February in California can be a total crap shoot weather wise. Some years it’ll be sunny and warm in the foothills of the Sierra. Others well, not so much. This is my third year in a row racing near Auburn in the middle of winter. In 2017 I ran Fourmidable, 2018 Way Too Cool, and 2019 back to Fourmidable. All three races have been complete and total mud baths. So much for drought plaguing the state, I think maybe not this year! While much of my personal racing focus has moved towards longer distances I still love to do 50k races! They are hard, and I get to run fairly fast for a change which is not so much the case when I employ my pacing strategies in 100 mile races. My wish was granted as we began the first descent in a pack of about 20 guys running solidly under 6 min pace.


There are always going to be faster runners, a statement that is true for nearly everyone in the world. But it is too relative to say someone is fast or that someone is slow. Pretty much meaningless really. In relationship to my competitors out on the Fourmidable course this past weekend I found myself to be slower than quite a few in the early miles. My split through No Hands Bridge at mile 9 was about 1 minute faster this year compared to 2017, but I was in 15th place instead of 6th, yet another sign that we are seeing a whole lot more young fast runners and depth in shorter distance ultras. 

I generally expect to start catching people between mile 10-20 during a 50k, but it was either my sluggishness coming down from a too short altitude stint, or other guys sustaining the hot early pace longer into the race that made for a very lonely middle 10 miles where I only saw one other racer. It’s hard to keep the belief that many of the guys will come back and that I’d be able to move up the ranks. I guess after dozens of ultras over the past 8 seasons I ought to count on it.

Right around the 20 mile mark after the third climb and the first deep water crossing at Knickerbocker creek I began to see other “open” bibs pinned to runners backs (these are bibs that USATF gives you for these championship races so you know who you have to beat). By mile 23 at the Cool aid station I had moved up to 8th. Better, but not nearly what I was aiming for. 5th was the last prize money spot, and I’d gotten 4th here the last time I ran. I had about 8 miles to run from Cool back to the finish back at Overlook Park.

It took all 8 of those miles, and again, plenty of faith in the nature of pacing and the inevitability of fatigue. I didn’t see another runner until the final mile of the race where the gradient juts up into mandatory power hike territory. For me this was a very welcome sight as were the three dudes I spotted all lined up within my reach. I’m sure I’ve said this before, and when you experience it yourself it’s undeniable, but seeing other runners ahead to catch has an instantaneous effect of unlocking loads of untapped energy. Seeing firsthand how the mind and the body are intertwined continues to interest me to no end. I was able to climb significantly harder for the final 12 minutes, moving into a solid 5th and putting a little scare into David Kilgore who held me off for 4th. I ended up running 3:55:37 essentially the exact same time I ran in 2017. It might not seem like a good thing but I am happy enough to still be able to run this fast at the 50k distance!

top 10 finishers at the USATF 50k trail championships at Fourmidable

Photo Credit: Nancy Hobbs

  • If you are like me and enjoy nerding out on GPS data here is mine from the race. 
  • I took 5 Spring Energy gels during the race including a couple of my new favorite the Speednut. I find myself wanting to eat these while I am hanging around the house, so be warned about their habit forming qualities. 
  • Shoe of choice was the Evo Mafate. It’s pretty much the trail shoe I break out for any racing or training occasion at this point. It tore through the mud and muck with ease. 

Single Track Running and USATF put on another awesome event this year and I’d love to thank them for all the work they did to host a fantastic championship event. 

UP next for me, a lot of training and a trip across the Pacific, my first time ever visiting Asia to race the Ultra Trail Mt Fuji 100 mile race at the end of April!