Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Santa Monica Mountains 50K Race Report

PCTR puts on the best trail races and this year's Santa Monica Mountains race was no exception.  This race is a sentimental favorite for me because the 2008 version was the first time I met Billy and Lori in-person; we did the 30k together and I had a blast.  That was only my second trail run and it got me hooked on trails and led to my path of insanity ultra running.  Sarah and Michael put on another fantastic event this year and it made me so happy to be out there; they even brought in good weather to make conditions perfect for running.

Saturday was non-stop rain where I live and the forecast called for rainy and windy conditions for Sunday.  My boyfriend had decided against the 50K (okay, I told him no because I knew he was not trained for it and I didn't want him getting hurt) but was contemplating the 30K or 18K.  Unfortunately, the potential for rain caused him to back out and I definitely missed having him at the race.  The drive to Point Mugu made me worry about trail conditions and being out there for 7 hours but thankfully the skies cleared as I neared the race site.  Seeing how beautiful of a day it was made me wish I had tried to convince Alan to run and that hung over my head off and on during the day.  My heart and mind were not totally into running and I knew that my legs were not prepared for the distance.  However, seeing my running buddies before the start cheered me up and I knew that I would have fun out there.

Good looking bunch of fun people!

The course consists of 3 "loops" (with a section that is the same on out/back) and then a 9k out/back for a total of 5 significant climbs.  My plan was to take it very slowly and walk all the ups (ie. energy conservation, saving my legs) since I was very unprepared for the distance.  The first loop I ran with Stuart and, since we started very far back, we were bottlenecked at times and then behind a slower group for the first few miles.  We finally passed them after the first big climb and I just enjoyed taking in the phenomenal views.  I did not carry my camera since there was a chance of rain but Stuart got some great pics. :)  I was glad that it had rained because it made my least favorite section (meadow area with trail in a "v" making running hard) softer and easier to run without hurting my ankles.

Coming back through the "boulder" section, I was super cautious and Stuart ran ahead.  I took a moment at the first aid station to grab a Shot Block and a sip of electrolyte drink.  As I started the next climb at the start of the second loop, my coworker caught back up to me; he was going for his first ultra so I told him to walk the uphills and save his energy for the latter miles.  I powerhiked the up section and caught back up to Stuart; as we ran towards the aid station/turnaround, I felt good but realized my legs were already dead.  Running the fire road out was torture and I wanted to walk...not exactly the best feeling before hitting a seemingly endless technical climb. 

I pushed to the top and was very happy when I finally reached the downhill and entered the aid station after completing the 30K part.  Seeing Billy taking pics and having Sarah's friendly face asking if I was having fun motivated me to continue on to complete the 50K.

I filled up my water and was happy to see that I had done a better than normal job of hydrating.  I grabbed a couple of Shot Blocks, hit the restroom, and started back out on the 3 loop, which is the same as the 1st loop.  This time, I walked the entire first part as it's miniscule incline and my legs did not agree.  It was then that I realized I had not been eating (3 shot blocks over 19 miles); this is the first PCTR event where I did not grab candy, potatoes, etc. from the aid stations and from miles 18 to the end, I felt that mistake.  In the "boulder" section, I got very disoriented and started going the wrong way; thankfully, a fellow runner (Mike, a guy who ran Los Pinos 50K the day before...super awesome, tough guy!) yelled out and got me back on track.  However, with him ahead of me, I managed to do the same thing less than 0.25 mile later; I stood there wondering where on earth to go before climbing up on a big rock and seeing the right way and having to climb down and find my way to the next ribbon.  I felt pretty dizzy and unstable on the entire uphill section and even struggled on the flat meadow part, walking most of it and telling several runners to go ahead of me.

The fakest smile ever. 

I was very happy to get back to the aid station, see my friends, and head back out for the last 9K.  While I know others ran the gradual uphill, I again walked all of it.  I ended up with another runner as we were both just trying to get through the race; I hated letting other runners pass me but I knew that my objective was to finish, not to race, and so I didn't even try to push harder.  When we hit the turnaround, I was so happy to have less than 3 miles to go; I walked any of the uphills on the return but cautiously flew on the downhill...I had my doc's voice in my head reminding me to take it easy on the downhills and I obeyed.  The wind gusts slowed me down at times but I realized I had a chance of finishing around 6:30 and I cautiously pushed the pace to make that happen.  About 0.15 from the finish, I lost my concentration (I was irritated with a runner who stood in the middle of the trail seeing me coming but not moving until the absoulte last second); I took a very hard fall, slamming my face, hands, elbow, knees into the ground but jumped up so as to not lose any time.  I crossed the fnish line in pain, quickly said hi to Billy, Lori, and Emil and walked to the bathroom to assess the damage and clean up. 

I felt very dizzy and out of it and Emil commented on the amount of salt on my clothing.  It was then I realized another mistake; somewhere around mile 18, I stopped taking salt capsules.  By now, I should have learned how to eat, drink, and replenish electrolytes but yet I made the same mistake I've made other times.  In retrospect, I wonder if my crappy feeling for the last 12 miles was due to nutrition and not a lack of endurance/traning.  I guess I'll get a chance to figure that out soon when I run another 50K. :)

Final results- 6:30, good enough for 6th female and 29th OA (out of 70 finishers).  It's not my personal worst (what I anticipated) but it's far from my personal best.  However, I had a lot of fun out there, had a wonderful time during and after with my old running buddies, made some new running buddies along the way, and enjoyed gorgeous weather in one of the prettiest parts of the country. 

(all pics courtesy of Billy and Stuart)


  1. Definitely going to be putting some PCTR races on my calendar this year...

  2. OMG you had dead legs...that would be just about when you were smoking me on the climb!

    You were looking good all the time I was with you though!

  3. Awesome job out there Rach! Yes, it was a sweet sweet day to be running on the trails. Next time tell Alan to HTFU and join us!

  4. Wow, congratulations on running strong - even with a fall.