As I continued to wait for Chris with Sherlin and Mika, we saw several runners and pacers come through. Some with giant smiles, some leaping over signs and some with "the look" you would expect at mile 41. The aid station was filled with pacers waiting and friends and family supporting and cheering on EVERY runner that came through. The weather was overcast and cool around 12:30 and seemed to be perfect running conditions, but I'm unsure what it was like at 6 a.m.
A man came surging down the hill and I said: "there's Chris." As I made my way through the people and got closer to the aid station, I realized it was Chris' doppelganger. It looked just like him. I would later find out that I was not the only one that confused "the twin" with Chris.
Then the real Chris came through. It took him a minute to recognize me — he had already been running for 7+ hours. As he took off his headphones (most likely listening to the Carpenters, Lady Gaga, or the Glee soundtrack) it registered that it was me. He was full of smiles as always and looked great. He was standing straight, didn't seem to be suffering from any major pains. He re-stocked on water, food, chatted with Sherlin, petted Mika and we were off.
In his own words he "hadnt talked to anyone for 6 hours" (I'm sure other than minor chit chat with runners), so it took a few minutes for him "come together." But he was moving strong. His pace was great and we were moving along. Conversation flowed like it does during our group training runs and the pace was comfortable. If I hadn't been out there, I'm confident Chris would have finished fine without me. There were no motivational speeches to get his legs moving, no assistance needed on my part to pick up his pace or slow it down... we ran the last 9 miles in just under 2 hours like it was nothing. (says the guy who only ran 9, not 50). There were walk breaks, but no more than our typical training runs.
The incline wasn't as bad as I had expected. It was 1,000 foot climb over three miles and we walked good sections of it, but it definitely wasn't this giant overbearing "we're gonna die" mountain (again, ran 9 not 50, so take it with a grain of salt). But Chris looked at ease and finished strong.
Towards the top of the mountain there was a running club that would run down it, grab your water bottle, fill it up and run it back to you if you needed it. Greatest line once we got to the aid station: "your bottle is full, no need to stop." Gotta love it. There was also giant inflatable frog around mile 48. It was wearing an American River 50 shirt... but it wasn't running. That thing must have been 8 feet tall, which was pretty random.
Chris finished (in the top 41% of the men) at 9:35:17 — so he was moving along pretty nicely considering the distance. Finishing under 11.5 hours, he qualified for the Western States 100. I had a blast pacing Chris and he was happy for the company. It is official, Chris is a beast and he has 50 miles under his belt to prove it (and a nice jacket that all the finisher's received).
For some photos, check out this blog of another runner (TrailMomma) that ran the race.