Last Saturday, 300 brave warriors stood together at the foothills of Rancho San Rafael Park near Reno, NV, shaking off the high desert morning chill. All eyes were on Peavine Peak, stretching 4,500' vertical into the clear blue sky, and ...
Last Saturday, 300 brave warriors stood together at the foothills of Rancho San Rafael Park near Reno, NV, shaking off the high desert morning chill. All eyes were on Peavine Peak, stretching 4,500' vertical into the clear blue sky, and the snake of trail leading to the top that would begin our journey. We were here to race the 28th annual Silver State 50-mile/50k/Half Marathon, a beautiful and hilly trail run put on by the Silver State Striders, and it was time to get moving!
(Last minute instructions before the 85 runners tackle the 50-miler)
I met some familiar faces at the start, many of which were getting their last training cycles in before the Western States 100m and Tahoe Rim Trail 100m (TRT), two big summer races with similar terrain. The 50-miler had ~80 runners this year, including Chikara Omine (fresh off his win at the Quicksilver 50m [6:11] last week and hoping his sore hamstring would hold up), local speedster Peter Fain (also eyeing States this year after cutting his teeth at the 100-mile distance with a 23:37 at Wasatch last Fall), Thomas Reiss (training for TRT), Joelle Vaught (the favorite in the Women's race), Mark Lantz (going for #9 States this year), Bob Shebest (training for TRT #3, after getting 3rd in 2010 with a sub-20 hour finish), Lon Freeman (also targeting States), Erik Skaden (States), and Jim Magill (already his 6th ultra since late February). At 6am, we were off!
(Mark Lantz hydrates, as Thomas Reiss, Peter Fain, and the other runners stay warm)
(...and we're off!)
This was a cruiser race for me, hoping to sneak in a qualifying sub 11-hour time for the 2014 Western States 100 lottery without screwing up my last training cycle before heading to the Chamonix Marathon. I don't want to end my streak as the most losing runner in the Western States lottery...7-time loser, SO PROUD!!! But it was nice to start the race knowing I had time to relax, take some pictures, and literally stop and smell the flowers.
(The climb begins)
(Eric Frome charges up the hill)
After a few miles in the shadows, a long line of runners broke into the sun and spread out. Chikara, Bob Shebest, and Peter Fain set the pace up front and soon were out of reach. In fact, it didn't take long before all of us were so spread out it felt like we were alone! I paced along with local runner Lisa Daane, tackling her first ultra after having her son just nine months ago. I love how new Mom's have such a high pain benchmark that a 50k just isn't enough...gotta go big!
(Out of the shadows)
(Lisa Daane climbs the single track)
(All smiles in the early miles!)
(Into the sun, with a familiar shadow pose)
The trails in this area are amazing, alternating between fire roads and single track, and all of it runnable. By the time we cruised through The Pond aid station (mile 8), civilization was a distant memory, replaced with vast stretches of desert grass sprinkled with wildflowers like the red paintbrush, blue violets, and purple sage. My soul drank fully from Nature's cup!
(Sharing the single track)
(Up, up, up!)
(Happy volunteers at The Pond, and more great trails!)
(Balsamroot, I think?)
(The best part of the race...this view goes on for miles!)
I walked a good chunk of the climbs, keeping my heart rate under 145 (my aerobic threshold) as much as possible. That was easier on my knee too, a minor soreness that appeared soon after Big Sur, and likely due to too much road racing. The liquids were going down fast, a sure sign of the dry, high altitude conditions, and we reached Peavine (mile 11) just as our water bottles were down to the final slurps. George Ruiz and his gang of super-volunteers got us set up, and we descended down into the back country.
(George and his volunteers ran a tight ship at Peavine)
(The gorgeous back country)
(Long easy descents make it fun!)
(Red paintbrush on the left, p