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!

 

Dream Big: Cuyamaca 100k Race Recap

Last weekend, I headed to the start line of the biggest or maybe I should say longest race of my running career.

This recap is pretty long too, so reader beware 😉 lol.

Back in March after a successful race at Old West 50k, I was feeling a lot better about running ultras.  I worked a lot on hydrating properly before the race and getting my race day nutrition in check and when the lottery opened for Cuyamaca 100k on April 1 I registered immediately.  A few days later I got an email telling me I was in!

Now, April is quite a ways from October so there was a lot of time to second guess my decision to register for this race.  And let me tell you, I’m pretty sure I second guessed myself pretty much from day 1 lol.

Fast forwarding through a PR at Leona Divide 50k in late April, my first 50 miler at Nanny Goat in late May, a really good showing at the Vancouver USA marathon in June and then my first mountain 50 miler at TRT in July.

Then things kind of got off track.  I started to get horrible sharp incredibly painful spasms in my back, literally to the point that I could barely get out of bed.  Surprisingly I was able to run without, but I was a bit scared to because the spasms would come on at any moment.  Eventually I went to see a chiropractor and found out one leg was 2 inches longer than the other and that my pelvis was locked & tilted.  But that I could still run.

So after a whole lot of travel, to UTMB, to Cleveland for work and then finally to Tahoe to crew/pace Sean at Tahoe 200, I got in a decent amount of miles, but mostly hiking and I wasn’t feeling really confident.  Which is why at the absolute last minute, we drove up to Big Bear to do the back 50k at Kodiak.  As I mentioned in my recap, this race was so hard, it did nothing to help my confidence, at least while I was out there.  Afterwards, once I was told that the winners didn’t come in until around 7 hours, I felt a lot better about it.  It was a beast of a course and if I could do that, I could do Cuyamaca.

Cuyamaca 100k, Altra Running, Orange Mud, Running4thosewhocant, lululemon

We are finally at race day, my anxiety was off the charts for pretty much the whole 2 weeks between Kodiak & Cuyamaca.  The morning of, we drove over to Camp Cuyamaca getting there in plenty of time to be able to get a decent parking spot.  It was cool out which was a nice change from the record highs we had in San Diego the week prior.

Cuyamaca 100k, Altra Running, Orange Mud, Running4thosewhocant, lululemon

I was so nervous and starting to feel nauseous the closer we got to the start.  I drank water and probably went to the rest room at least 3x before the start.  And then Sean & I walked to the start line with Jenn & Vanessa (who were also doing their first 100k), we got a few photos before Sean gave me the best advice.  He told me to remember that there will be lows, but that a high is always around the corner, just keep moving.  He kissed me for good luck and then moved to the front of the pack :). Next thing I knew were were off, and all the nervousness fell away.

Cuyamaca 100k, Altra Running, Orange Mud, Running4thosewhocant, lululemon, paksit photo

One thing I’ve learned from Sean is to just go aid station to aid station.  It breaks up the race into manageable distances and gives you something to look forward to, especially if you are in a low point.

Cuyamaca 100k is broken into 3 loops, the first and longest is 32ish miles, has four aid stations, the second loop is around 12.6 miles and has one aid station and then the last loop is just over 18 miles with two aid stations.  Of the 3 loops, I’ve run the second & third loops in their entirety and portions of the first loop.  They gave us colored bracelets corresponding to the ribbon color on each loop.  Orange for the first loop, Blue for the second & Yellow for the third & final loop.

I had decided that it was best for me to just run the race by myself after TRT went well on my own.  I had a pacer for my last loop since I knew it was going to be dark.  Originally I was thinking to run with Jenn & Vanessa but I decided that for me it was best to do this on my own.  And so I set a goal to finish within the Western States qualifying time frame, which meant finishing in under 17 hours.

Cuyamaca 100k, Altra Running, Orange Mud, Running4thosewhocant, lululemon, Paksit Photo

The first section to Merrigan Aid Station went really well, I felt decent although I had some minor issues with calf/shin tightness but for the most part, I was able to run the majority of this part of the course and only walked the big uphills.  I got to the first aid station, had a few orange slices and then headed back up the hill I just came down.

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The next section to Green Valley, I was so sweaty.  I put some ice in my Running Skirts neck wrap and I don’t know if it was just that the ice was dripping or if I was sweating like crazy, but I was literally sopping wet.  Seriously I was wringing out my shirt periodically throughout this section.  It was horrible, especially because my shorts were also wet and I was acutely aware that while I normally do not have chafing issues, I could have some serious issues if my shorts didn’t dry quickly.

I finally made it to Green Valley camp ground and after a quick stop at the restroom who do I see? My friend Fern!  He was like you are doing great, what do you need, etc. etc.  I had him refill my new Orange Mud Endurance Pack, which I’ll review soon, but worked really well.  Here’s where I made a huge mistake.  I told him to add in both of my baggies of CarboPro/Ultima combo, thinking that would be best and would soon find out that was going to be a big problem.

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I got out my Pink Aftershokz Wireless Headphones to put on my new to me audio book from Cleo Coyle grabbed an electrolyte popsicle and then off I went for the next 9 miles up to Cuyamaca Peak, the highest point of the race.

Not long after I finished my popsicle, I took a sip and realized that I had over done it with the CarboPro/Ultima combo, as soon as I started drinking, my entire mouth got super dry, ugh not good considering this was the toughest section of the race and quite a while until the next aid station.  But the show must go on and I just trudged my way up the mountain taking small sips as much as I could.

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2/3s the way up the mountain, I started getting a little dizzy & light-headed.  My audio book was not helping since it was talking a lot about food lol and eventually I found a shaded place to sit on a log and loosen up my too tight shoe laces.  It was during this section that Jenn & Vanessa passed me.  They stopped to see if I was ok and then I told them to keep going and I’d start up again soon.

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I caught up and managed to keep them in my sights the rest of the way up to the peak.  Once we got to the road up to the peak, I saw another friend who gave me an otter pop and up I went.  Once there, the amazing Angela Shartel asked me how I was doing, I told her I was so thirsty but I didn’t feel well because I put too much CarboPro in my pack.  She told me she was going to empty it out, put ice & water inside and then I should take small sips on my way down to the next aid station.

She told me to take some food with me since I wouldn’t have any calories to drink, I grabbed a few pieces of watermelon and after a few glasses of water, I definitely felt better.

After the low climbing up to the Peak and some thoughts that I wouldn’t make it through the loop in time, I rallied to get it done.  I couldn’t let my pacer Kristina down, knowing that she was driving over from Dana Point to support me.

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I knew Jenn & Vanessa had already left the aid station so I set a goal to catch them. I headed back down the road, grabbed another otter pop 😉 and then kept moving.  I turned onto the trail, started running the downhill and then I tripped on a rock and my left calf got this super painful charley horse.  It was so bad I had to sit for a minute and I know I said ouch out loud.  But it went away and then I caught up with the girls as we made our way down a super rocky section, there was no real running during this part because it was practically bouldering the rocks were so big.

Once we got to the bottom, we hiked up a short hill and then I took the lead on the next downhill section.  I thought the girls were right behind me, but then I looked back and couldn’t see them so I just kept moving towards the Paso Pichacho aid station.

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This is the only area of the race that I saw any animals, at one point, I saw half of a rattle snake, the back half thank goodness, heading into the grass.  And then I could see the aid station.  I got there, had them fill my pack with water & ice and used the restroom and washed my hands – they smelled awful and were so sticky.  It’s nice on this course that there were some real bathrooms with running water so that we didn’t have to use port-a-potties the whole way.

I grabbed some more fruit and then it was time to finish this loop! 4 mostly downhill miles and we would be back at the camp. We crossed the street towards Stonehedge and there is a trail that follows the road a little bit up the trail.  I enjoyed this section and just thought about finishing the first loop.  By this point, I’m pretty sure my watch was a little off mileage wise because next thing I knew I was at the camp!

img_1122Looking pretty beat after that first loop, or just trying to understand what they were telling me, lol.

I finished the first loop in 8:25, which is really good for me, I got my bracelet for loop 2, grabbed some CarboPro for my pack, refilled my pack.  Paksit Photos caught some cool photos of me while I was out there and then I was off.

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I’m so glad I was able to run the 2nd loop with Sean the week before the race so I was familiar with what was to come.  There was a bit of a climb up to some amazing single track through the golden fields and then after what seemed like forever, I made it to the downhill to the aid station.  It was during this section that I noticed some sharp pains in my left knee on the downhill.  It wasn’t the whole time, just when I took too big of a step down.  I had to slow down a bit but I didn’t let it get to me too much.  I knew I was going to finish this loop and Kristina would be there to keep me company on the last loop.

I made it to the aid station and I was starving.  I was like I need calories so I ate potatoes, oranges and got another popsicle while they filled my pack.  I didn’t see anyone in the time I was going down to the aid station but a bunch of people came in right after me so they were closer than I thought.

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I headed out, trying to run, but mostly walking at first, this section has a brutal climb that I had to stop on a few times the week before.  This time it was a bit later in the day and somewhat shaded, it wasn’t easy, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

Then it was time for a short downhill and flat to camp. By this point, I was a bit over where I thought I needed to be to beat 17 hours but I thought there might still be a chance if we moved quickly and you always need a goal :).

I finally made it and saw Kristina & Smitha there!  Kristina got a video of me coming in and I was like we need to move.  I got my headlamp out of my drop bag, I’m not sure what I was thinking though, I didn’t take the back-up battery, fortunately I didn’t need it but that would have been bad.  I grabbed my long sleeve lulu shirt and my Altra stash jack.  I thought about taking my gloves but ultimately decided against them, I should have taken them.

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We had just over 4 1/2 hours to finish 18ish miles under 17 hours, it was going to be tight and my watch was dead so I couldn’t tell where were at.

We took off, I was running the best I could, we passed a few people and got passed ourselves by one guy.  I was power hiking as fast as I could.  I was getting intense spasms in my left knee that would come out of no-where but I powered on.

This was Kristina’s first time pacing and she did an amazing job, I’ve never had a pacer before so I didn’t know what I needed, I just know what I’ve done with Sean and that didn’t really work in our case.  So after a bit of trial and error, I decided it was best if I followed her when we were hiking the uphills and then she could follow me when we were running the downhills.  I am extremely proud of myself for the amount of running I did in this race.  While super slow, in contrast to TRT50 where I hiked at least 75% of the race, I feel like I ran at least 60-70% of this race.

We made it to Sunrise Aid station, I was getting cold so I attempted to get my long sleeve on.  I was having a lot of difficulties, my fingers were cold, my hands were sweaty and I just couldn’t get the tight Swiftly sleeves up.  I felt really bad because this super nice girl at the aid station had broth for me and it was cold by the time I was able to drink it, I kept apologizing and eventually Kristina was like we are going to dress you like a kid lol and she got me into the shirt.  I drank my broth, had a bit of a quesadilla, some potatoes and my bladder was filled and we were off.

img_1128When you have a mouthful of potato and you think you are smiling but you really aren’t lol.

The next section a lot of which is on the PCT, is one of the most beautiful views during the day.  That night it was just windy and very dark.  I did my best to run as much as I could but by this point, I was starting to get really sleepy and I hurt all over.  But we were so close!

With Kristina counting off the miles and my knowing a bit of where we were at, we made our way to Pedro Fages.  Eventually we could see the lights of the aid station.  I remember telling Kristina that it was going to be just around the corner and then there it was.  I ran the best I could and then we were there and I saw Sean waiting for me!  I think I hugged him for about 5 minutes lol.

img_1127Knowing I have to eat something, but not really wanting anything – while Sean fills my pack :).

But there wasn’t time for that!  We had about 7 miles to go to the finish!  We refilled, ate a bit and then after a quick photo, we were heading across the road and onto the last section.

This section was a lot of hiking, my legs were hurting and I was trying to run but it was sooo slow.  I started to get really cold at one point and I could see my breath.  I was really glad to have Kristina with me to keep me company and we just kept moving forward.  At a certain point, I asked her what time it was and we had 4ish miles and 23 minutes to get under 17 hours.  Well that wasn’t going to happen, I’d have had to pretty much fly to the finish to go that fast.  So goal 1 was replaced with a new on the fly goal of going under 17:30.

I felt bad that I wasn’t able to run faster, I was trying so hard to not walk, but everything was sore by this point.  But slowly but surely we were clicking off the miles.  And then, we could see the finish line in the distance!  Yea!!

We ran, as fast as I could into the finish!  And the time on the clock? 17:28 so I did it, I made my on the fly goal and while I didn’t make the Western States qualifying time, I finished, upright, with a smile on my face.

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I was soooo sore, literally everything from my hips down was sore.  I was a bit scared to take of my shoes because I knew that my second toe on my left food was not happy, but in the end it didn’t matter, I ran/walked/hiked 63 miles for the first time ever!

Stats:  Loop 1 32.3 miles – total time 8:25
Loop 2 12.8 miles – total time 12:00 – 3:35 this section
Loop 3  18.2miles – total time 17:28:38 – 5:28 this section

I finished 116/131 overall and 21/28 women.  There were 168 starters, 37 DNFs and 32 DNSs.

I used a mix of CarboPro & Ultima for the majority of the race, had a few Glukos Energy Gels, Orange slices, watermelon, some boiled potatoes and broth once it got cooler out.

I wore my Olympus 2.0s for the whole race, ProCompression PC Runners (they did feel a bit tight by the end of the race on my toes), my usual Lululemon Speed Shorts & Swiftly Tank and my new Orange Mud Endurance Pack for my hydration.

I may not be the fastest runner out there, but I was so determined to finish. Getting to that finish line and proving to myself that I could do this was super important, regardless of the time.  #YOUCANDOHARDTHINGS 🙂

Huge thanks to Kristina for pacing me on my 3rd loop, I am so appreciative of all your support and belief in me.

Thank you to Paksit Photos for being practically everywhere on the first half of the course!  To George Blancos for the photos towards the top of Cuyamaca.  And Fern for all your excitement and help at Green Valley and keeping me updated on Sean’s progress.  Angela Shartel, thank you for getting me squared away at the top of the peak, I so appreciate it.  To all the volunteers, thank you so much for being out there – we so appreciate you taking the time from your weekend to be out there (for hours) for us.  And lastly, to Scott Crellin, thank you for putting on a well organized, fun event in our beautiful backyard, with a generous time limit that gives people like myself the opportunity to push themselves without a lot of fear of missing cut-offs.

 

 

Race Recap: SoCal Wine Country Women’s Half Marathon

When our friend Matt from Athlete IQ asked me if I was interested in running this race, I thought it would be a fun time and a good way to get in another longish run for my marathon on June 19 & a second birthday race :).  Athlete IQ and Paul Jesse from Off Road Pursuits gave me an entry to the race.

This was the 5th year for the SoCal Wine Country Women’s Half & 5k.  Paul Jesse is the race director and he is a fellow Orange Mud Ambassador, local San Diego runner and race director for the San Diego 50 mile & trail marathon that we did back in January.

A few days before the race Paul asked Sean if he could help volunteer because someone backed out so we headed up near Temecula to Vail Lake early so we could help out at packet pick-up.  Temecula is about 70-80 minutes from us so we would need to leave around 4:30a to get there by 5:45a to help out.

The day before I had a few extra bottles of juice and tried to hydrate/eat the best I could.  I headed to bed at a decent hour after posting my flat Jenny photo to be up by 3:45a to get ready.

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On the way to the race, I ate a container of instant oatmeal and drank some water.  We made it there by 5:45a and immediately headed over to see where they needed us.  I got my bib first and then helped Sean & Carrie Jesse hand out bibs and race shirts until it was time for our race to start.

Start Line Photo

The half marathon started at 7:00a and it was mandatory to pick up your bib before 6:45a.  We all gathered around for a quick briefing and then we off.

From step one my legs were not happy.  I was having a lot of issues with pain in the glutes and hamstrings. I kept waiting to warm up and have the discomfort go away.

The weather was a bit humid and very overcast.  While I didn’t have the best of races, the course was beautiful.  There were a lot of little hills but it was a very runable course.  I kept thinking that Sean would love these trails.

After a few miles I would start hiking the hills and then running the downhill & flats as much as I could.

There were a three aid stations on course we hit twice. I remember joking with Scott Mills (SD 100 Race Director) that I needed new legs when he asked me what I needed at mile 6.

After a few miles heading back the way we came, we eventually hit the lake and were treated to some amazing views.  I ran as much of the downhill as I could before we hit a steep uphill to an aid station, which I hiked up.

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I finished strong and crossed the line in 2:41, which for a trail half and the fact that my legs were just shot from mile 1, I was pretty happy to just finish in a decent time.

I came up to the finish line, saw Sean and was like uh, where’s the camera lol.  He ran over and grabbed it so he could get a few shots of me crossing the finish.

Flat Jenny SoCal Women's Half

He then gave my medal, which our friend Eric made, which is super cool.

I got changed, enjoyed some orange slices & a half of a subway sandwich and then helped Sean hand out medals and wine glasses.

Swag: An awesome purple T-shirt, medal, wine glass, post race food & wine sample.

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Medal: From Elevation Culture

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Course: A challenging but runable course around Vail Lake

Price: It was $90 for the half marathon and I don’t recall the price of the 5k

Photos: They had a photographer on course and at the finish line.  And they offered a code for one free photo.

All in all it was a great time and I think that Paul and Carrie did a great job putting it on.  I would definitely check this one out again, preferably with fresher legs ;).

Race Recap: Whoo’s In El Moro 50k/25k

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.

Evolution Fresh, BluePrint Cleanse, Kombucha

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.

Lululemon, Altra Running, Running4thosewhocan't, Orange Mud, Dirty Girl Gaitors, Carbo Pro, Procompression, Buff, XX2i

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.

Sitting in the Car in the rain

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.

Waiting for the rain to stop

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.

UV, Buff, Buff USA, Bibrave, bibchat, whoo's in el moro

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!

Muddy climbing

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.

Smiling thru everything

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.

More Mud

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.

Coming down after loop 1

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.

Whoo's in El Moro Medal

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.

IMG_0730Admiring 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.