One of the reasons to run ultras that are 50 mile or longer is that you get to spend a whole day out there. We knew American River 50M would be like that for us. This race starts in the heart of Sacramento and follows bike paths and trails along the American River to Auburn, finishing at the Auburn Dam Overlook (yes, that means a big hill at the end). With the weather we’ve been having in normally sunny but now rainy CA, the trail portion of this run turned into a great mudfest. It’s always amazing the different types of mud you can discover in a single run: brown, swampy stuff, red, slippery stuff, the occasional section of shoe-sucking mud, and my favorite, chocolate pudding. Chocolate pudding on a hill was the best. Some runners attempted to go around mud, but sooner or later, everyone gave in and just went through the middle. One reason: the more you tried to avoid the mud, the more you would go through the poison oak.
The weather started off a little gloomy, but temperatures were great for running and the sun showed up a little bit. Volunteers at aid stations were in good spirits and so helpful as always. For this run you even get spectators along parts of the course, and crew people helping their runners–often runners attempting their first 50 miler. Seeing those runners cross the finish line is great. Norm announced runners as they finished, and would “encourage” them to run across the line (walking is NOT allowed at that point). As emotional the run is for first-timers, it still gets to me too, with this as my fifth AR50 finish. Because the race is point-to-point, you get a definite sense of awe about the distance covered. As you head west by car to return to Sacramento, you can see the downtown buildings marking the city way in the distance. It seems a long way to run.