My Road to SD100: Stop 1 – Sean O’Brien 50k

The first half of this year is all about getting to the finish line of SD 100.  And with 2 races a month, I’m using races to train & get more comfortable being on my feet for a long time.

First up in my journey is Sean O’Brien 50k, which was my 5th 50k.  I went to Sean O’Brien with my Sean last year and ran/hiked the first 5ish miles of the course so I had a very small knowledge of the course, which is not easy.  The nice thing about SOB is that like with Keira Henninger’s other races with multiple distances, there is a long cut-off for the shorter distances which I like.  I hope not to take the full time, but I know I don’t have to worry about cut-offs, which I really like :).

Anyways, Sean & I drove up to Calabasas on Friday afternoon/evening.  We made it to packet pick-up in time to get our bibs and to try out some of Altra‘s new shoes.  I was super excited to get to try on the new King MT & the new Superior 3.0, both of which I can’t wait to add to my collection.  (I wish I had asked Ben, the SoCal rep, if I could have worn a pair of the King MT’s for the race, but more about that later).

We headed over to our hotel, got dinner at a very clubby Italian place that I felt a little under dressed at in my super comfortable Orange Mud sweatshirt. Side note: If you love super soft, comfy sweat shirts, this is the best one ever, I literally wear mine every day.

We got back to the hotel and got our flat runners set up before heading to bed.  With a 3:15am wake-up call I hit the sack as soon as I could.

That alarm sure came fast, I think I snoozed once maybe twice 😉 before getting up and starting to get ready.

It didn’t take us long and we were out the door and on our way to the start line.  The 100k started at 5am so we were trying to get there by 4:15/4:30 so we could get a decent parking spot.

We got Sean’s drop bags over to the start area & he headed out to start the 100k.  As I was listening to Keira’s announcement, she was talking about how lucky we were to even have the race because of all the rain we’ve had in SoCal lately.  She lobbied with the Parks department, reworked the course and we were all able to run!

The 100ker’s took off and I headed back to the car because my race didn’t start until 7am.  I decided to get a little more sleep before getting up around 6:20ish to get ready, check in and hit up the port-a-potties.  I met up with Emily, a (very speedy) fellow ProCompression Ambassador and a few of my fellow Orange Mud ambassadors.  We got a quick photo and then Keira was asking us to head to the start line.

Once we were at the start line, she let us know that the race was going to be muddy (I was like great, I left my poles in the car, oops) and that the 50k & marathon were the only races that didn’t have a course change.

Pretty soon after that we were off, I kept a steady pace for the first 2ish miles to the creek crossing.  I felt decent during this section.  The creek crossing was a lot higher this year than last year – it was knee high and the creek was rushing.  They had a nice strong rope to keep us safe on the crossing.  The mud we encountered just after the crossing was actually a bit more stressful.

And then up the hill we went and as we went up, we got over the fog and it was so amazingly beautiful.  I chatted with some other runners as we climbed and climbed.

As we made our way up to the first aid station, we were going up over these boulders, which were awesome and so different from the rest of the course.

It was in this section that I saw Howie Stern who got this photo of me.

I got to the aid station, had a few snacks and then crossed the street, a volunteer was advising us to be careful because it was slippery.  This initial section was pretty slippery because there was a lot of flat rocks.  But as we kept moving it cleared up.  I was following a marathon runner who picked up a friend at the aid station, don’t think that’s really supposed to happen, but I guess anyone can come out and run on the trails.

I finally passed them and kept moving.  And then I came across a crevasse taking up 2/3s of the trail, it was nuts.  I slowly made my way around it and kept moving.  This was maybe 8-9 miles into the race.

It wasn’t too far after the crevasse that we got to the mud.  It was pretty slippery but I figured out a way to run/hike through it and I wore my Superiors which really helped as opposed to my Olympus.  This is when I wished I had the King MTs to see how well they really worked in the mud ;).

This section felt like it took a long time for a variety of reasons, one, it was muddy, two, I was in a pack and at the start of the mud, I was behind a girl who didn’t have the right shoes on and she was slip sliding around like crazy and three we were stopping a lot and attempting to move to the side for the lead runners coming through.

After the mud, we had a very steep downhill into the mile 13 aid station.  I had to go to the bathroom so I lost a lot of time in this mile because there I had to wait for someone to get out.  Unfortunately sometimes you just have to wait, and in this case I made the right decision :).

It was about 2ish miles to the next aid station.  There was a nice down hill and then some climbing.  As I got closer to the aid station, people started saying BACON!  And you’re almost there, this one is good, they have bacon.  Ultra runners love bacon! Although who doesn’t love bacon.

I made it to the aid station, practically sliding into the table, refilled my pack and then turned around.  I saw a few friends and enjoyed running the downhill in this section.

I made it back to the halfway aid station, grabbed a few potatoes and I was out.  Now, I should have had some new shirts in my drop bag because I was soaked.  Note to self, put a dry shirt in your drop bag.

I headed up the hill and ran into my friend Tam, who was coming down to the aid station.  We got a quick pic and then kept moving.

I was anticipating a tough road with the mud.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the mud had dried a little bit so it wasn’t as slippery, but instead it was super sticky.  My heels were popping out of my shoes, I was a little worried at one point that I was going to walk out of my shoe, lol.

The first part of the next section went really well.  2 guys passed me and I followed them for a bit, down and through the small creeks – there were probably 11 water crossings during the race.  They ranged from the rushing knee deep creek to small puddles that you could hop over.  It was nice having these guys to follow for a bit.  I couldn’t really keep up on the steep uphill to one of the aid stations, but I caught back up and passed them on the downhill in the last section.

I finally got to the last aid station, a volunteer helped me refill my pack with CarboPro and water.  As I was getting a snack, I saw Sean run into the aid station!  How awesome was that.  He was at mile 40 and I was at 26.  We spent a few minutes chatting about how he fell and hurt his knee around mile 1.5 and then we went our separate ways.

It’s interesting how quickly you forget the course because the first part of the last section was a lot hillier than I remembered.  I ran walked and eventually our friend Josh Holmes, of RunItFast, who was running the 50 miler caught up with me.  We chatted for a few minutes before he took off.

There was a girl in front of me with arm sleeves that I was following down the hill.  This section was really hard on my feet, but I kept her in my sights and eventually a little before we headed on to the single track, I passed her.  We saw another girl too who was a little confused as to which way to go and kept moving.

This section was fun, a lot easier on the feet, although still somewhat technical.  It was made better by the fact that we were getting closer to the creek crossing and I knew then we would only have 2ish miles left.

I finally made it to the creek.  I started across and about halfway through I stepped off a rock (I wasn’t looking for rocks to step on – just holding on and walking across) and I could feel a sharp twinge in my back.  Fortunately it passed pretty quickly.  I got out of the water and kept moving.

As I moved on in this last section, my calves started to cramp.  I think that the combination of the cold water and a little dehydration was the case.

I trudged on again forgetting that once we get back to the single track had some more uphill.  The guy following me was saying the same thing, how did we forgot this?

Eventually we got to the downhill into the campground and I knew we were so close.  My calves were still cramping but I kept running to the finish.

Right before the finish, I saw Josh again, he got a few photos of me before I made the turn into the finish.


And then I was done!

Even with the weather, I had a great time out there.  I feel like I did decently with my fueling, although I did have a stretch of uphill where I was getting tired, I could have probably had a bit more electrolyte, but overall I feel like I did pretty well.

I don’t necessarily feel like the time on the clock represents my fitness as I felt pretty decent out there.  I think I could definitely do better with a little more training & no mud!

Thank you to all the volunteers for spending their day with us & to Keira for all her hard work in getting us all to the start line!

Next up, Black Canyon 100k!

 

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