October 18, 2014
The plan for today’s run is to make this my 20th 50 mile finish. (In another month or so, I plan to run my 40th 50K race, so it is important NOT to drop down to the shorter distance here.) I know this will be a tall order. In fact, I joked to Race Director Jessica DeLine that Lauren and I would like to start at midnight to give ourselves every advantage to finish (knowing my body and the course). She laughed, but probably didn’t realize that I was being serious.
I didn’t sleep very well on Friday night (no surprise, I never do) and then I left EXTRA early. (See post from 2012 where there was a fatality on the freeway and I was 45 minutes late to the start.) I used the Garmin GPS tool Marisa gave me… just in case there were any issues (also, they had posted a change in directions, which turned out to be a lot easier than the original winding through the neighborhood).
It was nice and cold at the start. I hoped that the coldness would last as long as possible, knowing that when the temperature warmed up, I would struggle in the heat. I greeted a few of my friends who were also starting early, including Lauren (who I made a special pace sheet for with her kids on the back) and Cherry Cheng (who I met here last year when they did a Fat Ass).
I also have a pace sheet (with Mom and Dad on the back for inspiration), but I know that even with an hour early start, it may be unrealistic for me to finish the race under the posted time limit (especially a month after my fall (though my scars are finally gone)), but I will do my best.
About 20 of us toe the line for the early start and off we go… up the hill. It’s slow going, like the past 2 years, but at least it’s nice to have some company part of the way (or at least hear voices). At the top, there may or may not be an aid station set up. Fortunately, because this entire section is mostly in the dark, I haven’t needed to drink a lot of liquid and will not be out of drink until at least mile 11.
The people are there, but they are not set up yet. I reach the top in 2:06, a little slower than in the past (just a few minutes). This is almost 20 minutes per mile, but there was over 3000 feet of elevation gain in these 6.5 miles.
The next section moves along a fire-road on the Main Divide. The net elevation gain is 100 feet, but I already know from experience that it is more like 1500 up and 1400 down, so I am not surprised by the hills. I just keep on keepin’ on and reach Mile 10.5 in 57 minutes (under 15 minute miles… to finish I have to maintain about a 17:30 pace, which my net pace is now slightly under). I say my greetings to Steve Harvey, but do not hang out long (other than refilling my water bottle) to stay on pace as long as possible.
This next section is West Horsethief and covers nearly all of the ascent I have so far covered… but mostly in the form of single-track (some of it Grape-Nut consistency)… and I believe I will have the (regular start) course leaders overtaking me on this section.
I am finding on some of the steeper downhill, that my sore foot feels even sorer, so I favor it a bit.
Fortunately, the race leader doesn’t overtake me until I get out of the hardest section and move to the double-track section, where there is more room for them to pass me. I note that a bunch of them are running shirtless (I would not run shirtless unless it was so hot that my shirt burned off!). The terrain is not such that people could run freely without hooking skin on trees (and there is poison oak, too).
This double-track section is going on forever. I am just waiting for the road by all the cabins; I know that the Holy Jim Aid Station is less than a mile away at that point. Finally, I see it. Yay!
When I get to the aid station, I assess where I am at: The past 4 miles took me 1:17 (and downhill, argh) and I am a few minutes slower than I was each of the past 2 years. Unless I can have a real good run (pun) at the Holy Jim Trail (3000′ climbing in 4 miles), I am headed for a DNF or 50K finish. Gisele gets here at about the same time and she looks really good. She is the 50K women’s leader and running with her is the 50M women’s leader. Maybe I will see them again on the next out-and-back section.
Now it’s time to head up the hill. The first part of the Holy Jim Trail is a very gentle uphill by some cabins… leading to the endless switchbacks and single-track trail. I am fortunate that the sun has not peeked through the clouds yet and it is relatively cool out. I am just trying to maintain an even keel.
I can remember from last year, when I averaged 45 minutes PER mile on this section. While I don’t have GPS, there are some 1/2 mile and mile markers on the course, so I can get a relative measurement on how I am doing on certain sections. (Any mile under 25 minutes seems pretty good at this point… earlier this year, I did Holy Jim Trail with AREC in about 2:07, about 28-30 minutes per mile.) I am getting passed periodically by regular start folks, but not at blazing speed; this hill is difficult for everyone.
After 1:44, I get to the unmanned aid station at the top of the hill. I am so-o happy with the time. What I thought at the bottom of the hill is coming to fruition. I think I can totally finish the 50 miler… but now I have to get to the top of Santiago Peak. There are two sections ahead that are super steep, both 1.5 miles and 800′ of elevation gain!
As soon as I emerge into the unshaded section, the sun DOES come out and my energy is instantly sapped and I am shuffling up the hill and drinking a lot of water to keep hydrated. When I get to Upper Holy Jim (listed as another unmanned aid station), there is no water to be found. At least I still have half a water bottle left… but if I continue to struggle, I will have to really ration water to make it to the top… I continue to struggle even having to stop a couple of times in the shaded sections and sit. On the way up, I see Ben Gaetos heading down. We stop and take some pictures. I also see Gisele. She feels pretty bad; she doesn’t think she will finish.
When I get to the top of Santiago Peak, I have just done 3 miles in 98 minutes, negating all of my good work. My average is over 20-1/2 minute miles. I am not confident that I will be able to accelerate, especially given the increase in heat. I decide that I will take the turn to do the 50K instead of the 50M; I have to be realistic.
I drink a lot of liquid at the top to rehydrate myself. I feel a lot better than I did before and can jog a bit down the hill. I make it back to the non aid station much faster than on the way up, but from here we take the Upper Holy Jim Trail back to the Main Divide rather than on the fire-road we came up. I am just behind a 50-miler who is dropping to the 50K as well. He brought his whole family out, but in the morning the car broke down and he is concerned that it may not have been fixed or that his family would have much of a fun day until it was fixed. I think he would have struggled in trying to do the 50M in enough time (since we are at the same point in the day, though he technically reached it an hour faster). We end up staying together on the trail until about 4 miles from the bottom (where he has either heard all of my stories or is bored of going so slow).
I finally reach the bottom in 10:24:30, which is 50 minutes faster than last time (last year I didn’t finish). I also get to the end before the winning 50M runner (but not by much). It is exciting to see the finishers. Turns out that Gisele did finish and was the fastest female finisher. I think she may have had the second fastest female time in the history of the course, too.
I got to see Lauren finish (always great to see a friend) and I also thought I saw the first female 50M finisher, but it turned out that she did not go all the way to the top of Santiago Peak (saving herself about 6 difficult miles).
I went over the day in my head and was maybe regretting my decision to drop down to the 50K (my 40th by the way), but then I looked at some of the splits. Had I continued on, I would have covered the same sections but in reverse (down Holy Jim, up West Horsethief, etc.). Even the best of the best averaged over 20 minutes a mile on that section. Now I know that I would have DNFed. I’ll find a different 50M (a flatter one, perhaps) for my 20th.