Last year, Chuck, Laura, Todd Fanady and I wrote an amusing article about our disappointing result at the Mt. Disappointment 50K/50M races (Laura didn’t start the 50K, and I didn’t finish the 50M.) due to very hot weather (why are we doing an ultra in the High Desert in the summer, anyway?).
While Chuck and Todd had VERY slow times, from my perspective, it was the only race that I had failed to finish, so it was important that I get that (“Eep, Eep”) monkey off my back.
The weather forecast did not seem as dire as last year, but being August, it would still be hot. I came up with a slightly different strategy this year, which was to hydrate myself adequately and also not push the uphill pace at all (meaning that I would not run one step uphill).
I carpooled up with Rafael Covarrubias, who had started AREC with trail training and completed a number of ultras earlier this year, since he was doing the 50 miler and would not have to wait 6 or 7 hours for me to finish.
Both races started promptly at 6:30, and the weather seemed cooler, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I started out slowly and I started walking immediately when we had an upslope (less than 3 miles into race). My early splits had me a bit concerned, as I was reaching the aid stations much slower than I had the previous year (Mile 6 – 10 minutes slower; Mile 12 – 20 minutes slower; Mile 26 – an hour slower). However, the big difference was that I was not cramping, at all!
I attribute my success to Succeed! Tablets (Potassium, Calcium and Sodium pills) – 2 every hour, and forcing myself to drink Clif Mix every 10 minutes, whether I was thirsty or not. Still, I was nervous about my big test, reaching Mile 40 before the time limit.
I needed to get to Mile 40 in 11 hours, 45 minutes. In 2007, I reached Mile 38.5 in 12 hours, 45 minutes. This is a section of trail that has 9 miles, with one minor water stop 7.5 miles in, with 3 miles downhill (and 1000’ elevation loss) on very technical trail, and 6 miles uphill (no shade, 2000’ climbing).
The weather seemed more moderate, or I was doing something right. I had somewhat teamed up with this guy and girl (she ran with him from 20 on) and we traded “leads” back and forth up the hill. Despite all my earlier slower times, I reached mile 40 in 10 hours, 15 minutes!
The last 10 miles were still pretty difficult – 5 miles of technical downhill and flat (mostly in and out of a mosquito-infested creek bed – no water, but lots of rocks), followed by 5 miles of continuous uphill (2500’ of climbing). My running buddies soared ahead of me on the downhill, but I caught them the base of the final climb. They were struggling with the hill and said that they would catch up with me.
Three weeks earlier, Chuck, Laura and I, did a practice run, which included this final 5 mile stretch. I walked the entire 5 miles in 1 hour, 50 minutes. However, I would be doing this stretch today after 45 LONG miles (with temperatures over 100 degrees at some points). I continued with my plan to walk the entire uphill. Gauging from my watch, I needed to go under 2 hours to stay under my Santa Barbara 9 Trails 35 Miler time of 14:06 (just so I could continue to say “Longest Race – 50 miles; Longest Run – 14:06 – 35 Miles!”).
About midway up, it started to get really dark. I pulled my headlamp out of my pocket, and that helped tremendously. I passed 4-5 guys struggling with their lights. In the last mile or so, it was so dark that you couldn’t see more than 2-3 feet in front (whatever was in the light), and even though I was somewhat familiar with the course, I got a little freaked out by the way the shadows moved with my headlamp (roots and such).
Finally, I could tell by the treeline that I was almost at the top. There was a little stretch of flat blacktop where I could run, following flashlights as if I was on a runway. I made the final turn to the top and crossed the finish line in 13:57. Strangely enough, my split for the last 5 miles was 1:51. My race buddies (who said they’d catch up) finished almost 20 minutes behind me. Rafael was about 90 minutes faster than me.
Laura, Chuck and Todd all finished in much faster times than last year, and Laura even placed in her age group.
I’m not sure if I will run this event again, but a little gentle prodding could probably goad me into it again.
I’m hoping to get some of the AREC trail people to come up and try some of the sections, because it is really beautiful and a great challenge.