Formidable (Fohr-med-a-bull) – Causing fear, dread, awe, or discouragement as a result of size, strength, or some other impressive feature; commanding respect; causing wonder or astonishment. Difficult to defeat or overcome.
FOURmidable 50k – the above, plus 31 miles of mud and 6,000' of climbing.
From the moment I added the FOURmidable 50k to the race calendar two months ago, I have enjoyed how its clever-but-daunting name injected a twinge of fear into my workouts. The all caps “FOUR-” cleverly represents the four insanely steep climbs between Auburn and Cool, CA, that anchor the course with nearly 6,000’ of vertical gain. The lower case, but not to be underestimated, “-midable” refers to the fast runnable single track in between those climbs. Put them together, and every workout of the normally slow winter season is frightfully blessed with purpose. Climbing, downhills, speedwork…FOURmidable would demand it all.
|(Note the inverted profile chart with aid stations at the bottom of the number - genius!)|
|(Jessi Goldstein gets ready with her fellow warriors)|
|(Addie Bracy, Andy Whacker, and David Roche are ready to roll)|
|(YiOu Wang makes a few adjustments while Team Hoka's Cole Watson and Ryan Ghelfi stretch out)|
|(Ray Sanchez, just ahead of the best singlet ever from Ian O'brien)|
|(Who's ready to roll?)|
|(And we're off!|
|(Cruising the towpath, photo courtesy of Theseus Augustus Felonius)|
|(The mud would be the big factor today)|
|(Megan Storms shows off her buddy's new gaiters)|
|(There's a creek ON TOP of No Hands Bridge!)|
|(K2 is looking crazy)|
|(David Roche leading up the climb, photo courtesy of Eric Schranz)|
|(Try and stay dry! Ha, ha)|
|(Max King and the epic face plant we all made, photo courtesy of Paul Berquam)|
It wasn’t until the Cool aid station (mile 22), that I got an idea of the race ahead and where I was. Max King had come through at blazing speed, face planting in the four foot deep creek, with Cole Dayton two minutes behind him (and also face planting in the four foot deep creek). David Roche, Ryan Ghelfi, Ian O’brien (hands down the best race shirt), and Ryan Woods were all in pursuit. YiOu Wang had made her signature move, turning on the afterburners in the last 10 miles, and had already gapped Addie Bracy by four minutes. The volunteers guided me around the four foot creek, and a guy said “you’re first in your age group, Jean is about 8 minutes up for Masters…he’s going fast though, so you better get moving”. Wait...where is Peter Fain? Mark McManus? The guy shrugged his shoulders and said “looks like it’s your day”. Well, it's not over yet...
|(We aren't done yet!)|
The last of the four climbs (mile 30) set my quads and calves twitching, and I power hiked the bottom just in time to watch Jean Pommier finish at the top. Chris Castlemen was able to run the entire last climb, and caught me in the final 200 yards, collapsing at the finish. I followed him in (4:39), nabbing 11th overall, 8th USATF Male, 2nd Master, and the M45-49 win. What a great finish to an amazing day!
|(YiOu Wang is our new USATF Trail 50k Champion!)|
|(Max King talks strategy with his daughter after taking the win)|
|(Womens Masters champion Jennifer Devine Pfeiffer and RD Paulo Medina)|
|(M40-44 winner John Burton and M55-59 winner Gary Saxton make good use of the finisher hoodies)|
My thanks to Paulo Medina and his troupe at Single Track Running for this wonderful gift of a run. In my mind, it redefined what a USATF 50k Trail Championship race should be – epic climbs, crazy conditions, fast runners, great swag, awesome food, not too much pomp and circumstance, and all of it expertly organized. Best of all it was a perfectly good excuse to get muddy, and renew my appreciation for nature’s extraordinary range of beauty. Thanks Team inov-8 for making mud running fun (#getagrip), and Injinji for getting me through another crazy race with no blisters. Let the chalice of my soul spill over with gratitude.
See ya on the trails!