I’ve had a couple people ask how my first 50k went, and some even looked me up in the results but wanted the real story behind it. So here it goes…
Signing up for Calico was exciting all on its own. I had planned to do my first ultra in December 2005. Then on a trail run in October I rolled my ankle pretty badly, and ended up canceling those plans. So I moved the goal to that same December race in 2006. But being stupid I never really let the foot heal well, and had a constant ache (sometimes to pain) in the foot I had rolled — walking, running, or even just sitting around. So after it was pretty sore after an Ironman buildup and race, and meeting Mike and him starting to help make it better, I accepted that again it was not to be. So yup, in 2007 that same December race was calling me. But then I met a great trail running group, the Arroyo Trail Blazers (ATB) and started doing long trail runs with them. And I really liked my time with the group. So when they couldn’t all make the December date, and were thinking of January race instead, I set my sights on that one. And I’m definitely glad I did!
The night before the race the 14 of us doing it (yes, out of a field of about 200) all had dinner together in Sachi and Jon’s RV. And Mike and I stayed with them, a whole 5 minute walk from the start line. Race morning came, and I felt like I had slept for hours and hours! I was rested, and excited. But I was also sorta nervous, but not too bad, and not really about the distance. I felt no pressure at having a certain time or competitiveness, and just pressure to finish. I felt I had prepared well, and didn’t think that was going to be an issue. I did have a few other concerns — one being that my foot (the other one, not the old injury) had been a bit sore lately. But I gave it a number of complete rest days leading up to the race, and I thought it would be fine. I know I’m stubborn, so the dull kind of pain it had been wasn’t going to prevent me from finishing!
I wasn’t sure how to dress for it — I knew what shorts I wanted, and we were wearing our green ATB shirts, but tights? Long sleeves under the green? It has historically been a COLD race. In the end I went with the long sleeves under and the tights. I could have done without the tights, and I took off the long sleeves about 15 or 16 miles in, but it was windy and cold enough later in the race I was glad to still have them. I wanted to wear my Trifuel visor, but what gets cold on me easily running is ears. So I ended up leaving that in my drop bag and wearing the tribabe.com visor that Erika had given me at our last Gals of Slowtwitch training weekend.
Another concern was about carrying water and gels — I had no idea really how much water I’d want, and most of my training runs had “often enough” water spots that a small bottle (or sometimes even nothing) worked just fine. I was most comfortable running in my fuel belt, so I decided to go with that. I even learned on a training run that although a 2 bottle belt, my amphipod bottles can be added on making it into a four bottle belt if I really want. With aid stations about every hour, and it being a pretty cool day, on race morning I went with just the 2 fuel belt bottles.
But we had plenty of time in the morning, and got ready, and the four of us made it out the door. Jon on his mtn bike to take pictures of us, Mike ready for the 30k, and Sachi and I for the full 50k adventure! We headed up to the start, and met up with the rest of the “green shirts”.
We chatted, and drank water, and made bathroom runs, and soon it was almost time. Mike headed to the front, planning to see how well he could do and really push. The rest of us stayed where we were, knowing we’d have plenty of time to find our places in the pack. And it was time… and the countdown was done… but there was a slight delay as we waited for the starter gun and he had gotten distracted talking to someone 🙂 And then we were off!
I quickly noticed that although a slight down hill I was going faster than I thought smart, and I did my best to keep myself in check. A bit under a mile on the road, and then we were onto the fireroads. Most of the other ATBers moved on by me, and although it is hard to see people you do all your long runs with getting farther ahead, I just focused on what I needed to do. I chatted with some other people around me, and just enjoyed the beautiful morning. I had (ok I came up with in the first hour) a nutrition plan — a really complicated one of a gel on each hour, and regular watering. And although not really planned out ahead of time it was about what I had been doing on long runs, just making sure I started taking in gels even earlier in the run, and it ended up being about perfect.
About 8 or 9 miles in we were directed on an out and back, and the flow of my day was first interrupted. I knew it wasn’t on the course map (yes, I’m a map geek) and it threw off all my plans of where I’d hit aid stations, and when I’d be at the top of climbing, by a mile and a half. It was a tough mental point for me for much of the race. Even though the plan was to run 31 miles, and it was such a little percentage, for some that extra 3/4 mile climb out and the sighting of where other green shirts were in relation to me was just stuck in my mind for the rest of the day when things got tough. Luckily (for me) the guy next to me was more upset about it and voiced that he thought it was a bunch of bullshit, and that triggered my thoughts about how things like that happen, and for all I knew they had changed something in the course. So although it was a tough point, that reminder was joined with it in my mind.
And I kept on… well… keeping on. Climbing and climbing. Mostly on pretty nice fire roads. Some sandy spots, and some rocky ones, but generally nothing too crazy. I thought of Anton and how I was becoming an ultra runner, and it was ok to walk up things. And I did, running and walking and just keeping moving forward. And I was excited for how the descent would be on them. My foot got pretty bad for a while — during one of the rocky parts it basically was feeling like I’d sprained the ankle, and the sides were feeling swollen on top of that. So I accepted that it might be a longer day that I thought, and just kept going. Turns out it mostly stopped hurting soon after that — like my foot gave up on me responding to it. “Oh, even if I hurt I get to keep running? Guess I might as well just get it done”. And closer and closer to the peak I started seeing more of the green shirts, and ended up right back with my running buddies for a while. And some of them moved ahead, and and then feeling good, I ended up moving on a bit, but we were all in somewhat of a cluster for the rest of the day. And one of my favorite things was all the people who’d cheer for green shirt, or ask who we all were. I really liked that group connection. And I made it to the drop bags just before the top. Where I refilled my gels and that was about it — they picked the coldest, windiest part of the course! But with a great view (stollen from Quadrathon’s blog)!
So instead of dropping my gloves, hat, or long sleeves the hat and gloves went back on. Seeing the aid station marker (which claimed it was a good mile and a half earlier in the race due to the out and back) became something I stopped looking forward too. For the rest of the race, while I wanted the water, I didn’t like the reminder of that stupid out and back.
Then it was truly the top, and the descending began. But not so nicely as I had pictured it. Instead, after running up for almost 20 miles, it was a steep, rocky, slippery, deep, crazy descent to introduce our legs to the down feeling. Wow that was tough! But at the end of that chute we were rewarded with about 3 miles how I pictured the descent. Oh and I finally got to pee! It was a hard course to find a spot on, and finally I just picked a scraggly bush. I couldn’t see anyone behind me for a bit, and it had been miles since I had to go! But then back on course, and the rest of the day was rollers. I hadn’t realized how rolly the second half was going to be, and it was a lot harder than my brain had set it as being. But what was my goal again? Oh right, finishing. So I took it nice and easy, running where I could, and keeping up a good walking pace where I needed to walk.
I remember rollers, and just that same view. Although pretty, anything (mostly) the same gets old after some amount of time, and by about 5 hours the desert brush was definitely old news.
I don’t even remember what I thought about. Just moving, I think. In that zone of going forward. And occasionally wondering how Mike’s race had gone, and how tired he’d be. He had brought his mtn bike, and planned to join Jon and find people on the course and cheer for them. And while I kept hoping to see him around corners, I also knew it would be ok if he had rested instead. But then coming out of a particularly rocky section, they were there!
And it was definitely uplifting, and a new wind, and all that stuff. And although definitely starting to feel the miles (past mile 27, so I was in unknown territory) I think I started moving a bit stronger. I also knew the end had to be closer! Up and down, up and down, rolling and through a tunnel in a rock and more rollers and a last ridge.
Oh and I remember wind! The race felt like uphill, rocky, windy, or some comb of those. Especially on the final ridge — crazy windy!!
Then it was back on pavement for the final half mile or so. Including the ass-y-est climb ever! Steep, paved, and at the very end! So that we could finish on a slight downhill that took us through the Calico Ghost town.
As I relaxed through town, grinning like a crazy person since I knew the finish was right there, I hoped that the tourists and their children didn’t step in front of me, as things like “no brakes!” flashed in my mind. Luckily they didn’t, and I crossed right through at 6:17 and into a BIIIG hug from Mike! Accompanied of course by my giggly “I did it” excitement feeling and a lack of legs to really use for a bit 🙂
And then I cheered in the rest of my fellow ATBers and other racers, and then back to the RV for an AWESOME earned shower and into my pjs!
6:17:43 for 32.2 miles and about 4800ft of climbing
4/7 W18-29 (first 3 were SOOOO speedy — awesome!)
And yes, I’m already looking to see what one I might do next. Now that I am feeling better — I got sooo sick the week after the race! I kinda expected it: my throat had been a bit sore leading up, and I did pretty much trash my body, including my imune system. Still worth it!