Sunday, September 9, 2007

Stevens Creek 50k

Holy bejeezers, this was a blast! Either from running up, down, or around hills to carefully monitoring your nutrition to hydration, this distance was a fun distance. Part of the fun was running the trails, which meant following ribbons. I missed one and ran an extra 2.5 miles. Whoops, but it was a lot of fun. I still can't stop myself from smiling at the thought of finishing this 50k, my first.

Stevens Creek 50k - 8:15:47 (14:48 pace; 39/54) Stats

Coming into the race I was a bit nervous. I was starting to think that I got myself into something way over my head. In fact, I was contemplating as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror before leaving whether I should just go right back to sleep. But, my stubborn side prevailed, and thus I finished getting ready then ate a breakfast of 2 bananas, 2 pieces of wheat toast with peanut butter and a bottle of Gatorade. There was no turning back now.

I arrived and right away it was a much different atmosphere than the atmosphere I was used to at races. Everyone was just as friendly and nice, but you could tell looking around that these runners were in much better shape than I was and were much more hardcore. Some guys were walking around with their 100 mile Western States or Hardrock shirts. Wow, this would be interesting. This pre-race was the most casual I have seen as the race director gave us a last few bits of instruction before walking to the starting line. As we all milled around people were joking and taking pictures before 9:00 (ah, isn't this a great starting time? Not those god awful 7:00 starting times) rolled around and we were off.

Start to 10.9 mile Aid Station

I stayed around the back to feel everyone out to see what I was comfortable running. I knew I had to take it slow if I wanted to last the whole 31 miles. Soon enough though I sped up knowing that I could handle a faster pace. At around mile 1 I started hearing this noise and I looked around and found that there was a guy running in front of me who was dragging a stick along, and not a small stick, so I couldn't figure out why he hadn't noticed it yet. As I continued staring I made a rookie mistake and wasn't watching where I was going. Down I went as a root jumped out and tripped the distracted runner. Luckily it was only a little dirt on my hands and a bloody right knee. So I quickly (I think I got up really fast out of embarrassment) jumped up and soldiered on.

As we came from out of the cover of the trees and into the sun the temp must have jumped 10 degrees, but we were soon back into the trees and the cooler temperature. Soon enough I found myself sandwiched between three veterans of this race as well as a ton of 100 mile races. Directly in front of me the guy had run 15 100 mile races and right behind me the other guy had run 26 100 mile races, so I purposefully stayed at their pace, which was extremely manageable, since we were in a predominantly uphill section. You see, I didn't want to flounder around and make a ton of mistakes and then get a DNF. So I followed their lead, even though I could have run much faster than them on the uphills. When they walked the ascents, I walked. When they ran the descents, I ran. This worked wonderfully and I learned a ton, which I am positive was why I was able to finish. So as we neared the 10.9 mile aid station they slowly outpaced me as I stayed back to get my electrolyte pills out. I didn't want a repeat of the SF marathon, so I brought these to offset my electrolyte depletion. Finally running again, I came in at 2:15:19.

Out of the trees and in to 10.9 aid station
Coming into the aid station I had drank 40 oz. of Gatorade and was right behind the veterans I was pacing before, so everything felt great. Now I had never run a race with this setup for an aid station (standard among ultras), and I came to some volunteers who took my water bottles and filled them up as I looked at the array on the table. M&Ms, brownies, pretzels, potato chips, coke and sports drink. What I eyed though, because I read about many ultra runners eating this during a race, was the boiled potato. You are supposed to roll it in salt and then eat it. Oh wow, what an absolutely disgusting treat. I almost threw up with my first bite. Not wanting to be rude (even though the volunteers couldn't care less) or seem the outright newbie (the more likely answer) I sat there and forced myself to eat the rest. That was just wrong. I know the salt is the key, but not on my watch!

10.9 Aid Station to 19.3 Aid Station

It was from this point on that I pretty much ran the whole race on my own. With so few runners spread out over so many miles there wasn't much interaction. But we did run past many of the runners running towards the 10.9 mile station, so there was always the quick hello and way to go, keep it up. Much different than other races. Anyway, it was pretty much all downhill for a while with a few extended hills, so this was a fun part of the course. I did catch up to four people, though, so that was fun. Two had run the wrong direction and got lost, running an extra 6 miles! For the rest of the race to the 25 mile aid station I pretty much kept trading places with them. They ran ahead, I ran ahead and so on. I found out later that they had started an hour earlier, so that extra 6 miles really set them back. Then there were two more who I passed who were also early starters.

It was at this point in the race that I had my first clue that I should eat a Cliff Bar because my legs were getting wobbly and I had no energy. It was amazing, within minutes my legs were back to normal and I felt like I had just started the race! I had overlooked nutrition during the race to this point, and what a difference it does make. Eventually I was passed by two more runners near the aid station, one of which was the race director. I liked this idea because it meant the race director was only minutes ahead of me and was making sure the course was marked correctly. Score for me. I eventually came in to the aid station at 4:08:44.

Rounding Horseshoe Lake to 19.3 Aid Station

19.3 aid station to 24.5 aid station

This was perhaps the hardest part of the course, and not only because of the hills. There were virtually no trees so you were running the whole way practically with the sun blaring down on you. And the hills, oh the hills. This far into the race and it seemed like the hills were never ending. At least in the first half the hills were covered in shade and you had a ton of energy. Not this section. You round one corner and see the trail way off in the distance rounding another hill going up again! Ah, this was a pain. So I trudged on and kept walking the ascents and running the descents.

I had one goal on this leg of the race: get to the aid station! Seems obvious, and it is, but I knew that when I got to the aid station then I would be able to turn around and begin making my way back home, and it would also mean that I was pretty much guaranteed to finish, which wasn't always so up to the 19.3 mile aid station. It was a small comfort I was looking forward to. So the heat pounded me and I shuffled the hills. The two people I kept trading places with eventually passed me for good. But one of them had dropped out?!?! It turns out one of the half found another running partner. Anyway, I arrived to the aid station at 5:38:49 and was ecstatic to find out they had ice cold water! Oh what a joy that was.

24.5 mile Aid Station to Finish

This was the hard part. I was still running in the sun, so that made things difficult, and the descents were getting harder to continue running down. At about mile 28 I began shuffling along not realizing that my energy was depleted and this was why I was feeling dizzy and my legs non-responsive. Sounds worse than it was. So I started fishing for another Cliff Bar, which seemed to take an amazingly long time to pull out from such a small little pouch. First I took another electrolyte pill, which I almost choked on when there wasn't enough water in the one water bottle to swallow it with. So I grabbed the other water bottle and used that to assist eating the Cliff Bar, then I ate about six Cliff Shot Bloks. It helped, again, almost immediately. Amazing, you would have thought I would have learned this the first time it happened. Oh well.

Okay, now I was lost. I was looking at the ground looking for foot imprints and, oh, there's one! So I continued on, even though it didn't seem right. I hadn't seen a pink marker ribbon in a long time and this road was starting to get overgrown. What the, I have to walk up that?!?!? So I got to the top and began walking down, just as steep, then up another even steeper hill. What was going on? The gnats were swarming over me now. There must have been 15 of them on my legs before I realized it and began angrily swiping at them. Was I lost? I got to the end of the road and it turned into a trail, which dead ended at a fire road that you had to turn left or right. No pink ribbons anywhere. This was not right. I was at an intersection and nothing was telling me where to go. I screwed up. This was where I wanted to lie down and curl up into a ball. Not only did I go a lot farther then I had to, but I now had to do it all over again with the gnats and those steep hills. Unbelievable.

I mad my way back slowly because by now I was running out of water and I didn't want to keep drinking it without really knowing how far I had to go. Luckily I only went 1.25 miles farther. I saw a string of four ribbons, one on the left of the fire road and three directly across from it going up a steep trail. I must have missed it when I was fishing for food out of my pack. That sucked. So I was finally back on track again. Problem now, it was all uphill practically. Oh well, I could smile again. I was now 31 miles into the race and had another 2.5 to go, damn the hills!

5,000 ft elevation gain

I eventually came in at 8:15:47. If I hadn't got lost I probably would have come in at around 7:15 (the extra miles section took a crazy amount of time because of the steepness of the trail/fire road), but thus is the nature of trail races. Incidentally, there was one couple that had still not come in yet. I wasn't last at least! They finally came in around 20 minutes later, and the race officially ended. It turned out there were nine people who started early at 8:00 (because they thought they would take longer than 7 hours) so there were a few people who placed behind me, not to mention there were 8 DNFs. Not that place matters here, mind you, but there was something about not wanting to come in last place.

Will I do another 50k? I think so, but it will be after I do a ton more hill/trail running which is a completely different beast than street/paved path running. My next trail run is the Quicksilver Half Marathon in San Jose on 9/30, so that should be fun.


Pre-Race (690 calories total)
2 Bananas (200 calories)
2 Pieces of Bread w/ Peanut Butter (360 calories)
20 oz. Gatorade (130 calories)

During Race (1,902 calories total)
14 Endurolytes (0 calories)
9 Cliff Shot Bloks (297 calories)
3 Cliff Bars (900 calories)
2 Brownies (180 calories)
1 Potato (50 calories)
Handful of Pretzels (150 calories)
40 oz. Gatorade (260 calories)
10 oz. Cytomax (65 calories)
130 oz. Water (0 calories)

(All pictures taken from the Stevens Creek 50k website and are representative of when the race was ran in March of previous years when it was much more lush. This race was very dry and hot. From 19.3 on it was brown weeds everywhere except the controlled fire with the black landscape that we ran through)


Nancy said...

Oh. My. God. You totally rock - this is such an achievement!!!! Congrats on this great day. Bummer about getting lost, but you didn't let it beat you. It sounds like you learned a ton too. I think it is amazing that you had the courage to do this. AWESOME.

Running Ragged said...

Wow! are nuts, I mean brave! That is awesome! I don't think I could ever...

Your upcoming 10k should be a walk in the park now! ;)

Congratulations on your race!

Bill Carter said...

Wow what an awewsome experience. I really enjoyed the way you told the story and it honestly made me want to sign up for a race like this. Do they still call these races, because from what I've always been told, anything after 26.2 is just insane??
Congrats on the accomplishment... it is amazing that you finished so well despite adding on a little extra.