August 9, 2008
Last year had been very frustrating in doing this race, mostly because I had been unable to finish, and I missed the cutoff by a lot.
There were a number of things that were different one year later:
** I had a system in place to get electrolytes into my body more efficiently and timely.
** Todd Fanady got us on training runs to drink liquid every 10 minutes whether we felt we needed it or not. This helped quite a bit in remembering to hydrate.
** I had better protection from sun and on the shoes to avoid sunburn and pebbles in the shoes, respectively.
** The race director decided that there needed to be an interim aid station on that hellish 9 mile stretch between aid stations where I bonked last year.
I carpooled with a different AREC member, Rafael Covarrubias, who had done a few runs with the AREC Trail group. He was also doing the 50 miler, so wouldn’t have to wait quite as long as Laura, Chuck, or Todd F.
I tried to pace myself better this year and found that “pacing myself better” usually meant going slower.
The first stretch is mostly downhill, about 5.5 miles from the top of Mt. Wilson to Redbox (via Mt. Disappointment). I finished in 72 minutes (about 5 minutes off last year’s failure pace).
The next stretch is mostly flat, mostly trail and mostly downhill (the uphill paved part is at the very end) and another 5 miles. I finished that section in 1:10 (again, about 10 minutes slower than 2007).
My big concern was the next section, which is the long, steep accent up Mt. Josephine, about another 5 miles… and I treated the entire section like a leisurely walk. I had to remember that last year I was a good 2 hours ahead of the cutoff when I got back to West Fork, so if I was only losing 1-2 minutes per mile, I would still be ahead of the cutoff times. I did this horrific section in 1:21 (or about 16 minutes/mile)… but when I got to the top, I wasn’t dizzy or falling apart.
The next section (back to Red Box) was also of concern, as I had had to sit down and rest for 10 minutes, putting my head between my knees, both being tired and overheated. The temperature was eerily similar, but I didn’t feel QUITE as bad as last year, and got to Red Box (Mile 21) in a total time of 5:13 (no BQ here!
From Red Box to West Fork, it’s mostly downhill and flat, and SHADED. This was familiar territory, as we had run this section a few weeks prior (and I had done this section in training runs and in the failed Mt. D race last year and in the successful 50K in 2006. I finished in just over an hour (1:02) and continued on, being about 90 minutes ahead of the cutoff.
From West Fork to the next aid station in 2007, I met up with and chatted up the narcoleptic Summer Wesson (though, by now, not having that same issue). I wasn’t quite as delirious as last year and was not getting the little hints of cramps that had plagued me and cost me my finish. This 5 miles (of mostly uphill) took me 90 minutes, but I didn’t have to stop at the aid station for 45 minutes, so even though I had arrived about 20 minutes behind my previous year’s time, I left 25 minutes ahead of the pace AND NOT suffering from debilitating cramps.
The next section was, of course, my problem section from last year, with 3 miles of technical downhill (1000′ of loss) and 6 miles of steep uphill (2000′ of gain). I had little problem with the downhill, though spent a little time at the bottom of the hill making sure I was on the correct trail out of there. On the uphill, I caught a couple of runners. One guy, Mark Hirsh, was of a similar build to me (but maybe 6″ shorter), and the other was his friend, Kathy (his pacer, I guess). They were moving at a comfortable pace and we decided that sticking together would help us get through the section. The shaded water station about 3 miles up the hill, really helped (refill our water bottles and not struggle on the course).
We reached the top, Shortcut (Mile 41) in 10:45. It took us 3 hours to do 9 miles! After all my worry about missing a time cutoff (and hitting aid stations BEHIND my failed time from last year), I had an interesting comparison. In 2007, I got pulled from Mile 38 (short of the top) in 11:30. I was 3 miles further and 45 minutes faster! What also helped was that Shortcut was run by a bunch of my hasher friends, including Hozer and “See More.”
From Shortcut back to West Fork was totally unknown territory to me. All I knew is that I wanted to have probably 2-1/2 hours to complete the last 5 mile section (the one that I had traversed in 1 hour, 50 minutes in our practice run… when I was “fresh”). The time limit overall was 15 hours. I tried to move with some pace on the downhill (which, if steep, is difficult for me), but once I got to the bottom of the hill, there was a lot of crossing dry, rocky creek beds and my pace slowed quite a bit. Also, there were quite a few mosquitoes in this section, and Kathy & Mark had soared on ahead.
I caught them at West Fork and we started out again together, arriving in 12:06 (meaning that I had 2 hours, 54 minutes to reach the top). I thought I might need ALL the time to make it, or at least that I would surpass my longest run ever (the Santa Barbara 9 Trails 35M, which had taken 14:06).
I know what you’re thinking – it shouldn’t take you 3 hours to do 5 miles, even if it’s REALLY steep. Here’s the catch. It’s getting dark. You just don’t move as well in the dark. The going gets slow!
So, we three started off together, but I decided that I was going to walk up the entire hill, much as I had done for our training run. Kathy & Mark decided that there were sections where walking was not necessary (not that steep, flat, or even slightly downhill). I decided that I was not going to waste a mite of energy on these sections and just walk.
In another 20 minutes, I came upon Kathy & Mark trying to catch their respective breaths. I said that ‘maybe you shouldn’t have run any of the hill,’ and they said they’d catch me momentarily.
In another 30 minutes, it was starting to get dusky. I stopped for a moment and put my headlamp on and adjusted it how I wanted it. Even though it wasn’t dark enough to be necessary yet, I figured that doing it now would be better than trying to fumble around in the dark later (and in fact, I came upon some runners trying to do that exact thing).
The one bad part about doing this last section in the dark was that when it got really dark, you couldn’t tell when you were getting to the top of the treeline, so you had zero idea how close you were getting to the very top. When I started to hear voices and get a feel that I was near the parking lot, I got very excited, but was less excited when I realized that unlike 2006, when we got to the parking lot, we were done, the “new” course continued around the parking lot, up a ramp and a number of stairs and to the top of the “observation tower.” Yack.
But as I mounted the stairs and knew I was less than a minute from the top, I realized that I had finished… and that I would NOT surpass my longest run (by time) as I finished in 13:57:51. My time for the last 5 miles? 1 hour, 51 minutes. Almost exactly my “training” time! Mark finished about 15 minutes later.
- At the Finish Line… finally!
Rafael had to wait almost 2 hours (but he said that he had a nice rest while he waited). It was great finishing the course and getting the (Mt.) Disappointment Monkey off my back!