As per usual, it takes me a little while to collect my thoughts and write my big-deal race recaps. I attempted to start writing this recap earlier but I wasn’t quite ready yet, but I am now :).
Sean & I had been taking about my running a 50k for a while, we had originally thought about running the Black Canyon 50k in Arizona on Valentine’s Day. I was really considering it for a while until after my not so fun experience in Vegas and subsequent low mileage in December. There was no way I would be ready for a 50k in February and Sean was running the Sean O’Brien 100k the week before. So we looked for another race and after looking for a while we decided that Leona Divide was a good choice. It was between the LA Marathon & Mountains to Beach so I should be in better shape than in February.
And interestingly enough, the Leona Divide 50 mile race was Sean’s first ultra as well back in 2013 so it was fitting that it should be mine as well.
So the LA Marathon came, I did decently on relatively untrained legs, then I got sick with a mild version of the flu. Being sick knocked me out of running for a good week and even after that for the next week – 10 days, my asthma and lungs were not cooperating. Also during this time, I moved to San Diego. I set up my home office and got acclimated to working remotely, basically it was a busy, happy but stressful time.
In the weeks after LA, Sean & I would run on a lot of trails. I would battle with my body, that wasn’t happy with my nutritional choices, the hills and just plain fatigue. I did not feel prepared at all. Especially when running 10 miles on the trails was the farthest I’d gone in about a month and it felt hard and exhausting. I contemplated dropping out but I knew no matter what, I could do it. There was a 14 hour time limit and even if I had to walk most of it, I could do it. Now, I didn’t want to be out there anywhere near 14 hours, but it did make me feel a lot more comfortable since there wouldn’t be any racing the clock like in Las Vegas.
And finally, the week of the race arrived. I don’t typically do a traditional taper any more since we are pretty much always running, but I didn’t really run that much prior so I just did my normal routine. Sean & I ran together on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, then drove up to Palmdale on Friday afternoon. OMG, what a long and traffic filled drive. I have determined that I’m not a fan of being in the car for over 2 hours anymore – lol.
We finally made it up there and went looking for a place to carb load. I love to eat pizza before I race, but we were having a hard time finding a decent pizza place so we ended up at Olive Garden, which is not a bad place to carb load :).
The next morning we were going to have to pick up our packets at the start so we set our alarms for 3:30am to leave the hotel by 4:30am at the latest. I set out all my gear and then headed to bed. There is a lot more to think about when you are running an ultra – you are able to have drop bags with whatever you might need along the way. I had two very cool drop bags, love my lululemon bags.
We drove about 30 minutes to get to the starting area, it was chilly by the time we got there, about 42 degrees. I wasn’t really prepared for super cold in the morning, I had my track pants & jacket for when we walked down to the start but I forgot my hat and gloves, oops. Fortunately they weren’t needed once we got started. Last year, Sean said it snowed a bit around mile 5 – 6, thank goodness that didn’t happen this year :).
So we got our packets, picked up our shirts and other race swag and then headed back to the car to warm up for a little bit before going to the start area. When we got back to the starting area, we were going to hit up the restrooms, there was a huge line, however, we got super lucky, because the port-a-potties arrived just as we got back so we were first in line and for probably the first time ever, got to use freshly cleaned port-a-potties, which was really nice.
It was time to get in line at the start area. They made a bunch of announcements that I couldn’t hear but basically they were saying, stay hydrated & fueled. There were 3 aid stations, one of which we would pass 3 times. And most importantly, they were not stopping cars when you had to cross the street so to be very cautious and pay attention.
So after all that it was time to go. We made our way up the first hill on the road before hitting the trails. The first 3-4 miles went really well, we started climbing a bit around mile 4 so there was some walking before we hit mile 6 and started running downhill, which was awesome, although it was pretty steep in mile 7, which was our fastest mile at 8:51! Not too far after this we would hit the first aid station, Bouquet Canyon, which was the 50k turn around and where the 50 milers would keep going.
At this point I was feeling pretty good. I refilled my bottle with Gatorade, took off my long-sleeve shirt and we headed out again. We were heading up the hill, running when we could, passing people coming down the hill so we would stop and let them go before heading on. It was between miles 11 – 12 that things would start taking a turn and some burnt toast moments would start to derail me.
At one point, I tripped over something and lost my footing, which would end up with me pulling something in my left hip. And this was the time when we hit the steep hill so we walked a lot during this point. Towards the middle of this section, I started to feel sick, very very nauseous. I tried drinking more Gatorade and having a ProBar Bolt chew but it just made me feel more like I was going to be sick. Sean gave me his water and took my Gatorade saying that the water would be a lot better for me. We kept going, and were on a downhill starting at mile 13 so I walked & ran until we got to the next aid station.
I would have loved some Ginger Ale, but they didn’t have any. I had a small cup of Coke, a piece of watermelon and a few potato chips thinking maybe I needed salt and then we headed off. The next 7 miles were the toughest of the whole race. First it was pretty hilly at the beginning, my stomach was not happy for most of this time – those potato chips were a really bad choice as well as the Coke most likely and then I tripped a second time. This time I totally pulled a muscle in my back and I could feel it lock up to the point where if I tried to run, it would just keep tightening.
I was a mess, but I was determined even if I had to walk I was going to finish. Poor Sean stayed with me the entire time, running a little bit and then stopping to wait for me, then running. At this point it was getting warmer and it was soooo dry out, I wasn’t feeling any sweat at all. We finally go to the downhill to head to the next aid station at San Fransquito Rd. I was just running down the hill taking it very easy.
We got to the next aid station and I ate about 8 pieces of watermelon, which was pretty much the only thing that I could eat without feeling like I was going to throw up, filled my bottles with water and ice and then we headed off for the last part of the race.
We fast hiked up the hill and then started running again. I was feeling better for the most part. We ran then walked then ran some more. About 2-3 miles from the next aid station, I started getting really tired so we walked a bit more. We finally after what felt like a long long time got to the last aid station. They were out of watermelon 🙁 but I did try a boiled potato which seemed to be a good fit. At this point there was just 2.6 miles left.
A few of the 50 milers were dropping down to the 50k at this spot and one guy asked us if we were dropping, to which we were like uh, no we are almost finished we’ll get there. We took off, I ran as much as I could and then we got to some hills, which I’m not ashamed to say I walked. I was so so tired by this point but determined to finish! We got down to the road and started running down. I stopped to walk a few short sections and soon we were seeing my car and the finish line was almost in sight!
When we got close there was a girl with a cowbell saying that this was the last turn and there it was – the Finish Line!! Sean & I crossed the finish line, hand in hand. We gave each other a quick kiss and then got our medals.
Finish-line Photos by Stphanie Plomarity Photography.
And I was now an ultra marathoner!
Our official time was 8:03:26, which was an average of 15:35 per mile with over 4,000 feet of climb.
*My feet felt great – I wore my Altra Superior 2 shoes and I had no issues with my feet. They were super dirty but there was no pain, just a little fatigue :).
*The volunteers were amazing! Thank you all so much for being out there to keep us hydrated, etc.
*Sean staying with me the entire time. He crushed the 50 miler the year before in under 10 hours so for him to stay with me for the whole race even though I was crazy slow, was huge. I love you, babe!
*The course itself was amazing, it was well groomed, the vistas were beautiful and it was fun being out there!
*My nutrition, I need to really work on this.
*Feeling sick most of the race, not a good feeling.
*Not feeling confidently trained.
Things I learned…I am so capable of this, I just had a few mishaps, i.e. Burnt Toast Moments, that I think I can avoid next time. And there will definitely be a next time. I love being out on the trails and I can’t wait for my next race. There are a few things that I need to do to ensure a better experience. First and foremost, I really need to dial in my nutrition. I really need to figure that out because it’s been an issue as of late. Secondly, I’ll train more appropriately for the race, with more long runs out on the trails. I already have another 50k in mind for the fall so while I am so very proud of myself, I am ready to go out there and have an even better fully trained experience!