Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rio Del Lago 100K

Last Saturday I braved the heat at the inaugural Rio Del Lago 100k (RDL). As expected race day was HOT! Forget the mild summer we’ve been experiencing. Race day was hot and humid, (97deg was the high I was told). To add to the fun the day before the race was the hottest day of the year for the Sacramento area.

I initially planned to run the 100 miler. I needed a local long race this year due to family obligations. Early in the year it was a toss between a planned 100K by PCTR in Tahoe, Headlands Hundred and RDL 100 mile. RDL won due to its later date and location.

Two weeks out I had a huge final week planned, the weeks mileage would be 80+. The weekend would include a night run followed by a final long run and then a speedy long run. The long run would include all the major climbs with some heat thrown in.

While on the night run I twisted my right ankle. When I got home I had the typical swelling and pain. My plan was to start the long run planned for 7am, (7hrs away) and see how it was. The next day I hobbled to start the run. About the time I realized I should stop, I twisted the same ankle again.

With my newly formed cankle I went home to enjoy a weekend of ice, elevation and anger.

After a week of no running and a lot of therapy I ran on it. Not a 100% I decided to step down to the 100K on Sunday. Besides the worry of the ankle I lost my mental game. Running 20+ hours at less than 100% did not appeal to me at all.


RDL 100 is not a flat 100 miler, but it’s not what I would call hilly. Most of the 9,000 feet of climbing is in the first 40-50 miles. To me what defines this event is the heat. My training plan called for serious heat acclimation.

Training time in the 3 months right before the event was at a premium. Except for TRT 50 mile in July most long runs were 5hrs max. To compensate I did more doubles (25/20, 30/20) than usual. I also ran more long hills and kept up my mid-week quality run.

Besides having more fun training I was defiantly stronger. My new favorite long workout is this: one repeat of the “Damn Hill”, which is Auburn Dam Overlook (ADO) to the river and back. Then ADO to the Cool Fire Station using K2, then back to ADO. Then do another repeat of Damn Hill. The run is 28ish miles and 4000ish feet of gain. The 2nd repeat is TOUGH mentally. For my next 100 miler I want to try this run but do two repeats each time.

Early heat training consisted of running my mid-week quality run at 4-5pm. It’s a 10-12 miler with 30-40 mins at tempo pace. Once the summer came my pace slows a lot. I knew I was adapting to the heat when I could do tempo pace again for this workout in 95+ heat.

One month out the RD sends out a message that the course has been changed. The new course repeats the Folsom Lake trail sections twice. A much tougher race, but a true trail race now. I thought the timing was pretty lame on the RD’s part, but my training had it covered. This became a moot point later for me. In talking to other RDL 100 runners the change one month out was not welcomed.


From training I thought an 11-12hr finish for the 100K was possible. I planned to use the cooler morning temps to bank a little time on the way up if all went well. Race morning was warm and humid.

At 5:30am the 20 or so of us lined up and off we went. I settled in with Mike from Santa Cruz for a while and just let my body dictate the pace. After an hour or so the sun came out and I ditched my light. My legs felt dead but fresh, I knew my lack of running the past two weeks would make me feel flat.

After the Rattlesnake aid station it felt like my legs were becoming twitchy, what the F*^&. OK time to increase salt and put the iPod on.

By the time I got to the base of K2 I was doing at least three salts at a time. It seemed that after the twigs would go away they would return with 30 or so minutes. So for the next few hours I probably did 5-6 an hour. By the time I got to ADO again I was feeling great. I kept the heavy salt use up until the end of the race.

At Cool I had my first crew meeting. My lovely wife Lily and daughter Izabella met me.  Pacer and teammate Melisa was also in attendance.

To be honest right now my aid station memories are a bit blurred. I had a lot of rehearsal going on in my mind, so everything else is a blur.  But I do recall these folks: Eric, Kathy, Paula, Melisa, Stan and Dasie. Thank you so much for the encouragement it really helped.

I always hate the climb to ADO from No Hands Bridge. Training a lot on the climb this summer helped me find my rhythm on it. It also showed me that when it’s hot this climb will put me in a hole if I let it. I ran/walked the whole hill without pushing it. This would help me for later. A 1.5 miles out I ran out of water but I felt good.

At ADO #2 the ice cold Coke and dunking in the canal was like starting the race over, I felt great.

Melisa was there to pace me and off we went. It was nice to have someone to talk to.

The flat terrain along the canal to the top of Cardiac was a welcome change also. Melisa got me into the canal one more time; I had dried out in the two miles since my last dunking. I was feeling better than I had in hours.

After clearing the aid station at the base of Cardiac we began the run to Rattlesnake Bar. Running down stream on this section of trail is fast once you find your rhythm. I found my rhythm and the body responded. I ran this 8-10 mile section feeling better than I had all day. Sadly I dropped Melisa along the way. She got me to where I was currently running, thank you Melisa you helped more than you know.

At Rattlesnake Bar #2 I came in still feeling good ready to finish that way. After hearing that Melisa was not with me Eric told me Gerell was ready to pace. Gerell is a great runner.  He is a fellow member of Fleet Feet's Ultra Trail Racing Team.  Gerell paced Eric to a great finish at Western States 100 this year.

Everything was working great at this point. I had pain in my foot, but otherwise I was happy with how I felt. This soon changed; if I were to put my finger on it I would say I exceeded my endurance a bit.  Surprisingly I found a good rhythm with walking the ups and running everything else. Towards the end I had some cramping and I got low on calories again.

Gerell kept me occupied and moving forward. The best part at the end was when we dropped onto the levee.  A wind was blowing so he got in front of me and pulled me to the finish.

Izabella met me near the finish and we ran it in together, always the best part.  11:44 and I was done, 1st place.

After crossing the line I laid down which I know better. Sure enough my blood pressure dropped. It was a toss up between throwing up and passing out. I’m sure I passed out, but Lily said I was talking the whole time. Some indeterminate time later I was up and felt better after a Coke.

Post Race

The standard of ice bath and a trip to Wendy’s followed.  Soon after the race my ankle swelled up to its former glory. My heel hurts; I think I've developed planar fasciitis.  No blisters and all my toe nails intact.

My excess salt intake during the race was not an issue, (40+).  No brown pee after the race was over.  I would say my water and salt intake was correct.

What Worked

Heat training: Thank god for the sauna at my gym. The time I spend in it took what I thought was good heat acclimation to a new level.

Gear: My Salmon S-Lab pack is beat up from use this year.  But the insulated bladder and sleeve in the pack kept me in cold water all day. It’s still the best pack out there.

Training: A lot of things helped, but it's the HILLS! that made the difference.

Food: Spiz, 2000+ calories from it during the race with no stomach problems. The only issues was when it gone hot. I could drink it, but warm vanilla milk is not my thing.

Carbo-Pro: Two scoops with a scope of Gatorade and who got your self 225+ calories of carbs and salts.

More pictures and a pacer's report here.

Thanks to Lily, Melisa, Dasie, Gerell, Eric and Kathy for helping me and cheering me on.