"Run Your Own Race"
Lake Sonoma 50 Mile - April 2013
Those of us who race almost any distance longer than a sprint have undoubtedly been advised by someone to "run your own race". Aside from the general acceptance that it is a way to run a personal best time at most distances, it is something not frequently achieved in practice. This has been on my mind since taking a different approach, and perhaps an experimental one, at the recent Lake Sonoma 50 mile race.
In recent years, Lake Sonoma - part of the competitive Montrail Cup Series - has drawn a growing field of elite runners while selling out all of its available entries in a matter of hours. Competition aside, it is a destination event with three days of fun including a Friday pasta feed party, a rugged and beautiful course to run on Saturday with gourmet tamales and microbrew at the finish line, and a Sunday winery tour and social gathering. It is the brainchild of Ultrarunning Magazine publishers (and patron saints of the sport) John Medinger and Lisa Henson. The somewhat intimate size of the event, at least compared to a big city marathon, provides a convivial atmosphere.
With a busy schedule this year consisting of one ultra a month from January through September, it made perfect sense to shift my focus for some of these races from what my finish ranking should be to an opportunity to refine pacing and fueling strategies. Every race is ideally a stepping stone. I felt that Lake Sonoma, with a relatively large number of top runners whom I might finish in front of or behind at other events throughout the year, was a good fit for figuring out how to race the clock while exercising the restraint of not racing other people.
|(Start line mix of jitters and laughs. Photo by Holly Harris.)|
|(Gary Gellin and Karl Meltzer rolling past a group of equestrians. Photo by Holly Harris.)|
|(Plugging away at the 30 mile mark. Photo by Holly Harris.)|
ran our own race in fairly close proximity until I succumbed to my all-too-familiar inner thigh cramps in the last 12 miles. Despite slowing down and even having to take a few brief stops, I passed four runners and somehow bridged back up to Karl with half a mile to go. I accelerated by him carefully and kept speeding up, for no good reason perhaps, all the way to the finish line. Max King, pre-race favorite who led the first half of the race at breakneck speed but slowed by 25% in the second half (while still finishing 3rd overall), teased me that I looked like I was finishing a 5k. In terms of effort, it's possible that slightly harder efforts on the climbs were warranted. On the other hand, muscular endurance (as manifested by cramping and reduction in speed) might have been compromised even more despite still having energy reserves to spare.
|(Sprinting to the finish. Photo by Holly Harris.)|
|(Holly Harris, Gary Gellin, and 2013 Women's winner Cassie Scallon. Photo by Chris Jones.)|