My alarm was set for 3:15am, apparently it went off, several times in fact, but I finally acknowledged it around 3:40, crap I was late and I hadn’t even started. I had been up late the night packing my drop bags and weighing and measuring the lotions and potions that would see me through the day. I had packed three bags but I actually only used two in the end and had finally crawled into bed around 11pm, fortunately I had been having early(ish) nights through the week in anticipation of a bad/short night the night before. I showered, dressed, had breakfast and headed out the door finally leaving around 4:20am. I had allowed 90 minutes for the drive and in fact in took 75 so I was slowly reclaiming the time. I parked my car, grabbed my bags and went looking for the registration and somewhere to drop spot them off. I collected my number, dropped off my bags and went back to the car to pick up my vest and bottles. I would, for the first time, also be running in an IT bandage, which would hopefully give my ITB some support or at least keep it tied down so tight that it wouldn’t give me any problems, so I wrapped it tightly around my leg and made my way to the start line. I readied myself for the saw blade; tradition has it that the ringing of the blade with a hatchet marks the start of the race and with an unceremonious clang we were off. As observed by Donald it seems inevitable that as the distances get longer the reports do, in an attempt to combat this I’ll break things down into nice manageable chunks.
Mile 1-10. The first ten miles slid by without me really noticing. After the start we headed up, a common theme for this race, and while the speedsters shot of I had in my mind to pace myself all the way, this would comprise of walking the ups and running the flats and downs; a typical strategy. After the first three miles of up the path leveled out and I began to run, around mile 8 I met Catra Corbett who was running with her boyfriend Andy Kumeda and we had a nice chat, Catra was running her third 50 miler in as many weekends! We passed through the first Aid Station and were directed to cross the road. The weather was proving to be changeable, one minute clear blue skies and the next thick billowing cloud would swallow me with gusts of cold damp wind. I decided to record some video as I went round the first section is here. I was surprised at how quickly the runners had spread out and looking ahead and behind you could sometimes see a runner traversing a hillside but even by mile 10 I was on my own.
Mile 11-20. I passed through Aid Station 2 at the 13.4 mile mark after about 2:30 .Up until this point we had been running on dirt roads and it was here we were directed onto the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), here we would spend the next 33+ miles. The trail is narrow and varies in surface from sand to dirt to solid rock, needless to say it’s not anywhere near flat and in parts it’s really just the least steepest section. Its narrowness makes passing tricky and you have to politely ask or be asked to pass, sometimes this can create a bottle neck until a suitable passing point is reached and this happened once or twice during this section. There was a nice five mile section that was mostly downhill into Aid Station 3 which was located at 20.3 mile mark. My first drop bag was here so I refilled my bottles, drank two bottles of Ensure, and picked up another packet of Hammer pills. I had been taking Endurolytes, Anti Fatigue Caps and Energy Surge about every hour and they were working well in addition I was taking a gel every hour or so. In addition at the Aid Stations I had been grabbing Pringles, M&Ms and, strangely, Sprite, which was really hitting the spot. My ITB was starting to niggle me now so a popped 3 ibuprofen tablets to ward it off. I also bumped into Tanya from Marc and Tanya’s Running Blog, I met Tanya at the Calico Trail 50k in January and we passed a mile or two together.
Mile 21-30. I left the Station and bumped into Xy Weiss the creator of Dirty Girl Gaiters and we had a quick chat. I pushed on up the hill, and recording some more video, this was a two mile climb and over the top for a decent of about a mile into Aid Station 4 at mile 24.5, we then had another decent, this time over 3.5 miles into Aid Station 5. It was in this section that I saw the first of the returning runners; Jorge Pachero was flying up the hill and I assume went on to win, the results have yet to be posted, essentially he was at mile 41 while I was at mile 26! All the descending was starting to mash my quads and what made it all the more disheartening was that I knew I had to climb back the same path as this section was an out and back. We were essentially going from one peak, down into the valley, up over the next peak only to turn around and come back the way we had come in. I had my second bag at this Station so I drank another Ensure, refilled my bottles again, by now the sun had some out and I um’d and ahh’d about taking off my long sleeve shirt and running in a sleeveless vest. I decided that it would be better to be too cold than too hot and stripped off the layer stashing it in my bag. I bid my thanks and farewells and headed out.
Mile 31-40. This was by far the hardest section, the addition of the heat; I managed to get some nice sunburn on my shoulders and head, proving that going to vest was a good idea, and the long climb along with some stomach sensitivity was making it not much fun at all. I eventually reached a section that had some trees that provided some welcome shade and I finally topped out. Here I saw the first female runner, Krissy Moehl, at least I think it was her she was moving so fast tearing up the trail heading down. This part of the PCT was definitely both physically and mentally challenging, you can tell it in my voice, with lots of switchbacks that hugged the contours of the hill and gave you little down and ups, normally these would be taken in a few strides but by now my legs were feeling pretty tired. My ITB was niggling again so another 3 ibuprofen were taken and I retightened the strap around my leg. I made it to Aid Station 6 at the 32 mile mark and had several cups of Sprite, here the volunteers had gone to town and had a Hawaiian theme with leis and coco-nut bras! I headed out into another wooded section that was lined with fir trees, on the floor were some of the biggest pine cones I have ever seen; they were as big as my head! I reached Aid Station 7 at 35.5 miles, this was the turnaround point, in terms of distance this was all unknown territory, my longest previous run only being 31 miles (50k) I knew that I could manage my way back. I skipped Aid Station 8, which was 6 coming from the reverse direction and set off at a steady run knowing that I could make up some time on the downhill section I got into a nice groove and the downhill section rolled by under me. I passed a female runner on the downhill and we both agreed that we were getting very bored of hills, she was looking forward to an uphill…I wasn’t!
Mile 41-50. At mile 42.6 was Aid Station 9, it was 5 coming from the reverse direction. In my bag I had a bottle of Amino Vital and I drank that, I was craving a clean taste and after 6 bottle of Perpetuem my palate was somewhat sour, I think this was why the Sprite was tasting so good. I headed out knowing that I had a little over 7 miles to go but half of it was uphill. I was in full plod mode and was making best use of the relentless forward motion mantra, here I was overtaken by the girl I had previously passed who was chugging up the hill. My stomach had settled down and apart from the obvious tiredness I was feeling pretty good. I made my way up the final Aid Station 10 at mile 46.1 here I was told that I had another mile or so up and then it was downhill all the way. I was thinking to myself which would be worse the up of the down, it proved to be the latter. I set off at a brisk walk up the hill and just after a mile I was greeted with the downhill, I really did my best to run this last section but it ended up being a walk-run-walk most of the way. Finally I could see the car park and the start line and then shortly afterwards I exited the track and was running through the finish line.
I ended up finishing in 11:24 and change the actual results are yet to be posted.
So now a few days later I have had time to reflect. Overall I was pleased with my performance, I stuck to my original walk/run strategy and despite not having really put any significant mileage in over the last 4-6 weeks my fitness level was pretty good, one thing for sure helped me were the few months of back to back long run weekends as did actually training on the trails rather than just accumulating the miles running the roads. Running on trails is just so much more demanding. One thing I need to do more of is “train terrain” that is if I am going to race over hills, I need to train over hills ditto for mountain, I need to actually look up their definitions! My ITB held up, a combination of a slow pace and the strap (and ibuprofen) ensured that it was a relative non issue, although it was only when I got in the shower that I realized that perhaps I had had the strap too tight as it had cut into my leg drawing blood front and rear! I can say quite emphatically that the jump from 50k to 50m is a big one and a 50 miler is significantly more than 2 back to back marathons certainly from a mental standpoint. My nutrition/hydration was ok, I was, perhaps, a little dehydrated at the end and I need to think about alternatives to Perpetuem as, as mentioned, it kills your palate. According to my Forerunner I burnt off 5716 calories and I conservatively consumed somewhere between 3500-4000 so while I was in a deficit in the end it wasn’t too bad. For those of you interested; the preceding night I had chicken and mushroom risotto, followed by Greek yogurt and honey and for breakfast a bowl of Natures Path Optimum Power, a cinnamon bagel with pb&j, and a cup of coffee. I also drank a bottle of Amino Vital in the car on the way.
Looking forward I need to work on my ITB and free it off, treating the cause rather than the symptoms and in fact as a whole my core needs some attention. I am really noticing that my core is weak especially post race now that I am hobbling around the house like an old man! As they say it only hurts when I move. Additionally I need to drop 10lbs or so, the lack of any real running this year has meant that the pounds have crept back on. So the plan moving forward will be to address my ITB and core over the next 8 weeks or so and during that time construct my new training program, the last one a modified Hal Higdon lasted 20 weeks and in my mind that is too long, 14-15 weeks I feel is long enough so I can avoid another overuse injury…at least that’s the plan.
I have uploaded my photo’s here and here’s the MotionBased data: