Rio Del Lago: Race Experience by Lina McCain
10th September, 2011
Rio Del Lago: Where Lina learns that it is possible to "salt" correctly, but that 100-mile runs still hurt anyway.
The trails alongside Folsom Lake and the American River are quite beautiful, but I chose to run Rio Del Lago mainly because of its relative ease. The weekend happened to mark exactly 1 year since my major knee injury (dislocation). I also wanted to feel what it would be like to run that distance without allowing myself to get severely hyponatremic, which was the one thing that clouded an otherwise very happy, though challenging experience at Western States 2010 (my only other 100 mile race).
Rio Del Lago lived up to my expectations in terms of oak trees, lake views and sounds of the river. We crossed tiny streams, small bridges and the famous No Hands Bridge. The race provided camaraderie and support, mutual striving and shared difficulty. However, none of us seemed to fully grasp how much more difficult the course would be this year. We had to navigate steep little rocky, rutted, rooty sections repeatedly rather than spending the night portion of the course on the more forgiving open trails and bike paths below Beal's Point. Furthermore, we got an extra hot day. This led to numerous drops.
The first half of the race went well. I went out conservatively from the start, and found that despite the heat, I felt good and I was on target pretty much the whole time for what I thought would (just barely) get me a sub-24 hour finish. I passed people going up the main big, steep climb called K2. Two of those people were women, and finally I asked a few hours later and was told that I was in third place.
During the second half of the race, I had to come to grips with no longer being able to make my time goals. A large part of that was the need to protect my knee from future dislocations. I will never be able to run technical sections of trail the way I would like to, especially once the legs get tired. Also I could tell my toes had some blistering, but gambled that they would stay quiet enough not to have to tend to them. I won that bet, but did have to deal with my left shin. Around mile 55, I started to get intermittent sharp pains that were reminiscent of some major shin problems I'd had several months earlier. Fortunately, I just had to last until mile 59, where Bruce would have some bandaging materials that I had packed.
It was dark by the time that I reached Twin Rocks, the 65-mile mark and first turn around. I was an hour behind schedule. Bruce said that I was limping, but I shrugged it off. He'd helped me wrap my shin at the previous aid station, and the wrap helped. My lameness was just general stiffness in the midst of all those rocks. Moreover, I was not in a particularly reflective mood at the time, but it was a huge triumph to be arriving to the 100k mark without any of the weakness, dizziness or nausea that in retrospect denoted the hyponatremia of Western States. Jill made some happy, bubbly comments and I felt strong despite my frustration, and was glad to be picking up my pacer, Eric Lacher.
Having crew and pacers enhances the experience of running the longer ultras, in my opinion. I had an amazing trio of people there to help me. Jill Lacher is enthusiastic and supportive, and she gave up her weekend to crew. Jill also lent me her husband to pace. Eric is a strong runner and extremely helpful pacer. He has a quiet presence and an extremely useful database of facts in his head. He helped me remember when to take salt, and had an amazing command of distances and times such that I had no false expectations and was able to re-work my goals with the reality before me. Finally, my husband Bruce made sure that I had everything I needed, perfectly.
My finish time goals went from sub-24, to before 6 AM (approximate sunrise) to before 7 AM, to before 7:17 AM to whenever the hell I might finish as long as it's before the gal who was only 15-20 minutes behind me at the last turn-around. Despite the fact that things do hurt after 50, 60, 70, 80 miles and despite this time pressure that I put on myself, I managed to enjoy the experience of running at night. The aid stations, though basic, were tended to by friendly folks. The soups were good, especially at Twin Rocks, and I loved the lights at Rattlesnake Bar, where they had a rock and roll party of it all. In fact, the aid station workers at Rattlesnake were super-helpful. On my last time through, around 2 AM, one of these angels even gave me his flashlight after I had gone though two sets of batteries that I had forgotten were not new, plus the spare flashlight that Bruce had gotten me from the car. This helped tremendously with the fourth and final pass through the rockiest section.
It started to get light just before we got to Twin Rocks again, the last aid station before the finish. Bruce and Jill surprised us there, and had been waiting for 1.5 hours. It was 6:20. We had 4.9 miles to go. While Jill was taking trash out of my pockets, and Bruce and the Aid Station workers were asking me what I wanted, I made some almost unconscious mental calculations. I had somewhat less than a bottle of water left, and one Gu. The last section would not have much technical running and it was still pretty cool, I wouldn't need much water. "Lets go!"
I started running hard. My bottles had less than I thought, perhaps 2/3 total. Eric calculated it to be unlikely for us to finish before 7:17. I wouldn't give up, but my tired legs did not allow me to keep that pace consistently. There were some hills that slowed us a bit more. After maybe 30 minutes, we could just make out the Beal's Point finish area. When we reached the berms I gave it another kick. I'd been hoping there were a few extra minutes compared to Eric's watch, since we started slightly after 5 AM (the previous day) according to my watch. With the finish line in sight, I switched my watch over to the stopwatch function: 26:12. If it were to take less than 5 minutes, I could still have a PR for the 100-mile distance. We kept running along the berm. We turned the corner. The race clock said 26:17:08. I went crazy and ran as fast as I could. Jim Magill and Dan were there. I crossed the line somewhere around 26:17:54, which is my exact time at Western States. At the moment, I was amused thinking that it was a PR by 2 seconds, and I was very happy to be the third woman to finish.
Going forward, it will come time to decide whether to continue to include such a physically brutal distance in my training goals, or whether to spend some of that extra training time doing other things. Regardless, it feels like a huge privilege to include two 100-mile races among my life experiences. Lina.
Thanks to Agnès Pommier for the photos. Jean Pommier writes of his Rio Del Lago experiences on his blog here.
10/6: Results of recent races added for Lina McCain, Dave Radtke, Dennis Connor, Peter Hargreaves and Randy Ison. Here.
9/7: Photos of the glorious hiking weekend in Yosemite are here. Photo at right of the head of Rock Creek.
8/22: Randy Ison placed first in his age group at the Coastal Trail Runs Crystal Springs (Summer) 22 mile race on August 13, 2011 with a time of 5:05:36. Results here. And Striders President, Bill Jones ranked 2nd in his age group on August 21st at the Race Thru The Redwoods 10-K, Felton, CA in 55:01. Results here.
8/18: Congratulations to Striders who participated in the Stevens Creek 50k race organised by Steve Patt on Sunday 14th. Jean Pommier won convincingly and both Charles Stevens and Dennis Connor gave strong performances. Penny Beeston, Peggy Alfred & Peter Hargreaves marked the course on the Saturday and John McKiernan helped man the aid stations. See Peter's photos here and Jean's blog here. Results here.
7/31: A variety of club members participated in long runs Sunday morning at Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz mountains. Scenic fog shrouded vistas and good company were enjoyed by all.
7/17: Two Stevens Creek Striders performed masterfully at the World Master Athletics Championships in Sacramento, California. Bill Dodson finished 2nd in the marathon and 9th in the 5000 meter run for his age group and Jean Pommier finished 3rd in the marathon and 8th in the 10000 meter run for his age group. Results for their races are here and an excellent narration accompanied by photos written by Jean Pommier is here.
7/16: Lina McCain and Dennis Connor braved the fog and completed the PCTR Headlands 50 mile run at the Rodeo Beach, Golden Gate National Recreation area near Sausalito, California. Their results are recorded here.
7/16: The annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life was held at Cupertino's (De Anza College track) July 16-17. John McKiernan was captain of 'Team Tom' was raised over $1000 in memory of Tom Kaisersatt. While the relay is over, you can still participate by donating to this worthy cause. Those interested can access our page here.
7/10: Randy Ison celebrated the Sunday morning coolness and completed the Los Gatos 'Jungle Run' Half Marathon. His result is here.
6:25: Stevens Creek Strider volunteers assisted hundreds of runners at the Last Chance Aid Station for the 2011 Western States Endurance Run. The renowned race began at Squaw Valley and proceeded through Foresthill to finish in Auburn California. Saturdays pictures of the memorable event can be viewed as a slideshow. Allen Lucas provides an excellent chronological and amusing narrative of race day events at Last Chance on his blog, Not THAT Lucas.
6/04: Christina Brownson placed first in her age group at the Bass Lake Classic Triathlon, in beautiful Bass Lake, California.
5/27/28: John McKiernan competed in Western States Trail Training runs and completed 25 miles on the 27th and 32 miles on the 28th. His race results are here.
5/21: Dick Opsahl completed the Jemez Mountain Trail Run Half Marathon in Los Alamos, New Mexico. His race results can be obtained here..
5/21: Dennis Connor and John McKiernan competed in the Bishop High Sierra Endurance Runs run in Bishop, California on May 21st. More race information can be obtained here.
5/15: Michael Dhuey, Ron Wolfe, and Charles Roberts completed the 100th annual Bay to Breakers as members of a men's centipede team and finished around 1870 out of 43,403 participates. In addition, Dick and Judy Opsahl also completed the Bay to Breakers with a time of 2:31:15 and 2:31:14.
5/14: Christina Brownson placed fourth in her age group at the 20th Annual Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon. Race information can be obtained here.
5/14: The eagerly anticipated Stevens Creek Striders Annual Picnic was held at Stevens Creek County Park, May 14th in the Madrone Group Picnic area. While it the sun made its appearance only a few minutes at a time, club members enjoyed barbecuing hot dogs and burgers over charcoal in the company of warm friends. This slideshow is available of the festivities.
5/10: The Stevens Creek Striders newsletter for Winter 2011 can be downloaded here. Our editor is Larry Myers.
5/07: The Marin Headlands was the venue for last Saturday's Miwok 100K Trail Run. Congratulations to Dennis Connor, Larry Myer, and Eric Larcher in completing this tough ultra. We also want to thank the many dedicated volunteers, crew and pacers at who traveled to Marin to help. They included Selena, John and Peggy.
5/01: Strider Richard (Dick) Opsahl was the oldest marathon finisher at the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in Humboldt County, California. Race information can be obtained here
4/30: Quicksilver Trail 25K, 50K, and 50 Mile Endurance Run Almaden-Quicksilver Park, San Jose. a slideshow is available of the run, runners, and aid station participates. Congratulations to participants Johanna Ylanen, John McKiernan, Jean Pommier, Lina McCain, Penny Beeston, and Michael Florence. Jean Pommier established an age group record in the 50K and Johanna Ylanen was the first woman to complete the 50 mile run. Their race results are here.
4/23: Bill Dodson completed the Ruth Anderson 50 Mile Run in San Francisco and set a new 70+ course record by about 26 minutes. Read about it here.
4/17: Christina Brownson came in 4th in her division in the Ochsner Ironman duathlon (bike + run only) in New Orleans. The 1.2 mile swim was cancelled due to bad weather.
4/16: Dennis Conner visited the Sierra foothills to participate in the Mokelumne River 50 Mile Trail Run that is the 7th Race in the 2010/2011 Ultrarunner.net Race Series at Camanche Lake, California. His race result is here.
4/10: Bill Jones and Carol Borders sojourned to Morgan Hill on Sunday to participate in the AAUW 10K Wildflower Run. In their respective age-gender groups, Bill took 1st and Carol took 3rd. Their race results are here.
4/10: Randy Ison enjoyed his Santa Cruz Half Marathon 'run in the sun' despite Sundays cold winds coming off the bay. You can find participants results here.
4/09: Congratulations to John McKiernan, Peter Hargreaves and Larry Myers on the men's side and Penny Beeston, Christina Brownson and Lina McCain on the women's side for completing the American River 50 mile Race. In addition, Jean Pommier had a spectacular performance and Chuck Wilson and Bill Dodson gave a good account of themselves. The perfect weather entitled them to fully enjoy the stunning scenery. A nice thing considering that completing 50 miles is an arduous task anytime, anywhere. We may all be quite proud for putting it all out there! Race results can be obtained here.
We encourage those of you that have not yet registered as PAUSATF members to go ahead and do so on the website www.pausatf.org.