The longer version:
My concerns leading up to the Noble Canyon 50K had more to do with very sore quads as a result of taking the steep 5700' descent off of Mount Baldy's 10,000' peak too hard last Sunday after running out of water midway through, along with weather forecasts that called for sunny skies and high temps in the mid-80s. I addressed the former by running little to no mileage in the week leading up to Noble and an emergency ART session on Thursday which had me writhing in intense pain.
|Summiting Mt. Baldy via Bear Canyon a week prior.|
Woke up around 4:30am from my brother's house in San Diego and made the ~1 hour drive east into the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest. After some meet and greets, we gathered at Al Bahr campgrounds for the 7am start. Had an arbitrary goal of A) sub-5:30 and B) sub-6 hours. But had a lot of confidence my 'A' goal was in the bag in spite of my ailing quads leading up to it.
|At the start, anxious to get started.|
In an effort to rein in the adrenaline I tucked myself in the middle and started off at a comfortable pace running between 8:30-9:30 pace for the first fews miles as we wound our way out of the campgrounds and into the rolling single tracks of nearby meadows. I was a little worried about lack of conditioning from just being so sedentary these past few days but I think it was more mental than anything.
The first few miles went by real fast and before I knew it, we started down the long, rocky descent down Noble Canyon trail. There were several overzealous runners who past me that seemed to be running faster than they should be but I remained patient and ran it at a good, but restrained pace down the trail. The trails were certainly plenty rocky and somewhat technical as I kept catching a toe here and there almost stumbling. A little after mile 11 however the "almost" went to full-blown fall on my face as I let my gaze go up ahead and I ended up crashing, with my right hand and knee taking the full brunt of it. I popped right back up and kept going but I'd find out later that the gash on my bloody knee was pretty deep.
|Thankfully my knee helped break my fall.|
The course was laid out in a lollipop fashion with the 6.8 mile descent/ascent being the lone out and back. Therefore we got to see the leaders and frontrunners on the return and to see just where I was in the race, started counting off the runners in front of me. Was kind of surprised to see I was pretty far back by the time I reached the aid station at the bottom (about 45 runners ahead of me) but figured I'd make up some time back on the climb.
Unfortunately, shortly after we began ascending I felt some cramp twinges in my calves. Troubled but not overly worried yet, I pressed on. Thankfully large sections of this section was covered by shade. In spite of the help, I never felt strong on the climb and proceeded to hit a couple of low points mentally here. Low on water and energy, the next aid station seemingly took forever to get to. Mercifully after mile 19ish or so, it came into view just as I ran out of water. Although quaffing fluids lifted me temporarily, my legs would start failing and failing me miserably from here on out.
|Over 4,000' of elevation gain.|
I don't know what it was specifically since I'd been taking my Salt Stick on cue and calories via gels diligently but the knots in my calves started getting worse. That was soon followed by my hamstrings and eventually, my left quad. I alternated power hiking with some light shuffling but nothing seemed to help stave off the cramping. What was most frustrating by my failing legs was probably that mentally, I felt sharp, motivated and hungry. My legs just refused to follow tow. The only relief they felt was immediately after leaving the aid stations but only to lock up again shortly thereafter.
|Leaving Penny Pines aid station (~22 mile) saying hey to my buddy Shacky.|
Most of the climbing was over around the marathon mark but it was during this stretch to the finish when I was suffered even more and passed the most. At one point around mile 28.5, my right foot (yet again) caught a rock so instinctively my left leg swung around to catch myself only to have my left calf seize up fully in what was comparable or worse to the ART session a couple of days prior. There I stood in the middle of the woods so close but still so far from the finish, head thrust back in agony and unable to restrain myself from letting out a bloodcurdling, teeth-gritting scream. The pain lasted for about half a minute before I was able to point my toe back out and the pain subsided. I continued on my ridiculously pathetic shuffle, stopping to walk frequently when it felt my legs were filling up with cement while getting passed often.
I continued that way all the way to the finish completing my first real race back in a little over 5:56. After kissing the rat to complete my race, I immediately plopped down, put my feet up and pulled from a beer while cheering others in. Not happy about how my legs failed me in the last 1/3 of the race and how old injuries (left foot, knee) ended up revisiting me, but was very encouraged by my mental will to finish - DNF'ing never entered my mind. Most of all, I was just happy to be back out there mixing it up in the rock and dirt with like-minded folks in the mountains. I will definitely be back to get my revenge on this course but in the meantime, will lick my wounds and focus on recovery.
I leave you with some footage taken along the course: