Yesterday, I ran the Pony Express Race. This race offers a 30K, 50K, 50M, and 100K option and I picked the 100K. Having run the 100K in 2007 and coming in second to Scott Dunlap, I knew what to expect.
Sunrise at Cameron Park Lake
My training had been going well and the last day of dry and cool weather would make this a great day to break some records. On Friday, my friend Troy decided he would come out and crew for me, which would be a great help, too. Some days everything just goes right and this was one of those days.
The new Chocolate#9 chocolate agave gel
Today, I was going to try out a new gel--Chocolate#9 Chocolate Agave. I had been looking around for a healthier alternative to the basic assortment of gels and reading about these gels (sweetened with Agave, no artificial ingredients, no refined sugar, vegan, etc.) it sounded like I had finally found the right one. These gels are some of the best-tasting gels ever. Think of a rich Starbucks chocolate truffle drink in gel format, but without any sugar and other bad stuff--a chocolate-lover's delight. I ate one every 4 laps and they gave me plenty of energy. Definitely a winner!
Jon Olsen flies by on his way to the 50-mile win in 5:58
In my training I had experimented with different speeds and decided to shoot for an 8:30 finish time. The splits for that break down as follows:
- 8:12 per mile
- 10:15 per lap
- 51 minute 10K
- 3:35 marathon
- 4:14 50K
- 6:50 50M
- 8:30 100K
John Souza wins the 50K
To be successful, it would be critical not to start out with the lead pack, particularly because there were runners in 4 distances. I immediately tried to settle into an 8-minute mile pace, which felt ridiculously slow. Sure enough, about 12 runners took off fast and formed a pack up front. The "Modesto Trio" (Jon Olsen (50M), John Souza (50K), and Hao Tran (30K) was leading the pack and after a few short laps, the pack was no longer running together.
Hao Tran and Ray Sanchez (Team Pandemonium) pass through the start/finish area
My pacing strategy paid off. The first 50K felt super comfortable and I did not feel like I was working hard until about 45 miles. I was nailing the splits, one after another, almost within a few seconds. I never broke stride and just kept a cruising at a steady pace. I hit the marathon in 3 minutes fast, in 3:32, the 50K in 4:07 (my first PR of the day). By this time I had reeled in most of the people that had lapped me earlier, except for the eventual 30K, 50K, and 50M winners. Jon Olsen was really tearing it up, going faster as the race went on. He finished in 5:58, just shy of Brad Lael's 5:54 50-mile course record. Congrats, Jon!
Round and round we go...
At 45 miles it became harder to keep the pace, but it was still doable. I hit the 50M in 6:40 (PR#2) with 10 laps to go. After about 55 miles, I was unable to keep the pace no matter how hard I tried, dropping about a minute or more per mile.
Another race around this place (Eiffel 65)
Before the race, my son Sean had asked what the longest distance was that I had ever run without taking a walking break. That was a 50K and I had just increased my PR for running non-stop to 55 miles. It felt silly to stop now, somewhere in the no-man's land between 50 miles and 100K, so I kept on running, grinding out those final miles.
Troy joined me for a few final laps and the company helped. By this time, there were not too many people left on the course and all of them were suffering, yet determined to finish. With the end in sight, the last two laps felt surprisingly easy again.
With R.D. Robert Mathis (and my Inov-8 Shoes Gift certificate)
In 2007, I ran 9:36, and with one lap to go, it was clear I would be a little bit slower than my projected 8:30, so it would be fun to at least break my old record by an hour. I had twelve minutes left to do that and cranked out one more lap at the old 10-minute-per-lap pace to finish in 8:34 and change (good for another two new PRs--longest non-stop run and 100K).
Kicking back after the race
I also set a new course record (The CR was 9:06). However, I have to add that I won the 100K by attrition, because there was an overall 10.5 hr cutoff and the people that had signed up for it ended up dropping down to the 50-mile race. Nevertheless, my splits would have been good enough for (I think) a second place in the 50-miler, and a top-spot in the 50K.
Loading up on Linda's famous post-race buffet (There was still plenty left!)
After the race, we enjoyed the post-race buffet while watching the other runners finish. All in all it was great day and weather-wise it worked out perfectly, because a huge storm moved in at night and it is supposed to rain for a while now.
Rick Santos ices the legs after a strong finish, Troy talks to Western States/Pony Express volunteer Brad McGoo
Another great benefit of having a crew with you: you don't have to drive home after the race! Thanks a lot Troy for coming out with me--I owe you one!
Jose San Gabriel with 200 yards to go
A huge thanks a lot to Robert and Linda Mathis and Brad Mcgoo for putting on the great race and keeping track of all the laps!