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All AR 50 trails lead to Auburn

Runners’ goals vary, but more than 800 will take on challenging 50-mile race on Saturday
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Scott Smith is using Saturday’s American River 50-mile Endurance Run to ramp up his preparation for his first attempt at Western States in June. West Bourgalt is looking to qualify for Western States with a strong run at the AR 50. Todd Silski was simply seeking a challenge and a 50-mile foot race fit the bill. All three Auburn runners will join more than 800 others for the 32nd annual run, which will start in Sacramento and end at the Auburn Dam Overlook. Smith is preparing for the pinnacle of ultrarunning – the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run. After steadily increasing his mileage, the 45-year-old Smith ran his first ultramarathon three years ago. Like many runners in the region, and even across the country, Smith is using Saturday’s race to build his foundation for the heart of the season. “I’m not going out really hard,” Smith said. “I’m looking at it as a prep run for Western States, but I also want to make the most of it. It’s a great event, well-sponsored and there are a lot of great people putting it together. Ultimately, the goal is to just finish and have a good time.” Many runners have used AR 50 as a springboard to big years. Last season, both men’s winner Dave Mackey and women’s winner Ellie Greenwood went on to earn Ultrarunner of the Year honors. Greenwood, who also won at Western States in 2011, is back to defend her title this year. Bourgalt is still waiting patiently for a shot at Western States, but he’s happy to have the chance to compete in America’s second-largest 50-mile run on Saturday. “The finish line is a mile or two from my house, so it’s a really fun race to do,” said Bourgalt, 35. “I have a 3-year-old daughter so my goal is to run across the finish line with her on Saturday.” Bourgalt used to ride with the Motley Grinders cycling group, a bunch that included Western States legend Tim Twietmeyer and WS veteran Mark Falcone. He eventually found himself putting on his trail runners more often than his cycling shoes. Bourgalt has qualified and applied to get into Western States four times, but the lottery has not been kind to him. He’ll give it another try this year, assuming he can finish Saturday’s race in under 11 hours — the qualifying time. Silski still doesn’t really consider himself a runner, even after turning in an impressive finish at the Way Too Cool 50-kilomter race last month. “I had never done an organized run until three weeks ago,” Silski said. “In November I put my bike up and that’s been the hardest part. The trails are beautiful, but I really like being on my bike. This is an experiment.” Silski is friends with AR 50 race director Julie Fingar, who has helped him learn the ropes on the trail. He said his experience at Way Too Cool was educational as he finished in 5 hours, 29 minutes. “I just started running, I was feeling great and you get to the singletrack and there are people behind you and you just get in a pace line,” said Silski, who is a firefighter for the Stockton Fire Department. “I came through the first eight miles way faster then I wanted to and a little while later I was running and I looked over and I was next to Tim Twietmeyer. He smiled and asked how it was going. I said, ‘I made a big mistake. I should be nowhere near you.’” The lesson in pacing should serve Silski well on Saturday. The AR 50 competitors will run almost a full marathon on the flat trail in Sacramento before hitting the dirt and the hills on the climb to Auburn. Applegate resident Jim Howard holds the men’s record at AR 50. He finished the race in 5:32:18 back in 1981. Ultrarunning legend Ann Trason holds the women’s record of 6:09:08, set in 1993.