I’m not sure why it took me so long to finish this recap, but here goes, on Saturday, May 7 Sean & I made the short(ish) drive up to Crystal Cove State Park to run the Whoo’s in El Moro 50k.
I have wanted to run this race for a long time, after seeing lots of friends with the hats and hearing about the awesome race that race director Molly puts on. I was super excited, but a little nervous. When I signed up for the race, my best 50k time was just over 8 hours and this race had an 8 hour time limit.
In the months that passed, I had some good 50k races and some not so good but seeing as Sean has his 50k PR on this course I was feeling positive about it and even set a goal of trying for sub 7 hours.
Race week finally got here and I was super excited, until I saw the weather report with rain in the forecast. After the crazy clay mud in Zion I was not looking forward to more mud. The week of the race I ran a lot, 2 back to back 10 mile days, a speedy 6 miles on Wednesday and finishing up with at short 2 mile shake-out on Friday.
Again, on Friday I drank a few bottles of juice, including my favorite, BluePrint’s Cashew Vanilla, which is sooo yummy, a bottle of Raspberry Chia Kombucha and lots of water. I’m not sure exactly what I did but at some point on Friday I developed an issue in my right calf. I tried massage, rolling, our new stim unit and just stretching and nothing was helping the cramping. So needless to say I was a bit nervous about that.
I got my Flat Jenny ready, ate some pizza for dinner and went to bed early. We were going to drive up the morning of the race, which mean leaving the house by 4:15am to get there in time.
Waking up on race morning, I could immediately feel the tightness/cramping in my calves even without doing anything at all. Ugh…
We got on our way, I made some oatmeal to eat on the way up and since it was still dark and I can’t really stay awake when driving in the dark, I was half asleep as Sean drove us to Crystal Cove State Park. On the ride up, we hit a lot of areas with rain, which was a bit worrisome because we really didn’t want to run in the rain.
We made it up to the park, paid the $15 fee to get in, thank goodness they take credit cards because I had no cash, parked and then immediately headed to the bathrooms. Like at Old West, the park had real bathrooms so we didn’t have to use port-a-potties. Then we made a bee-line to the starting area to pick up our packets. All the while it was raining.
We got our packets, re-usable bags from 2XU with nice cotton shirts. She had packets of different things on the table in they were giving out the bibs at including Justin’s, some sort of granola bar and a few other things. I grabbed a pack of Justin’s and a granola bar and then we headed back to the car to get our gear.
There were a few things that I felt like weren’t really well explained in the pre-race material and as a first time runner at this race I was a little disappointed by.
1) There was no start time on the email. In looking at the website, it showed a 6:30am start and Ultra Sign Up showed 6:15am or vice versa, so we weren’t really clear as to the exact start time. It ended up being 6:30 because of the line to get into the park probably due to #2.
2) No where on the website or the email did it say that there was a $15 fee to get into the park.
So we were waiting by the start line for a 6:15am start only to find out we were a little early – we hung out with a few friends under the timing tents and waited for everyone to arrive, all the while waiting for the rain to stop.
And then not long after 6:30am, Molly made a few announcements and we were off.
I don’t remember a lot of the course in this section except there was a little flat & downhill as we made our way into the park. The mud was definitely there. It wasn’t nearly as slippery for me as it was in Zion but it caked on my Olympus 2.0 which I absolutely love but not in mud. I could feel my legs getting heavier and heavier until it was hard to pick up my feet at all. I mean look at all the mud on our shoes!
As we made our way up the hill at mile 2 I was just hiking up trying to stomp off the mud as I went along. I chatted with a few other runners taking it somewhat easy up the hill to avoid any asthma issues. I’ve found that my asthma acts up if my heart rate gets too high when I’m climbing so I was testing to see if I could avoid that when hiking.
Once we got to the top there was a nice stretch that was relatively flat and a nice downhill to the first aid station. I stopped at the aid station to take off my jacket. I tried to put it in the bungie section of my Orange Mud VP2 but it fell out which is why I had to wear it around my waist instead the rest of the race. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t any fruit outside of bananas at the aid station so I didn’t eat anything there.
I power hiked my way back up the hill and then ran/walked through the section I just came from. I came upon a guy who had completed a 50 miler the week before and was running the 50k on his birthday. I chatted with him for a few minutes before heading off.
I passed by 2 girls directing people where to go. This race has a lot of overlapping sections so it can get a bit confusing as to where to go without help. I chugged along with my calf cramping on and off. I finally got to a nice section of single track and followed this girl into the 2nd aid station at about 7 miles in.
I got my bottle refilled, added my CarboPro/Ultima combo, ate some pineapple slices. Then Steve, one of my fellow Orange Mud Ambassadors, helped me with my calf, by rubbing BioFreeze on it and even gave me an extra to take with me.
After a few minutes I was off. My calf felt better initially and I was able to actually run for a few miles until I got to some hills. Eventually we were got to this awesome downhill that went on for over a mile. It was quite steep so I was a bit concerned for the climb back up.
I finally got down to the bottom of the hill and met a few volunteers who directed me up to the next aid station. As I was climbing up, I had already been considering dropping to the 25k for a few miles. I wasn’t really having a lot of fun and it was really challenging with the calf issue and all the mud.
In all honesty, I had been contemplating dropping to the 25k for a while, even before the race started because I was tired. We had been doing a lot of running with back to back semi-long runs and it was starting to take it’s toll.
I was hiking up the hill when I saw Sean coming…he stopped for a second to give me a kiss and I told him I was struggling but chugging along. After chatting with him for a few minutes I kept moving only to hear one of the volunteers yelling don’t look down, I don’t want to see any heads down, smile, etc. I started laughing and smiling but really I look down so I don’t kill myself because inevitably I trip if I don’t watch where I’m going lol.
I refilled my bottles and then headed off. A nice downhill to start before a long hike up. I was pretty much all alone during this section. At one point I got to a downhill section where I saw our friend Giselle, who would eventually come in 2nd place overall and first woman! She looked great. After another climb, I saw Sean again and told him that I was done, when I got to the 25k I was finished. He was like this is a tough course today and even he didn’t look like he was having fun.
After this I just kept moving, hiking the uphills, running the downhills – at one point I had a few mountain bikers following me down the hill which was a bit disconcerting. After a few more ups and down eventually I found myself at the same aid station again after a short downhill. I asked the guy there where the turn around was so I could drop but he didn’t know what was going on.
I got down the muddy hill and there were a the volunteers I saw earlier and I asked them where to go to drop down to the 25k. They directed me up this super steep hill and said when I got to the bottom I’d be at the turn around.
And when I say steep hill, I mean crazy steep. I saw a few more runners, even chatted with one on my way up and we were all slowly making our way up this hill. I walked up backwards half the time because it was so tough. And by this time the sun was out and it was getting warm.
I finally made it up the hill and was treated to a nice downhill to the turn around. I made it and when they congratulated me I told them I was done and stopping. Molly had told us in her announcements that she would allow us to drop down to 25k vs taking a DNF. If she hadn’t said that, I probably would have just dropped to the 25k before the race even started.
And they finally had watermelon at this aid station lol. I didn’t realize at first that the start was just a short walk away, but another girl came in and stopped as well so I walked back with her chatting about running and how challenging this race was.
We made it back to the start, I ran into Eric & Willem and they were like uh, where did you come from. I told them I dropped down and another Orange Mud Ambassador, Tim told me he did the same. He has been struggling with plantar fasciitis and dropped as well. They told me where to get my medal and I grabbed it.
Eric & his company Elevation Culture made the medals for this race too and they were super nice.
I headed to get changed because I was totally soaked with sweat and then came back to wait for Sean. I chatted some more with Eric & Willem then watched the first place guy, one of the founders of Boom Running, who I would meet at PCT 50, and then Giselle and 3 more women come in before the 2nd male. That was really exciting.
Sean eventually came in and we got a few photos before heading over to get our post race meal. They had bottles of Essence pH10 Alkaline Water, which was interesting to me since we’ve been drinking the Core pH water.
Admiring our medals 😉
Molly set up a food truck to provide a post race meal for us all. They had hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken & veggie burgers, chips and potato salads along with a whole bar of toppings.
This was a cool way to provide the post-race meal and it was pretty good too.
Sean and I hung out for a while chatting with some other runners before making the long trek back to San Diego. It’s not far but there was so much traffic on the drive home.
I have to say, even a few weeks out from this race, while most of the time after thinking about it I am not so anti any race, but in this case, I truly think Whoo’s in El Moro might be a one and done. It is a very hilly course with a lot of steep climbing and in all honesty, I enjoyed Leona Divide so much more. If Sean wanted to run this again, I’d probably either do the 25k or maybe more likely the 10k lol.
Thank you to Molly and all the volunteers for being so supportive and for putting on a great race. Even though it wasn’t my favorite it wasn’t due to anything that they did.
And Thank You to Paksit Photos for all the on-course photos.