An Unexpected Run at the Sequoia 50k

I didn’t expect to run this year’s spring version of the Sequoia 50k.  My original plan was to compete in the Berry Creek Falls 50k the weekend prior.  Which I did…only to DNF.  The reasons to pull out of that race were many, but let’s just chalk it up to fightin off a cold and move on.

As it usually happens, I listen to the radio on the way to a race and some stupid song gets stuck in my head. This time it was a Taylor Swift song, the name of which I don't even know. I guess that makes sense, since her music is, obviously, not geared towards my age group.

The reason to enter Sequoia, a race I know very well, was exploratory.  I wanted to see where I stood in my training without pushing myself to the edge as I’m gearing up for summer.

With a two-day taper providing my legs with some sort of rest, I started out at a conservative pace.  I enjoyed the brief views of San Francisco on the Bay View trail before tackling the infamous French Trail.  It’s a beautiful stretch of trail set among Sequoia trees.  It doesn’t look like much on an elevation profile, but anyone who has ever run the French Trail knows that it is unrelenting and, seemingly, never ending.  I was definitely running slower than usual here, but felt strong and knew that I would make a push during the second half of the race.

On the subsequent out-and-back section, I discovered that I was in 6th place and quickly moved in 5th place.  The 4th place runner came into view and we yo-yo’d back and forth until he dropped out at the 30k mark.  Given what I observed on the out-and-back and that I was running strong, I knew that my 4th place was pretty solid and I didn’t see anyone for a while.  Until I passed the Moon Gate aid station for the third time.

All of the sudden I was passing runners, and I realized something was off.  Quick conversations in passing brought out the fact that the aid station crew sent a lot of people (those who didn’t know the course, I suppose) straight back onto the French Trail instead of doing the start/finish line loop.  That’s a five mile short cut.

I felt bad, but also felt like I should tell these runners.  And so I did.  The reactions were, as can be expected, mixed.

Thus, I became less concerned about position and focused more on time.  My previous best on this course was 5:24, and I was well on my way to beating that.  A sub-5 hour finish was still in the cards, too, which is pretty good on this course.  (Very good, by my standards, actually).  So, I pushed hard over last 10k or so.  It wasn’t quite enough and after 5 hours 0 minutes and 12 seconds I crossed the finish line.

As expected the results were all messed up, and listed me in 6th.  But who cares?  We’re not pro-athletes.

Overall, I feel really good about this 24-min PR and look forward to building on my fitness.

More adventures coming soon!

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