Race Report: ITR Mt. Tam 50k

I have a lot of runs and training to catch up on, but I just have to sit down and write this race report while it’s very fresh in my head.

When I made my training plan for The North Face 50M, I was able to rely a lot on things I learned from training for American River 50M.  I focused a lot on what worked, what didn’t, where I struggled and where I succeeded.  I used all those things to develop a general shell of a training plan and let things fall into place as time went on.

In particular though, I have had my eyes on this last big week of training for a while.  It’s where I was really challenged during AR50 training and I really, really wanted to nail it this time around.  During that final big week of training back in March, I ran the hardest long run I had ever run, finishing strong but pretty beat up.  The next day I went out to complete my big week with my 2nd long run and ended up defeated, crying and just completely exhausted.  That run that was cut short in no way hindered my race, but it left this bad taste in my mouth and I always think back to that run as unfinished business.  This time I was determined to finish this training cycle strong and not in tears.

photo (4)
(from Saturday)

I started my peak weekend with a 24 mile run in the Headlands, that I was able to spend a majority of with Jojo and Jessica.  If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that Jojo and I did a ton of training together earlier this year.  I have missed her so much over the last few months while she has been out exploring the world, so was so glad she was around this weekend.  Jess and I spent a lot of time together on the trails late summer and early fall, but it had been way too long since I had seen her!  I was so happy to get to run with these 2 and start my last big weekend off on an extremely positive note.  It was exactly what I needed.  I felt great on my 24, refueled and rested up for my last big run the next day.

Months ago, I had seen that Inside Trail was having a race on Mt. Tam (which is where a lot of The North Face course runs) that was conveniently timed 3 weeks before North Face.  I knew I wanted to run it, not only for the great training, but I wanted to be in a race atmosphere my last big run to help make it a positive experience in any way I could.  The best part was that Jess also signed up for the 30k, and somehow I tricked convinced Jojo to sign up for the 50k.

I woke up to a nightmare (too dramatic?) in the middle of the night that I had slept through my alarm clock, missed the race and had to run 32 miles alone.  I have been doing a lot of solo running lately, but I just really needed my friends this day.  The thought of doing another long run alone was simply a nightmare on this day.  When my alarm clock finally went off, I was relieved to wake up and get ready.  I made it to the start right when I hoped, found my friends, got ready and told Jojo that we were spending the next 32 miles together.  I wanted a friend and so did she, so this worked out well.

The race started in Stinson Beach and the 50k did the 30k loop and then the half marathon loop.  Although I am not usually a fan of 2 loop courses, this worked out well because we were able to run with Jess for the first 18 miles!

My legs were on fire the first 3-4 miles with all the climbing and stairs.  I knew I just needed to get warmed up and things would be better, but those first few miles were the most painful of the race.

ITR MT 002 ITR MT 001
(photos by Sam Hsu)

This was a tough course (which also means North Face is going to be tough).  A ton of climbing, a million+ stairs (that the 50k had to do twice), lots of technical sections, but so incredibly beautiful.  You run through dark, lush sections with streams flowing, and out onto ridges where you could see the Pacific Ocean forever.  The Bay Area really is trail running heaven. 

photo 2 (1)

We all stuck together and talked and just generally had a lot of fun being together.  We fueled well, we were running well enough and we all just were out there with already tired legs for a good day on the trails.  18 miles later, we made our way back to the start, said bye to Jess, and Jojo and I continued on our way.

I was kind of nervous for this second loop.  We were both tired and heading out for another tough 14 miles, but we both ended up staying really strong (and actually feeling better?) and just genuinely enjoying our time together on the trails.  We talked a ton, made some fun plans and just were able to really reconnect after all those months apart.   

Even as we were climbing up the never-ending switchbacks for the second time, I was just so happy.  Happy to be running, happy to be having a great race, happy to be with my friends and happy with how my training has gone.  Through all 32+ miles, I didn’t have any significant mental lows and was able to just be strong and positive in my mind the whole way.  This was the last big training run that I had been hoping for all along.

After going down the knee-destroying stairs for the second time, we made our way back to the finish.  Almost 33 miles with 7700’ of elevation gain and 7.5 hours later, we both had smiles plastered on our faces as we crossed the finish line. 

photo (6) 

I finished my peak training off strong.  I finished it with a big smile next to one of my bestest friends.  I finished it by breaking 100 miles for the week for the first time ever.  I finished happy, content, confident and excited going into taper.  Can’t ask for much more than that right? 

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15 Responses to Race Report: ITR Mt. Tam 50k

  1. Jojo November 11, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    I’m SO glad you “tricked” me. What an amazing day and I’m glad we had each other to keep the “lows” away. Taper time!!!

  2. Alyssa November 11, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    I am so happy for you. :) :) :) :)

  3. Angela @ SF Road Warrior November 11, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    Nailed it!!! (Also, OMG, speaking of nightmares, stairs in a race would be mine. I start whining after walking about 3 flights.) Glad you had a strong peak week! :)

  4. Marlene November 12, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    Talking about finishing off peak training on the right foot! You look so happy – and not really tired at all. What the hecK! haha. Congrats!!! 100(+) miles… wowzers.

  5. RunInBoise November 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    What a fun day. I think there are some days where I wouldn’t mind climbing stairs instead of some of the rocky trails I slog on.

  6. Lisa November 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    Awesome!! I love your blog…always so positive! The best part is that I found your blog as I was heading into my first ultra training. So, thank you for inspiring me to believe that I could indeed finish my 50 miler (and not die) :)

  7. greengirlrunning November 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    Wow!!! That was so much fun to read! You are amazing and you will, no doubt, have a fantastic North Face race!

  8. courtney November 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    gosh! so many great things to say about this post! first of all, BEAUTIFUL pictures as always! the scenery, the smiles — love it! congrats on your 100 mile week! that is so incredible. i’m so glad that your long runs/races worked out the way they did for you. it’s like everything aligned just right! enjoy the taper!!!

  9. Cathryn November 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    I love the big smiles at the end…you guys make it look ridiculously easy!! So excited for your big race, you’re going to crush it.

  10. Tyler Francko November 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Just look at those stairs makes my knees hurt. Did a tough Mudder I northern Kentucky a few weeks ago, and I felt like I was going downhill the entire time; my knees are still not 100%.

    Looks like some beautiful terrain though! We don’t have that kind of stuff here in Ohio. I am just looking forward to running on my vacation to Florida next week. I need a change of scenery from time to time.

    Did you really go from being a non-runner to an ultra? How long did that take?

  11. Kristen November 18, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    I really don’t know how you do it Aron – but you make all that running sound like anyone could do it. Maybe it is just the joy that seems to come out of your writing :)

  12. katie November 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    I’m catching up on blogs and just read about 9 posts in a row of yours. Now I am very tired.

  13. Christine November 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    You are AMAZING!! I think I write this on every single one of your posts, but you really amaze me. YOu will do Awesome at the NF 50 Miler. Congrats!!!

  14. Julie @ SiblingTRIvalry December 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Great job on the runs and the blog! I am very inspired by your hard work in your training and all the places it has taken you. I have been focusing mostly on triathlons, but think one day I would love to try and work up to longer endurance running races.

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  1. The North Face 50M: Weeks 14 & 15 | runner's rambles - November 24, 2012

    [...] Trail Mt. Tam 50k!  I ran the first 18+ with Jessica and Jojo, then the last 14+ with Jojo.  It was an [...]

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