Nothing like a small backyard race, even if it’s in someone else’s backyard! Yesterday I returned for my second run at the Tehama Wildflowers 50k in Red Bluff, California.
The 50k Course
The course is mostly single track, with some dirt roads, through open meadows with minimal shade. The trail is relatively flat with a few rollers and gradual climbs. The only things to slow you down (besides the heat) are some sections with volcanic rocks under foot.
The 50k runners go on a modified out-and-back course. Some areas you back-track and others you diverge to take a different trail back. Race Directors Bev and Alan Abbs smartly changed the direction of the looping parts this year so that runners can enjoy the one lovely shady section later in the heat of the day.
Aid stations are frequent, with stops at 3 times at fully-stocked stations and 4 times at mini (water and GU) stations. They had GU brand gels and Chomps. Yum!
This is a great laid-back local race produced by experienced runners. Free camping is available at the start/finish Friday night and the post-race picnic (included) is a pleasant time to sit around in the shade and cheer finishers as they loop around the picnic area. Bring your own chair.
I came back to this course partly because I wanted to redeem myself after completely melting last year. I also think it’s great for us mountain folk to get down to sea level to move the legs a little faster and to get some heat acclimation. I had a horrible time dealing with the heat last year, but I think I’ve learned a lot since then.
Everything went wrong the day before the race. My period stated. I had an allergic reaction to something I ate. And, most concerning, I was still limping around with a tendon issue on the top of my left foot. I arrived to Red Bluff late Friday and wondered if I was even going to start the race.
After a short briefing, the race started and my foot hurt pretty bad for the first two miles. Then it warmed up and the pain faded to the background. I was running with the wrong crowd (that is, going too fast) so I took the opportunity to pop into a restroom for a minute and when I came back out I settled in with a crowd more my pace.
I prioritized pace and heat management with the goal of not imploding and finishing strong. There is a little creek crossing and I completely submerged myself there on the way back. It was 60 seconds well-invested, as it enabled me to cruise past a handful of runners in the next couple of miles.
It got pretty lonely during the last 10 miles until I started catching more runners during the final 3 miles. I had been relying on my tunes to keep me going… having my own private dance party and sometimes “singing” aloud. My apologies to the wildlife.
I finished in 5:35, a solid 30 minutes faster than last year’s abysmal 6:09. Mostly I’m pleased that I kept running the whole time and practiced my heat management and aid station maneuvering skills.
Next up: Canyons 50k. I need that to be a “C” race where I will try to hang out and just enjoy the company on the trail.