Friday, May 8, 2009

Running the Jenkinson Lake "50K"

On Saturday, I joined about 60 runners for the Jenkinson Lake Trail Runs. Three distances were offered: 9.7 miles, 19.4 Miles, and a (short) 29.1-mile "50K." Always hungry for more ultrarunner.net series points, I signed up for the 50K.
Hoa Tran (1st overall in the 2-Lap Race) Before the Start
Before the race, I met up with Hoa Tran, who was running the 2-lap race. Hoa would have probably won the Pony Express 30K race earlier this year, but accidentally missed the start. This time, he was definitely going to start on time! I also met up with Marathon Maniac Ed Walsh, who has run three out of four races in the series this year.
I did not have any pain, but I did not quite feel completely recovered from the recent racing at the River City Marathon and the Spring Run 10K, which made the Sports headlines in our local paper.
Marathon Maniac Ed Walsh, Ready for Another Race
Chris, who had participated in last year's Run on the Sly, which also includes a loop around Jenkinson Lake gave me a last-minute rundown on the course: lots of rollers and a few decent climbs on mostly runnable single track and horse trails around a beautiful mountain lake at about 3500' elevation.
I also found some interesting YouTube videos on the Jenkinson Lake website, so I felt somewhat prepared. Based on what I had learnt about the course without actually running it, I concluded that breaking 4 hours would pretty much be impossible; it would probably be great to finish in less than 5 hours.
The Boat Ramps Close to the Start and Finish Area
The race started promptly at 8 a.m. and Truckee's Shannon Rahlues (the eventual overall 1-lap race winner) took off like a gazelle. Nobody else made a move, so I settled in behind Shannon, in second place and soon lost sight of her.
We ran the first 4.5 miles (to the Hazel Creek Aid Station) on fairly smooth, but sometimes slippery single track hiking trails. After that, the course followed some much rougher and steeper horse trails to the Miwok Aid Station. The last 1.5 miles were run on a hiking trail again, and included a double creek crossing in which it was almost impossible not to get your feet wet. All in all, it was a great venue for a trail race and, surprisingly, there was quite a bit of shade on the trail.
Aaron Summerhays, Big Smiles After Winning the 50K
Before I knew it, I finished the first loop in about 1:05, in second place overall (first in the 50K). Wow, I'd better slow down a bit. Now, before you check the final results and call USATF to place me on the national 50K mountain trailrunning team, I must tell you that there was a problem with the length of the course...
Originally, the 50K was going to be slightly long with four 8-mile laps. Then, the course had been remeasured to be 9.7 miles and the race was shortened to three laps, resulting in the short 29.1-mile 50K. On race day, however, the marked course measured only about 8.1 miles long, resulting in something closer to a 24-miler, or 40K. Next year, RD Robert Mathis told me, the 50K will be adjusted to have four-laps. So despite my fast first lap, this was not the breakout performance that a glance at the results might lead you to believe it was!
Already Done? Female Winner, Lainie Callahan-Mattoon
In the beginning of the second lap, Aaron Summerhays passed me and slowly pulled away from me. Aaron was looking strong and he had done his homework: He and Brad Lael (winner of the 1-lap race) had come out a few weeks prior to the race and run the course. Aaron is a familiar face on the ultra scene; he volunteers almost as much as he runs.
The Evans' Dog Watches as Kate Devours a Post-Race Hamburger
When I finished lap 2, Team Ultra Signup runner and Pollock Pines resident Rob Evans who was crewing for his wife Kate, informed me that Aaron had built up a three to five minute lead. I grabbed my water bottle, turned on some music, and started running a little faster. Aaron's lead was about the same when I arrived at the Hazel Creek Aid Station and it was unlikely that I would make up a lot of time on the steeper sections in the second half of the course. There were two steep climbs on this section that I ran on the first lap, but walked on the last two.
Matt Thau Relaxes After Finishing His Fourth Straight ultrarunner.net Series Race
I started passing some of the 2-lap runners and finished in 3:36, about 9 minutes behind Aaron, who ran a great race. Lainie Callahan-Mattoon turned in another strong performance by finishing 1st (3rd overall), followed by Kate Evans, Jason Dumars, Jethro Smith, who survived a fall on the trail, and Matt Thau, who, like me, finished every single race in the ultrarunner.net series this year and will now most likely move into second place in the series overall standings (complete race results here).
Jason Dumars (5th Overall)
From one angle I was happy to run a shorter race given my short recovery period since the last race, but on the other hand, I think I would have done better in a real 50K, and we would have had the opportunity to gain more points for the same price ;-)
Rena Schuman (volunteer at the Hazel Creek Aid Station) and Some Other Runners at the Finish
The post-race BBQ was great, as usual. It was great to catch up with Jason Dumars and I also finally got to meet Matt Thau in person. I had seen Matt's name in all the series' race results, but had not yet met him in person.

Thanks to Robert, Linda, and all the volunteers for putting on this race and for the perfect course markings. I'll probably be back for four laps next year.

Next Up: The Auburn Trails 50K.
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