Lake Sonoma 50-miler near Healdsburg, California on April 13 had one of the most stacked fields toeing the line. Being the only 50-mile race in the Golden Ticket series for Western States 100, the event historically attracts competitive and professional ultrarunners. It is also ITRA certified, providing UTMB points for all finishers. With 3,200 metres of elevation gain, buff smooth single-track, and twelve creek crossings, the race is a celebration of the trail community. The stacked list of starters included Canadian legend Anne-Marie Madden, supported by a unicorn galloping around the forest.

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Photo: Max Romey

Madden chose to run Lake Sonoma as part of her “year of America.” The Canadian is in the middle of her Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology Fellowship at Stanford Hospital. Although going for a Golden Ticket was not part of her race plan, the athlete decided if she did place first or second, she would likely accept the opportunity. Placing eighth was a major accomplishment in the stacked field. “I think it’s for the best that I don’t try and fit in 100 mile training right now. I think it would be too much.”

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The flowers were in bloom and the unicorns were in flight! Lake Sonoma 50 Miler was definitely all it’s cracked up to be- beautiful, fast and hard. I would absolutely love to return to this course again. Both the men’s and women’s races had incredibly deep fields with some exciting racing at the front. The top three women (@annamaeflynn @ywangruns @addiebracy) ran absolutely stunning races that made for an incredibly close finish. Way to represent ladies! As for my own race, it went fairly well all things considered. My left leg injury had completely settled down by race day and I had no pain at all. My headspace was positive and I spent the first three hours of the day gawking at the gorgeous sunrise, the fluorescent greenery of the grass and trees and eyeing the purple irises along the trail side. I kept shouting “Isn’t this beautiful!” and I got zero response from Karl Metlzer who was either choosing to ignore me or listening to very loud music in his headphones. For my self confidence let’s say it was the latter. I usually start out fairly conservative and yesterday even more so as I knew with only a couple weeks of training in since getting over my injury, I was going to be pushing the limits of my endurance. The first 40km felt easy and comfortable. The quads started cramping intermittently from 45km onwards but I could still keep running, shuffling up the gentle inclines and hiking up steeper section. I never really blew up I just sort of ran out of gas and nothing went terribly wrong. I maintained a top 10 finish in 8th. All things considered I think the day played out pretty well and I definitely enjoyed myself out there until about 72km at which point I just wanted it to be over. Lovely sharing some miles with you ladies @cassiescallon @runboulet @abigail_km @cameliamayfield @sabrinalittle Taylor Knowlin and gents @meltzerkarl Thanks for making me laugh @maxkingor and for filming @maxromey #timetoplay

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Anna Mae Flynn and YiOu Wang finished first and second, only 18 seconds apart. Addie Bracy was just two minutes behind for third female. Flynn and Bracy were awarded Golden Tickets, as Wang accepted hers at Black Canyon 100K. In the men’s race, Jared Hazen raced to first and Sébastien Spehler to second, both receiving Golden Tickets. Madden felt excited about how competitive the race was, considering it “a wonderful opportunity to meet lots of great women. It also makes for an entertaining run as you pass people and people pass you.”
Photo: Max Romey

The women’s race was close. The top ten females, including Madden were less than an hour apart. Another highlight for Madden was Max King prancing along the course cheering in Amy Leedham’s unicorn suit. Madden is recovering this week, and has yet to plan her next race. She hopes to return to Squamish 50 when she is back on home trails in August. “If anyone has any suggestions, send them my way!”

RELATED: From trails to trials: how Anne-Marie Madden “qualified” for the US Olympic Marathon Trials

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