Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Soaring Through the Silver State 50-Miler

Last Saturday, 300 brave warriors stood together at the foothills of Rancho San Rafael Park near Reno, NV, shaking off the high desert morning chill. All eyes were on Peavine Peak, stretching 4,500' vertical into the clear blue sky, and the snake of trail leading to the top that would begin our journey.  We were here to race the 28th annual Silver State 50-mile/50k/Half Marathon, a beautiful and hilly trail run put on by the Silver State Striders, and it was time to get moving!

(Last minute instructions before the 85 runners tackle the 50-miler)
I met some familiar faces at the start, many of whom were getting their last training cycles in before the Western States 100m and Tahoe Rim Trail 100m (TRT), two big summer races with similar terrain. The 50-miler had ~80 runners this year, including Chikara Omine (fresh off his win at the Quicksilver 50m [6:11] last week and hoping his sore hamstring would hold up), local speedster Peter Fain (also eyeing States this year after cutting his teeth at the 100-mile distance with a 23:37 at Wasatch last Fall), Thomas Reiss (training for TRT), Joelle Vaught (the favorite in the Women's race), Mark Lantz (going for #9 States this year), Bob Shebest (training for TRT #3, after getting 3rd in 2010 with a sub-20 hour finish), Lon Freeman (also targeting States), Erik Skaden (States), and Jim Magill (already his 6th ultra since late February). At 6am, we were off!

(Mark Lantz hydrates, as Thomas Reiss, Peter Fain, and the other runners stay warm)
(...and we're off!)
This was a cruiser race for me, hoping to sneak in a qualifying sub 11-hour time for the 2014 Western States 100 lottery without screwing up my last training cycle before the Chamonix Marathon. I don't want to end my streak as the most losing runner in the Western States lottery...7-time loser, SO PROUD!!! But it was nice to start the race knowing I had time to relax, take some pictures, and literally stop and smell the flowers.

(The climb begins)
(Eric Frome charges up the hill)
After a few miles in the shadows, a long line of runners broke into the sun and spread out. Chikara, Bob Shebest, and Peter Fain set the pace up front and soon were out of reach. In fact, it didn't take long before all of us were so spread out it felt like we were alone! I paced along with local runner Lisa Daane, tackling her first ultra after having her son just nine months ago. I love how new Mom's have such a high pain benchmark that a 50k just isn't enough...gotta go big!

(Out of the shadows)
(Lisa Daane climbs the single track)
(All smiles in the early miles!)
(Into the sun, with a familiar shadow pose)
The trails in this area are amazing, alternating between fire roads and single track, and all of it runnable. By the time we cruised through The Pond aid station (mile 8), civilization was a distant memory, replaced with vast stretches of desert grass sprinkled with wildflowers like the red paintbrush, blue violets, and purple sage. My soul drank fully from Nature's cup!

(Sharing the single track)
(Up, up, up!)
(Happy volunteers at The Pond, and more great trails!)
(Balsamroot, I think?)

(The best part of the race...this view goes on for miles!)
I walked a good chunk of the climbs, keeping my heart rate under 145 (my aerobic threshold) as much as possible. That was easier on my knee too, a minor soreness that appeared soon after Big Sur, and likely due to too much road racing. The liquids were going down fast, a sure sign of the dry, high altitude conditions, and we reached Peavine (mile 11) just as our water bottles were down to the final slurps. George Ruiz and his gang of super-volunteers got us set up, and we descended down into the back country.

(George and his volunteers ran a tight ship at Peavine)
(The gorgeous back country)
(Long easy descents make it fun!)
(Red paintbrush on the left, purple sage on the right...what's not to love?)
I stopped for an impromptu bio break around mile 15, and again at the Long Valley aid station (mile 22), both signs that I was not keeping my fluid levels up. I wasn't in a hurry though, so I spent a lot of time rehydrating at the aid stations. I think I had the same problem when I did this race the first time in 2007. "Wait, you did this race six years ago?" asked a fellow runner. Holy cow, I'm already becoming one of "those" old guy ultrarunners. And still making the same mistakes! ;-)

(Downhill is fun!)
(The ladies of Long Valley take care of us)
I shuffled along with Jay Kincaid, a local runner from Reno, who suggested walking a few steep hills so we don't un-Gu our stomachs. It had warmed up to the low 70's, so the heat was becoming a factor, but we did have some occasional cloud cover that seemed to hover right with us down the single track. We're surfing cloud shadows! I picked up the pace a bit along with Taylor Valentino, who entertained me with stories of his studies in Exercise Physiology and endurance recovery techniques. Taylor was really looking forward to helping out the great Dr. Marty Hoffman at Western States this year! Given what he is studying, I suspect his thesis will be a must-read for ultrarunners.

(Just gorgeous at every turn)
(Taylor tackles a big climb)
(At mile 29, we begin seeing 50k runners on the trail)
(The fun single track towards River Bend)
(Lisa makes her way back from River Bend, still smiling)
(Jay Kincaid begins the big climb at mile 34)
(River Bend aid station, mile 33!)
(Feeling great at River Bend, photo courtesy of Patrick McKenna)
I took it easy on the long descent to River Bend (mile 33), where the volunteers helped me swap out my hydropack and pointed me back up towards Peavine. One more big ascent bottom to top, and it's all cruising from there! I was just under six hours, so looking at a comfortable 9:30-10 hour finish. The clouds started to come in more frequently, giving us a bit of shelter from the noon sun, and we started into the climb.

(Awesome cloudscapes near the top)
I caught up to Eric Frome, and after chatting a bit we figured out that we had lived in the same area of Portland, OR, within a few blocks. Eric was training for the Leadville 100, his first 100-miler, looking to add to the family legacy started when his father did Leadville nearly 30 years ago. We chatted for an hour, making the climb go by quickly, and even found out that he had finished the 2013 Boston Marathon just 17 seconds ahead of me. 17 seconds?!? How strange is that? Out in the middle of the desert, I'm running with a guy that probably next to me for all of Boston.

(Last peak...stoked!)
(Sharing high fives on the trail)
Josh Owen and Joshua Marks, two more Oregonians, caught us on the final climb and we all got a big refill at Peavine (mile 39) before the long descent. I leaned into the hill to chase after the pink top of Lynn Vanscholack from Meridian, ID, whom I had been seeing for the last four hours. My guess is that she and Lisa were duking it out for 2nd Female, with Joelle likely leading. The Oregonians bid me farewell, and the wind swept me down the single track.

(This aid station was singing REO Speedwagon at the top of their lungs when I arrived...awesome)
(Remote, beautiful)
I caught Lynn at the Ridge View aid station (mile 44), who was smiling but suffering from pushing the last climb. When she heard we had 10k to go, she said "no problem!" and we headed out. The last few miles of single track were so much fun - just enough incline to lean forward and bank those turns. I was actually a little bummed when downtown Reno appeared on the horizon - darn, we're almost done!

(Civilization arises like a mirage...or the Mirage hotel, maybe)
I jogged into the park and crossed the finish in 9:37:39 for 31st place, feeling good and well under the 11-hour time I needed. It was so nice to take it easy! Chikara was there to great me at the finish, and let me know that he and Bob Shebest ran side-by-side for 33 miles before Chikara pulled away to win in a 3rd-best-ever-on-this-course 7:09. Holy cow, that's 3 minutes/mile faster than me! Bob came in second (7:23), and Christopher Wehan (7:30) came in third, with Michael McMurray (7:33, 4th) just edging out Mark Lantz (7:41) for the Master's win. Joelle Vaught had handily won the Women's division (8:13, 9th overall), with Lisa Daane (9:27) getting second, and Lynn Vanscholack (9:45) holding on for 3rd. Everyone mentioned miles 34-39 were the toughest, but the weather couldn't have been better. (all results)

(the finish!)
(Feeling good! Photo courtesy of Patrick McKenna)
(Chilling with winner Chikara Omine, photo courtesy of Patrick McKenna)
There was plenty of folks handing me beer at the finish, and I chilled out with Sarah Syed (tackled the 50k today) and Mark Lantz as we cheered on fellow runners and snacked on ice cream. I gave a final thanks to John Trent and the Silver State Striders for inviting us once again to frolic in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Such a great day! I headed home with the windows rolled down, breathing the sage-filled air deep into my lungs. Refreshed, renewed, and replenished.


  1. Great photos, as always. Really nice that there was some rain the week before the race, to make it a little greener and convince some flowers to come out -

    1. Agreed! You could see all the flowers budding, and the dust level was minimal. A great day in the Sierras!

  2. I'm amazed you're able to keep track of everyone you met along the race (first name and last name??) for 50 miles. That is incredible. Really enjoy your blog!

    1. Anna - I cheat a little bit. Typically I remember first name and where they came from, then look it up later in the results. I also take a lot of pictures of people with their race numbers so I can look it up! Still get 30% of it wrong, but there you go. ;-)

      Thanks for reading!

  3. I always enjoy your race reports. Especially because I hope to run some of these races one of these days. I hope you get to run Western States soon! Your WS100 race report is one of my favorite race reports of all time! Are you considering Rocky Raccoon 100 in 2014 since it will be the USA 100 mile trail championship race? It would be a perfect chance to go for a 100M PR too!

    1. Thanks, John! I am eyeing the RR100 for next year for all of the above reasons! Plus I really enjoyed racing in Texas in March. But I think you will have to go low 13-hour to get Top 10 in 2014! Crazy but true.

    2. It was my first 100 miler a few months ago, and I am hoping to make a return trip with some better training. Hope to see you there! Low 13 hours for a 100 is insanely fast!

  4. Nice recap and pictures, great to hear you had a good long run up there, Scott! Sorry for missing you again, that was a busy ultra racing weekend, this one is way too close to Ohlone for me... Although a few "animals" did the double again (Toshi, Loren). Enjoy Chamonix, too bad I'll miss you there by only 2 days, see you again between two planes then.

  5. REO Speedwagon? "Time for me to fly?" Thanks for this report - I really want to do a race or two up in that general area and this one keeps getting great reviews. Congrats on a great race and here's to hoping you make it into WS100.

    1. Yup, that was the song! They even had harmonies going. It was quite impressive.

  6. Great shots on the journey out there. Good, good running... :D

  7. Your race reports are just chilled back and enjoyable - even in spite of the fact that in this race's case that is *a lot* of elevation loss/gain you just took on.
    Thank you for the enjoyable read/race recap.

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  9. Scott thank you for a very enjoyable SS 50/50 race report. So many excellent pictures of our beautiful desert in the Spring. (the one plant/flower is a Mule's Ear) Also thank you for the nice plug for the Peavine a/s and the great photo! I'm glad you had a nice race.
    Best of luck in your up coming races this summer.

    1. Thanks for taking care of us! And for the flower ID. ;-)

  10. Way to capture the mountain air and spirit! Great race! My recovery has been a little rough but reading your race report has me smiling big. I was trying to identify the yellow flowers too. Leaves seem different than balsamroot but I can't find anything that is a closer match.

    I am so excited about your upcoming European circuit. Can't wait for your race reports from Europe, would love to add some mid-distance races in the Alps to my "must do" list. Learning the secret behind your amazing race performance has me motivated! Keep on rocking! Sarah

  11. Surfing Cloud Shadows? Why didn't I think of that? Great report, it looks like a fun race. Going to put this on my list of race I want to do.

  12. Great article Scott. I had a blast out there. It was a perfect day. I'm hooked so I'm sure I'll see you around. Have fun in Europe!


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