The Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. On Saturday, March 27 Larissa and I headed north of San Francisco for a relaxing trip up to the wine country. Relaxing of course being John Medinger’s Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, a friendly course with 10,500′ of climbing. We arrived to the start at around 5:45am and hung out with Nathan, Devon, Joel, Kevin, Thierry, and other friends from San Francisco. Joe Palubeski and I of course entertained one another with some pre-race smack talk as well.
The race kicked off at 6:40am with a whistle by Medinger and quickly Hal Koerner, Bob Shebest, Jady Palko, and other guys shot out to push the pace in the early going. I settled in and began chatting with Joel Lanz and Joe. We eventually caught up with Nathan Yanko, Devon Crosby-Helms, and Jonathan Gunderson, and together we ran as a big group for about the first 6 miles. Nathan seemed to instantly shoot out from the group at about the 6 mile mark, and then the group continued on till the Warm Springs aid station at mile 12. After Warm Springs some of the good climbs started and Joel quickly added some distance. It was Joel’s first 50 miler and he definitely ran a smart race by keeping it conservative in the early going, leading to a great overall time.
The course does not have any climbs that are absolute killers, but the course is never flat, and you are basically always climbing or descending. The course is an evenly-split out and back and there are about 7 stream crossings that you go through in each 25 mile section. Some of the crossings are small, and probably would not be there during a dry year, while others are up to your thighs and can take a little more work to get out of when the water level is high. The trail is primarily beautiful rolling single-track winding around the Warm Springs Arm of the lake.
Joe and I basically ran within earshot of one another for the next 25 miles. We were laughing for most of it, especially at the turn-around where Suzanna Bon was cheering us on as well as when we passed a few runners on the return who were aware of the bet that Joe and I had riding on the 2010 season. Joe was about 20 yards behind me when we passed Larissa and I instantly heard laughter as Joe later told me that Larissa had said “beat my boyfriend” as they passed. Uhh huhh… I see how it is.
I felt like I was running a decent race per my ‘ok’ fitness level leading up to LS50. I knew that it would not be my best, but definitely not my worst. It has seemed to take me longer than normal to recover from my long runs (and races such as WTC) ever since the HURT100 in January, and I’ve been dealing with small, flukey injuries right when I start having a good week. At Sonoma I had about 38 miles of good running, but from about 37-47 I allowed myself to mentally check-out and slowed my pace during that time. Joe continued on and put on a gap beginning at around mile 37, and I ran solo for the next 10 miles.
At about mile 47 I suddenly heard a runner behind me. “Holy crap” I thought, “I got lazy and am about to start getting passed by a stream of runners right before the finish.” The runner was my buddy David La Duc and we ran together for about the next mile. Suddenly at mile 48 everything kicked back in and just like getting scared at mile 88 of HURT, I dug down to hold my spot to the finish. I ran the last two miles hard, in fact they were probably my fastest two miles of the day (or seemed like it). I crossed the finish line in 8:14.15, good enough for 7th overall on the day. YES I finished 2.34 back from Joe, so after 81 miles of racing, I am ahead by the slimmest of margins, 2.08, and we are tied 1-1 in races. Fortunately next up is Miwok back on my home turf. Hopefully I can manage a good race there, though as of writing this it has taken me a good 10+ days to recover from Sonoma. Still, I am pleased with Sonoma all things considered and it should have me on the right step leading up to my big focus 100 milers this summer.
Hal won overall and set a new course record in 7:08.20. It will be exciting to see if someone can run sub-7 here in the next couple years. Nathan ran a 7:24.15, also under the prior course record, and Bob Shebest rounded out the top 3 in 7:40.45. Devon set a new women’s course record in 8:26.53, including a “detour” which gave her some bonus miles. Karen Spore followed 2nd in 8:41.51, and Darla Askew rounded out the top 3 women in 9:06.29. Larissa and Kevin ran a 10:18, each knocking a big chunk of minutes off of their times from the North Face 50 last December (also with about 10,500′ of climbing), Larissa improving by about 30 mins and Kevin by about 20.
I really enjoyed the race and I think that it will become a staple in my race schedule moving forward. It is challenging and tough, but not punishing. I know that I can run the course much better, and hopefully I can knock off a good chunk of time in 2011. The post-race spread is fantastic and (no surprise) I had a great time chatting with friends for a while post race. Also, the great thing about Lake Sonoma 50 is that you are in the heart of the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma wine country. On Sunday Larissa, Devon, Nathan, and I stopped in at a few wineries. Nothing like stretching your calves and quads while in a tasting room
A big thank you to all of the volunteers out at the race that made it possible, as well as to John Medinger, Lisa Henson, and Suzanna Bon (and anyone else I am missing) for organizing such a fun race on a fantastic course. I’ll see you all next year.
Thanks Kevin Luu for all the photos.
Race details can be found on Ultrasignup
Devon’s race recap
Nathan’s race recap
Bob Shebest’s recap