Track Meet Trifecta by Yassine Diboun
Racing has been a constant in my life the past several years. Some of the events are used more as training races, where I don’t taper and just use them as long runs, and others I go in a little more tapered and rested. The following three competitive ultras happened within a pretty short amount of time, and I feel very satisfied and content with my performances as I build towards Western States 100 on June 29, 2013.As many of you know the sport of ultra running is changing so much that every race seems to be getting quicker times, and it seems like a “sprint” the entire way with people coming out of the woodwork! Here’s a quick recap of what I call the “Track Meet Trifecta!”
This one is in my “backyard” and I absolutely love running on the trails in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s honestly one of the coolest places I’ve ever run and, as the name suggests, there are plenty of waterfalls to run by (and behind!). This year was my second year in a row as an entrant, and as we got closer to race day the lineup of fast runners were amazing! I was honored to run with and share my training grounds with so many awesome athletes from all over the country. My goal was to break the top five but at mile 20 my chances were not looking so good. I had dropped to 7th place and was feeling the effects of the 100-mile week the previous week, and the furious pace in the first half of the race. At one point my hamstring twinged and I was forced to slow the pace down a bit. Then I stumbled on a rock and dropped my water bottle about 10 feet down into the hillside bushes. I climbed down grabbed it, and rallied hard as I was a little angry. I even yelled at myself, “get your shit together, Yassine!” I was able to pass a runner from Montana, and then unfortunately I passed an injured Mario Mendoza who was limping from an ankle sprain. I came in to the finish line and my wife Erica and daughter Farah were waiting for me, as well as a bunch of friends. Erica handed me my two-and-a-half year old to cross the finish line together which was a pretty fun moment, and I ended up getting that top five goal! Thanks to James Varner, Candice Burt, and all the friendly and helpful volunteers!
This tough 50-mile course held in wine country in northern California attracted some of the top ultra runners from around the world this year. No…seriously!…this year’s race was ridiculous! I have never been in a race that competitive, and the lead-up to the race was the buzz to be talked about in the ultra running/trail running world. I actually did an episode with UltraRunnerPodcast where we talked a bit about the Lake Sonoma 50 (Listen HERE). My goal for this one was top 20 and I knew that the race was going to go out super hard as we had a couple miles of pavement right off the bat. I backed off and settled in to my own groove which still seemed a little quick but sustainable. I felt good as I came in a little tapered and rested, and the views were amazing. We were either running uphill or downhill on beautiful rolling trails all day and the guys at the front were smoking it! I knew that there would be some carnage so I just plugged along at my controlled and strong pace and eventually it started happening. I went from 17th all the way down to 12th by mile 45. Then all of the sudden I became some of the carnage! Doh! Both hamstrings cramped and Karl Meltzer, Timothy Olson, Gary Gellin, and Josh Brimhall went past me with only a few miles to go. I was able to piece myself back together and finish strong in 16th place in a time of 7:10. Overall I felt good about the way I ran although I think I could probably sneak under 7 hours on a really good day. It’s such a fine line of pushing hard or going over that threshold! Much appreciation to John Medinger and all the selfless and accommodating volunteers down at Sonoma!
Leona Divide 50k
Last year I did the Leona Divide 50-miler and I had such a good time running in the mountains in southern California that I decided to head back down again this year. Another big reason for racing is that I am participating in the Montrail Ultra Cup Series. A new scoring rule this year is that they only take one race from each distance (100-mile, 100k, 50-mile, 50k) so Leona would be my 50k. Again, the race went off like a 5k (hence the “track meet” metaphor!) and again I just let the rabbits go. The 50-milers went up and away and eventually out of sight (which I couldn’t believe!). I knew the course and had the wisdom and foresight to just run my race. By mile 15 I was in third place in the 50k and I caught glimpse of 2nd place about 3 minutes ahead of me. I eventually reeled in Eric Shultze as we were climbing and he was having some cramping problems. It was a grind and it was starting to get hot but I kept grunting and pluggin away up the mountain. At the turnaround 1st place Jeremy Humphrey was about 4 minutes ahead. I quickly grabbed what I needed and started charging for him. Others were updating me that I was gaining ground on him. The hunt was on! 3 minutes, 2 minutes ahead, 1:51 ahead, 1-minute ahead….Then I see him. I motored right past him and I could tell that he didn’t have the power climbing so I kept the pedal down all the way up the last climb. With 4.5 miles to go I dropped the hammer on the last downhill and came in for the win in 4:03 which was also good for the course record! I was very happy and proud of myself for how I ran this 50k, and it’s an excellent confidence booster going in to Western States 100 in a couple short months. Big thanks to Keira Henninger and all the awesome volunteers!