With a 6:00am start, my alarm went off right before 4:00 so I could eat my standard sweet potato breakfast. I didn't sleep well the night before, which is not unusual, but exacerbated with the guys only arriving at the hotel at 1:00-ish. The plan had been that T and I would take my truck, and they would ride their bikes. Of course the Ducati couldn't possibly make it, so they had to turn around at Ukiah and grab J's car to set out again. They were really very quiet but it doesn't take much to wake me before a race. We set out at 4.45 to get to Laguna Seca for check in, and then the waiting game. We had a slightly delayed start when the crew for the first aid station got lost on their way there, and they wanted to make sure it was set up before the first runners got there. At 6:09 we were on our way through the dark.
|Sunrise on the trail|
0 - 20.9
The first few miles were mostly downhill, which usually has me heading out too fast. It was still dark, so running by flashlight forced me to slow down and take my time. My stomach wasn't delighted with me, but didn't cause any real issues, and my tailwind tasted great so I just sipped away and took it as another reason to take it easy. Every time I found myself picking up the pace I would remind myself we had a very long way to go. Before I knew it we were at the first aid station (5.8m) with wonderful cheery volunteers. My pack was still good, and I wasn't hungry so they quickly sent me off in the direction of the next trail. Here we met the first of the sandy areas that were not going to be my friend for the day. Sand hates runners, and my poor feet certainly paid the price over the course of the day. Every time I would hit deep spots I thought about how I would ride across and tried to apply some of that to the track I picked for myself. Luckily there weren't too many sections like this, and it seemed like no time at all that I was cruising into the aid station at Sandstone (10.5m) for the second time for a cup of water and a cookie to take with me. We had one more loop up here on some fun trail that felt like a maze to short-arse over here. The sun was shining, everyone was cheery, and everything was going swimmingly. Back at Sandstone (17.1m) the volunteers filled my pack with tailwind that they had premixed for us, while I got some water and a handful of M&Ms for the trail (peanut kind - blergh). Less than four miles to the next aid station, and I was feeling really good. It was getting warmer so I was very conscious of drinking enough, and keeping my pace steady, power hiking the uphills, pushing a little more on the downs, and just cruising at an easy pace when it was flat. There was a lot of gravelly fire road which was eating into my feet a little, and I was very glad I opted for the more cushioned Lone Peaks than my usual favourite Superiors. I rolled into Skyline aid station (20.9) a little ahead of schedule. I ate some salty potatoes, a cup of water, and got some water on my buff to cool my head a little. I have commonly heard that "if you start to feel good in an ultra, don't worry, you'll soon get over it". I was about to learn this for myself.
|Yuck - this section wasn't fun|
Heading out from this aid station was some fun single track. I was with some 50k runners at this point and it was nice to have company but being out in front I found I was settling more into their pace and pushing more than I wanted or needed to be. I kept trying to let them come through so I could drop back a little, but everyone was happy with the pace I was running. After a little while I took a quick break behind a bush which put me back in my own little pocket where I could pay attention to what I was doing. I hit the marathon point at 5:58 and shortly after came into Creekside aid station (26.7m). I was having some trouble with my bra strap chafing at that point and two of the amazing volunteers conferred and patched me up with KT tape while a third refilled my pack, and got me on my way. Not long after though, I started feeling a little nauseous, and every time I tried to run my stomach gurgled at me and I got a lump in my throat. I was glad I could still get my tailwind down, but about a mile out of the aid station I realised my hands were painfully swollen, and the rest of me was swelling quickly. Shortly after, the puking started. I got more concerned when my vision was getting blurry. I had no plain water to dump on my head, and there was very little shade. Even though it wasn't scorching hot, it was very exposed and not what I'm used to. I'm aware heat management is a problem for me, and this turned out to be a good trial run for me on how to handle it. I got pretty miserable on this section, crouching in any shade I could find, and resisting the urge to lay in the long grass under a tree off trail. I kept myself moving forward, with lots of people stopping to check on me, even passing mountain bikers were asking if I was okay, and three riders came by and asked how I was doing. I lamented not having my pony there, and one of the guys actually offered me his horse. I explained that would get my disqualified and although I felt like death warmed up I was determined to keep on going. I kept pitifully plugging on, not even able to jog the downhills, and finally finally made it to the Toro aid station (33.1m). Once there, it was pointed out that I needed to sort myself out or I wouldn't be able to continue. They had a bucket of ice water, and I started sponging myself down, dumping my head in, and chugging water and some ginger ale. I had managed to drain my whole pack (two litres) in the 6.4 miles since Creekside, but since I threw a lot of it back up I was really dehydrated. I rolled my buff into a headband, and filled it with ice and wore it Rambo-style. Someone suggested filling my bra with ice, which was perfect. While I was taking care of me, somebody got my pack filled back up, and I was ready to go. I took my time on the next short stretch of trail, then we started climbing. I had grabbed some PBJ to munch on my way out, I wasn't going to be able to catch up on calories on tailwind alone, and I couldn't believe I was only half way. That thought was shoved to the back of my head and I just focused on the trail in front of me, eating my picnic, and kept on drinking. I had my power-hike back, and by the time I hit the top, I was feeling great (which was convenient with the photographer up there!). I set off down the hillside, and was amazed at how quickly I recovered when I had been convinced I would have to drop out. Ice is magic stuff! I was moving along well and having fun, even caught myself trying to run up some of the smaller hills. Bad idea - still a long way to go! I tried not to think about how much the hill I was climbing into my next aid station was going to feel in another 20 miles, and rolled into Laguna Seca aid (39.2m) in about nine hours. Another pack refill, and some more delicious PBJ (I don't even like peanut butter?), and I took off down the hill for my second loop.
We were back on the fire road for this section, but the temperature was dropping and there was shade so I felt good. The rocks were starting to bug me though, and I could feel something happening in my feet, but chose to block it out. Although I had stopped using my phone for pictures, I saw I only had 5% battery left. I tried to call the guys, and sent J a text to let him know that I was still on track to finish around 10pm. I came back into Skyline (42.3) and got my buff re-wetted, but didn't take ice - I didn't want to go the opposite direction and get hypothermia with cooling myself too much when the sun went down. Some water, ginger ale, and peanut M&Ms (which I don't usually like but found myself craving) and I was out of there in no time. I wanted to try to get to the next aid station before it was dark enough to use my flashlight, and realised if I kept going like I was I could maybe get my 50 mile split under 12h30, which would be a huge PR (I ran a 15 hour 50 miler at Headlands last September and a DNF at Lake Sonoma in 2012 when I had no idea what I was doing). I could feel the pressure in my feet building, particularly my left. I didn't want to stop on the side of the trail, once I start sitting I keep sitting, and then I cry, which was not allowed to happen today. I made the decision that I would sit at the aid station just long enough to adjust my shoe laces to take the pressure off, then get up, and there would be no sitting on trail at all. While this was very good for me mentally, I really should have loosened them right away, my poor left foot is still sore and a little bruised from swelling but having nowhere to go. I had to turn my torch on before the aid station, while I could still see, it was getting too dark to see the ruts in the trail and I didn't want to fall. I got to Creekside (48.1m) and handed off my pack to be filled while I sat to fix my shoes. Someone asked how my feet were and did I want to take my shoes and socks off to check the damage, but I opted not too. I worried that if I saw what was happening I would obsess on it, whereas I was currently able to shut it out of my mind most of the time. I nearly rolled over backwards getting up from the chair, but righted myself, and got on my way quickly. I hit the 50 mile split in 12:38, which I was pleased with. Even with the shoe adjustment and getting food I was in and out in under five minutes. Now I was out of the sun the next trail was a lot more fun, although at times I was a little unnerved at running in a strange area in the dark by myself. At one point I was convinced I heard something and spooked myself, so started singing loudly and terribly. Apologies to anyone who heard my awful rendition of Bennie and the Jets, complete with incorrect lyrics! Once I got down on the flat section leading into the Toro aid station I lost my mojo a little and was walking, but making sure I had purpose in my stride, and would run a little every now and again to keep myself going. The lights caught up to me; it was a runner and his pacer. We walked along chatting for a few minutes, then J, the pacer, told his runner, C, that it was time to get moving. He asked if I had a little more run in me, and I found that having company had perked me right back up and I came in to the aid station with them (54.6m). This was our last aid station of the race. My pack was about half full, so I declined a refill, I didn't want more weight than necessary. I gladly accepted a cup of warm chicken noodle soup (something else I don't usually like), and then went back for another. It was getting chilly, so I rolled my buff down over my ears and put my arm warmers back on before heading back out into the dark. C and J had some things to take care of, so I set out by myself. Just out of the aid station I saw a volunteer who mentioned that there were three runners about five minutes ahead of me. We were about to head up the big hill again so I knew I wouldn't catch them, but it was nice to know I wasn't completely on my own. The hill felt much longer this time around, but I made it fairly well. Near the top C and J caught up to me again, and we stuck together the rest of the way in. J was great at motivating me as well as his runner. The last three miles seemed to go really quickly and really slowly all at the same time. Finally we made the last turn, and I pushed on as much as I could. My feet were on fire, and my hamstring was trying really hard to cramp on me, but I could see the finish. I crossed the line in 15:48:38!
|With C and J at the finish line|
I was a little sad to see that J, T, and Princess weren't around to see me finish. After I picked up my swag (my new favourite hat, a t-shirt, finisher's medal, age group medal, and pint glass!) someone loaned me a phone to call them. At Headlands they had gone out to an aid station to try and see me, and didn't know I had passed through until I text them saying I was three miles from the finish. I hoped that hadn't happened again. Turns out they were stuck in road construction two miles away. I hung around drinking more hot soup, and completely spaced that my truck was probably still in the car park, complete with a blanket and my sweats from the morning. Once we set out I had P drive my truck so I could ride in the mini - windows that sealed properly and a good heater sounded nice. I snuggled up in J's huge coat (it's big on him and he's 6'4 and 100lbs more than me lol). I was wearing my buff still, forgot my sunglasses were on my head, and put my new hat over the top. Add in my batman socks and gaiters, the dirt on my face, how flushed I was from the sun, not to mention the stench, I certainly turned heads at In'N'Out Burger. Ah well, I'm not too worried about it. The others may have disowned me though.