INAUGURAL GOLD RUSH 100K
May 11, 2013
Ready to take my ultra-running to the next level, I looked to do a 100k. Unfortunately, I did not get into Miwok 100k. So, I signed up a new local race -- The Inaugural Gold Rush 100k. The race would go from Sutter's Mill, in Coloma, to Sutter's Fort, in downtown Sacramento. 62.7 miles (allegedly).
Coloma to Salmon Falls
In the wee hours of the morning, I head out to Sutter's Mill with Paul and KC. We hang out in the dark awaiting for the start of our race. Around 5 a.m., we all start to gather at the start line. Someone starts counting down 3-2-1-GO! Off we go!
We run along Highway 49, on the road, for about four miles. The sky starts lighting up. Some runners go flying up the front. I run in the middle of the pack. Many friends are running near me. We chit chat as we run along. In hardly anytime, our headlamps are turned off.
I happily hit the dirt trails and just loving the scenery on this misty morning. This section of the trails are new to me. This area was absolutely beautiful. Beautiful trees, a touch of misty fog, green rolling hills, etc. . . This is why I love running trails. I get a good running groove going. I run well up and down the hills.
In not too much time, I pass through the Movie Set Aid station (around mile 6.8) and continue up some hills followed by some fun, fast descents. Earlier in the week, I bought some new trail shoes -- New Balance Leadvilles. I am loving the lightness of the shoe and the agility I feel as I run down the hills. The terrain is just fun to run on and I think this is why we run trails. I happy run along.
In not too long, I cross the Salmon Falls Bridge and arrive at the Old Salmon Falls Aid Station (mile 17.9-ish). I have a craving for oranges but don't see any. I am a little disappointed but eat some potato chips and continue on.
Old Salmon Falls to Brown's Ravine
Heading from Old Salmon Falls, I start running on familiar trails. I run with a group of runners about my same pace. We are kind of in a pack and keeping a good pace (not too fast or too slow for me). We all run along. A few miles in, someone yells at our group. A few runners have stopped ahead and a few runners have continued straight. I see some runners pointing to the ribbons veering right off the main trail across a creek. I back track a little to the ribbons and cross the creek. I am glad there were other runners around as I may have missed the markers.
We wander down towards a creek following the ribbons. I stop in the creek and splash myself a little as it is starting to get a tad warm. I then head up an unfamiliar trail to find lots of overgrown shrubs and poison oak. There's no avoiding it. I don't understand why we are going this way as the other trail goes to Brown's Ravine. But, I continue on.
The temperature starts to rise but I am still feeling okay. There is good shaded sections and a few creek crossings where I can stop to splash myself. I slow down a little but still feeling pretty good overall.
Paul and Randy pass me at a creek crossing. I follow them to the New York Creek Aid Station (mile 22ish). While refueling at the aid station, Paul disappears ahead of me.
As I head out of New York Creek, I meet Joe. We know of each other and have mutual friends but first time really meeting each other. Joe runs a little bit ahead of me but I keep him in my sight as I run along. I feel myself lagging a bit but I try to keep Joe in sight so I don't let myself slow down too much. I follow him along into the next aid station. He tells me I am doing great and we continue along running kind of together. He runs a bit faster than me but I try to at least keep him within eye sight.
The temperature is riding and the heat is starting to wear on me. I see we are getting close to Brown's Ravine Marina but the trail keeps going on and on. I thought the guy said it should be in 3.5 miles. We have gone longer than that. As I hike up a hill wondering how much longer, Joe says down to me "Are we there yet?!" I know! Where is the aid station. This seems forever. We trudge along for what seems a lot longer than it should be and eventually, we arrive at the Brown's Ravine Aid Station. My garmin says it's a little over 30 miles. It's supposed to be mile 29. I get the feeling the course will be long.
Brown's Ravine to Folsom Point - The Beginnings of Hell
The Brown's Ravine Aid Station is run by many Folsom Trail Runners (FTR) so I am delighted to see some familiar faces: Marc, Jay, Jeff, and Karen. And, they have fruit here! Juicy, sweet watermelon and yummy strawberries. Karen watches me devour about 4-5 watermelon slices and a handful of strawberries. Marc helps refill the water in my pack. Then, I head on my way to Folsom Point.
I lost Joe at the aid station so head out on my own to Folsom Point. It is getting hot now. I hit the trails and start running. But, in not too long, I get really hot and tired. I start walking. All my energy seems to have disappeared. I hike along, not feeling the energy to run. I eat a GU and drink more water, hoping that will give me more energy.
I drag on with no one around. No one ahead of me and no one behind me. This is hard alone. At least earlier, I had Joe's company when things started getting tough. Now, there is no one and it is getting hotter and hotter! I am falling behind schedule. I send a text to Diane telling her that I will be at Hatchery later than expected, Sorry!
I pass by Janelle standing along the trail (waiting for KC). She smiles at me and her friendly face is nice to see but in moments, I am all alone again. I trudge along for what seems forever to get to the levee. I am roasting in the heat. There are no stream crossings to splash some water to cool myself down now as I had done earlier. I am dreading crossing the long, hot, exposed levee to Folsom Point.
I come around a bend and see two girls standing alongside the trail. I look at the girl and am pretty sure I know this person. My brain isn't quite functioning so well to process who she is but I know her and know she's someone I know. Dani offers me ice. I stop next to her and stare blankly at her. I notice a bag of ice at her feet. I ask her about KC. She said she's somewhere behind me. Dani offers ice to me again. I ask if I can have ice in my buff. Dani packs up a bunch of ice into my buff to put around my neck. This is going to be a lifesaver. I can see the levee behind her and dread crossing it in the heat.
I then head down to the levee. I run a little, hike a little. I am grateful to have the ice around my neck. I look down at the lake and see a few water skiers in the lake passing me by. Oh, being in the lake would be so nice right now. The water skiers look to be having fun. For me, this is not so fun trudging along the hot, exposed levee. But, I eventually make my way to Folsom Point. My Garmin says 34ish miles.
Folsom Point to Hatchery - HOT HELL!
At Folsom Point, I refill my pack. A lady comes up to expressing concern with all the clothing I have on. I attempt to explain to her that my arm sleeves are not arm warmers but arm coolers but I phrase it awkwardly. But, I think she understood. I tell her I am fine.
Candace comes up to me and is very happy and excited. Seeing a friendly, cheerful face is nice. She tells me that Paul had passed through not too long ago. That's good to know.
Coming out of Folsom Point, we start running on the streets of Folsom. It feels even hotter. I walk a bit. Randy comes running by me. I think it'd be nice if I run with Randy for a bit. Nice to run with a friend. But, I am so hot and tired that I don't even have the energy to stay up with him. He is within eye sight as we head to Folsom Crossing.
I watch him disappear as I head down Folsom Crossing. He is not running that fast. But, he is running while I just want to walk. I feel the pavement and traffic is making things feel so much hotter. The exhaust of cars passing is making things hotter. Ugh!
I eventually weave my way down the bike trail and hit the trails again. I run by the prison through the olive grove. I know these trails. They are a favorite trail of mine. But, I am too tired to really enjoy them. I run off and on. When I start running, I feel my heart rate start to kick up and my face feels flushed. So, I walk some more. I text Diane that I am WAY behind schedule and I am so sorry for having her wait for me. She tells me it's okay and to take my time and that she's waiting for me at the Hatchery. I feel bad I have fallen so far behind schedule.
I continue along thinking how I just need to get to the Hatchery. Just get there. I try to run in the non-shaded sections and walk in the shade. There are some runners nearby and we all are suffering in this heat. We all drag ourselves along.
Eventually, I get to Negro Bar and see Veronica standing there cheering runners on. She gives me a hug. I am happy to see a familiar face. I am yearning to get to the Hatchery as many friends will be there including my pacers, Diane and Kelly. Veronica is a pleasant surprise. I tell her how hot it is and how exhausting this race has become. She gives me some encouragement. I walk up to the aid station and nothing there seems appealing. I drink a little coke and refill on my water.
As I head back on the trail, Veronica yells up to me asking me if I want anything. I tell her I really want oranges. She says she will get some for me and meet me at Hatchery. I am so grateful. I then continue on. I tell myself, I just need to get to the Hatchery. Just get to the Hatchery. I will be home free from the Hatchery. My friends will be there. They will help me finish. I just need to get there. But, good grief, it is still SOOOO far away. I feel myself slowly dying in this heat.
I trudge up the bluffs. Then, I get a little groove again and able to run a bit more than before. I run along and head down from the bluffs. I try to keep this running going along as best as I can. I still have to take a few walking breaks to not let myself overheat too much. I am drinking lots of water and eating lots of s-caps. My hands are swelling up. I shake them and keep running.
I then head to the last hill before the Hatchery. Just one more time up the bluff and the Hatchery is after that. I see a runner I met earlier sitting under the shade of a tree. He does not look so good now. He says he thinks he's going to quit at the Hatchery. Poor guy. I trudge on up the hill and find I am out of water. I hike a few steps and then stop to keep my heart rate from sky-rocketing. I feel my breathing getting heavy. Heat and hills usually lead to asthma attacks for me so I take a couple huffs from my inhaler. I feel parched. I have sucked all I can out of my pack and hand held bottle. I have no water. I think I am going to die on this hill. I send a text to Kelly at the Hatchery asking her to run out to me with water. I need water.
I eventually make it to the top of the hill and shuffle my way down the hill to the Hazel Bridge. As I run down the Hazel Bridge towards the Hatchery, I look down at the Hatchery parking lot. I see no aid station. Where is it?!
There is no aid station at the actual Hatchery. It's further down the bike trail. ARGHHH!!!!! I wanted it to be here! I get to the Hatchery and stop at the drinking fountain. A cyclist looks at me and sees I need water so moves out of my way to let me to the drinking fountain. I gulp lots of water.
A guy on his mountain bike talks to me. He says the aid station is a little farther down the bike trail and that I am almost there. I tell him I am out of water and not feeling so good. He says "Keep going, you don't have a lot of time." Thanks for the encouragement dude!
I drag myself down the bike trail and finally, I see my friends. Veronica and Susan walk towards me. I am elated to see my friends. I tell Susan I am out of water and she immediately grabs my handheld and goes running in sandals to the aid station to refill my bottle for me. Veronica gives me a bag of ice and shows me the bag of oranges she got for me. She also sliced them up for me. I grab a slice and eat it. It is the sweetest, juiciest orange ever! Utterly refreshing! Just what have been wanting. I cannot thank Veronica enough for getting me these oranges. I am so grateful my friends are out here on this HOT day.
I then see the aid station ahead and more friends cheering me on. Clint tells me to smile as he tries to take a picture of me. I do not feel in a smiling mood. I am beat. It has taken what seems like forever to make it here and I am still not done. But now, I have happy, excited friends around me trying to pep me up. I am glad to have made it to the Hatchery. The energy from my friends revives me a little.
Hatchery to William Pond to Harrington Way
I leave the aid station with Diane as my pacer. We walk along as I eat some more oranges and try to get some energy back. Diane asks me how things are going. I am hours past when I was supposed to get to the Hatchery. I tell her how things were going great but then it got hot and I am so tired and a little frustrated it took me so long to get here. She expresses amazement for what I am doing and encourages me along and that the heat is slowing everyone down.
We eventually turn onto the horse trails that run along the river. Craig texts me that he's gotten off work and heading towards the finish line. He is going to ride his bike out to see me on the course. I tell him where I am. I really look forward to seeing him. He always gives me a boost when I am in the middle of these crazy endeavors.
As we continue on the trail, we veer away from the bike trail. I am not sure where these trails go and am feeling a little dismayed that Craig may not find me. The trails run along next to the American River. In the late Saturday afternoon of a hot day, there are lots of people out along the river. They are BBQ-ing (smells so good), drinking (having fun), and playing in the water (looks so refreshing). I look at a couple folks floating on the river. How nice it would if I could just float my way downtown instead of running/walking.
We pass more and more party-goers. I see them splashing and playing in the water. The laughter and yelling of happy people partying along the river. I am so envious. They look at me and Diane like we are super weird people. I guess I am super weird for wanting to run 60-something miles.
Having Diane's company is really nice. She is definitely a comfort to have. We talk and laugh about various things as we hike or run along.
We hit an aid station in the middle of nowhere (nearly 50ish miles). A guy pours water all over me, which feels great, but I feel I should maybe change my socks. But, I don't have the energy to do so. I just fill up on water and continue onward.
We veer back towards the bike trail near Hagan Park. I feel grateful as I hope to see Craig soon. 50 miles passes. I am into my longest run now.
As we run along, a coyote runs past us on the bike trail. He runs fairly close to us but in the opposite direction. He runs along and looks at us but keeps on going on his merry way.
As I run pass Hagan Park, I can picture the whole way to William Pond. But as we run along, we see some volunteers on the bike trail and they tell us to turn left into this field. But, this is in the wrong direction of where I am supposed to be going? Why? And, this is taking me far away from the bike trail! Far away from where Craig can find me. This is so disheartening. What is up with these random detours along the course?!
We run a little, walk a little around this random field then we run along a dirt road behind some houses. We notice a lot of these houses have tennis courts in their backyards and make comments about them. Wendy calls Diane so they chat for a bit. Diane puts her phone on speaker phone so I can hear Wendy too. She kind of peps me up a little hearing her voice.
The temperature is starting to cool down a little as we get into evening time. So, we start running more. At least, I shuffle run along. I can feel some blisters starting to form now. I should stop to change my socks but I don't want to stop. I want to keep going forward.
We eventually get back towards the bike trail and head over the bridge towards William Pond. I update Craig as to where I am hoping to find him soon. But, the trail yet again leads me on some trails far off from the bike trail. I am starting to feel that I might not see him at all. This deflates me a bit.
As I look at my watch, I see it is past 5 p.m. I am getting close to the next aid station. I start trying to do some calculations in my head. I think I'll have about 10 miles to go from the next aid station. I need to finish before 8 p.m. I will need to start picking things up if I plan to finish in time. I am not sure I will be able to finish by 8 p.m. Not at the rate I have been going. Ugh.
I finally get to the Harrington Aid Station. My garmin says I am at 54 miles. I ask the lady at the aid station what does she say this mileage is at this aid station. She says 52.9. So, I think I will be running a mile over what is expected. So, about 10 miles in a little over two hours to go. I definitely need to start running.
Diane and Jeff (her husband) give me a hug. I thank Diane for spending all afternoon for me and keeping me company for the past few hours Kelly then joins me to help me to the finish.
I post a twitter/facebook post:
Harrington Way to Guy West Bridge
We leave the aid station running. I am going to try my best to finish in time. I am actually running at a pretty decent pace given how far I am in the race. The cooler temperatures of the evening is helpful. I am not ready to throw in the towel yet. I need to try to run more. So, I start running. I get into a good running zone and moving along pretty well. I have no doubts about me making the distance but I am starting to worry about me finishing within the cutoff time. I have wasted too much time walking. But, it was so hot. I must start running now.
Kelly runs along with me. I don't say much to her as I am focused on the time. She runs beside me. She comments on the few people I pass. I do not really notice them. I am thinking that I am NOT getting a DNF after spending all freaking day suffering through the heat. So, I am going to finish before 8 p.m.
As I run along, I hear Craig's voice yell out to me. I stop dead in my tracks and look across the brush and see Craig riding his bike on the bike trail. I am overjoyed. I want to run to him and almost go running across the weeds/bushes to get to him. I realize I need to keep running on the trail. I wave and continue running on the trail, hoping it will lead to the bike trail soon.
In not too long, the trail weaves back to the bike trail and Craig is sitting there waiting for me. I run up to him to give him a hug and kiss. I am overjoyed to see him. It had been so disheartening every time the course veered from the bike trail and I was feeling he would never find me. He tells me I am doing great and he will see me down the trail. Kelly and I then continue running along. I feel a little more pep now that I have seen Craig.
I run for a bit but then I get tired and start power walking. Breathing gets challenging. I see Kelly on her cell phone. She scolds me for my post from earlier. I ask her if she's on facebook. She says yes. I ask her to read to me the comments people have written to me. She then reads out loud the comments from my friends. . .
"Susan ...You can do it Helen. I'm at the finish line waiting for you!! You have a crowd here to do the wave for you!!
Fawn...You are doing great, just overheard them saying it's taking a lot of people longer than normal due to heat, sooooo you're doing perfect. Keep your chin up. Take a deep breath and just keep moving.
Javier .... go Helen!!
Veronica.... Don't give up. You can do it! Sending hugs your way!
Stephanie...Keep going Helen Fong. You'll make it. I know it. We are all cheering for you! Keep movin'!!!
Debbie...Nicole and I are waiting here for you!
Crystal....You can do it!!! You are amazing. Hugs
Michelle...You can do it Helen! You're victorious!
Dionne...You can do it Helen!!
Ray...Run Safe Helen! There's always the next race but if you're good then go GIRL!
Jim...Go Helen Go!!
Kimberly...Keep running Helen...you got this!
Joel...Go Helen! We're cheering for you
Leslie...You're amazing Helen! You can do it!
Rodney...You can do it!
Hearing the comments from my friends gives me a boost to keep moving. I have a lot of support and I just need to keep going. I can make it. I didn't spend all day out here suffering to get a DNF so I push on. Kelly loves reading the comments so she continues reading to me what people say as I run along. She also starts counting the people I am passing.
At some point, she says "we have double digits." What? I have no idea what she is talking about. She says we have passed over 10 people now. Double digits. She's so silly.
We reach Watt and pass Craig sitting on a bench with a big smile as I go by. I love him!
As we near Guy West Bridge, we see Zena, a running friend of ours. Kelly really wants me to pass her. I have her in sight. I want to catch up to her. But, the trail turns from soft smooth dirt to a plowed up, uneven field. This terrain is an ankle roller and difficult to walk across, much less run on. I power walk through it frustrated with various things about this course. What is annoying is I can see the smooth bike trail just a few feet to the left of this awful plowed up field. What the heck is up with this course? Who designed this shit? Ugh, I am irritated.
I eventually get off the horrid field and say "hey" to Zena who is walking along now. I see Guy West Bridge as well as Craig. I run up to him and give him a quick kiss. Kelly tells me to hurry along. Craig says he'll see me at the finish line.
I then start running up to the Guy West Bridge Aid Station.
Guy West Bridge to the Finish Line
As I run up to the aid station, a guy tells me I have one hour to go 5.5 miles and I need to run. "You don't have time to stop. Just keep running." Geez, they are certainly serious about the cut off time. I need water so give Kelly my water bottle to fill up so I can run past the aid station without stopping.
Kelly catches up to me with my bottle and a small cup of warm Coke. She tells me the aid station guy says I am the first person to run up to the aid station for the past hour or two. I don't have a lot of time but I know I need to keep running. I am constantly looking down at my watch and figuring what pace I have to run. I think if I run 10-11 min/mile pace, I can make it. Running 10-11 min/mile pace is a lot more challenging than it sounds when you've already have nearly 60 miles on your feet.
At one point, I am running 9 min pace. I am fairly surprised I am running at a pretty good pace. I can do this. Then a moment later, I slow back down. My breath heavily. I want to walk. I start walking a little bit and Kelly immediately urges me to run and that I NEED to be running. Ugh. So, I try to run.
We run along a gravel trail. My feet hurt and I can feel the blisters. At moments, I run okay. At other moments, it gets hard to breath so I walk a little. Kelly gets on me to run and keeps pushing me. I argue with her a little. Does she not understand how hard this is to run? I can't run that fast right now. I try to mind myself that she's just trying to help and we both know time is tight. And, I do want to finish in time. So, I start running. This gravel trail seems endless. We hit one split and I am confused as to where to go. We veer towards the right. I tell (possibly order) Kelly to run ahead of me so I can see where I am going. I do better when I can track someone. Since no one else around, I make Kelly run ahead of me so I can track the back of her. She finds the request amusing but runs about 25 feet or so ahead of me. I just stare at her back as I run along. Just keep going. I look at my watch and know this race is going to be close to 64 miles and it's going to be a very tight window to finish in time.
I take a couple short walk breaks but try to keep the walking a minimal and to keep running as best as can. Some bee or something stings my shin. My whole right shin stings and burns. I complain about the burning in my shin. AHHHHHHH!!!!! My shin burns! I spray water on my leg.
Kelly keeps pushing me to keep running. I complain that it is hard to breath. I am tired. But, she keeps pushing me. I need to keep running. Ugh. I am trying!
I run out of water and tell her I am out. She gives me her bottle but warns me it is warm electrolyte drink. I drink it. It tastes absolutely disgusting. But, it's something. I try to run as best as I can but it is so hard.
As I reach the last aid station, they too tell me I do not have time to stop and to keep running. One guy runs next to me with a wet sponge and squeezes water on my head. So refreshing. Kelly hands me a wet buff which I use to wipe my head and neck.
We then start running towards the streets of downtown Sacramento. I am running hard and it is hard to run and breath. I am breathing heavily and wheezing slightly. Almost there they tell me and I need to hurry. I hit the streets running along 28th Street. I see the lettered streets E, F, G. . . .I just need to get to L Street. As I cross each lettered street, I cross an intersection with a volunteer there watching traffic. They all cheer me on and tell me to hurry!
Another guy is ahead of me now and I follow him. I am giving whatever I have left now. As we near J Street, I see our light is red. They better stop traffic as I am not stopping! I see cops there and hope they stop traffic. Luckily, the light turns green and I run through the intersection and start nearing K Street. I pick up my pace a little.
As I pass K Street, I start running onto the sidewalk. I start sprinting as I know I am close. Then, I reach L street and turn the corner to see a crowd of people. They do the wave just like Susan said they would. I then kick it up and sprint with whatever I have left towards Sutter Fort. I take the last turn and sprint into the finish line.
Official chip time 14:54:32
Finished before 8pm. Second to the last "official" finisher.
And, they were indeed super strict about the 8pm cut off. I watched another girl go running to the finish line at 8 pm. As she was sprinting in, they pulled the timing mats right before she crossed (maybe 30 seconds past 8 pm). Poor girl.
Post Race Thoughts and Acknowledgements
Inaugural races always have their hiccups and such. So, for an inaugural race, it was okay. I think there were some odd decisions for some parts of the course (the random detours). I didn't like that the course went a little long but trail running distances are never as they say them to be.
The weather was rough and there were many casualties. I came close to being one. The race was a lot harder than expected. I was disappointed when my target time started slipping away. But, I was glad that I was able to work back up my energy to push myself the last couple hours and get that finish. But, I think I would have been a casualty had my friends not been out there to help me.
The aid stations were okay as far as food and stuff goes but they were pretty good with supplying the water on such a hot day. I have learned the value in having your own crew as races don't often have what you hope you want them to have. It was too bad they were so strict on the times. I felt really bad for the girl who had the mats pulled out from under her.
After I finished, I was given a finisher's hoodie. I think it's funny that on one of my warmest races ever, I got a warm cozy hoodie. But, it's a cozy, well-earned hoodie. :)
Finally, I want to say that I am ever so grateful that it was a local race so that many of my awesome running friends being out there. I know I could not have survived the day without my fellow Folsom Trail Runners and Java Joggers. THANK YOU!!!! I thank all my running friends who were out there volunteering, spectating, running, crewing, pacing, etc.... Thank you for helping me out during the day! And, thank you to all my friends who sent me supportive messages during the day, especially when I started to doubt myself.
Special thanks to Marc, Jay, and Karen for working the Brown's Ravine aid station, Candace for driving me to the start, Dani for putting ice in my buff, Veronica for the oranges and ice, and Susan for refilling my water bottle and being at the finish.
Extra special thanks to Diane and Kelly for being my pacers. Diane, you were wonderful company to have and helped pep me back up after a long journey just to get to you. Kelly, you were wonderful putting up with me being not so kind to you. I really appreciated you putting up with all my random requests (orders) and for pushing me. I may have resisted at the time but you knew I wanted that finish and you were great in keeping me moving to get to that finish. And, it was wonderful having you read to me messages from our other friends!
As always, thank you Craig for your constant support and being out there today. I love you sending me encouraging messages during the day and being at my finishes but it was really nice seeing you during the race, especially when I really needed to be pepped up.
And, congratulations to all those that ran the race, whether you finished or not. It was a tough day for all and being out there is something to say in itself. Fun seeing many of you out there at various times of the race! Congrats!