World’s Toughest Half – The 3rd Act

June 14, 2017 Comments (0) In the News, Race Report, Trail Running

Silver State 50K 2017 Race Report

The Silver State 50/50 is one of my favorite races. Not only is it basically in my backyard but I know many of the people from the Silver State Striders who organize the race and they are truly great people who want to put on a great race.  This was the 32nd year of this classic ultra race.

My preparations for this 50k were nothing out of the ordinary. I had basically been building up to it since about February. I was pretty consistent with both speed work and long runs, but as usual I was low on milage. It’s pretty normal for me to feel under the milage I wish I had ran before a race but I tend to avoid injury this way I suppose.

I felt pretty confident going into the race despite knowing there were other fast runners at the front but I tried to focus on my previous good experiences with the course and distance.  As the race started we went out in a pack that consisted of myself, Noah Brautigam and Peter Fain.  Just ahead of us was Russell Chase who was setting a smoking fast pace. Just behind the pack was the talented and strong Paul Giblin who was using this race as training for running Western States as he currently lives up the road in Truckee while he prepares.

The weather was perfect on race day and as we climbed up towards the summit with Russel a few minutes in front of us Noah and I chatted about the course, other ways to access the summit (when not racing) and other random banter. I was probably annoying him as he dropped back just a bit as we crested the summit. My gap on him was short lived as he blew by me on the first descent.  At about mile 13 I could feel what felt like rocks in my shoes.  I quickly realized I was already getting blisters on my arches!  They didn’t hurt or slow me down but it seemed very strange to me as I almost never get blisters.  I think my feet were really sweaty or something. I’m not sure.  I decided I wasn’t going to worry about them until I finished.

The race got weird

I hit the half way point of the race in third place. I could see Noah about a minute ahead of  me and I couldn’t see anyone behind me. I felt good going into the very muddy climb back to the summit.  I tried to just stay solid, not walk too much and keep a hard steady effort all the way to the top. I could see that I had put a tiny bit of time on Noah and I watched him reach the summit about 1 minute ahead of me. I stuck to the same hydration and nutrition plan I had used the last couple years which was try to empty a water bottle with water in between aid station and try to take a gel every 30-45min.  Again, it seemed to work perfectly although in hindsight I may have been a bit dehydrated at the end.

At the top of the summit with ten miles to go the race became contentious.  The course deviates off the graded service road onto a rutted jeep trail.  I didn’t think much about it and cut down on to the rugged rocky path below just as we had done in the years past.  Apparently, it wasn’t marked well and both Russell and Noah took the service road.  I didn’t know it at the time and just tried to get my down hill legs moving as I danced back and forth over the newly washed out trail. A couple miles down the trail pops out and cross the service road and continues on more rocky jeep trail. As I was about to cross a lady at the intersection was worked up and telling me “the two runners in front went the wrong way down the service road! You are in the lead! Tell John (Trent) they are disqualified!!” “Oh, okay…” I replied.

At that moment I felt I was in 1st place because that is what the lady told me.  I didn’t really change my pace at first as I was still feeling pretty good and moving quickly.  As time went on I started to feel that I should run a bit more conservative if I truly was in the lead.  I could look back at several points on the course and see if anyone was close to me. I didn’t see anyone so I took it down a notch. As I came into the second to last aid station I was still feeling good. I wasn’t cramping. The heat wasn’t getting to me and my stomach still felt solid.  The volunteers quickly let me know that the (what they thought) 2nd place runner was NOT doing well.  I was a bit confused and responded with an “I know”. I actually didn’t know and felt stupid for saying that.   As I took off I had a moment to internalize what they said and it got me wondering if it was Russell or Noah who I would most likely catch.   As I rounded a corner just before the last aid station I came up behind Russell. We made eye contact and I could see he was hurting. I said “Hey Russell” and simply replied in a defeated tone “..hi ben”.  I could tell he was a tough competitor because as I passed him I naturally picked up the pace and I was surprised how long he stayed with me.

After the last aid station I was on my own.  I knew I wasn’t going to catch Noah because I had not been running very fast at all, just consistently conservative.  In my mind I thought I was in a solid first place.  I went through the finish line happy but not as happy as I should feel. I knew Noah was a great runner and had put in a solid hard effort.  Any ultra race is understandably hard and I couldn’t help feel for Noah who just ran his ass off and was given the first place award.

John (the best race director ever) came up to me just as I finished the race asking about the course, etc. I told him what the volunteer told me to tell him about the racers out front taking the service road instead of the Jeep trail down.  I felt bad even telling him, like I was a tattle tale or something.  I feel like ultras are much more about the people, the community, the environment, the history and traditions than it is about the fact that it is a race. Don’t get me wrong I want to win, but under a more fair situation.  I didn’t really want a win with an *, if that makes sense.  I think John was also confused about how to handle the situation.  I could tell his goal was to make sure everyone was happy.

After about a half hour of relaxing with friends, eating some food and drinking beer John came up to me and said he wanted to talk. We walked to the side and said he was going to disqualify Noah since he technically was off course for a couple miles.  I didn’t know what to say but felt awful for Noah.  The idea came up of me getting the trophy and Noah getting the formal 1st place in the ultrasignup results. I was okay with that and I hope Noah was as well.

And that ended another amazing day at Silver State.  I was happy with my performance and thoroughly enjoyed the race just like every year!  I am always blown away by the community and individuals that put this race on.  It is really something special. I also have to thank my Wife and kids for supporting me on my runs!  After doing the 50k several times and bringing home the 1st place trophy again I think I may now be ready for the 50 miler next year!

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