Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sub-5 at the Rucky Chucky 50K

Yesterday turned out to be a good day for the Lubbers family! In Marysville, my sons Sean and Rocky placed first and third respectively in their age groups in the 13th Annual Tri-Counties Music Competition and in Foresthill, I placed fourth overall (first in my age group) in the Rucky Chucky Roundabout 50K in a time of 4:52 (almost an hour faster than last year).
Of course, my wife deserves "honorable mention," because she cooked the pre-race pasta dinner, baked the post-race pancakes, drove the kids to countless rehearsals, and made sure everything was properly organized.
The American River
Last year, I did not have such a great day at this race. It was pretty warm that day and we had to carry a lot more water due to an inaccessible aid station. This year's forecast called for cooler weather with a chance of rain and there would be an extra aid station, so times would probably be faster.
Lots of vertical feet on the course
Based on some recent training times, I decided to shoot for a sub-5 hour finish. The course is a very steep out-and-back trail run. You start at Foresthill Elementary School (3300'), follow the Western States trail and bomb down to the famous Ruck-a-Chuck river crossing (750'). Then, you turn around and crawl back up to Foresthill.
Before the start
Last year, I started out a bit too fast and arrived at the turnaround at 2:15, but then the wheels came off. So this year my plan was to run a more conservative first half, leaving enough in the tank to actually run most of the return trip. My projected splits were:
  • Sandy Bottoms aid station (mile 13.9)--2:00
  • Rucky Chucky turnaround (Mile 15.8)--2:15
  • Mile 22--3 hours
  • Finish--sub-5
This schedule would leave two hours for the last ten (very steep uphill) miles and it would take into account being in better shape and running without a CamelBak.

Andy Anderson on his way back

Training had been going well. After recovering from the Pony Express 100K for about a week, I ramped up my training and focused exclusively on steep mountain training. I ran 111 miles with roughly 30,000' vertical in 11 straight days before tapering back down for Rucky Chucky. On day 6, I ran my usual 10-mile mountain training loop in my fastest time ever: 1:10:38, so I knew I was ready for some fast mountain miles. The main thing was not to go out too fast. This race is mostly about being able to run back up the hill.
Chatting with CJ Callans
Troy offered to crew for me, although there was really only one place where he could meet me on the course (The Rucky Chucky river turn-around). Nevertheless, it was good to get a little bit of race intelligence and, most importantly, a ride back home! Thanks again, Troy.
With Dave before the race
Before the race, I finally got to meet Dave "Atlanta Trails" Schoenberg in person. Dave lives in Berkeley these days and came out to explore the Western States trail.

Dave in action
I also caught up with Gretchen and met Mike Scammon plus a few other runners who were going to do their first ultra. They sure picked a challenging run for a first ultra, but then again, if you're going to run an ultra, you may as well go all the way.

Checking out the elevation profile with Dave and Mike
I started out a little bit more conservative than last year, holding back more on the steep downhills, in the hope I would be able to run a lot more of the return trip. This proved to be a good strategy. Mark Lantz, out for a training race a week after running the Way Too Cool 50K a week earlier, set the pace from the start and slowly pulled away with the very positive (and fast) Andy Anderson on his tail.

I spent the majority of the downhill section chatting with Oregon's JC Callans, a very fast marathon runner (2nd in the Redding Marathon this year) who was running his first ultra. JC would pull ahead of me occasionally, but I would catch up with him again at the aid stations. Although he was new to ultrarunning, JC had received plenty of good ultra advice. He lives close to the Rogue Valley Runners store, which seems to provide employment for about half of all the top ultrarunners in this country. JC even carried a good luck charm-a Gu Roctane, rung up by Anton Krupicka himself.

Some of the great volunteers

I hit the 14-mile mark at 1:52 and the turnaround in 2:05 (both earlier than expected, but feeling pretty comfortable), and then started making my way up the hill again, exchanging "good job" and "looking-good" with all the other runners coming down the trail. I hit the 22-mile mark a little behind schedule at 3:05. At the last aid station (with 8.7 miles to go) I found out that Andy Anderson had a commanding lead, Mark Lantz was about 10 minutes ahead, and JC was only about 3 minutes ahead.

Mark Lantz powers back up the hill

Some of the uphill sections were insanely steep and almost impossible to run. I took a few walking breaks, but tried to keep a running rhythm going as much as possible. For the longest time I was not sure if I would make it under 5 hours, but once I hit some of the familiar trail sections before California Street, I knew sub-5 was within reach. I sped up a little and crossed the finish line in 4:52 (4th overall and 1st AG), still 3 minutes behind JC, who definitely has a future in ultra running (his wife was running the 50K as well). I was quite happy with the result and stuck around for Lisa Mathis's excellent post-race buffet.

JC Callans cruises into the Sandy Bottoms aid station

Andy Anderson easily took first place in 4:18, just 5 minutes off Lon Freeman's CR and Mark Lantz came in second in about 4:30 (great time for a training run!). Though perhaps not a familiar name on the ultrarunning scene (yet), watch out for Andy Anderson. He's an avalanche forecaster, who logs about 30 miles on cross-country skis in the Tahoe Truckee area every day in addition to some low-volume high altitude running--wow!

Andy Anderson (1st place)
After the lunch, I found out that Sean and Rocky had won first and third place in the music competition and that they would be performing in the winner's concert/award ceremony that evening. I rushed home, took a shower, and made it just in time for the final concert, which was a real treat. All their hard work and practice had really paid off. Rocky played a Die Harfe (Mayer) on the piano and received a $50 third place prize and trophy, and Sean played Humoresque (Dvorak) on the cello and received $100 and a trophy. Hmm, there seems to be more prize money in music than in ultrarunning...

Sean and Rocky with their prizes

Next up: the River City Marathon on April 19th. Aim: sub-3.


Herbalife Las Vegas said...

Wow those pictures are amazing. It really makes me want to go trail running. I haven't done it in a while. Maybe I should start looking for some good trails. I live in Las Vegas, NV.
If I ever go to Tahoe, I would love to go on some of those trails.

Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

Nice performance out there. Way to kick butt on that last section to get in under 5. Very impressive!

See you at another race soon!

Turi said...

Awesome, Peter. Looks like it was a perfect day, too. Congrats to you - and the boys as well!

Alan Fletcher said...

Peter - nice running! - that's some pretty good climbing you did there. it makes my "hilly" training runs look a little pathetic to be honest......

JC said...

Congrats on your course PR! It was great to meet you and I appreciate all the time you gave me regarding your wealth of experience. I really believe that I was able to survive the second half due to your even, controlled pacing. However, you did fall in to my "ask them a lot of long, open-ended questions so they can't focus on breathing" trick. Hope to see you again on the trails and may I recommend the SOB 50K in Ashland, OR this July so I can pick your brain a little more!. Best, JC

Scott Dunlap said...

Ya just keep getting fastah!

Catherine said...

Great run Peter. Fantastic time. So glad I got to see you there.

Andy said...

Hi Peter,
Nice write up about the Rucky Chucky. Thanks for including me. I would love a copy of the picture you have on the blog of my wife and I. Could you send it to me? Good luck in your next race! - Andy

Peter Lubbers said...

Hi Andy,
I'd be more than happy to send you some of the pictures. Just send me an e-mail (my address is peterlubbers AT yahoo DOT com).

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Nice course PR, there, Peter and great report. Sorry to miss you this year.

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