Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Race Report

This past weekend, I ran the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 miler. It was my second 50 mile race and my first since the same race last year. On the one hand, having run the course last year meant I knew what to expect in terms of the course profile and aid stations. However, it also made me feel as if anything slower than last year was a failure. 2 days before the race, there was a huge storm. The day of the race was actually rather sunny, but there were portions of the course that were still a little muddy. The last 5 miles of the course were changed because of mud from the storm.
I was pretty confident going into the race, and had tapered really well. I felt really good and was excited to put up a fast time. Going into last years race, I didn't know what to expect as it was my first 50 miler. Last year I went out rather slow and finished pretty fast. This year, however, I went out a little too fast and it cost me on the back half of the race. Through the first two aid stations, I ran with a group of about 6 or so runners. I came through the Bort Meadows aid station at mile 7.9 in 58 minutes. Last year I was at 1:04, so it was way too fast.
Having been in the sport of ultrarunning for a while now, I know a good number of the runners. I recognized some of the runners around me, and knew that they were pretty much my speed. I ran with them, and we were running at a comfortable pace. The mistake I made was not running to my own strengths, but being too focused on staying with the group. Downhills are my weakness while uphills and flat portions are my strengths. I pushed it a little too hard on some downhill stretches during the first 1/4 of the race to stay with the group. My glutes and quads were feeling pretty sore and at about mile 15, I knew that I went out too fast.
At mile 21.7, I hit the steam trains aid station. From here, there is a huge downhill, and a huge uphill. I got passed by a few people on the downhill, which I expected. I reached the turnaround at Lone Oak at 3:41. This was 5 minutes faster than last year, so I was hoping that I could still beat my time. I felt good on the uphill and was able to run much of it. I passed a few of the people who had passed me on the way down. Mile 30.3 is the steam trains aid station again. I knew that from here, most of the hills were done with. I thought that I could finish strong, but it was here that I fell apart. I started cramping and had a few charley horse false alarms. At Sibley, mile 33.6, I remember telling the aid station workers that the last 3 miles were the longest 3 miles of my life.

The next 10 miles were awful. I was cramping, and struggling to find a rhythm. I knew that I would not beat my time from last year, and frustration was setting in. At this point, I had been running for almost 6 hours, and all I wanted to do was finish. My toes and left knee were especially painful. My mom and brother were driving to each aid station. At the Skyline aid station at mile 37, I told my brother: "Only a half marathon to go." My mom later told me that I looked like hell at that point. Pretty much what I felt like too. It was extremely hot and despite the fact that I was drinking a ton and taking salt capsules at every aid station, I was still pretty dehydrated. Mile 44.1 is the Bort Meadows aid station.
The last 6 miles are basically flat and I was able to talk myself into finishing strong. I knew that regardless of my finish, I was going to be slower than last year. I was frustrated with the way I ran the race. I knew that I had been too overconfident and gone out too fast. Nevertheless, I convinced myself to finish the race in a way that I would be proud of. I stopped feeling sorry for myself, got my head back on my shoulders, and finished the last 3 miles better than I have finished any other race. I ran my last mile in 6:17, and I passed 3 runners in the last mile and half.
Despite an overall disappointing race, I was happy with the way I finished. It may not have been my best physical performance, but it was definitely the strongest I have been in a race mentally. I have decided to take a break from running for a while. After last years race, I was excited to improve and push myself further. This time, I am content with the fact that sports for me are at most a hobby. Putting so much pressure on myself to succeed, and having a race like this one is a reality check that sports are supposed to be fun and a release from stress. For me, it has almost become an additional source of stress and too much of a sacrifice. At this point of my life, my athletic goals are going to be secondary to my professional and social life.


  1. Goo running some sections with you Payam, digging deep into the well is painful, but I've found that during those moments, you really learn what you're made of. Times don't always tell the entire story. Way to gut it out.

  2. Hi Payam! Totally agree with you on not putting too much pressure on yourself. I was stressing over going sub-4 at Skyline 50 but blew up around mile 6 trying to hang with Jean and Chris! Then, I watched Victor pass me with an ease and climbing Starflower trail in Redwood park like a mountain goat. I thought Whoa. That's how I wanna run like. Hit me up for a run sometime!