I had a cut out of the elevation profile with aid station points that guided me on this exploration of local mountains. The first 21 miles was a lollipop loop that proved to be as rocky and technical a course I've run. I was feeling pretty good from the get-go and just rolled with it. I didn't hold back or push it and tried to be in flow with the single track and not fall. It was actually kind of pleasant to start downhill just because it gave myself enough to warm up for the hills. I was running alone from the get-go and that's the way it would be until the end. I arrived at the 21 mile aid station in a relatively comfortable 3:12 and in good shape, got a kiss from my sweetie, and was off. I was a bit nervous going into the next section because at Ray Miller this is where I started to feel like crap and I guessed it might have been a nutrition thing. So in this race I adjusted my calories/salt accordingly and was hoping that would help me stay in a neutral place.
|Early downhill. Photo: Pedro Martinez|
|My babe at 21 miles. She literally just woke from a nap in her car. Photo: Jayme Burtis|
I soon caught Kurt Whittington, who was in 6th on the subsequent climb to the Trabuco Trail Aid Station, and we would soon be passing each other back and forth until mile 34. The 5 mile rocky and technical descent down Horsethief Trail is where I experienced my first lowish point of the day even though it wasn't as deeply felt in previous races. Fellow Coyotes Chris Hays and Pedro Martinez coincidentally were also running down as well which made for a short distraction. I was trying to manage the very rocky descent with as little effort as possible to save myself for the next climb. So I was running 8-8:10 miles and in hindsight I need to learn how to run downhill a lot better, because times like that aren't going to help. Consequently, a much better downhill runner and Ironhorse (as I refer to him), Tom Nielson, who finished 14 seconds ahead of me at Ray Miller 50, passed me near the bottom of the descent. I was secretly hoping that I could reverse the tables on him in this race. After some hikers saw me unknowingly expose them to my privates while I was taking a brief leak I smiled and continued on. I still wasn't feeling all that great and all I could think about was the 4000ft up Santiago Peak coming up: the crux of the race.
|Photo: Jayme Burtis|
I started Holy Jim a bit slow shuffling my way through the multiple stream crossings and what seemed like tons of hikers. I was soon able to see the multitude of antennas thousands of feet above and I guessed that was where I was headed. After that harsh reality, I told myself to not look up anymore. I established a run/hike strategy that allowed me to climb the ascent at 15-16 min/mile for the next 8 miles. Boy, what a place to put a climb like that in a 50 mile race. After seeing the top 6 men ahead of me barreling down the peak I finally made it myself bringing sweet relief with the only thoughts of not getting caught the final 15. I then allowed myself to finally open up my stride and bust it downhill.
|The look of exertion at the top of Santiago Peak. Photo: Mieko Morita|
The seemingly quick descent gave way to rolling hills with continued stiff sections of climbing. I employed my run/hike strategy and really just plugged along keeping my eye behind me just in case someone wanted to make a run at me. I also brought my average per mile time down to where I wanted it to be so I just maintained and kept pushing along. The final climb of the race approached and at the top was the last aid station. It was wonderful to see and I could smell the sweet, slightly tangy, flavor of the finish.
As soon as I started the descent I started running harder than I did all race. I wanted to get to that finish and I knew there was no pressure from behind either so it gave me a chance to reflect on the race a bit and appreciate what Steve Harvey put me through. I finished the race strong and let out a whoop when I was in sight of the finish. I crossed the line in 8:31 placing 7th overall. What a joy it is to experience a journey such as this all while achieving goals and coming away healthy. Again, Tommy Nielson was one place ahead of me. Grrr. I'll see if I can turn the tables on him at AC100. Huge congrats to Chris Price for running like a stud and establishing a new course record, Dom for running a course PR just coming off a calf strain, and to Keira Henninger for being the 1st female to cross the wire.
|A few yards from the finish. You may not tell but I'm soaking it in.|
I knew this race was going to be tough and it was the hardest I've run so far. I was unsure how my body would react going into this race 4 weeks after a hard Ray Miller 50 but now I know. I felt good from the beginning and I adjusted some race day strategies which I learned from the last race and subsequent training runs. And I can say with complete certitude that it made a huge difference in how I felt throughout the entire race. Things like tailoring my salt intake to meet my needs; if anyone's ever seen my face following a long or hot run I excrete an unusually high amount of salt. With that adjustment I didn't experience the aches in my joints to the degree I normally do, was able to run some of the the final ascents, and overall had no significant highs and lows. To my surprise music didn't really do much for me so I turned it off and just ran in the moment. After two of my best 50 mile races in a span of a month I'm ready for a temporary change in venue. The Boston Marathon is 3 weeks away and I'm excited to tackle the one road marathon I run per year. I return to trail races in May and my training continues up the hills of the Santa Monica mountains on the weekdays while the weekends will be in San Gabes.
Overall, my performance has improved quite a bit since I started training in December and I'm excited to see what that means in 100 mile races. I'm fully aware of what consistent training can do to performance and I'm excited to see it paying off early. I have to continue to eat well, train right, listen to my body, and enjoy the process. I feel I'm just starting to get my running engine established and I feel there is still a lot more to give in the coming years and only smart and hard training is going to expose that. That's why my intuition is telling me to run Bishop in late May and use the next 2 months to solidly train for an all-out effort for AC, where I am happy to announce Sim will crew/pace me! San Diego 100 is 70/30 a no-go, but I'll hold out until the last minute.
On another note, Sunday I picked up the stomach flu with Monday being absolutely awful for me. Fortunately it only lasted 24 hours and it didn't really effect my training, even though I still can't run downhill <8 min/mile without getting some unwanted bowel movements from my GI system (sorry Westridge).
The New Balance MT110 performed flawlessly and I'm really impressed that they supported me through terrain like this and with no injuries to speak of. Not to say it's 100% the shoes but minimalism is something I believe in and works (see above).
I also want to give a shout to Jayme Burtis for these great memories using his camera.