Did you know that the BlackBerry will automatically update main time come daylight savings?
Yessir...I found this out the hard way AFTER I had already consumed my morning cup of coffee and was getting ready when - I spot the time on a another clock and it reads the correct time: an hour early. The alarm had gone off an HOUR early! Ugh...this is how my day started.
I rendezvous'd with Sara, Danica and some Runner's World friends near the entrance of Malibu Creek State Park around 7:45am. The start time for 25K and 50K runners would be 8:30am. I was very much looking forward to seeing them all again. In fact, we've been anticipating this race for about a month now. One thing I didn't truly appreciate was the distance and the elevation of this race. It. Was. No. Joke.
The morning was chilly (by So Cal standards ok?) and we all huddled together in layers chit-chatting near the start where I ran into Stuart, who was also running the 50K distance. Next thing I knew, Wendall announced the start of the race via his bullhorn and we were off!
Sara and Danica were heading back from the bathroom at this point, but since they were doing the 25K, I wanted to stick to the 50K runners as close as possible because I knew I would need their company later - especially for the 2nd loop (the 50K'ers would be running the 25K loop twice). Once we were off the paved road of the parking area, the single track roads led us up a series of windy switchbacks which was a really fun way to start off (as long as you weren't stuck behind a slowpoke listening to their iPod). Like an army of marching ants, we zig-zagged our way up and down, left and right. I was feeling really good at this point and loved being out on the trails again.
We weren't running too long when we came across a stream crossing. It wasn't exactly raging whitewater rapids, but it certainly wasn't a trickler either. We were going to get wet. So again one by one, people went in shoes first into the water to cross, while others actually plopped down on the dirt to start unlacing their shoes before entering. I got a good chuckle out of that.
With squishy feet, we plodded along and hit our first aid station. Sarah and Wendell (the race directors) laid out a smorgasboard of sweet + salty goodness for their runners. Everything from gummi bears to boiled potatoes (my favorite). Since it was still early, I briefly noshed on some potatoes and took a quick swig of water. Then - the climbing would start (our 1st of 2). And boy, did we climb. For about the next 6 miles, it was a seemingly non-stop hike up the rocky fire road up to the summit. I took on this portion with Stuart and a new friend of his, which provided some good company. We ran when we can, but it was mostly a treacherous death march up to the top.
The higher we'd climb, the more spectacular the views became. Sparkly blue ocean to the west, and finally - nay, mercifully - when our descent began down Bulldog Road, beautiful lush green valley off to the east as far as the eye can see. After hitting up another aid-station, we descended for the next 4 or so miles before we reached the valley of the park again. I made sure I did not descend at breakneck speed to conserve my already tired legs as much as possible. And they were tired. How on earth was I supposed to do this a 2nd time, I began to wonder.
Sara had caught up before I made the run down and our friend Rachel from Runner's World was with us as well, so we ran together until we reached the 25K mark (back to the start)...after nearly 3 hours of running/climbing/running. Sara decided to run back until she met up with Danica while Rachel and I had another loop to do. After briefly deliberating the option of DNF'ing, we decided to finish what we came out here for and set off for the 2nd half.
Immediately, it was obvious that most of the runners were done for the day as the start of the 2nd half was limited to but a few crazy, but like-minded souls willing to push themselves to the absolute limit. I ended up running/climbing with Rachel for the majority of it, griping to each other why we were putting ourselves through this. Repeat of the 1st 25K - switchbacks, stream crossing, climbing, climbing, climbing...
By mile 18.5, I felt my first onset of cramps in my right calf. Somewhere around miles 21-23, my legs were just completely shot and all I could feel pain and aching resonating from them. I was pretty dehydrated when we hit our last aid-station before making the final descent down, so I took my sweet time taking down fluids and snacking on some boiled potatoes dipped in salt, while the aid was nice enough to top off my bottle.
The final jaunt down was slow and painful. I could barely lift my legs at points and stepping on the various jagged rocks that littered the road was equally painful. Instead of focusing on the pain, I decided to focus on running the tangents on the road to the best of my ability, if for no other reason than to keep my mind somewhat stimulated. We passed and chatted with a couple of other runners along the way but nothing really distracted me from the fact that I was running on fumes and extremely sore legs.
By mile 29 or so, I was just over it and wanted to be done with. So I took off at the fastest pace I could muster - which wasn't that fast, probably around 8:30-8:50 pace - and wanted to reach the finish as fast as possible. But I guess I underestimated the distance to the end and got gassed with a little less than a mile to go. Catching my breath for a second, I regrouped and started up again intent on finishing strong til the finish.
I cannot tell you how happy I was when the finish finally came into view and I had my running buddies there cheering and screaming my name. I flashed them a big smile and crossed the line at 6:19:30 (according to my Garmin - race clock was about 15 or so seconds faster) after 31.09 miles. After some slapping of hands and exchanges in congratulations, we cheered on some other finishers while downing cans of soda and some excellent chili courtesy of our favorite RD, Sarah.
After milling about for another hour or so, the RW group decided to get some grub. So we all caravanned from the park to a 'Pho' place (a favorite Vietnamese dish amongst us forumites) near where I live in West LA and chowed down on some righteous carbs/protein/sodium and shared some yuks. It was the perfect end to what was a great day...save for all the running.
Just kidding. Kinda. Who cares...1st ultra in the books!
Big congrats to my girl Sara for completing the 25K (and more) in spite of running with a hurt leg. And congrats to Danica for completing her first trail race...you guys were missed at post-race chow!
Stay tuned for a video I may or may not put together in the next couple of days. We'll see. Thanks for reading.