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PCTR 50K Trail Race, Santa Monica Mountains

November 24, 2010

This race recap is going to be a little different, and probably more aesthetically pleasing for you to read too. These pictures say it all. Are you ready?

Preface: I signed up for this 50K race as a ‘training’ run for the Northface 50 Miler I’m about to partake in next weekend. A 31 mile training run? I had never even ran more than a marathon distance before, let alone this many miles on trails. But I knew if I jumped into Northface not having done a “ultra” on trails, I would be in for a surprise (not in a good way).

Disclaimer: Running on trails is NOTHING like running on the road. Trust me. If you have never done it before, I challenge you to run on trails and tell me they are the same. Not only are you working every part of your body, mountains=hills and more hills. Uphill, downhill, trails have it all. They also have a view that you just can’t find on the pavement. And trails are just better for your body and joints. So there.

Here we are gearing up for the start. Notice the lack of crowds? Trail races are so much calmer, meaning you can go to the bathroom 30 minutes before race start and still make it in time. Also, you can start to line up 5 minutes before race starts without getting elbowed in the face. And finally, you do not have to wake up 3 hours before just to find parking and beat the rush. Trail races rule.

…and off we go! This first part was super technical terrain (i.e. mountain climbing, not running). It was more or less a group hike the first couple of miles since most of the trail is single track and it’s hard/dangerous to pass people, but after a while runners start to spread out and you find yourself in a good place where you’re supposed to be.

Climbing to the peak on Pt. Mugu trail. The view is totally worth the climb

Ok this is the part where things start to get hazy. Here is a sign that says “OUT” and “RETURN”. Now, which one would you guess to go out of the mountain to the aid station? If you guessed OUT, we should not run together. Hence, I ran this 7ish mile loop TWICE while everyone else continued on the correct course. Well, it was kind of funny at first. I was thinking how great it was to have no one in front or in back of me for a while, until 4 miles into the second loop, I started to question my ability to read directions. It was a little too quiet and I swear I just ran by this cactus plant an hour ago, not to mention, climbed to the peak! It wasn’t until I was about 70% of the way done with the loop where I realized I had taken the wrong turn. Oops. I started stressing out and rushing because I was for sure behind everyone else. This was the not so enjoyable part of the run. Even though I technically had to do that loop twice as part of the course, it would be have been nice to run the correct route the first time so I was with all the other runners.

…I finally made it out and managed to muster up a smile at the aid station. They had a feeling I was lost somewhere because I was pretty much the last runner out. I quickly downed some Ultima and started up the Ray Miller trail to catch up with some people.

Climbing up Ray Miller is definitely not the same as going down. I LOVE the downhill rush on this trail, but the climb up is pretty brutal. 2ish miles of pure climbing. I resorted to a walk/run strategy. Runners were flying downhill while I was still going up. Since I was behind everyone, I bumped into a few of my friends who were finishing up their loop. Throughout the whole race, I was never where I was “supposed” to be since I had front loaded the miles in the beginning. Here’s a picture of the elevation map for the 50K, fun right? Right.

The second part of the race was on Sycamore and Ray Miller Trail . I had done both of these trails before, just not all at once. There was more climbing during this second part and at this point in the race, my legs were beat and my energy was low. I definitely have to figure out fueling for my 50 miler because nothing looked appealing at the aid stations. I ended up drinking water, Utima, and ate 6 jelly beans. Yes, six jelly beans over a course of almost 7 hours. I wanted real food, not gels, candy, or boiled potatoes. I wanted eggs, turkey sandwiches, tequila…I wasn’t too hungry though, but I could feel my energy dip towards the end. Even eating the jelly beans gave me a stomach ache and I often drank too much Ultra at the aid stations, leaving my stomach full of liquids.

How I am still able to flash gangsta signs after 4+ hours of running is beyond me

After doing this loop around and back to the Start/Finish line, I spent some time talking with the race directors about my “situation”. They said I only had to do the last part of the course which was a 4 mile out and back up and down Ray Miller again since there was no way in hell I was going to run that loop for a third time. This was the only time I was actually at the right spot during the race. I pushed through and made it to the top and was ready to reap the downhill and finish strong. Coming out of the trail, I was completely and utterly exhausted. I love it.

Here is my “fake” finish crossing through the finish line for the first time. I look so happy…….

Until the race director pulled me aside and told me I had to run another 4ish miles to that intersection which threw me off during the first part of the race. Sure, I wasn’t going to complain since it is only fair I complete the full 50K distance, although I am pretty sure I ran more than a 50K that day. My Garmin crapped out on me halfway in. Maybe it felt longer because I had to finish the race going up that technical terrain and down it again. I had no energy left in me and to ask me to climb rocks after rocks was not my idea of finishing the race, but I gathered up what I had left and trekked out again. Of course, I was by myself since most people had already left this part of the race long ago. Made it to that damn intersection and finally turned around to finish out the race. Crossed the finish line, again. This time with a Wtf look on my face.

Friends were waiting for me at the finish, even though they had finished looong before me. I’m not exaggerating, my official finish time was 6:48:55, but I think a lot of it was spent on getting lost and time in between loops explaining my situation to the race directors, volunteers etc. I really hope this is not a predicament of my time at Northface 50 or else I’m going to be out there for more than 12 hours. Thank goodness for friends, they made the experience unbelievable and something I will remember forever.

Now, give me my ultramarathoner coaster! 10 days and counting to Northface 50 miles!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Shacky permalink
    November 29, 2010 10:31 am

    Great race report. I’m totally with you on the food part of running these things as I’m trying to figure it out myself. I ate a few shot-bloks, a couple gels, and a little bit of jerky. Nothing seemed very appetizing but luckily that little bit carried me through. I credit the cool temps.
    Best wishes to you on your 50!
    mmm, tequila would have been wonderful I think


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