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 Rustyboy's race report

Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Rustyboy's race report Posted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 3:30 pm 

This is a RR I wrote back at the end of August for a 25k mountain trail race that I ran (my first such endeavor). Enjoy!

August 28th:

Pull up a chair, cause this one could be loooong, suckah.

Last night, after turning in around 10:00, I awoke every hour on the hour to check the time. 3am. 4am. Finally at 5, I hauled myself out of bed, got my stuff together in my knapsack, woke up Dara and got a sweet, albeit groggy, "Good luck. See you at the finish." and climbed into my car in the dark morning.

Arriving rather early for the Bulldog 25k trail run in the Santa Monica Mountain Range, I got my race # and wandered about a bit, warming up and stretching. At 6:55am, we all started to gather at the starting line, all in all, about 230 runners. I made small talk with another runner, who said that he'd done this race before. I asked him to describe the course in one word. Without hesitation, he replied, "Humbling." Yeow.

The race director got on the megaphone, told us to follow the pink ribbons throughout the course, made a few jokes about kicking runners in the ass if they littered the trail, and then asked the faster runners to gather at the front. I immediately made my way to the rear of the pack. Before I knew it, the buzzer sounded and we were off...walking. Slowly. The lot of us.

The first leg of the race was a downhill, paved fireroad. We were all clustered together, everyone making adrenaline fueled jokes. I told the woman next to me that, "This uphill really isn't so bad" as we trotted down the downhill grade. As we reached the first fire road/horse trail, everyone began to stake their claims. I stayed with my plan: Walk every steep ascent and run the plateaus and downhills. This would prove to be a great strategy.

The herd thinned out as we reached single lane trails, very, very rocky, but I felt right at home, having run so many times at Topanga Canyon in similar settings. The conversations you hear during a trail race vary greatly. At different points, I heard a younger guy talking about his accounting career to an older gent, a couple talking about the imminent breakup of friends of theirs, and lots and lots of, "Sh*ts!" and "F*ck this!" during steeply inclining switchbacks.

I reached the first aid station, refilled my bottle, downed some pretzels, some orange slices, and M and Ms, and took off uphill, still powerwalking when it was too damned steep (which it WAS. REAL steep, the grade %age being around 8-10% for about 3.5 miles.) I was passing a fair amount of people walking as well, and I realized that I might be a "good walker". I never lost my breath, my legs were feeling powerful, and I was having a blast.

Ahead, I saw a larger runner with his shirt off, looking kind of weak. I strolled up next to him (we were still climbing - unreal) and asked how he was doing. The other runner, Dave, said, "Okay", half-meaning it. We talked for about 15 minutes about what we do for livings, our wives, and the difficulty of this race. He then admitted, "I ran my first trail 2 weeks ago. I'm really a swimmer. This is killin' me. Plus, I wore a black shirt." At this point, it was probably 9am and 85 degrees under a blistering sun. We joked about how that's a typical amateur mistake, and that maybe next race we should wear Chuck Taylors and pea coats.

The trail began to level, and I bade Dave good wishes and told him that he looked strong, saying I'd probably see him at the next aid station. The terrain got rockier, still hilly, but a little less intense, so I was clipping along pretty quickly, passing more folk that I'd seen WAY ahead of me an hour prior. At aid station two, near the top of the beautiful vistas of the mountain range, I refilled again, downed a gel pack, jammed another in my pocket, stuffed my face with Chips Ahoy cookies, chatted with the station helpers (who were SO supportive and sweet), and headed uphill, to a cheer from one worker who yelled, "Lookin' great, # 67!".

More single-lane trails awaited me, and more steady, level terrain, so I was running again, this time alone for quite awhile. You really get time to think out there, which I love, and alot of thoughts came to me...none of which, naturally, I can remember, but it was quiet and beautiful, challenging and solitary.

This was a long stretch until the next aid station, especially in the growing heat (little did I know the temps reached 106 by the race's end), and mostly downhill, which again, gave me the chance to overtake more runners. The steady decline made me pay close attention to my quads, which I knew were accepting the brunt of the force, and I still had less than half the race to go. They were a little heavy, but nothing to be concerned about. As I ended an incredibly long descent, the trail switched back to a small uphill. I hopped over a rock...and, well, didn't. I tripped and fell forward, and a massive charlie-horse shocked my right calf. A couple of runners asked if I was all right, to which I responded, "It ain't a race until you get dirty!", got up, stretched my calf, and kept on.

I decided to power walk a lot of the plateaus since my legs were talking to me a little bit, running for short stretches of 5-10 minutes, walking for a couple, running then more downhills! This was fun, since I knew I'd make up a ton of time, so I cruised on down, and we could hear cheering from aid station 3, the most enthusiastic of all of the stations. They applauded as we approached, one worker grabbed my hat and dunked it in ice water (heavenly!), mopped me down with a cool sponge, filled my bottle, and sent me off saying, "Only 2 miles!"


Then she added, "It's uphill though."


The next 1.8 miles were grueling, and I had to dig down deep to run it. My thoughts turned to my mom, who lost a breast to cancer in 1979; to my friend David, who'd beaten crippling bone cancer at the age of 20 - if they could suffer that pain and go on, I could run a measly 2 more miles. My mind also went to Dara, my wife, who I knew would be waiting for me at the finish, a beacon of light at the end of a gritty, dusty, sweaty tunnel. I walked the tough ascents again, according to plan, but really pushed myself to run when I could. We had to cross a creek, which, we were informed, involved actually getting in the water, which felt SO swell on my hot, tired feet.

I rounded a few switchbacks and saw my first sign of civilization: A parking lot! Sweeeeet! I pushed harder and ran more, walked some to rest, did another few minutes of trails and then saw the final stretch. Powerwalking to conserve until the final quarter mile or so, I felt incredibly good, although my legs were bags of wet cement. As I continued up the road, seeing I was maybe 2 minutes from the finish, I walked beside another runner who was also powerwalking, a little slower than I. We cracked wise a little, and seeing the final stretch, I told him, "I'm gonna run so I look macho," and he waved me on with a smile.

I hauled ass up the final stretch of driveway to the encouraging screams from supporters and sprinted towards the chute with a huge-ass, dopey smile on my face. I ran in with a final time of 03:08:34, almost a full half hour faster than I'd expected, averaging me at a 12 minute, 8 second/mile pace!!! Considering the extreme heat and difficulty of the hills, I was blown away, placing 112 out of 236 runners.

I received my medal and goodie bag and walked a great deal, turning around to see what all of the yelling and screaming was about. The 3rd place winner of the 50k race was coming, and I nearly crapped myself when I saw that it was the guy that I'd told minutes before that I was going to run the rest for macho-ness sake. He ran the loop twice in almost the time I ran it once. I was humbled. After I dropped my stuff off at my car, Dara and I talked via cellphone and met up, she, a vision; me, a dirty, dusty, sweaty, smelly mess.

I had done it: Taken my first step towards competing in a 100 mile race (a long-term goal of mine), and surpassed my expectations.

Thanks for indulging, everyone. I have a 50k in January that I'm currently training for, so watch for that report!


South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Rustyboy's race report Posted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 6:22 pm 

Great Report!!! And nice job on such a challenging course in such extreme heat! Do you subscribe to "Marathon and Beyond?" Your report is very similar to the the great articles they publish every two months. I'm eager to hear how your 50K goes. Which one are you doing?


Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: Rustyboy's race report Posted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 3:20 pm 

Thanks - I really had a fantastic time, regardless of feeling like I'd died 4 times by the race's end. And man, if you've ever thought that *you* smelled like a pile of dung after a long run? Yikes.

I just checked out Marathon and Beyond - thanks for the intro to it! The 50k is the Calico trail run ( out in the desert, midway between L.A. and Vegas. It seems the course isn't too terribly hilly, not as bad as most, so I thought it'd be a good 1st ultra, plus, it begins and finishes in a hokey, touristy ghost-town, so the setting is pretty bizarre and twisted.

Kinda like ultra runners.

My knee's been giving me grief as of late, so I've backed off hills for a couple of weeks, which stinks, because I have a 15k trail race Thanksgiving weekend, and some of the ascents are insane! I'll let y'all know how that goes as well. My wife's running the 5k version, her first trail race, so it's double the race reports.


South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Rustyboy's race report Posted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 3:50 pm 

Knee Pain? When I start feeliing knee pain it's often (not always) because I'm over striding. I've made a conscience effort this past year to decrease my stride length and increase my turnover. When I'm going up or down a hill and feel knee pain I concentrate on making sure my stride is short and the pain usually always goes away. Give it a try the next time (whether you're on a hill or a flat) and see if it doesn't at least lessen the pain.


Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: Rustyboy's race report Posted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 6:01 pm 

Ahh, interesting! I'll keep that in mind.

I think I began running into (argh, nice pun) problems when I upped my mileage above 6 hours/week (because miles are difficult to gauge on trails, I go by time on my feet) and running steep descents. The <bang bang bang> on your knees on downhills is massive, and when you're hitting a tough downhill that lasts 5 minutes straight, it adds up. But I *will* watch my strides and see how it helps!


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