Thursday, 20 August 2009
After last weeks trail run I was looking forward to a tougher course and a longer distance, as I felt that was really what I needed to get the best out of me.
As it happened there were two Californian Options the Headlands Hundred Miler
(and 50 Miler) just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin or the Mt Disappointment 50 Miler (and 50K) in Angeles Forest near LA. I was pretty convinced that a 100 miler so close to Badwater was going to be way less fun than a 50 Miler and I guess ego dictated I did the event where the 50 Miler was the major event.
As it worked out this was a good idea, as our road trip had continued another week and from the Castro Valley had gone down Freeway 101 and to places such as “The Pinnacles” (a US National Monument and very much like the Australian outback and having a fantastic hike requiring a torchlit walk through an underground cave) and Paso Robles before hitting the coast again and San Simeon and then Morro Bay, meaning we could hit LA via Highway 1 (culminating with a magnificent rising full moon over Malibu) and spend a couple days at my favourite South Bay places before dropping my travelling companion off at LAX on the Friday.
Reading Fridays emails it appeared the simplest way to get to the race start was simply to camp there, so with tent and sleeping bag I was fully prepared although frankly I was relying totally on my sat nav as I had no idea where I was heading.
After a beautiful drive up (would have been magnificent views except for the fog !), came upon Mount Wilson apparently home to numerous astronomy telescopes and huge power poles (and strange considering all the electricity etc around us no mobile phone reception), eventually quite a number of us made it there (although only three of us pitched tent, essentially the camping area was rocky car park) and we met the race director and got our race numbers and goodie bags.
Having brought food up with me I had no problems dinner wise but with no choice but a sloping campsite I did wonder just how I was going to sleep without rolling out (as the above picture shows at least my tent was sloping away from the cliff face !).
Good nights sleep except for the fact it had become really windy around 1 and later had got really cold, but was awaken by traffic controllers directing parking at 5:30AM. Bagels for breakfast (left overs from the previous days Hermosa Beach breakfast) and I then headed out, definitely cool so I decided to start in Moeben Sleeves with my Lululemon top as well as gloves and the Buff Bandanna.
Ultimately decided i'd be using my camelbak but instead of using the bladder would have both handhelds in it (as well as a myriad of energy food and clothing options).
Caught up with my Badwater Crew Matt and his girlfriend before race start and had our pictures taken and bit of a chat, I was my usual nervy self pre race especially on seeing it was a race with 100 odd starters (as well as another 150 in the 50K), a massive field to me.
A talk from race director Gary and then he called the Military (both serving and ex) Personnel up to lead the countdown (including former Marine Matt) to race start.
Apparently our first 5 Miles (all downhill) was now going to be road rather than trail as the RD had not been able to obtain a permit, no difference to me and to be honest a relief as a fast downhill trail start is not my specialty.
Had a chat as I ran with a few of the locals but I was really more focussed on getting to the trail section, absolute feast at the first aid station at Red Box, but at this point hadn't even given my bottles (filled with Accelerade) a thought was quite content just to use what was supplied.
By now the cold morning had warmed a little but I thought gloves were still the way to go as we finally made it onto some very nice trails. Was moving along nicely and enjoying some great views in this section and was soon at the next aid station (shortcut canyon) where I appeared to have my own cheer squad (not sure who was calling out to me by name was concentrating to much on getting up the hill).
Again a feast and I decided a Hammer Gel would top off real food quite well and also that I should finally drag one handheld out of the backpack as we were told it would be 7 miles to the next aid and noticeably warmer.
Lots of runners around me as at this point both races were still as one and really I had no idea who was in which, so every runner was a potential opponent.
Whilst the course was now getting harder i'll admit it was going by quickly as we got incredible views, the towering “Gotham City” of Los Angeles only 20 odd miles away looked incredibly different to the scenery around me but the view was so clear you could almost reach out and touch it !.
Spent quite a bit of time with another runner who'd done this before and he gave me a better idea of what the course ahead would be like. Another aid station and it was definitely getting warmer, was finally getting into my fluids and eventually decided Moeben sleeves and gloves were no longer needed, was actually beginning to work up a sweat.
Definitely getting warmer now and I was beginning to feel as though this would be a very tough workout so soon after Badwater as simply you can't tell just how well your body can handle heat so soon after an event such as that.
We soon hit the checkpoint that differentiated between the two distances, now there was only one way to go and I would be committed to completing the 50 Miler.
For a while we were now protected from the heat by lovely sheltered gullies, but soon I caught up with another runner who had done this before and gave details of what was ahead including the fact we would repeat some of this section on a 2 mile loop after the 28 mile aid station. It was soon after this that one of the leading runners suddenly popped out from off this loop and lead us the last mile into that aid station, apparently he wasn't even top 15 so it gave me a better idea of my standing at this point and a good reality check.
After a quick drink and fill up of my handheld it was off on the two mile loop, at least I now had a good idea just where I was going !.
Once returned we were told that the next section would not only be long but also essentially unshaded and hard so I filled both handhelds, and also adjusted my bandanna to make it more headband like as I knew i'd be sweating heavily soon.
A good section for me as I could see runners quite a way in front and could gauge that I was making good ground on them, however the heat was beginning to take its toll. Eventually we reached a turn which directed us to the next aid station manned by search and rescue, this one was a welcome relief but due to constraints in actually getting to it was not as well stocked and I was a little unhappy to find that only iced water was available (whilst water may be an acceptable beverage in the first 10 miles or so of an Ultra personally I find that after that it is way more of a danger than a help as it doesn't have the extra nutrients required and essentially is a waste of stomach space and a risk of hypnotraenia), in need of some fluids I reluctantly filled both bottles and headed off as I wasn't really sure just how far to the next real aid station.
Thankfully the next aid station at around 41 miles was only a couple of miles away so I tossed the remaining water from my bottles over my head and also made sure I had a lot of “real” sports fluids as well as Mountain Dew and Coke as well as a good feed on cakes and hammer gel, interesting warning sign as I left which mentioned that bears had been sighted in the last few days where we were now heading.
The next section appeared to be downhill so I was hoping to make up some ground on this part before the long haul uphill. Caught up with the fellow wearing the “San Diego Bad Rats” T Shirt who I had chatted with early on and I found that he had been to Australia and had been involved in the 2001 Trans Australia Race (as well as having “barhopped” with Aussie Multi Day legend – and now politician – Pat Farmer). We had quite a good chat which helped keep my mind off the long stretches of rough rocks that we crossed on river bed crossings, these were unpleasantly unexpected and I was finding these hard on my body.
Eventually I made it to the last checkpoint, this was the same one that we had seperated from the 50K runners previously and was a very long 2900 feet height gain over 4.5 Miles, this was definitely going to be tough.
Refueled but not really refreshed I headed onwards, I calculated that walking was pretty much the only option now as I didn't have enough left in me to run uphill.
At least we got to see heaps of runners as we were now catching up with the slower participants in the 50K's and certainly some of them looked quite distressed. By now I was pushing hard and breathing very heavily and probably due to this my sports drink was no longer really effective, instead of my body soaking it up I simply felt as though it was just sitting on my gut (I still blame the iced water section around 38 miles), so I decided that i'd risk dehydration and give up on the fluid intake and simply just look real bad at the finish line.
The last section seemed endless and by now I was feeling quite nauseous from the gut problems basically my main goal was to finish, at least now I had people to pass as many of the 50K's (I assumed) were now really suffering. Finally I could see some of the Mt Wilson Towers and my only navigational error an extra 100 metres towards the road, forgetting what colour marking tape I was meant to be following, with less than a mile to go.
Having sorted that out it was now simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and not cramping up (not having fluid that last section was always going to be a balancing act), finally over the line in 9:44 and 15th place, not to bad at all, although probably a little slower than my original aim.
My specialty of looking rubbish at finish lines certainly came to the fore and I was directed to the medical section where I was given soup and chips and soft drink, but typically for me I then had issues with getting too cold, so ended up under blankets shivering, don't really remember much of this (except for the kindliness of the medical stuff and also the fact they arranged a massage for me) as I was shocked to find 2 hours had passed when I returned to my car. A long day, now it was time for the post race feast of pizza, sandwiches and soft drink before the drive back down the mountain and accommodation somewhere (really wished I had left the tent up), but a very worthwhile one I was very glad I had done this race and look forward to doing it again some other trip.