I had high hopes for my first ultra of the year. I think the problem was that I set them too high considering the minimal training that I have done in the past few months. This doesn't mean that I fully expected to finish, but I at least hoped.
Sequoia Trail Run 30k - 3:58:47 (12:50 pace; 74/100)
I waited all week with trepidation, watching the forecasts predict rain. With each passing day the weather got better and better, until it suddenly said no rain all week except on Saturday. Weather held over. It did not rain all week nor on Saturday. I would be running. I felt good the night before and the drive over, but as soon as I stepped up to the start line the doubt stepped in.
I'd never been to the Jaoquin Miller State Park. I was floored by what I was seeing. I mean, this is Oakland. A rough and tumble city with a high crime rate. One you wouldn't imagine having huge towering trees, among them Redwoods and Eucalyptus. The start itself was in a little meadow tucked away by the Chabot Space and Science Center. The course went up hill immediately, running through redwoods. Two steep ascents and about 3 miles later we came to an opening checkered with grass and a smattering of trees. To this point I was already doubting myself. I was tired and it had taken me 36 minutes to run 3 miles. Aside from all that my quads were burning and fading fast. But the weather was perfect. A cool middle 50s. Here was part of the problem: mud.
We were slippin' and slidin' at some parts, jumping babbling creeks and brooks. One time I didn't jump quite far enough and my foot slipped into the water. It was that type of day. It wasn't all bad, there were stretches were the mud gave way to roots and rocks, some hard packed dirt. But more often than not I was picking my way gingerly through and past mud.
Anyway, after mile 3 we came to some rolling hills and I was able to open up some. Running was enjoyable. My legs started recovering from the opening 3 mile ascent. We came to the ridge where the weather became warmer and the tree trapped coolness dissipated. I steep descent dropped us over the other side as we hopped and bounced past mud. Eventually it flattened out and dropped us into another park entrance where we came to a turn around point and an aid station. I did not envy the next part, because now we had to turn around and go back up the long steep ascent. By the time I got up there I was beat down and tired. I had already made the decision to stop at the 30k finish, which always plays tricks with my eating and drinking.
I wasn't doing much of either. My legs were already exhausted, but the depleted electrolytes and no calorie intake was starting to make my calves cramp. A quick 200 calorie snack and some electrolyte pills began to take some of the discomfort away as I slowly walked up the long ascent. By now we were traversing along a ridge and the weather had warmed up as we lost the cover of trees. Huge mud puddles spanned the whole fire road and I had to rough it through the bushes to get through, even still having to walk through a ton of mud. After roughin' it we finally came to some downhill, the final descent back to the finish. I had just barely came in under 4 hours and was exhausted and sore. Oh, and there was over 3,000 feet of elevation gain.
When all is said and done I realized that I am a horrible mud runner. Where others charge through it, I slow down and gingerly pick my way through it all. Mud is not my friend. And the obvious, of course, is that I need more training. Whereas before my muscle strength in my legs held me up and my endurance slowed me, now the lack of training has lessened my quad strength and my endurance was going strong. It was a great day in the park despite my exhaustion. I hoped for a 50k finish, but a birthday run in the park is well worth it.