#14in14: Mokelumne River 50K

A few months ago, I signed up for the Mokelumne River 26.2 managed and organized by Elemental Running. Then on Wednesday or Thursday this past week I decided to email the race director and find out if it was possible to upgrade to the 50k, with a quick response back from him, I was now officially moved from 26.2-miles to the 50k. The motivation you may ask? Well I found out that the 50k finishers get a jacket … Yes, I am a sucker for swag.

So here I was, on my way to run my first ever 50k race. However, this wouldn’t be my longest distance in a single run. In 2013, I ran the Dirty Half-Dozen 6 Hour Endurance Run and earlier this year I opted to say hello to turning 34 by running 34-miles. After upgrading to the 50k an email went out that was titled “Mokelumne River Runner Instructions”, this email had the typical packet pick-up instructions along with some interesting additional instructions regarding cows, bulls, ticks and poison oak. At this point I started to think … WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST UPGRADE TO? However, I knew that the jacket would be awesome and would be worth it. Wait, I didn’t even know what the jacket was like, it could have been a cotton zip jacket, fingers crossed and let’s hope it is a legit running jacket.

Who would you react if you saw a cow or bull during your run?

Saturday morning came around with a 3:30AM wake-up alarm. This early start to my day would allow me to have my typical smoothie breakfast, cup of coffee, and handful of ENERGYbits®. After making sure I had all of my goodies in my crate and bags I was off to pick-up my buddy Kevin who was running the 26.2-mile run. This would be his 2nd marathon overall. He ran his first marathon last month.

The drive would seem to be a bit long while on the roads, but time wise only took a little over 60 minutes. The highways leading to Lake Camanche in Valley Springs would be pretty dark and lonely at times and border line spooky with very little light along the road. Once we pulled up to the South Shore of Lake Camanche, we were welcomed with a back log of cars getting into the staging area as each car would have to purchase a parking pass to get in.

arriving to Lake Camanche (South Shore) in Valley Springs
It’s official we are at the race staging area!

Once inside of the staging area, we walked to the packet pick-up got our swag (a bib number, shirt, pins, and some other stuff in a bag). With about 1 hour until start time for the 6:30AM 50-mile and 50k start, I proceeded back to my truck to get ready, here is where I saw my cousin Edd who was also running the 50k. Not too much after I saw a couple of my Buffalo Chips Running Club teammates (Laura and Kynan Matz), another one of my twitter running homies Clint, and a few others. I partly wanted this 50k to be a somewhat secret race since it was going to be my first 50k and I didn’t train specifically for this race. However, with all of the familiar faces it was going to be far from a secret.

After I through on my race attire, pinned my bib and loaded up my handheld bottle with some Nuun Hydration, I walked about 1/4-mile to the start line area. At this point I saw trail badass Paulo and a handful of other top notch trail runners who would be out to try to win this thing with some smashing times. One thing I do really enjoy about trail running is the low pressure start line areas, there isn’t as much anxiety at these races. For me I knew just getting out and enjoying the trails would be a good day, and obviously finishing my first 50k. While waiting for the start to come around we saw the minutes tick by, first it was 6:35, then 6:40, not until 6:46AM did we start the race. During this time a few of us joked about the bulls on the trails and how awesome (not really) it would be if we got chased by one or two.

With the race now underway, I opted to start around middle of the pack, since this was my first 50k I was going to run somewhat smart and start slow and push where I felt like I could. The course was an out and back, so the out would allow me to figure out the trail and the back would allow me to run a little more consistent, or at least that was the plan. My strategy using my “lap” button would provide me some info on distance from aid station to aid station as well as moving time between each one.

Strava screen shot of the course elevation

Start to Lancha Plana (aid station 1)
With a conservative start I started with runners around me moving through the trails once the trails opened up around the first mile or I took at the opportunity to pass some runners and run in my own space on the trails.  Around 2 miles in, I was now running around 2-3 runners. This would be the case for most of the race.

The first portion of the race would cover just under 4 miles based on my Garmin, at this point there weren’t any major climbs nor was there any sight of cows and bulls, the only thing to report at this point were the sounds of cows somewhere in the grazing areas. The gates at this point were open so there wasn’t any time wasted on opening and closing of gates.

I ran the first section of the trail in a time of 35:29. Once I got to the aid station, I made sure to refill my water bottle since the next stretch to Campo Seco would be around 8 miles without any aid between.

Lancha Plana to Campo Seco (aid station 2)
Right after leaving this aid station, I passed a couple other runners and came across my first cattle grazing gate that I actually had to open and shut behind me. Once I separated myself from a couple of those runners I had just passed, I really started to enjoy the trails, but this is where it seemed like the cows mooing started to get a little louder, to be honest I got freaked out a little bit because of the fact that what if a cow and bull were just hanging out nearby, I would be kind of screwed since I was by myself on the trails.

With the trails all to myself and about 2.5 miles out from the Lancha Plana aid station, this is where I fell and literally almost ate shit!  Some people use the term, “I ate shit” as a way of saying they fell pretty hard. However, in my case, I tripped on a rock and landed inches from eating a cow pie. I collected myself brushed off the dirt and washed my cut from my fall and continued on my way.

post race photo of the result of my fall

This portion of the race might have been the most beautiful part of it all. Below are some photos that my cousin Edd posted on his Facebook. I wish I would have ran with a camera, because these views were completely awesome and breath taking.

Some of these areas along the trail during this stretch were pretty exposed and the sun started peaking out and really started to take a toll on me, I knew having a handheld would save me during this run. During this stretch I would also have a decent little climb to make. With the combination of sun and climbing I made sure to keep the fluids coming as well as consume my fruit bars and gels that I had in my pack.

After getting past the climb, the downhill along with some open meadows allowed me to switch up my focus and just cruise down rather than struggle up. Just before the Campo Seco I started to see a couple of runners in front of me, this was a good thing because as fun as the trails had become, they had started to become a little lonely at times, so seeing other runners provided me a little bit of joy.

This stretch took me 1:15:09 to cover the approximately 8 miles.

Campo Seco to 50k turnaround
I was quickly out of the Campo Seco aid station after refilling my water and dropping my Nuun into the bottle. I also grabbed a handful of pretzels to help with some salt and something other than just fruit bars and gels. 

After getting out fairly quickly of this aid station which would take me to the 50k turnaround some 2.5 miles out or so, I was passed up one runner who got into the area before I did and was the runner who I had seen as I ran through the meadow.

This section of the race had a fairly steady climb up and was mostly on gravel. This area was completely exposed and where the sun would start to take it’s toll on most runners. With the turn around coming up, I saw a number of lead runners already making the turn and heading back towards me. Getting out to the turn around, I passed 2 other runners who were in the 50k distance. Just before hitting the turnaround I saw Clint working his way back down, seeing a familiar face on the trail was a good thing at this point.

While at the turnaround one runner who was a few yards ahead of me continued past the sign, meaning he was one of those extremely BADASSES that was running the 50-miler.

I hit the turnaround 26 minutes 24 seconds after leaving Campo Seco. At the turnaround there was no water or aid, so I knew I was about the same time and distance away from being able to load up on food and water. The bright side of climbing up to the turnaround was that the distance back to Campo Seco would be mostly downhill.

50k turnaround to Campo Seco (aid station 3)
After turning around, I knew that this part of the course would allow me to see more runners that would be working their way up to the turnaround. This is always the positive part of an out and back course.

As I worked my way down, there were a lot of exchanges of “way to go”, “nice job”, “looking strong”. Around half way back down to Campo Seco aid station, I saw Laura and Kynan. A little bit further down I saw my cousin Edd, who was snapping photos, however the photo he took of me didn’t come out.

With the downhill continuing, I was covered the return portion to Campo Seco in a time of 22:11.

Campo Seco to Lancha Plana (aid station 4)
Knowing that there was about 8 miles from Campo Seco to Lancha Plana, I decided that it would be a smart idea to refill the bottle with some water and throw down some food along with my gels and fruit bars. I think at this point I ate some crackers and pretzels for some salt.

Heading back to the final aid station before hitting the finish line, I saw a number of runners making their way to the marathon turn around and came across one runner heading back to the next aid station as he too was running the 50k. We chatted for a few minutes while running along side one another tackling some of the hills. He asked me which distance I was running, I informed him the 50k, at that point he said “Damn, there goes another place in the race I just dropped.” I didn’t catch his name but I was a bit worried about him because he just seemed pissed, but it is always hard figure out during any endurance event, if the guy was really struggling or if he was mad. I offered him some of my gels and even some Nuun to pop into his water, which he refused.

After making covering more distance on this leg, I came up to the half marathon turn around point, where there were more runners heading back as they were the marathon and half marathon group which started about 60 minutes after the 50-mile and 50k.

This part of the race became pretty memorable because at this point I saw my buddy Clint on the switch back, he was probably about 5 minutes of moving time a head of me (about .4-.5 miles ahead if I had to guess). With a quick wave to him, he saw me and I could tell from his body language that he was going to pick it up a bit to hold me off.

Moving towards the end of this stretch I knew all I had to do was get to  Lancha Plana and I would be able to count down the miles to the completion of my first 50k. After opening and closing the final cattle grazing gate of the stretch I finally covered the distance of about 8 miles in a time of 1 hour 17 minutes exact.

Lancha Plana to Finish
After another refill of the hand held bottle and a couple small cups of cola, I was ready to push the final 4 miles to the finish line. During my time at the aid station one of the volunteers told me I was the 5th overall 50k at this point. I knew if I could keep myself moving, I could probably hold off any other 50k runners behind me, though I wasn’t sure if someone was closing ground anyways.

For most of the course, I was running alongside the 3rd place overall marathoner, who was holding pretty strong at this point. We passed a number of half marathoners still on the course making their way to the finish. I remember passing one guy who asked me which distance I was running and responded after I told him the 50k, “Dude you’e badass, enjoy that jacket!” See I wasn’t the only one aware of the jacket.

With a couple of small climbs to finish off this stretch, I was able to see some horse trailers and some boats, I knew I was getting close to the finish line. I decided to pick up my pace a bit to see if I could finish strong. I finished this section in 39:47, giving me a total time for the 50k of 4:36:06.

After crossing the finish line, I was given my bling and jacket and checked the official finishers screen where I finished 5th overall and 3rd in my AG. With a quick high-five to my buddy Kevin, I saw Clint at the finish line, where he told me, “Hey thanks for the extra push, when I saw you on the trail, I said no way am I getting beat by Chris”. Clint ran this race very strong considering he was dealing with being sick and coughing during the race at times. Clint finished a couple of minutes ahead of me and 4th place overall.

bling and jacket in hand!

Clint and I at the finish showing off our new swag.

It was an awesome Saturday morning of running and I think another 50k is probably in the future at some point.

Some of you might be wondering about my #14in14 title … yes I have decided to modify my goal of 14 marathons in 2014. I have decided to change my goal to include 14 runs of marathon distance or greater as part of my 14 in 2014. So far I am 4 runs in the my #14in14.

Have you ever decided to just upgrade to a distance at an event without training for it? How did it go?

2 thoughts on “#14in14: Mokelumne River 50K

  1. Nice running and a great report! Sounds a beautiful race!


  2. Thank you! it was a very beautiful race with the views.


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