Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ray Miller Race Report

Photo by Natalie Kintz

Miles 0-5:

I was a little too excited at the start and took off ahead of everyone.  While my plan all along was to just follow Jorge Pacheco and Jorge Maravilla right from the start, I didn’t for the first couple miles.  After I was done running off my nervous energy I ended up running and chatting with Maravilla for a little while.  Didn’t take me long to realize that I was speaking in short sentences a little short of breath, while he was speaking as if we were just chilling at a café sipping on coffee as we pushed it up the first climb of seven climbs spread out over the next 50 miles.

Photo by Jayme Burtis

Around mile 3 Maravilla passed me, and right after he did we came upon a little turn in the trail that wound around a bush that was 4 feet tall or so.  Instead of running around it he just leapt over it like it was nothing.  Sweet, I’ve got to try and chase this guy for another 40+ miles.  Just before we got to the aid station at mile 6 Jorge Pacheco had joined us, along with Jonathon Toker (Mr. Saltstick) who was running the 50k.  The aid station was well run, and it was great seeing friends Eric & Faye Wickland, and Eric’s parents, even if the aid station theme was all about the Dodgers.

Miles 5-11:

I stayed with the Jorge’s and Toker for the 6 mile loop up Guadalasca and down Wood Canyon. 

Miles 11-19:

I was about 30 seconds behind as we hit the Dodgers AS again, but I caught up after hopping on a fun winding downhill section of the backbone.

Photo by Jayme Burtis

Once we got to the coyote trail around mile 14 I realized that I was hurting wayyyyy too much for it being this early in the race so I started running in “damage control” mode.  Maravilla took off with Pacheco and Toker about a minute back.  Kept eyeing Toker and Pacheco around longer straightaways and as I got to the Sin Nombre trail I saw them across Sycamore Canyon pulling into the superhero themed aid station a couple minutes ahead of me, and got report that Maravilla was 6 minutes ahead.  I probably felt the worst right around this point of the race.  I realized I went out too fast and I felt like the 2 guys running the 50 miler in front of me were going to leave me in the dust. 

Miles 19-28:

I was dreading the climb up to Sandstone Peak, a steady 6 miles uphill.  Not super steep, but steep enough to slow you down a lot.  I actually started to feel better running up this though.  I knew I wasn’t running fast, but I thought to myself, well… most of my training consists of running up long ascents at a slower pace like this, so I guess there’s no reason I couldn’t bounce back a little bit right now.  Upon reaching the top and rolling along for a couple miles, hikers were informing me that there was a guy just a minute in front of me.  That boosted my spirits a bit knowing that Pacheco hadn’t left me in the dust quite yet.  It was a relief finally coming to the 2 miles of downhill to the Yerba Buena aid station and hearing Kate Martini-Freeman yelling for me as I came into view from the road. 

Miles 28-34:

The 3 miles out and back to the turn-around weren’t too bad.  I saw Maravilla coming back from the turn around, looking super fresh and cruising along pretty fast.  I calculated that he was 18 minutes ahead of me at this point.  Then I saw Pacheco and figured he was 3 minutes in front of me.  Again I was relieved that even though I felt like dog meat, his lead wasn’t growing.  Got my bottles refilled by Katie Desplinter, Monica and Sim then made my way back to Yerba Buena.  I knew my buddy Dom was dealing with a calf issue, so I was a little surprised to see him about 8 minutes behind me at this point.  He was looking pretty smooth, which motivated me to keep moving.  Jimmy Dean and I crossed paths, he was looking fresh and spry.  Saw the top for women, Amy Sproston, Shawna Tompkins, Meghan Arbogast and Angela Shartel, as I neared the aid station, all within a couple minutes of each other, looking very solid.  Pacheco was entered the aid station about 30 seconds in front of me, but I lollygagged a bit as I filled bottles and taking a gel, so he was out of site pretty quick.

Miles 34-45:

The nice cool foggy morning quickly turned to a sunny warm day as I climbed up the steep pitch back up to Sandstone peak again.  I kept on seeing Pacheco around a lot of the turns, but told myself not to get caught up with keeping up with anyone yet, that’s what got me into trouble in the first place.  I was stoked to start the long descent towards Serrano Valley and get off the hot exposed tri-peaks area as I entered the shade of the thick brush.  I reached the valley and canyon and soon realized that my legs were pretty close to cramping up, I maintained by Saltstick every 30 minutes regimen and staved off cramping, but couldn’t push it as hard as my mind wanted me to.

Miles 45-50:

Refilled the bottles at the Orange Aid Station, was informed that Pacheco was 3 minutes ahead, but I didn’t have it in me to chase him down.  I wish I did, but I was overly worried about cramping and really wanted to hold onto third place.  As I climbed up the Fireline trail I looked down on Sycamore Canyon and saw that Dom was not within striking distance behind me.  While that was a relief, it also gave me less incentive to push it the last 4 miles to the finish. 

Photo by Jayme Burtis

Slowly made my way up to the Ray Miller Trail, saw Jayme Burtis snapping some pictures with Sandstone in the background (the mountain pictured above that we went up and down twice), and leisurely made my way down to the finish, taking in the mesmerizing views of the Pacific.

Lessons learned:

I need to integrate more speed work into my training.  Not being able to run kinda fast on the flats without totally straining my legs in the beginning trashed my legs for the rest of the race. 

DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST.  I can get away with doing this in shorter races, but ended up paying for it this race.  I am realizing why I had the little bit of success that I had racing 50ks last year:  you don’t have to worry about pacing yourself as much in that distance and you can just run hard.  Also, the big dogs are more likely to come out for 50 milers versus 50ks.  

Drymax socks worked great, as always.  Love the lite trail running 1/4 crew height model, the extra height seems to help keep rocks out of my shoes.

Realizing that I went out too fast, and couldn’t hang with Maravilla was demoralizing.  After all the hours of training and thinking about this race, I really wanted to do better, or at least be in contention for longer than 14 miles.  On the other hand, it was inspiring to see him run as solid and in control as he did, and it looked like he was having a great time.  I’m looking forward to hitting the training hard and seeing what I can do when we meet again at Miwok.

Can't thank Keira and all the volunteers for making race day a big all-day party.  Loved seeing my wife out running around on the course taking pics as well.  Ray Miller 50/50 is definitely going to be a classic early season 50 miler for years, glad I can say I ran it the inaugural year.

Up next:  OLD GOATS!!!!!!  I have heard nothing but good things about Steve Harvey's races and I'm excited to jump into this competitive 50 miler.   Really looking forward to running with Jorge again, trying to outlast Fabrice, and seeing the look of pain on Wickland's grill on the out and backs - regardless of who's chasing who.


  1. Dude you never listen...I told you the night before the race to take it out slow and easy but you had to throw the hammer down anyways. When will you learn? HA!

    It was good seeing you at the finish and great job on the solid time.

  2. Congrats on a great overall finish. I knew you'd place well. Seems like you're on the cusp of running shoulder to shoulder and even surpassing the big boys...only a matter of time. Keep it going until Miwok,

  3. Hone, great seeing you too. Glad I finally got to meet Taylor, even if she did stick her tongue out at me =)

    Billy, thanks, I do feel like I'm improving but definitely have a long ways to go. Jorge M. did finish wayyyyyy before I did. Time to start training for Old Goats and Miwok =)

  4. Great job out there man. Nice to see you and E before the start and cross paths on the out/back. Catch up with you at the Goat.

  5. Great racing. You're champ in my eyes. Now, focus on race strategy as much as race preparation.

  6. Solid run Chris and congrats on a very good time. Old Goats only three weeks away, this going to be fun 50 miles 13000 feet vertical.

  7. Chan, great seeing you too! Congrats on finishing the first of three 50's in three months. Next one's the toughest (I think), see you there.

    Sensei, thanks. I'm slllloooowwwwwlllly learning the hard way how to run these things. I think I'll be able to run Old Goats a lot smarter.

    Thanks Fabrice. I'm looking forward to the climbing and trying to hang with you. How're you feeling, healthy? Could you please go run a 100 between now and then?

  8. great race report chris. congrats on a great time and it sounds like this one was a learning experience for you. patience my friend.

  9. Great job and I especially like the "Lessons Learned" section. Good seeing you at MSCP yesterday and maybe some runs in the San Gabes are in store? We have to chat about R2R2R and other endeavors too.