On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to pace a friend and training partner of mine for the final 23+ miles of the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run aka AR50. Jamey Nye with the Buffalo Chips Running Club started the race at 6:00 am at the Guy West Bridge in Sacramento, CA near CSU Sacramento. The plan was spot on as I would wait for him at the aid station at Beals Point in Granite Bay about 26.2 miles away from the start. This location at Beals is the first spot where runners are allowed to be paced to the finish. The plan was for him to arrive around the 3:40:00 mark (9:40 am). He did just that. As he pulled in the aid station, there I was ready to help and assist him on anything he needed during the race, the only thing I was not allowed to do for him was act as a “mule”. A “mule” is a person running with the athlete and carrying water or food for them. The only assistance Jamey was allowed in regards to food and hydration had to happen in and around the aid stations.
|AR50 elevation profile|
After a quick refill of his water bottle with some electrolytes, we were on our way to the finish in Auburn, CA. The next 23+ miles would be the toughest miles on the course, as it is nearly all single track trail with a lot of ups, downs, and nearly non-runnable surfaces. From Beal’s Point we would make our first journey onto Granite Bay (mile 31.67) from here to Rattlesnake Bar (mile 40.94) would be the toughest stretch of the course for runners.
Luckily, the weather was fairly nice for the runners making the 50 mile trek up to Auburn, most of the trails are covered providing for some shelter from the direct sun which could eventually take a toll on the runners through the day. Along with the covered areas of trail, there were moments of nice breezes kicking through and a bit of overcast at moments on the run.
As we entered Rattlesnake Bar to a very welcoming crowd, we knew the final 9+ miles would not be easy. For Jamey, this was his first time running AR50. While I had one year of experience pacing my cousin in the 2012 AR50. As we hit the aid station in Rattlesnake, I reminded Jamey that at this point it is important to have the energy to tackle the final 3 miles which are known as the “LAST GASP”, which is a final climb to the finish.
|Jamey cooling off before hitting the final climb|
After stocking up our water bottles, we made the trip, Jamey was starting to doubt his goal of breaking sub 9 hours. In my mind, I knew if I could just keep him moving through the course, no matter the pace, we could find a happy runner at the end as he could cross under 9. He started to think 9:15:00, but I knew that if stayed away from the chatter of saying 9:15:00 was okay, then mentally, Jamey would have it in him to tackle the second part of the final climb. Once we moved into the final 8 miles, there was a moment where I jumped in front of him and rather than pushing him as a pacer, I opted to pull him through various parts of the course. By pulling him, I ran in front, and kept a steady pace which would allow him to keep a rhythm through this stretch. The other key element of running through these parts was to get rid of the math of running and just keep moving. We moved, sometimes at a walking pace, others at a hiking pace, some jogging and other moments where we both surprised ourselves of the pace we were able to move.
As we hit the “LAST GASP”, I knew that the beginning could be intimidating, but I reminded him that if we needed to walk to get his legs back we could do that at the bottom. Other runners started passing us at the bottom of the climb, but I mentioned to Jamey, not to worry as we will pass them later up the hill. As we started to see the signs “2” miles left and “1” mile left, we started passing those runners who opted to tackle the bottom of the hill first.
During the final mile, Jamey looked down at his watch and realized we could break 9 hours, so I took the lead and pulled him up the hill again into the cheers waiting at the top of the road that would lead us into the finish line at the Auburn Dam Overlook. Jamey kicked into full gear as we saw the crowds and completed the course with an official time of 8:57:11.