September 1, 2008

Ultramarathon race report

Skyline 50km Ultramarathon Race Report
August 3, 2008


Running an ultramarathon was a 30th birthday gift to myself, a way to motivate myself to train hard, the next step after two marathons (Chicago 2001 & New Orleans 2005), a way to stay busy during a long summer, and a way to dedicate myself to trail running. I had some ultra surprises: I had fun and did not get bored on the course; ultras make the marathon length seem reasonable; recovery was easier than road marathons.

Days before- Pretty big taper- only two 30 min. runs on Tuesday and Thursday. A bit nervous; hard to sleep 2 days before; got lots of sleep the whole week before; major hydration and carbo loading from Wed-Sat

Sunday morning-woke up at 4:40; ate peanut butter toast, coffee, some water, some Gatorade. Dressed, double checked that I'd packed all my running supplies. Picked up Jenica, listened to Ultra music mix (including Bruce Springsteen, Journey, and Coldplay), and drove to Lake Chabot.

At the Start- a little nervous and intimidated. Many racers seem very, very experienced with ultras. We were the new kids on the block, er, trail ;)

Start- pace was faster than I expected. peopled walked all uphills, including small ones at the start. Jenica and I separated after a couple miles. I pass a few groups of people who seem somewhat confident. Kinda gray and cool- great running weather.

1st aid station- having fun and feeling very fresh- legs and muscles (including my sometimes crabby calf). grab water. I get into a good rhythm. I run back and forth with a couple women- who again- seem to know what they're doing. I go ahead. I know it's the beginning and just relax. It's neat to race on trails that we'd trained on, and it was fun to recognize different trail junctions.

Bort Meadow- Nice rolling hills with some pretty views. I walk up some hills. It's still coolish. I cruise downhill- yeehaw. I'm aware that a couple women are close by, and i feel like I can stay ahead.

Big Bear- feeling good and proud of my efforts thus far. drinking plenty while running. happy to be out on the trails. A bit of trepidation about the next section till Skyline Gate cuz I know it includes some significant elevation gains. Cross Redwood Rd. and begin Golden Spike- great single track- fun running and nice rhythm. I dedicate my strides to Rosalie and my dad. Serious uphill at Canyon trail (after picnic area). Lots of walking. I really, really want to keep up the pace to get to Skyline Gate before 10am (14.4 miles in less than 3 hours) to see Mia, Dave, and Zeke :) This motivates me to push myself to cruise on the relatively flat ridge sections but still walk on some uphills. At moments my legs feel a little tired, but at times feel surprisingly loose for 11+ miles. I tell myself to get to mile 14 and really don't think about the other (17 miles!) half of the ultra.

Skyline Gate- This is the aid station where I take the lengthiest rest stop. Hugs from Dave and Mia, and Zeke's wearing his tracksuit. Major adrenaline rush to see people I know!! Stretching, water, cookie. Yes, I ate a cookie in the middle of a race; that's the beauty of ultras! Head out and back down (well, not really downhill) to Big Bear. WAY more uphills than expected. Pass one woman. Some gorgeous redwood groves with incredible halos of sunshine peeking through. Some technical stuff- jump (and barely make it!) over logs, cross creeks on rocks, etc, and more hills ;) Quick pee-stop on side of trail. Pass many hikers/families out for the day- some provide encouragement while others barely let me through. A fun downhill section that I do with an experienced male runner who encourages me. I realize I'm much closer to Big Bear (ie- mile 20) than I thought, which is super cool news! I'm not sure if I'd ever done a long, 20ish mile run and felt that good.

Big Bear- I get gu2O diluted with water and eat a mini peanut butter and jelly sandwich plus take an electrolyte/salt pill (I'd never used one of these before) and grab M and Ms :P I do a quick sponge bath on my head/face to cool off & get some gunk off. I start this section with the experienced male runner, and then I go ahead. I know the next section will require serious effort, and I don't put any pressure on myself to maintain any pace/speed (pace was only a consideration for getting to Skyline Gate to see the Lobel-Woulfin fanclub). At moments I worry about hitting the wall (but I don't) and solely concentrate on getting to Bort Meadow- mile 23. Big long uphills in direct sun that require walking, but I run fairly loose in between the hills. I keep reminding myself that there are many reasons why I will finish; this section required more explicit effort to remain focused on the task at hand. I force myself to drink fluids and review Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen lyrics. A couple trail patrol people as well as a few hikers tell me that I'm doing great, which makes me smile and maybe even run faster.

Bort Meadow- More fluids and get rid of trash. More M & Ms. Eager to do the 5 miles to Honker Bay. Five miles sounded short at the time, but it's a very, very long 5 miles. Did I mention that miles 23-28 are a long 5 miles?? A bit of uphill, including switchbacks, which I walk. Some flat sections that cross sand (not my favorite) with dragonflies (that I'm obsessed with) and near creeks. I'm still running with decent form and some semblance of a good pace on the flats. It's getting hot. Just focusing on getting to Honker Bay. I worry that I'm off track/lost, but each time I spy a pink ribbon--hooray. At some point, I'm pretty certain that I've passed the marathon length- and that feels major. A couple trail patrol people tell me that I'm looking good and that keeps me going.

Honker Bay- Super nice folks at the aid station. They check-in if I'm feeling alright, and I am. I ask if it's really downhill, and they say yes, for the most part ;) They explain that it's 2 miles and then a little more than a mile paved around Lake Chabot. I know that I'm running way farther than ever before, but it's super exciting to know that the finish line is just 3 miles away. The 3 miles takes awhile, and I'm not forcing myself to eat at this point--just want to get to the finish. Trying to take deep breaths, relax, and remind myself that I can do it. There are daytrippers who I run by, and I'm conscious of them wondering what the hell happened to me and/or look at what the cat dragged in. At moments, I need to force myself to stay in the moment and maintain lucidity. In one part of my brain, I imagine getting to the paved section and belting out a speedy mile. When I get to the paved section, a speedy mile devolves into retaining momentum and refusing to stop. In other words, it wasn't a mile-PR ;) But I kept the legs moving, received some encouraging words that the finish was close. I get to the turn to the finish bridge and attempt to pick it up and get my form together, somewhat. As I run across the bridge, I see the finish line and spectators. I push it in and am excited to see Jeff and to absorb the fact that I'm done. My time was 6:45.



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