and Patagonia.

TRN's Scott Warr, Don Freeman, Sally McKray with ultra legend Gordy
Nike Trail team mems Alex Varner, Chris Vargo w/ Don

Scott with Nike Team runner Sally McRae & team mngr Pat Werhane

Kevin and I made the short drive to Auburn Running Company to pick up our race packets, buy some WTC souvenirs (coffee mug and beer glass this year) and try some Salomon and Hoka trail shoes. Then a quick trip to Cool for surveying the trails on the first loop.

WTC50K sales team offering deals on all things Too Cool
Kevin check'n trail conditions on early miles
Race morning brought another perfect weather day. Clear skies, mid 40s in the early morning, temps going towards 60. It was going to be a great day.

The masses arrive early for the choice spots.
We did a quick visit to the Ultra Village, taking in the prep for the days activities and got ready to run.

Prerace mulling around the village
Race prep; first-things-first
Kevin and I soaking in the Cool.

We all lined up ready to kick off the race. RD Julie Fingar provided some inspirational words, and with Don Freeman, set us on our way.

1200+ of us getting ready to run

Julie wishing us fun. Don, the "Voice of Cool"

25th WTC50K, off and running. Conditions, Perfect!

Kevin is all smiles as we start out.
Knowing the first mile is one road, I went out at marathon pace just to get on to the trail without a backup. Almost immediately my breathing was out of sync and my legs felt heavy. I mentally blamed it on not being acclimated to the milder temps and figured it would be a rough day. (The legs and breathing fought me for about 11 miles.) The area had been experiencing somewhat of a drought, until 3 days before the race. Cool and surrounding trails received a large amount of rain in a short time. I figured that was going to make for fun stream crossings. Sure enough, soon after we were on trails, the first stream appeared. I ran straight through it, knowing I’d be getting wet a whole bunch during the race.

Swollen creeks = wet shoes
Soon the gorgeous auburn single track started and we settled into trail bliss. I’m in awe with this section of the race as the trail casually rolls through beautiful spring meadows. California sun shining makes for easy up lifting running.

Single track thru spring meadows . . .
. . . the early morning train . . .
. . . on glorious auburn tracks!

There were several more stream crossings in this loop of the course. They were so much fun!

Don't Feed the Shoe Sucking Mud!
Run, swim, run
Soon we were done with 8 miles of easy sailing and looped past the start, heading out for the exciting stuff. We started down towards the American river. Lots of mud was afoot and made things interesting.

Enjoying easy cruising before head'n to the river.
Mud on the run added much fun
Down the hill, across 49, to the river we go
Crossing Rt 49 soon brought us to the American River aid stations, with very cheery, experienced volunteers.

Aloha! Want a drink?
Big choice for chomp'n
Where's Waldo? (And when do I register?)
Several miles along the river was the calm before the challenges started.

River view

Running well along the river
The hills started slowly.

Another aid station popped up sooner than expected, with some trail warning.

Hills get progressively bigger. Though my heavy legs felt better, I was not mentally racing hard so, I walked the most of the steeper climbs.

More stream crossings were strewn about within our climbs.

Crossed paths with a mountain cat.
This kitty liked the water
Wading thru
Working the hills

Smile, you're on Ultra Candid Camera
The reward for the climbing is more beautiful single track with amazing views.

Several miles of this. Am I in heaven?

Picture Perfect trail views!

Before I realized it, the ATL aid station at mile 21 came upon us. Stock full with goodies and drink and even hot soup.

ALT  Professional Aid Station Volunteers. Thanks!
Soon after ALT AS, my camera batter died. This helped me fully enjoy the winding single track before the Goat Hill climb. While I was cruising along, I caught a toe and went down hard on my side and was dangling off the trail. As a comment to the ultra-running community, the guy ahead of me turned around and helped me from sliding down off the trail.

Goat Hill was a tough hike but I kept moving up, trying to do OK on the Strava segment challenge. When I got to the top I finally looked at the time and realized I was running much better than expected. A quick bit of cloudy mental math told me I could possibly do a run a 5:20. So I latched on to a train of 5 runners and settled into a good pace for the mostly downhill 5 miles, focusing on trying not to break with the quads. Another fall in some mud gave me a smackin' and I jumped up and continued. My leg wasn't pretty but didn't bother me much.

#sufferbetter @wtc50K

Soon the 2nd Rt 49 crossing came and went. In the last mile I realized I was going to break 5:10. I was ecstatic! This would be a ½ hr better than last year’s WTC and a 50K PR. How did that happen?!? 
Must have been that anniversary magic.
Kevin also did great, clocking a 4:40 time and securing a top 100 spot. Nice job!

The Nike Trail running team made this race theirs. Chris Vargo took 1st in a time of 3:16:51, laying down the second fasted course time. Teammate Alex Varner, was several seconds behind, with 3:17:04, the 3rd fastest time. Third place was locked up by Jacob Rydman in 3:35:36.
Magdalena Boulet, continued her transitions from road to trail running dominance by taking the first place female spot in 3:53:09. Caitlin Smith was soon behind in 3:56:25. Jennifer Pfeifer rounded out the podium in 4:14:13.

Kevin and I fully enjoyed hanging out at the Patagonia lounge after the race. The beer was good and the people we met were Cool. Andy Jones-Wilkins, who ran for the Patagonia team was hanging there there for awhile. We had lots of fun talking to other runners and trading stories. 

Well deserved smiles and libations
An amazing time at an outstanding race!

Can’t wait for next year.

EPILOGUE: Never Know How You'll Meet

Sunday, the day after WTC, I randomly decided go to Muir Woods to see the Red Woods. Learning that the Dipsea Trail cut through the park, I hiked up a mile and 1/2, to get to it. Soon I met some hikers, several mid age men and a 60 something woman. She was hiking a bit faster than her companions.

We started talking, while I tried to keep on her pace. I mentioned I ran a trail race and she knew of WTC50K. Then she asked if I ran any longer distances. Commenting that I am slowly working up to a 100 miles, hoping to run the Western States 100, made her light up. "I have two sub-24hr Western States finishes" she says. Wow! What are the chances?

Her name was Valerie Doyle and she was the 2nd place female runner at WS100 1982.

Valerie Doyle: WS100 22:42 1982, 22:48 1984
Valerie also ran WS100 in 1984. Thirty years later, she is still going strong. Her running has diminished, yet she continues to be active. For the next 30 mins, as we briskly hiked down Dipsea, we discussed nutrition and medical thinking on ultra running circa 1980s. I was enthralled.  She was so exciting to talk with.

It was a most serendipitous meeting I've had in a long time. Parting our ways, I couldn't help thinking there was a reason I met Valerie. Still thinking that now.

Here's to Valerie Doyle, it was fascinating to meet you
Hoping that all of us continue to thrive, as she does.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Awesome Mike! It is great to vicariously follow you through these amazing trails. I'm partly envious, and partly happy my running shoes don't have little fishies swimming in them.

  3. Sounds like you had a great run. Really enjoyed the recap. Maybe one day I can join you and Kevin on one of these Ultras! Not sure I can handle the fishies in my running shoes though! Mike Metlitz

  4. I enjoyed the story... Well written and great photos!
    Ray C.


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