San Diego Trail 50M 1-16-2016

I really like reading race reports and find them very helpful so I am trying to include as much info as possible.

This was my first 50M, a distance I consider a more legitimate entry into the ultra world (as opposed to 50k). I have done a handful of 50k’s and a couple of 38 milers but have not reached as far into the realm of active recovery as this.

Prep: I loosely followed Powell’s 50M at 50MPW plan in his book: Relentless Forward Progress but only because it already fit what I wanted to do based on my age and ability. One thing I am still working on is how much to taper. In the week of the Saturday race I ran 9 miles on Monday, 4 on Wed and 2 on Friday, all easy. I also gave up drinking beer for three weeks prior. I feel this helped my body get more completely hydrated on a cellular level and think that perhaps the proof of this is that i did not lose any weight. I also wanted to limit my caffeine intake during the race as I have found it encourages muscle cramps.

Travel: Mostly I don’t like it…being away from home that is, especially before an important race and visiting makes it even harder to control conditions. I flew to San Diego on Thursday evening and stayed with my Brother and his family who live within 30 miles of the start (outside of Escondido). Coincidentally my Sister and her Family were also visiting SD at the same time for a conference on Coronado Island so my Dad and Step Mom also drove over from AZ on Friday. It made my pre race jitters a lot worse trying to control what I would get to eat and also trying to visit with Family but everyone was very encouraging. I got a little testy but everyone seemed to be giving me a lot of latitude which was great…you see everyone was going to my Bro who was playing host to so many and his family trying his best to please everyone (impossible) so he just took us for Greek food and when i couldn’t stomach the lamb (which was the only meat option) i stood up and said “don’t stop me, im going for a sandwich!” and stormed off across the parking lot to a sub shop (i had been trying to politely get away for something to eat all evening). When i came back to the table with my sandwich he said “well i’m just the god-damned giving tree!”. That was pretty funny. Then my 80 year old Step Mom told me: “don’t be assertive Alan, be aggressive!”. I love those guys. Anyway i was worried about getting enough to eat and i was having anxiety about the race but was so tired i got some sleep and I knew that once i started running all would be fine but there was just a lot of fear of the unknown.

I slept pretty well pre-race and woke up at 4:20 am for a 6:30 start just to get a little more hydrated and evacuated. Temps were in the upper 30’s to low 40’s at the start and the drop bags weren’t gone yet so I was able to shed a couple of things just before start. I wore a compression shirt under a long sleeve bike jersey i like because it has 3 pockets in the back (why dont they make these for runners?), compressions shorts with thin pocketed running shorts over them, light weight cap, ultimate direction Endure waist pack with 2 ten ounce flasks mixed with 1/4 pouch of tailwind in each and a handheld with just water…and the original Hoka Cliftons. In my pockets were some of those baby food squeezie things, ginger candies, several single use body glide packets…and i put on an old grungy sweatshirt that i knew i would dispose of after a couple of miles if i could find a garbage can. The waist pack had my phone, cowon i-9 player, wallet and a baggie of advil and salt caps.

There were about 200 racers in the 50 and the first few miles were in a line. This worked fine to keep me from going out too fast but i soon realized that my watch wasn’t working at all so i had to go totally by feel. I also asked other runners what our pace was to make sure i was doing ok. It’s funny how chatty and happy everyone is early in a race and a lot of folks get grumpier and grumpier as time goes on (i try to stay nice the whole way). Anyway I ran at a ~9:30 pace for the first 20 miles occasionally power walking and hiking up hills. I believe this is my strength as my stride is long and all of the squats I have been doing really pay off here. I can really rest my hamstrings and quads and use my glutes and move at a 15 minute pace without running even on inclines and even when my running legs are very tired. I also love this gait because it gives the big leg muscles a chance to stretch out and loosen. The trail was a little washed out from recent rains but nothing like what i am used to up here in the Pacific Northwest so it was fine. I was happy that I chose the Cliftons as grip was a non issue on the hard packed ground. My biggest worry early on was needing to poop. One of my goals for this race was to not poop or vomit. I know that’s not really optional most of the time but i was feeling everything i put down landing in a gut bomb. This feeling came and went and i did a pretty good job of mostly ignoring it. I chatted a little with other runners and tried to offer encouragement to some but mostly stayed on my own listening to tunes (on my NON-NOISE CANCELLING EARBUDS ahem – I can still hear everything.) The aid stations were at pretty even 5 mile intervals. When I got to the first one I was right on plan and my handheld was empty. A volunteer grabbed my bottle, congratulated me for hydrating early and quickly filled it with water for me. I grabbed some pb&j squares, stuffed some pretzels in my pockets and was on my way. I was happy to get through in less than 30 seconds, keeping track so that i can use the time later when i will need it. The second and third aid station were about the same. I ate one of the baby foods between miles 10 and 15 and started on the tailwind in small amounts around that time also. I was also taking a couple of salt tabs at every other station. I had access to my bag at the 20 mile station & i had a volunteer mix new tailwind in the 10 oz bottles and got some food and put more sunscreen on neck, face and legs. I also started drinking coke. I got a collapsible cup from the ex-fficio store at the airport so i could get a coke and keep moving with it. My Brother was supposed to meet me there with a sandwich and espresso but he was late so i told the lady “my Bro was supposed to meet me here…tall guy looks like me.” I was out of that station in under one minute and off towards the turnaround. From mile 20 to 25 and then back to 30 was the most challenging part of the course. Part of that is just anticipating the turnaround but there was lots of encouragement from runners coming back. I tried to help them by indicating what place they were in up to ten. One guy was way out front and a lady was in second – woot! At about mile 22 i started feeling all the grit that had built up in my socks and a lady who was posted on a road keeping runners on course helped me open the packet of glide and i put it on my toes. This took about one minute and i was off again. There were a lot of switchbacks from mile 20 to 23 or so and these felt really good. I was power hiking them and one guy noted that i was hiking really fast! Once again i was able to walk past people who were running. I also ate a trail butter packet that tasted really good and drained one my tailwind bottles and the handheld. I really like the handheld a lot more than the camelback because i can chug water instead of sucking. When i got to the turnaround tape I thanked the Sun and felt a little rejuvenated. I knew going in that I have about 25 good miles in me on a hard course at 9:30 running pace but from 25 to 30 was mostly downhill and the course wasnt bad so i was doing just fine. It was a really good move to put that glide on my feet when i did and there was also a creek that people were tiptoeing over rocks to get across. I just splashed through happy to feel the cool water on my burning feet. The Cliftons are great at shedding water and it didnt slow me down at all so a got wet again on the way back, which encouraged others to do the same. I also ate a ginger candy before the 30 mile station which immediately made my gut feel better (and i ate two more throughout the rest of the race and had no more gut problems). When I got to the 30 mile station my Bro was there. He said the lady recognized him right away and defending her runner she pointed at him and said “you! you are late!”. I was really glad to see him at 30 though because my race was going well and I needed him more then. He mixed more tailwind and got stuff out of the bag for me. I changed socks and took off the gooey ones with bag balm on them. I think the bag balm was too sticky and made the sand stick to my feet. When i switched to glide my feet were a lot more comfortable. I tried to get as much grit as possible off my feet and put a lot of glide and fresh socks. I took off the bike jersey because it was hot and just used my shorts pockets and waist pack after that. BTW, the 35-40 ounces i was carrying was more than enough for the first 20 miles when it was cool but when it got up in the 70’s it was barely enough. The collapsible cup helped a lot so i did not need to use my hand carry for anything other than h2o, and when i chucked the jersey i had it in my front pocket and hardly noticed it.

I drank the double-espresso with cold cream he got for me and grabbed half of the subway type turkey & mayo sandwich, one more baby food and was out of there in less than ten minutes! I felt really good about this knowing it was by far my longest planned stop. At every aid station and throughout the race I just kept reminding myself that stopping is infinitely slower than even crawling, and the volunteers were great at keeping me going without being pushy. After 30, by plan I incorporated more and more walking in and also took some advil. I didnt measure because my watch was useless by just went by feel. At the 35 mile station there were a bunch of kids there helping. One kid ran up to me about 50 yards before the station and asked what i needed. I gave him my bottle and he had it filled by the time i reached the station! There was another smaller kid, probably his little bother, who really wanted to help me somehow but i had to thank him and let him know the other kid had already gotten the job done. Some of the adults around were laughing because he was really trying his best! Another <30 second aid station stop and off to flatter ground. By mile 40 i knew that my A-goal of a 5pm finish could easily be done walking and I did walk a lot but i kept my pace up even walking. At this point walking felt so good…like pure bliss that i could probably have run more but it was my reward. After mile 45 surprisingly I could run more and there was one more hill to climb. I got up it fast and ran all the way down. A few people passed me around this time but i just congratulated them. At the finish they had tomato soup and chili which was great and i took some more advil. I spoke briefly to some other runners but mostly ambled around walking to finish out my first ever birthday miles (51). I was 38th out of 148 finishers at 9:44:49. AG 5th out of 20. 50 miles with 5000 feet of vert. Not my best race competitively but I am pretty stoked about it. My Strava is messed up because of the bad watch data but i calculated an 11:27 avg pace = better than any of my previous ultras! Everyone else I asked said the course was long BTW. I probably PR’ed the 50k split but have no way to know. My toes are trashed but everything else body and mind feel post-race 50k normal and no post race blues here! Congrats to the winners Michele Graglia and Veronica Rudolphi who crushed broke course records for Men and Women at 6:50:18 and 7:06:58!

I found the course to be scenic and interesting moving past farms, down into riparian areas and up onto hillsides in desert-coastal scrub. Even in a highly populated area when you get down into canyons you hardly notice. Having lived there in the past and visited and hiked there many time I still feel like So Cal is a beautiful place, even with all those cars and people. After the race I got a chance to briefly thank Paul the RD for a fantastic job. Now I am not one to give five stars when they are not warranted like so many in this face book culture but this one was really far and away the most well-run race i have ever done. I dont remember volunteers ever filling my water bottle for me and in this race they did it at every single station! I didnt even know that was race-legal! Once in a previous race someone got me some coffee but only when i asked. In other races I would feel thankful that they were there but sometimes wondering why. At this race they were jumping out to help me even before reaching the station! These are the people I will emulate when I get a chance to start volunteering. Five stars to Offroad Pursuits in So Cal! If you want to get your best time possible i definitely recommend them!

…and thanks also to Kay and Seven Hills Running in Seattle for getting me set up with the best nutrition and gear!

-alan 1-19-2016



3 thoughts on “San Diego Trail 50M 1-16-2016

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