February 11, 2020
Oops I haven't updated here in months. I posted a thread to Twitter the other night, which I'm now going to post here since it's more appropriate here anyway (I was tired and lazy and on my phone). So here goes (with [edits]):
Yesterday [Saturday, 3 days ago] I did my first 50 mile ultra[marathon]. It was in California, near Malibu [Edit: The race is called the Sean O'Brien 50]. I woke up at 3:30am, left the house at 4:10, picked up @runviper [Edward] at 4:35, arrived at the start at about 5:15, before sunrise. It was cold, 40F [reminded me of home], and since the full supermoon was low on the horizon, dark.
You will see a lot of me making this face in this thread:
The start was supposed to be at 6:00 sharp, though I'm pretty sure it was 30 seconds late:
[That's the organizer with the megaphone, I believe. In the final race information email, there was a really thoughtful paragraph which stuck with me, I'll quote it here:
I believe we are capable of anything we set our minds to. If you visualize it enough, and work hard you can make it happen. Remember that it's a "gift" that we get to run on the trails. There are people who can't even get out of bed. You "get" to participate in an ultra. Enjoy the experience. Be in the moment, and just have fun. It will all come together on race day if you stay positive, and remember what a blessing it is to do what we do. Not even 1% of the population will ever do what you are going to do in less than 1 week. Pretty awesome when you think of it like that? See ya soon my friends!!
The first couple miles were crowded enough that I didn’t stop to take a picture. It went up a nice hill which made me feel powerful in my ability to climb it while running, then down the other side, through some more park, and then we arrived at a stream.
It was perhaps a small creek, but big enough that crossing it was tricky. There was a loose rope going across to help. A headlamp went flying and started floating down the water. I had a moment of heroism when I recovered it. I crossed with dry feet. Not bragging. After the creek crossing we started climbing again, and the sky started getting light.
and then the sun rose. Around this time I was able to feel my fingers again. I had thin cherry tree 10-miler branded gloves on but they could only do so much. This was almost an hour in, probably around 4 miles in, having climbed about 1500’
After we ascended another 10 minutes or so, the fog covering the Pacific came into view:
There was a photo-op moment going up over some rocks. Approaching it I figured that round thing would be a microwave dish or something but it was actually a light for a photographer.. I’ll see the results eventually I imagine. [edit: that photo wasn't great and too expensive to buy!]
[The] first aid station was about 7 miles in (hour and 40 minutes after the start). Mmm watermelon and oranges. Also potatoes and salt. Eating felt good. [Spent about 2.5 minutes here]
The next hour or so was mostly single track and had a good amount of variety. The charcoaled wood from the fires of last year offered a contrasting element to the blissful joy of the run.
At about 9am (3 hours elapsed, about 13mi, 3200’ ascent) after crossing above a tunnel, we arrived to the second aid station, which had expanded offerings from the first. Sandwiches! PB&J awesome! In hindsight I should’ve had some candy. Regretting not having candy. Getting warm.
There were drop bags at that aid station... dumped my wool shirt, headlamp, picked up sunblock. [spent about 7 minutes here] Soon enough it got very bright, and less photogenic. (note re: video — Spaceballs reference, had plenty of water):
After another hour or so (10:15am?) we crossed over a pass and could see the marine layer again. ~17 miles and 4300’ climbing cumulative...
10 minutes downhill and we arrived at an aid station. Lemonade, fruit, sandwiches, potatoes, consumed. @runviper made a taco, I questioned his judgment for eating beans, then proceeded to join him. No regrets [on the beans] (for me at least) [regrets on not eating candy]. [spent about 5 minutes here]
At this aid station they explained we were 19 miles in, we just had to do 3 miles down to the next aid station, then 8 more miles back up another trail, then the 19 miles back to the start. Legs felt pretty good... time to descend. Oof.
3 miles, 1500’ of descent, and maybe 30 minutes later, the cracks started to show. That tight IT band thing you feel sometimes? hello
eat eat eat [spent about 7 minutes] then back up the hill with full water, going back to where we were, in 8 miles instead of 3. Hey why is it so steep?
After having climbed 1800’ for an hour, you suddenly realize you’re on top of the wrong mountain [edit: but still on the course -- it is a torturous course], and the aid station is a tiny speck on the horizon. There is a gorge separating you from it.
The aforementioned IT/knee thing made the 800’ descent difficult, especially the steeper parts. So I was actually happy to be climbing again, which was good because there was 1000’ to go for the aid station
These 8 miles were brutal. The sun was strong, it was hot, and seeing the expanse between you and where you need to be was intimidating. And knowing once you get to the aid station, you still have 19 miles to go (which are largely downhill, ugh)
After having gotten to the aid station, food [nutella (gnutella) sandwiches, mmm. apparently they had run out of water too, but had since gotten more], ice in the face, etc [spending about 8 minutes], we continue on. There’s a small descent, a few hundred feet later I decide I must stop and get a rock out of my shoe. We are 31 miles in, 7300’ of ascent, it’s 1:40pm, there have been rocks in my shoes all day.
I probably also tried to stretch my IT. anyway we climb 600’ to go back over the pass, and look back at the ocean:
Now it’s just a short 6 miles to the bag-drop aid station. At some point around here I started using anti-chafe stuff everywhere i felt twinges. Seemed to work but could’ve been placebo. I was wincing on all of the steeper descent bits, not taking too many photos
Get to the mile 37 aid station, change shirts back to wool, grab headlamp. Eat a little but damn at this point I’m sick of food. [Should've started eating candy. changed socks, win. Drank cold brew coffee from drop bag. Both win. Also did some stretching of the IT. total time here was 13 minutes]
And another 6 miles of mid-afternoon. With 2000’ of ascent (not too gradual, plenty of my new favorite thing at this point: descent)
We get to the final aid stop at around 5pm (that 6 miles took a while!), just 7 miles to go! Stretch again here [spent about 8 minutes here -- total aid station time was about 50 minutes]
After this aid station it really got to be the magic hour:
and the fog and mist: