Warning, this is a looooong post..
I have a theory, my theory is that whatever a race I have planned for a long time is around the corner, work gets really insane and I barely have time to pack and get to the airport, literally. I am usually able to guess pretty well what I will need and in most cases I have what I need, well that changed in this race and it wasn’t a good experience.
I had traveled to Spain previously for work after Miwok and I didn’t have time to train more for this race. When I came back, work was crazy and it remained like that until the day I left for San Diego, it was Thursday at 9pm and I was still at work and I hadn’t packed anything yet. I made it home sometime during the night and I put in my suitcase everything I thought I needed. The basics, flashlight, gels, salt pills, a change of clothes, a warm shirt, my running tights, a hat, water bottles, gloves, extra batteries, nuun and a few bags so I can make them my drop bags, a few other random things and I was “ready”. Janet had sent me a list of thing she was packing so I used that as a guide.
The next day I drove early to the airport, met Janet and soon we were in our way to SD. And we learned that apparently you can blow up a plane with peanut butter and jelly, as the security guys wanted to confiscate this from Janet’s bag. LOL. She checked her luggage and made it to the gate on time. And then we were airborne. Landed in SD, got our car and drove to a running store to get some last minute stuff (compression socks) and finally to the race site for the runners info meeting.
Race Director giving us the last minute info and instructions..
The thing about these things is the friendship among all runners. This is the first ULTRA I do where the only distance is 100 miles. I have done others where there are different distances being run, so we knew that these guys, all of them were in for the long haul. It was awesome to reconnect and talk about “what else have you done lately”?
After we got our registration stuff we drove back to town, stopped at a grocery store to get food and we went back to our hotel room. I had to do some work and then started packing my drop bags. One thing about drop bags is that I usually get scared because I feel that I never have enough stuff in them. For the most part it is not true, but this time I actually needed more that I didn’t have. Finished packing my stuff took a quick shower and went to bed. It was 9:30 then and for some ungodly reason I started thinking... “What the hell I am about to do?” This thought kept me awake for a while and I was scared that I didn’t have it in me. And having those horrible thoughts in my mind, I finally fell asleep.
And then it was time to get up… Got up and I was excited, got my stuff ready, showered ate a bagel, a protein smoothie and some other stuff I don’t remember now. We decided to stop at the nearest Starbucks and get some caffeine before heading to the starting line. Got in the car and stopped at the local Starbucks… we checked the website before and it says that it opened at 5:00 am. Well, it was 5:00 am and it was closed. There were not posted hours and the guy inside looked at us and complete ignored us. He kept doing his stuff and not even acknowledging us or a little sign saying that they were closed would suffice. Nope, not even a wave, or a nod or nothing. We were pissed (it was early in the morning and no caffeine yet, can you imagine?). So we decided to drive to the race and stop at another Starbucks location. We found one, got our coffee and after a 45 minute drive we were at the starting point. We got our bibs, made final preparations, applied sunscreen (note to self, remove the arm warmers before I apply the sunscreen to my arms), filled our water bottles, went to the bathroom and just like that we were ready to rock and roll. And then it was 3 minutes to start, at this point I was beyond nervous, I was excited and ready to run, 1 minute to start and I was thinking.. “OOHHYYYEEAAA!!” 10, 9, 8, “holy shit here we go” 7, 6, 5, 3, “ok, here goes nothing”, 2, 1 Whooohooooo!! And we were in our way. I knew that there would be more than 24 hours before we were coming back to that place. But I was excited… and scared.
3 minutes to start.. yay!! Gulp
Ok.. here goes nothing.. :)
At the beginning of the race we took it really easy, people knew that it was going to be a long day so there was not hustling for position, there was just a bunch of people going for a “little” run and everybody understood that it was going to be a long day anyway.
These were the happy miles. We were fresh, we had company, we were happy and we simply were elated to be there. And it was very nice to talk to other runners and simply enjoy the views. You know... just being out there. I don’t really know how to express this, but being out there, putting one foot in front of the other for hours at end is really therapeutic. I know some of my friends might disagree, but the truth is, that is what keeps me going, what motivates me and what, I believe, makes me really happy. Ok… so back to the race. We started at the back of the pack and like in Miwok I started to keep score, every time we passed someone was a point, if we were passed it will deduct a point. For this particular race, I just wanted to be in the positive side and we did. It was because we probably started at the back of the pack or we simply were moving pretty well… And then, the heat showed up… and my God it got really hot out there.
Oh.. this was a fun time.. Snake was just chilling, Janet almost stepped on it and have it on film.. awesome.
The views were amazing
Mile 25-50, happier miles...
These were awesome, the views were amazing. We were running by ourselves and like we always do we tried to pace each other without killing each other. For some reason from the start of the race, I would lead a section until we got to the aid station, and then Janet will lead the next section. We kept that “unspoken” rule until mile 64, but more on that later. During this time we were actually moving well. There was this section around mile 44 coming out of the Pine Creek Aid station that had a really steep section, and it was paved too. I hate pavement, my IT bands don’t like it very much. The sun was high and we can feel the heat irradiated from the pavement. Not very happy about it, but we power through and made it to the top just to find out that they had popsicles up there. Well, the heat was so bad that even the cooler and the ice weren’t cold enough to keep the popsicles hard. We drank ours, and they were so refreshing. Sometime during these miles we found these creeks, it was awesome to dunk my hat in the cold refreshing water and put back on, Janet would do the same with her shirt, that cooled us down a little. And then… just like that we hit mile 64, and it was time to get ready for the night...
Mile 64 -80 unhappy miles
There is a rule in ultramarathons… “If you are not feeling well, don’t worry, it will change, and if you are feeling great, don’t worry that too will change”. This was our worst time and the time when I realized that I didn’t packed enough stuff for the race, I didn’t have enough cold gear. The weather changed dramatically from being hot as hell to being cold as a freaking freezer. It was so cold I couldn’t hold my flashlight as it is made of metal and it got really cold. Janet wasn’t happy also and we seriously thought we were going to have a case of hypothermia or something worse. We couldn’t help each other, the only thing we could do was to keep moving… and we did. We made it to mile 72, they had coffee there and I drank tons of it. They also had spare shirts (from previous races) so I put one on since I only had a thermal and a windbreaker and I was freezing. We said our goodbyes and kept on going… at this moment we couldn’t run anymore. We were freezing and the next few miles were the worst. Somehow we made at around 5 am into the Sunrise aid station (mile 80.3). Heather VanNess was there and she was like an angel for us. She took care of us in many ways; she truly made us feel awesome. We sat down around some heater, warmed our poor selves and realized that our state of caloric intake and sodium was pretty down. Our hands were puffy and fat, a clear sign of lack of electrolytes. I took 3 and soon enough I started to feel a lot better. Had hot pancakes and coffee and after a 30 minutes recovery break, we decided to keep on going. And we did, left that aid station and ran all the way to mile 87, we were back.
Mile 87-99 (coming home)
The last miles were really runnable and cool, but my legs were toasted... I could barely keep moving forward.
When we got to mile 87 aid station, the sun had made its appearance and it was getting hot again. I changed my clothes into more comfortable cooling outfit, ate some, drank tons of coke, took another set of ibuprofens (I believe I took about 12 during the race) and just like that we were in our way home. We walked some, I hurt a lot (had some bad blisters), but it didn’t matter, we were almost there. We got to the final aid station at mile 96, we talked to some of the runners there, ate some, drank some and we ready to call it a day, just needed to do 5 more miles for the final leg home. We left the aid station and we knew we were done; it was just a matter of keep moving until the end. The good thing about this section is that it made me realize that we were in much better shape than other runners out there. We were finishing thing strong. And just like that we made to the sign that read “1 mile to go”.
The final Mile
OMG… we were almost there, just one more mile. Janet started to move a bit faster, then she started jogging and finally we actually were running. We tried to keep the pace but after 99 miles, it was hard. We walked some and then we saw the finish line. I took a deep breath, put a big smile in my face to hide the pain I was in and kept moving, we got to the finish line and just like that we were done.
We sat down for a little, drank some water, waited for some of the runners, cheered them, drank more and then I went to take a shower... I had some blister issues; I was in pain so I headed to medical and got my blisters treated.
This race was tougher than I imagined, this race showed me that I need to take my time to plan my gear next time. This race showed me that I should take care of my feet better. But most importantly this race showed me that I am alive and that I love my life.