HOLY SH*T I JUST DID THAT! Was the first thought as I crossed the finish line…and was quickly followed by,”There are many things that I want to do in my life & doing this again is not one of them.” was what I uttered after (my first ultramarathon) the Sean O Brien 50 mile race.
Which i knew was a bold faced lie as soon as it escaped my mouth.
But lets backtrack to the day before…
I went to work as usual & picked up my bib from a hotel down the street from my work and saw some of my TNT Ultra/Trail teammates there…
My race started at 6am & a few of my coaches/teammates started their 100k at 5am & those lucky 50kers & marathoners got a 7am start!
I was nervous, but mostly excited to run this race. I had been training with Team in Training since 2010 & had completed a handful of 13.1’s & 26.2’s before I decided to give the Ultra/Trail team a try. My first practice with them was an 8 mile trail run at Los Liones in Pacific Palisades to Parker Mesa Overlook & I knew I was hooked on the #traillife. I signed up & the rest is history(you can check out my fundraising page from last season here: Joy trail runs!)
We had trained on the course & had some pretty serious cutoffs to hit that were emailed to us the week or two before. They had thoroughly freaked me out. We had been training at an easier pace than the actual cut offs so I knew I had to step it up on race day. When things are crazy I usually turn to something that I can do to make me feel more at ease…design all the information so it easier to digest:
I created this along with pace bands & times that we had to hit to make the cut offs.
I went home & prepped my PBnJ sammies & roasted potatoes along with my drop bags & laid out my gear for a photo shoot…because thats what you are supposed to do when you are freaked out about a race the night before!
TRAIL GEAR/SHAMELESS PLUG TIME! Lets start from the bottom & work my way up. My Altra Running Lone Peak 2’s were the first shoes I ever wore that didn’t give me blisters after 20+ miles & I’ve added 3 more Altras to my arsenal. Gaiters from Outdoor Research guaranteed that those little annoying rocks don’t become a nuisance on the trails. Injinji compression toe socks in purple kept my feet dry after the early water crossing & calves compressed & ready to tackle the long miles. My CWX Stabilyx 3/4 tights in rainbow kept my knees, hips & core ready for the Backbone Trail and gave me a pop of color! My bright orange Lululemon top kept me visible on the trails & easy to spot. A good trail Buff/trail scarf is a necessity on the trails & I scored this lovely one from runprettyfar.com at trail half I ran in WA which has “i eat mountains for breakfast” on it & was on par with my color scheme for the day. ARM SLEEVES ARE MY JAM! and this pair was a pretty standard gray from RoadRunner Sports. I think i forgot to return my friends headlamp from a Ragnar so I don’t know what brand it was…sorry 🙁 My visor I love from Headsweats with the TRAIL/ULTRA logo proudly displayed! Cheap-o dollar store mittens. My Hoka Oxsitis Bag that i bought from Leftlanesports & I love because I can carry a 3L bladder in it along with much more(and they have it in purple WHATTTTTT)! Heres a review in spanish that BLEW MY MIND when he was able to access the backpack part without taking it off! For some reason the info I find on this pack are mostly in french and Hoka doesnt really carry this bag in the US for some reason.
So I should have written this closer to the race(which was in Feb. & it is now Dec. 4th) so Im just going to generalize what I remember from that day.
MORNING OF THE RACE: I slept less than 6 hours the night before because the timestamp on the gear photo above was closer to 1am. LOL my coaches say nothing new on race day, so I had properly prepared by not sleeping adequate hours every friday night before a long saturday morning team run. I am just a habitually late person, so it was a concern that I would be late to the race. I was not late FYI so mark that down on your scorecard. On the drive in I probably blasted some Queen-Don’t stop me now & definitely Bohemian Rhapsody because I watched Wayne’s World on repeat as a child & have it as my go-to pump up songs. I looked at my odometer when I parked at Malibu Creek state park and saw that it was exactly 25 miles from my apartment & told myself that by the time I got home that night I will have run there & back home! #badassery
I was nervous/excited/PUMPED to get it done. I had been training with Riz & Leah the whole season & I was glad to toe the line with them & Coach Raul on our journey to become Ultramarathoners!
Here is a video of the start where I didn’t see myself because I am a back of the packer.
I started out with my SOB #trailsisters Riz & Leah….Coach Raul was there to make sure we were supported on the course. We started out & had crossed a river in less than 3 miles of the start…it was as cold, dark & freezing as you expect at 6am. There were volunteers to help us cross, along with a rope line which was amazing as they shouted out the best ways to attack this obstacle. I remembered thinking to myself that a few folks wouldn’t make it as I saw some wearing backpacks that you would use for school & regular cross-training shoes….and if they did that they would have a rough day. We then started up the first 1500+ foot climb before mile 5 that we had attacked multiple times in our training runs so it took the sting out of it. This bench is an awesome sight to see…
because you know that you can put that gnarly/power hikey climb behind you. The course has some ups & down past some cool rock formations with some runnable sets. There was a guy on the course that asked me if that was the hardest climb of the day and I looked at him and knew he wasn’t going to make it…I never saw him after that conversation. The OCD kicked in as I looked at my pace band and had expectations to check into the first aid station at the time listed. Riz, Leah & Raul had fallen back a ways and I was set on hitting my times, so I pushed on so I could make the first hard cut off at Kanan(mile 13) by 9:30. I knew they had each other & that I would meet up with them on the downhill to Bonsall. I hit my mark dead on at Corral canyon & based on being late to a training run I knew I had to give it all I had to not chase the cutoff at Kanan.
This is my favorite part of the course hands down in both directions from Corral to Kanan because there are runnable sections through some pretty fields & open areas with cool rock formations and some fun single-tracks. I was late to practice once(surprise, surprise) and made it a point to run RUN this section to see how long it would take from Corral to Kanan…I was chasing the group in front of me & I think I was able to do that 6.5 mile section in over an hour+tax. It was race day & I knew I had to keep that same pace so I made my way past latigo to hit the time on my pace band. I even had enough energy to make a video:
I had made the cutoff with time to spare & saw my friend Sarah who came to cheer me on!
A smiling familiar face on the course is greatly appreciated & gives you a crazy amount of extra energy. So a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who made it out to cheer me on & those who sent me all the good vibes that day <3 you crazy folks! I know I had been pushing harder than I had been while training but I knew that the 50k turnaround was coming up & that I would be able to take it easy on the 6 mile 2500ft. drop down to Bonsall. So I rushed to the 50k turnaround which was supposed to be mile 15.5(it was closer to 16+)
I’m realizing in this picture that my side shave makes me look semi-baldish…but lets move on to the party pace. What is a party pace? Its when you take your time & just party instead of pacing yourself. I pretty much beat myself up running the first half marathon so I wouldn’t be chasing the cut offs. So I probably walked 98% of that 6 mile drop. It genuinely made no sense to be that the hard cutoff at mile 13 was at 9:30(3.5 hours) & that the next cutoff was at mile 22 at noon which means that you would have 2.5 hours to run 6 miles downhill!?! Anyways I knew I could bring the party to my pace so I did! Here is the last shot before my POS phone died…
So I am walking walking by this point and constantly looking back to try & find my trail posse. The next aid station is at mile 19.2 and I see the crazy strong mofos on their way back from the bottom of the lollipop(or NOOSE as I lovingly refer to it) who are running the 100k. I see this older man in front of me & he inspires me to pick up the pace a bit, but it doesn’t last long because I am waiting for my friends. On any other day I would ATTACK this downhill & gleefully run like a MOFO, but this was race day & I had spent all the gleeful energy trying to make first hard cutoff. I saunter into Bonsall and pull a Carlos and take my sweet time going through my drop bag and I see Riz’s sherpa crew pull up(I saw them at Latigo earlier in the day)
So I ask them if Riz made the cutoff & their smiles quickly fade. They said that they weren’t sure. Riz, Leah & Raul got stopped at the 50k turnaround made it through but the last they heard from her was a frustrated hung up phone. This news was mentally the lowest point of the day for me. Bummed to find this out I take my time in the porta potty as I try and wrap my head around the information that was given to me. I get out & see LEAH! I was deliriously happy to see her. I ask her about Riz and she said that she left her with Raul and she shook her head. A few minutes later Raul comes in and as we ask about Riz he shook his head. This sucky feeling in pit of my stomach didn’t stay long as I hear someone yell out RIZ! Still delirious, I think to myself…wow someone really has the same sounding name as Riz. Then I hear it again & perk up as we leave Bonsall. I see Riz coming down that hill to Bonsall & immediately feel ecstatic/relieved/complete again! I probably squealed a little…most likely a lot. I was all smiles! I knew she could finish this race & with this renewed energy Leah, Raul & I attack the soul-crushing part of the course that is “The Noose.” We did this part of the course once before on a 22 miles day, but I was an idiot & bought some trail shoes from amazon based on price & reviews, so I had a rough day. So come race day I put on my game face & attempted to attack this part of the course when the stabbing pain in my calf made its debut & stuck around for the rest of the race. The most enjoyable parts of the race are the downhills for me, but when the pain set in it made sure to ruin that party for me. I had slowed down on the noose & felt relief in the uphill hiking. We made it back to the horse over water sign at the Zuma aid station and I knew that we had enough time to make the 4pm cutoff back to Kanan. On a weird sidenote I kept on hearing about a car accident that was blocking PCH at Corral Canyon from spectators & that Caitlyn Jenner was involved. I knew that my friends would be seeing me at Kanan so I was looking forward to getting that extra energy boost!
I made it to Kanan before the 4pm cutoff & saw Anu, Ana & Betty. They had my drop bag ready & hooked it up with the VIP service through that aid station. It had started to lightly sprinkle so I put on sleeves so I wouldn’t be freezing. The next aid station was less than 3 miles away. No big deal.
Little did I know that the next 2.5 miles would be the SUCKIEST of the day.
Welcome to the MUDSLIDE. Not the fun adult beverage with Kaluha mixed in…that sucky one that involves rain on an unassuming trail. So that light easy breezing sprinkle turned into rain. That rain mixed in with a dirt single track trail on a incline = MUDSLIDE. So I told myself when I left Kanan to make sure I took in enough electrolytes & liquids. That got thrown out the door when the main objective was to remain upright. It should have taken us less than an hour to do that section, but it had turned into the worst slip-n-slide in the middle of your first 50 mile race that I had ever known. I just remember thinking to always find my foot grounded & weight centered before taking a step forward. This was aided by grabbing at the roots of the shrubs and carefully getting my footing. I would look up and see Raul 10 feet ahead and seeing a full on cartoon banana slip straight onto his butt into mud. If you know Raul you will always find him in shorty shorts…even in snow, so his backside was fully coated. The Benny Hill song was playing in my head as Leah & Raul were ahead of me sliding about, but instead of being funny it was straight up frustrating. We made it past the suck & I had to stop and have a moment. I had forgotten to eat & failed to drink liquids which caught up to me in a sudden wave of dizziness. Thankfully it was a short wave & I knew that Latigo was around the corner with my bootcamp friends Ruth & Deidre (and my future trail teammate & bootcamper Tracy!) working that station along with my crew Anu, Ana & Betty. I was night & day energy-wise from when my friends had seen me. They forced me to eat & Ruth yelled at me to drink coke. I told her not to tell our trainer Corey & immediately understood why ultrarunners go crazy for this stuff. I had given up soda for a long time so drinking it was both effective and surprisingly enjoyable. I pulled it together after that station & was glad to hear from Riz’s sherpa crew that she came into Kanan shortly after we left.
Leah, Raul & I made our way to Corral with the sun going down quickly. I kept on thinking of Riz and was sending her all the energy I had because I knew the mudslide was a b*tch and that she was probably cursing up a storm(she totally was & here is her race report-not guaranteed if its public or if you can actually view it). We had made it across the Backbone trail to Corral canyon & Raul had stayed back to bring Riz home! While we were at the aid station a 100k racer came in upset with full on tears thinking she had climbed out of the gnarly bulldog to not make the cutoff. She cried harder when they told her she was fine & she mentioned it was her birthday so we all sang to her. It was an awesome upper to have leaving that station as we headed back down the trail in pitch black darkness to finish.
I had the crappiest headlamp & couldn’t find that mini 99 cent store handheld flashlight that was eaten by my massive Hoka bag(I found it after the race was over hiding in a crevice at the bottom). I relied on Leah’s light to get us through those last miles & we met up with 2 or 3 other runners and we collectively hobbled down that hill. STAB, step, STAB, step was what my calves were telling me with each step down that hill. It was painful but I pushed on & thought of how much sweeter that finish line would be…chili, friends & a medal would be waiting for me! We pressed on & Leah took off ahead of me and stopped to wait for me. A crazy volunteer was hooting & hollering cheering on runners in the darkness. It just so happened that Leah stopped by this crazy cheerleader & that she KNEW HIM! Matt had run out on the course and was running & talking us through the last turns to the finish line. I was delirious and thought he had waayy too much energy, but I was supremely grateful for his energy to distract me from the step, STAB rhetoric going on in my head. My sister & brother-in-law ran the last quarter mile with me and I had ALL THE FEELS crossing that finish line with Leah! I came in to a large crowd of friends & teammates & coworkers at the finish line. I felt a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz…and you were there…and you were there.
HOLY SH*T I JUST DID THAT! Was the first thought as I crossed the finish line…and was quickly followed by,”There are many things that I want to do in my life & doing this again is not one of them.”
Which i knew was a bold faced lie as soon as it escaped my mouth. I drank a margarita that was handed to me after crossing & thought that I would need a bigger challenge next year & that I would consider the 100k. But first some finish line chili…DENIED! All they had left was vegetable broth and I later found out that they had some for the 50kers & ran out 🙁
But that didn’t matter I was on cloud 9 and was fluttering about talking to the folks who were there to see me finish & thanking them profusely…maybe drukenly. I was excited to wait for Riz to come in & was cheering and had a smile from ear to ear when she finished:
I was beside myself…I was running around…I was all over the place. I had originally joined the team to run a 50k and Leah convinced me to switch over to the 50 miler & don’t regret that decision.
Words can’t explain this feeling. So my challenge to you is to go out there & experience it for yourself!