Silver State 50 Mile Race Report

Photo May 10, 7 49 40 PM
training run on the course last week. Photo: Naomi Plasterer

This past weekend I ran my third consecutive Silver State 50 in Reno, Nevada. This race is a favorite of mine – due to the gorgeous scenery (a mix of high-desert, alpine, wildflowers, and views for miles), incredible volunteers, and an amazing Race Director (John Trent).

We kicked off race weekend with a bear sighting on a run with Linn (her first bear encounter, which appeared while I was telling her my crazy bear v. car story), followed by dinner and drinks with Linn and Lucas at Moody’s Bistro and Beats. I stayed up a little too late, drank a little too much, and hardly slept as a result. But the band was really good and I kept telling myself it was going to help me with the race somehow. I think it did.

Last year at Silver State, in his first ultramarathon, Lucas finished DFL (Dead F#$%-ing Last), in 14 hours, 16 minutes. He loved the experience and went on to race in 12 more ultras over the year (six 50ks, two 50 milers, and two 100ks (including one in Italy)), a 100 miler, AND a 360-mile solo circumnavigation of the Bay Area 3 weeks ago (in 8 days and 2 hours). Running a 50 miler so soon after would be a challenge, but he likes those.

Linn would be running the 50k at Silver State, in preparation for the TRT50 miler in July. Lucas and I did our best to encourage her to upgrade to the TRT100… hope that was effective…

Race morning, I woke up a little hungover and a little grumpy, but Lucas cheerfully got us out the door and down to Reno in the Westy.

The race began at 6:00am, and surrounded by happy, familiar faces, we headed out from Rancho San Rafael Park and began the 12-mile gradual climb up to Peavine Mountain.

Photo May 20, 6 13 38 AM
Heading up towards the N in the morning glow

Lucas and I both pushed the pace harder than last year, and as we headed up the service road near the summit I pulled ahead. I spent the rest of the race wondering when I’d see him again, hoping he was having fun (he always has fun, so I figured that wasn’t an issue).

Photo May 20, 8 18 12 AM
snow near Peavine Aid Station, which is around 8,000′ elevation

After summiting Peavine, the course provides miles of downhill running into beautiful Dog Valley, which is more Alpine than the somewhat barren hills around Peavine. The trails were pretty chewed up from the insane winter we had, with massive ruts and crevasses that you did NOT want to fall into.

coming down from Peavine
Heading down from Peavine I. Photo: Jesse Ellis
running down from Peavine
Running towards Dog Valley. Photo: Jesse Ellis

One of my favorite stops was coming up, the Dog Valley Aid Station at Mile 23. The first year I ran this race, the theme was “Bachelorette Party” and they had male dancers to entertain the runners. This year, the theme was “Blazing Saddles”… and they really outdid themselves.

Photo May 20, 10 10 13 AM
Runners Jen and Eric with the enthusiastic volunteers at Dog Valley Aid Station
Photo May 20, 10 10 22 AM
One of many reasons to run a 50 miler in the high desert

Pacers could join runners from River Bend Aid Station (mile 32) to the finish, and one of my best friends/heroes, Kathy D’onofrio, agreed to meet me there. Throughout the race, I focused on staying hydrated (it was hot and fairly dry and exposed), taking salt pills and gels each hour; with the goal of reaching Kathy in prime condition for her to get me to the finish. All of this played out well and by the time I met Kathy I was on pace to beat last-year’s time of 9:27. The River Bend Aid Station was a happy meeting spot, thanks to the volunteers from DPMR and the Canyons (Sharon, Abby, Chaz, Chris, Dan, and everyone).

The climb back up to Peavine was rutted out, technical, muddy in places, and in some spots, the trail was gone altogether and we had to climb up an animal trail. As I realized it would be near impossible to make my time goal due to the course changes/conditions, Kathy made it equally impossible for me to get down about it. Her encouragement was unending and contagious, she kept my spirits high, calling out things like “oh, you love this kind of stuff!” when we’d hit a terrible muddy section or “yay, now it’s sandy, like the beach!”

me and Kathy
Going up! Photo: Jesse Ellis

When we reached Peavine the second time, I sat down to empty the rocks and sand out of my shoes that had been building up for 39 miles.  Thanks to George, JP, Joel, Lesley, and the other awesome volunteers, we made a quick turnaround and headed out to my favorite part of the race- 11 miles of mostly downhill, mostly single-track, glorious, fast running to the finish.

All was going well until mile 45, just after the Ridgeview Aid Station, when I took off particularly fast down the single-track, because another runner had caught us. I raced down the trail and clipped a root with my toe, which sent me flying into the dirt and rocks, hitting both knees, legs, arm first and then bouncing over and landing me on my back. I could taste the dirt in my mouth, could feel the whiplash, and my knees and arm and shoulder all burned. F@#$. I was covered in dirt and speckled with blood. I seriously questioned my ability to continue.

Kathy, ever cheerful, gleefully exclaimed, “That’s great, you rolled, you’re ok, it’s ok!” and to the runner behind us: “She’s ok, just step right over her!”. The runner attempted to help me up, but I needed a moment to lay there and assess the situation. Kathy helped me up “Up you go! Shake it off!” and I slowly jogged down the trail, audibly crying and gasping. Telling myself “I really blew it this time!”

But, no. I did NOT want that runner to remember seeing me go down, and then later, sympathetically watch me limp through the finish line. I decided I wanted him to remember the crash, and then remember me fly past him and not be able to catch me. A sudden rush of adrenaline, and I was off. (I realize this line of thinking is slightly evil and narcissistic, but hey, it got me to stop crying and RUN)

I crossed the line in 9:39:47 (I worked HARD to break that 9:40 mark in the last mile!), as 3rd female behind Amy Sproston in 9:08 and Angela Shartel in 9:26. It was my 3rd 50 mile finish in 3 months, 3rd year running this race, and 3rd time placing in the top 3 at Silver State (it’s a small race; this doesn’t happen too often for me 🙂)

Linn, Helen (3F in the 50k!), and other friends who ran the 50k met us at the finish, and we cheered the other runners in – sadly, my favorite nemesis, Paul, took a wrong turn after racing the first 40 miles or so near each other- I had really hoped for a rematch after he crushed me at Lake Sonoma last month.

Lucas finished in 10:43 – about 3.5 hours faster than last year – a truly remarkable race, considering his 360 only 3 weeks before, and that he stopped and sat down at most aid stations (and earned a sheriff’s badge for sitting on the saddle and taking a shot in Dog Valley).

It was a good day.

Photo May 20, 2 49 35 PM
Kathy and I at the finish

6 responses to Silver State 50 Mile Race Report

  1. Great race report ! Thank you so much for coming . For the record I didn’t leave that welt on Brandon , his friend did but it was with my crop.


    • jenellep says:

      Thanks, Valerie! You guys were the best!! And, I don’t know, you looked pretty guilty to me, holding that crop! 😉


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