Longest and farthest I’ve ever run in my life, with cramp management starting as early as mile 18-20, and starting to feel like I was in trouble by Skyline Gate at 25 (though I knew a lot of that was from the gradual uphill getting there).
Really started to feel like I was bonking by the time I got to the Lake Chabot aid station at Mile 38. Then couldn’t believe I missed the turn onto Proctor twice at Mile 40!!! Only real silver lining was that this snapped me back to reality; had to tell myself that staying mentally checked in is part of the game.
Return to Cull Canyon was even more brutal than expected. The 1000+ ft climb over 1 mile in 1-2PM heat was just horrible. I’m glad I had a taste of this oven 3 weeks ago, otherwise I would’ve been even more miserable.
Surprised I still had some juice left in my legs to overtake 3 people during Miles 50-52 for a running finish (huge thanks to them for letting me pass on the single track!).
§ OVERALL EFFORT & TRAINING
Overall — Max effort comparable to what I normally put in for a non-priority race, though the pain this time was obviously different — this was the first time I’ve had to dig in for the long haul quite this way.
Given how totally wiped out I was afterward, I’d have to say that this was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life (though now that I’m writing this, the memory of how much suffering this was is already melting away 😂).
That said, I also kind of expected getting #rekt given how undertrained I currently am: I’ve only been averaging 33 miles/week and 2300 weekly feet of run-climbing for the 8 weeks since Skyline 50K! With only about 25% of those miles were on trail. I was really banking on my existing base and trail experience to get me through this race.
§ RACE MANAGEMENT
In terms of race management — I’m surprised I didn’t have any major, debilitating issues throughout this race (like cramping everwhere at the Tamalpa Headlands 50K last year, and just horrible bonking trying to pull off a 50K the week after a A-race marathon, 2 months ago).
Of course, my body threatened me with cramps, side stitches, dehydration/heat exhaustion, foot problems, and GI issues — but overall, none of those really killed me until the very end, when I pretty much went for broke and had my left hamstring seize up on me with 0.6 miles to go (my left hamstring was already have trouble by Mile 8).
Heat exhaustion really only started to settle in during my wrong turn after Lake Chabot, which caused me to run out of water before reaching Redwood Road aid. Then it got worse during the exposed Cull Canyon climb.
As for food, I planned to eat more solid food at the beginning, switch to gels, then only liquid food by the end. But I definitely went out too fast, meaning that I didn’t have time to eat solids. So I started with Gu’s, which was fine.
Incidentally, my body started to reject gels pretty early on (e.g. that throwing up feeling when trying to force food down) — maybe around Mile 20. Meaning I had to start relying on the Gu mix pretty early on too.
Despite having trouble keeping gels down, I was still able to eat chips on the return trip. Specifically, I realized I was losing way too much salt (like my face, hair, shirt, and vest was so caked with salt that my own sweat tasted like a concentrated salt lick), that I started to eat kettle chips dipped in salt by the time I got to Skyline Gate (Mile 25). I continued to do this at the next few aid stations (Big Bear, 29.6; Bort Meadow, 32.2; Grass Valley, 34.3; Lake Chabot, 38.3; Chabot Staging/Redwood Road, 43.8, though this was actually 45.8 for me).
One thing I realized I really missed are ice baths, i.e. pouring ice-cold water over my head. Because there were sponges at Chabot Staging (43.8) and Bellhurst Lane (47.8) aid stations, and my god, I didn’t realized how overheated I had gotten until I felt that cool ice water on my head. This really saved me during the super-hot Quicksilver 50K last May. I have to figure out a way to make this portable to more races.
§ UP NEXT
I have to decide whether I’m still doing the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler next month. It’s even harder than this one: more vert, more technical, fewer aid stations, less forgiving cutoff (if it comes down to that).
Then I’ll have California International Marathon (CIM) 2 weeks after. Then potentially another marathon in Chiang Mai 2 weeks after that.
Have to keep my eye on being prepared for my next “goal” race, though… if I thought this was hard (and I had friends and “crew” today), then the Tarawera 102K next Feb in Rotorua, New Zealand…