Aug 28, 2011

Bulldog 50km: Race Report

It's been 2 years since I've been running ultra marathons and the race that started it all was Bulldog 50KM in 2009.  It was my second long-distance race and first ultra.  It's been tradition that I have a go in this race after summer backpacking with little to no running.  After backpacking the Alps, where the trails are considerably steeper and more technical, I figured I at least had more strength in my legs that should have me finish it and hopefully better than last year.  
Start of the 50km
A major heat wave warning was given to residents of SoCal and it was expected that temperatures would crack the 100s.  The weather did not disappoint.  The heat cracked the 104F barrier during the race and everyone suffered.  That was evident by 3+ ambulance runs and a search and rescue operation for some of the participants on the course.  The course is completely exposed with absolutely no place for respite from the sun and it only got worse the longer one was out on the course, especially on the second 15.5 mile loop for the 50km runners.  
The first loop went relatively well with my calves still sore from a thursday run at the beginning of the bulldog climb so I had to adopt a run/power hike early on.  That turned out to be a blessing in disguise and it frankly made the 7000ft of climbing on the course much more manageable throughout the entire run.  I completed the first loop in around 2:15 and was feeling ok, knowing that the already difficult 2nd loop was going to be much harder with the hard sun and heat bearing down.  I had read some research on running in the heat recently on how keeping your carotid arteries cool (ie: with a wet bandana around neck) your perceived level of exertion decreases, but not so much your heart rate and blood pressure.  That means I could maybe push myself harder than under normal circumstances.  With that information I decided to try it out.
The second loop had me passing many 25km runners with several trying to find any nook and cranny of shade but my real motivation was to get to the cool Malibu Creek at mile 29.  My legs were surprisingly holding up better than they ever have but the stifling heat prevented a strong run from happening. I could hear my heart beat in my ears at times and going downhill was slower going because I didn't have the ab strength to keep my core stable for the 2nd loop while trying to gun it downhill.  I soaked my neck bandana and hat the few chances I had and if I didn't have ice in my one 20oz water bottle it would become hot water rather quickly.  I finally got to within .5 miles of the finish were I was desperately close to the 5hr mark.  Back in March I ran the reverse of this course in the Malibu Creek 50km and came in at 5hrs exactly, which was slightly disappointing.  I was determined to not come in that time this time so I pushed hard on the last section and was glad to finish in 4:58.59.  I collected my medal and sat down on one of park benches in the shade trying to hide myself from the suns rays.  
Megan ran in the 25km course and came 2nd for women after hitting a wall before prison hill.  She performed admirably considering she hasn't run since May because of a severely sprained left ankle that didn't recover fully until late July.  
I was soon surprised to hear my name being announced over the megaphone stating I came 2nd in my age group, 20-29 and 7th overall.  This certainly wasn't expected because the previous year I had been 28th overall. It shows you how much the heat took out of everyone and my improvement.
It was great to see the courage in people who braved the brutal conditions after a mild summer and complete the race.  They now know they can get through very difficult moments and personally I can't help but think that my backpacking experience played a huge role in the ability to handle the adverse conditions. 
What I'm thinking of next is the Twin Peaks 50 miler (13000 ft. of gain in the first 42 miles! eek!) in October and possibly the Chimera 100 miler in November.  My last semester of academia starts tomorrow!! Woohoo!
Face of agony when running hard the last 1/2 mile to get under 5hrs.  
2nd in age group plaque. 7th overall.


  1. BADASS MAN!!! I stumbled across your report. I was at this year's Bulldog 50k, wrote a report about it....a little over 8 hours. It was hell on earth. Good job in running strong and def agree that the creek was the only hope on the second loop

  2. Thanks, Alex! Congrats on completing the run. I can't have imagined being out there that long. Awesome job!


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