Blood, Sweat & Beers Race Review

10.5 miles of some serious elevation
Luckily I wasn't the one who broke my ankle. However, I did pass a few people who were waiting for first aid. Other runners had already stopped and were making sure the injured runners were OK so I felt comfortable enough to keep running. Those poor people.

This race almost always takes its toll on a few runners. Its not the kind that you can barrel down hills. Um. You do that and you're likely to eat some dirt in some parts. Not the best way to add iron to your diet.

It was my first trail race of the season. I ran 10.5 miles. With an elevation climb total of 2914 feet and down for 2916 feet. Lets just say it wasn't a cake walk.
View from the top of the canyon (Photo from Folsom Trail Runners)
The race begins at Railhead Park in Auburn, CA. The first part of the course follows an aquaduct along the ridgeline of the canyon that overlooks the American River. This part of the trail is partially shaded and somewhat dodgy in some areas (parts have literally eroded down the canyon), but, for the most part, this is the flattest part of the course and a decent warm up before you start to descend in rutted-out singletrack switchbacks. The trail quickly deteriorates here in some areas. And you'll know it too before you get there because you'll begin to hear random swear words being launched into the canyon by runners ahead of you. If you don't keep your speed under control you're likely to break an ankle in the knee deep berms, or worse, end up head first at the bottom of the canyon. This part of the trail, commonly called "Cardiac" by thrill seeking mountain bikers (read: my husband), bestows the accurate label of the "Blood" part of the "Blood, Sweat and Beers" name for the race. Yeah. Who really wants to run in a race where injury or death isn't part of the challenge anyway? OK. I could do without injury or death, but honestly, this kind of challenge only accounts for a tiny portion of this race. The rest are the hills. The REALLY, REALLY, STEEP HILLS.
BSB Elevation Map Long Course

Luckily, the worst of the long hills is within the first 5 miles. I've always been a hill runner. I love hills. I don't like to stop on hills. I don't like to walk hills. I'm like the little engine that could on hills. I've always felt that hill running was my strongest asset when running trails. But my knee decided to give me grief on the hills for this race. And downhill was a bitch. So I reassessed my passion for hills and decided that walking was acceptable and ultimately inevitable. I need to buck up and get used to it, anyway. I've got another serious half marathon trail run that will look VERY similar to this course and I need to have a decent hill strategy that doesn't blow my knee out. I tried lots of strategies to reduce the impact like turning my feet over faster and leaning forward. I tried to use Ken Bob's tip of bending my knees, but with my left knee annoying me it wasn't working so well so I just took it easy on the downhill.

Photo Credit - Facchino Photography
The second half of the race looped around in a series of rocky, rutted out mini mountains (with a couple stretches of asphalt and gravel fire roads). I was amazed how good I felt the entire way. I started feeling a little fatigued around what I thought was about mile eight, but my legs were still really strong, my breathing was deep and even and I was able to recover quickly in the short walk breaks. I had no mile markers to go by and no GPS. I had no way of knowing what time it was or how fast I was going. I did have some music, which I would plug into on occasion if I needed some inspiration or just a little distraction, but other than that it was mostly technology-free which I think I prefer (at least for these shorter races). The beauty of the area was enough to make me want to stop and take pictures, though.

The ridgeline? (My photography)

 Actual ridgeline (Photo credit FTR)
I managed to get some pictures while I was taking a walk break. Ok... so they're lacking in some aesthetic, but I tried.

At about mile six I stopped to remove a pebble from my shoe. Yeah. I seriously considered ditching the shoes altogether for this race when my knee started bitching at me (I wore my Merrell Pace Gloves), but I just wasn't brave enough. Running Romeo (a member over at the Barefoot Runner's Society), however, was. He ran the entire race completely barefoot! Is this man a superhero or what? I was really impressed. He even let me photograph his superhero feet.
Superhero Feet

I was told by some of the race organizers that there were a lot of individuals who had signed up for the long course and switched to the short course. Probably so they wouldn't miss out on the beer. Luckily, there was still plenty good beer waiting at the finish line for us long course stragglers. I finished in 2:09 and even had enough kick left for a sprinting finish. That's how good I felt... minus the knee issue... which was more annoying than painful, really.

My achilles and left knee were sore the day afterward but nothing crippling. I'm hoping that my continual mobility work will help my left knee. I found a few areas in my hip that are knotted into hard balls and I wasn't rolling and working them out. But, I was feeling back to normal three days after the race. Honestly, I have not ran ten miles since I was in high school. And this was my first ten miler in minimal shoes. My body was taken by surprise. In fact, my training consists only of sprinting and speedwork (for the running portion) and is rarely more than a mile. And even that is maybe once or twice a week. (Although I snuck in an eight miler about two months ago just because I felt like I could run forever), but my coach convinced me to back off.  

Post race anti-paleo refuel
I was really nervous about my upcoming races without having ran much at all. I knew this race was going to be pretty brutal and I wasn't sure how my training would translate over to a serious ten mile trail run. Seth has to constantly reassure me that what I'm doing WILL make me ready. I am trusting him, but its hard not to have my doubts.
Pace Glove love and dirt

Now that I've completed my triathalon and Blood, Sweat and Beers I am beginning to feel much more confident in my training. I have been training with Seth for six months now and I have never felt stronger or more fit in my life. I can honestly say I'm in better shape now than I was twenty years ago. And the best part about my training is that I'm not just fit to run, I'm fit to lift a 50lb firepit into the back of my van. It seems to make sense to train in a way that makes my body capable of doing important things on a daily basis. And as a woman, not having to depend on a man to lift the heavy things for me is so liberating! And to be able to run a brutally steep ten mile trail run the week after my triathalon and feel like my body can totally hang (I'm confident I can work this knee thing out) is an amazing feeling. It gives me even more confidence with my upcoming trail marathon in October, which I'm totally stoked for now.
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  1. Nice view from top of the canyon. Was it Hot?

  2. Neil - it wasn't bad. Maybe in the 90s that day with a slight breeze.

  3. Krista,

    That looks like a great race and a perfect warm-up for the trail marathon you're preparing for. Good job!

    I must admit though, I was looking for the blood and sweat pictures to go with the beer.


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