Alison McGinnis

Race Report : American River 50 mile, Sacramento to Auburn, CA

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Good start…

I got a ridiculously good night sleep and awoke at 4:15. All my gear was carefully laid out and mom was already making toast in the kitchen of my Aunt’s house. We hit the road at 4:50 and arrived with no problems at 5:15 to the parking lot of some local businesses.

This is my first time at an Ultra event and it is very different. Mostly men and everyone is VERY lean and not shy at all…

we parked next to a man with his leg straddled on the hood of his truck applying Body Glide in crevices I was not prepared to see up close so early in the morning.

We found the drop bag trucks and immediately found our group for some pre-race pictures, and without a blink it was time to head up the ramp for a 6am start. Many things went through my head: Mom turned up with the flu the day before and she was supposed to pace me in at mile 41, what if my tics kick in and I can’t control them?*

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Smilin’

What if I’m not as mentally strong as I think? I gave my teary-eyed mom one last hug and started a smile that I didn’t realize would stay on my face for an entire 12 hours. I took off with a friend Lan and a group I met on the AR50 Facebook page and had become rather close with throughout training.  I had a motivation book my mom put together of about 50 quotes we all found over the last 6 months that I could read at each mile. Sandy & I were consistently staying at an 11:27 pace including half mile short walk breaks, we knew we would need all of our energy in the second half. The first 17 miles on bike trail literally flew by, still ecstatically annoyingly smiling. Then we saw this giant hill and just as I would start to get anxious an enormous deer came shooting out from my left and going full speed at the woman in front of me, in a panic she ducked and the deer ran off.

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First Hill

This gave me a boost of energy to charge up the hill, walking of course (I heard you walk all of the hills if you’ve never conquered the distance, best advice ever) This was followed by another giant hill on a single track trail along side the American River. At the top was a sign that said “Life is a garden, Dig it!”

We will say this loudly every time we hit a hill and laugh. The next 10 miles were indescribably beautiful, in the woods on single track trail with tall bright green grass on both sides and you could hear the river.

Not Today!

At mile 23 my arm began to twitch and I said “NOT TODAY!” And I dealt with it (still smiling but a bit worried) until mile 26.5 when I hit the first big break where pacers can jump in, and drop bags are located. My mom was here cheering with a change of shoes ready, poison oak repellent & sunscreen out and I would finally pee for the first time! I spent about 10 minutes changing and eating and we picked up Sandy’s pacer, Steve. This was refreshing as Sandy’s foot had been bothering her since mile 20 but was determined to go on. At this point I was extremely shocked in the terrain. It was all climbing big rocks steep ups, steep downs, all walking.

I was going nuts- I just wanted to run so bad!

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Even the parts that would flatten out a bit I was following a line of people that were still recovering so I was forced to go slow. I told myself it’s okay because I’ll need the energy for “The Beast”, the 3 mile hike straight up hill at the end. I enjoyed the scenery and conversation, still smiling. I came to mile 41 where my poor sick mom was dressed and ready to run. I could tell she was putting on a brave smile and being supportive but she literally was going to throw up all over me. I felt AMAZING and really didn’t need her to suffer so I convinced her I was fine and I had Steve & Sandy. This was a lie 🙂 as soon as we turned the corner I began to fly and Steve & Sandy stayed more conservative! I knew if I could get to mile 40 the last 10 miles would be a cake walk, mentally. I was having the time of my life! People that passed me at mile 30-I was passing and telling them how great they were doing.

The Beast

When I hit mile 45 this woman thanked me, “The girl in front of her” because she hit a rough spot and followed my feet. I was doing the same to the guy in front of me. I began to get a bit dizzy and we were on a cliff about 200 feet up. If I looked to my right I would probably fall down the rocky cliff to my death into the rapids.  “NOT TODAY!”. We passed that part and the woman, Pamela, and I began to talk. We had very similar stories and could make each other laugh. Much needed as we approached “The Beast”! This hill was straight up and barely walkable. I felt like if I put my hands down in front I could crawl faster. It was 3/4 mile long and she assured me the rest is not this tough and ahead was the aid station called

The Last Gasp, famous for being the best in history, and I found out really soon why. It was like Angels appeared- if Angels were twenty-something half naked men running down the hill to collect and refill our water bottles. Now REALLY smiling, I was ready. The next 2 miles was one giant hill but not as bad as what we just conquered. We actually ran slowly most of it.
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The finish

As I heard the cheers and saw the crowds begin to appear, I felt this burst of energy I didn’t know could exist after 49.5 miles. I freakin sprinted at an 8:00/mile pace with the most giant smile into the finish line where I saw my mom, aunt, uncle and cousins.

ELATED! I got THE jacket I had been training for all this time. Then I saw Lan and I was giddy with excitement. We got to sit back and watch all our friends and new friends cross the finish line with the same joy. It was a truly amazing experience. It only took a half hour as I walked to the car to begin planning the next race, 100k.  But for now I think I’ll let my husband have his weekends back.  I attribute such a great race to hydrating and carbing up the entire week before and  during. During the race I ate a lot! Boiled potatoes with salt, about 8 GUs, PB&J sandwiches, m&m’s, madeleine cookies, oranges, about 7-8 salt pills throughout the day and lots of water and electrolytes. I felt undertrained going into the race but I felt mentally very strong and the reassurance I received from friends really made me feel strong going in.

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Cameo!

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*Many people don’t know I have Complex Motor Tics which is a form of Tourette’s, this has posed a problem on many of my runs and especially at races because the anxiety puts them in full swing. I can suppress them in social situations but not during my run and it is the main thing that will mentally break me down if they start up, mainly in my arm/shoulder area.

Scott

Scott is the founder of Becoming Ultra and spends most of his time with his family and ideas to get people moving!