Races seem like a much better idea when you are in the comfort of your own home, cozy, sated, hydrated and NOT running.
Last weekend I participated in the Cuyamaca 100k Endurance Run. My best description of this race would be: the slowest and hardest 50k I've ever run ... followed by another 50k. You can read more, but that's the bare bones of the race.
I registered for this race late and was waitlisted for over a month. In the meantime I ran a timed 24 hour race (Julian Station Full Moon Ultra). After completing 64.8 miles, in 0.57 mile loops, I settled in my car to drive home. Imagine my surprise when I randomly checked the waitlist and saw that I was the pending applicant for the Cuyamaca 100k.
After a one month taper/recovery from Julian Station, the morning of the race arrived. The race starts at 630 sharp, and is located approximately an hour drive away. M actually volunteered to drive me to the start, and my family would pick me up. Having been told by the race director that parking could be challenging, we planned in arriving at 5am, giving us plenty of wiggle room the morning of the race.
We were fairly surprised that after several weeks of scorching weather, we exited our car to temps in the high 30's. We were unprepared for this little development. But thankfully the main hub to check in and gather was indoors, and so much more comfortable. I picked up my bib and race goodies and met up with friends. Now the wait....
|Ready to run!|
The race started off with gentle rolling hills and scrub allowing the pack spread out. I tried not to get sucked up to the front of the pack at the start, knowing my speed limitations. Primarily, I do not have much speed! I'd love to say 'I felt great! Everything was going according to plan!' But frankly, my hamstrings hurt and my Achilles was annoying me. Attempting to settle into a nice easy run, I had a chance to chat with lots of other runners.
The race is broken up into 3 loops (32, 12 and 18 miles) and each loop is assigned a color. Each runner is given a bracelet at the start to designate what color markers you should be following and exchanged for a different color bracelet when each loop is completed. This really came in helpful later, when the paths intersect and you are very tired.
The first aid station came around mile 8, and to tell the truth, I had no idea where the aid stations were located. You know that friend that never knows the route or how to get there? Today that was me. Some runners come with a plan, course/nutrition planned out, etc. I arrived with stuff I think I might need and stuff I hope I won't need and just ran. At the aid station I asked my helpful volunteers 'soooooo....... how many miles to the next aid station?' Or just look for the signs they had posted.
Loop 1 is definitely the most challenging, not only is it the longest, but you have the biggest and longest vertical climb contained in it. You are still trying to pass slower runners, and making way for faster runners.
I spent most of the first 50k playing leap frog with my friend G. She would have a good stretch, leave me behind, then I'd play catch up and vice versa. Where the first 8 miles were lovely and undulating, the next 14 were (what felt like) an unrelenting straight uphill march, in the sun. Perfectly beautiful and absolutely treacherous if you choose to simultaneously admire the view and attempt to make forward progress. Sticks, stones, and uneven paths made it difficult to look around.
Mixed in with the climb, you also have the opportunity to run through tall grass and hope your foot isn't going to step on something slithery or a hole. Always exciting.
The volunteers at the Peak were amazing. They ran out to relieve you of your pack to get anything you might need or want started before you get there. I met my pacer (if i decided I wanted one) and the top and she showered me with attention. She also made me take 3 salt pills, something I had never taken before, but I'm fairly certain saved me during the run.
A short stop to admire the view that my hard work earned me before heading downhill to the campgrounds. That's when the real fatigue started in. I was certain I started feeling tired just after mile 28. And I still hadn't completed the first loop, and still had more than half the race left. I was also SUPER hungry! Real food hungry. I didn't want my gels, or chomps, or water. I wanted a pizza. A whole pizza.
I settled for a dry turkey sandwich after I made it back to the campground and started out on loop 2. I think by far, loop 2 was my favorite. It was beautiful and peaceful. And short. I couldn't help but take the time for a picture of the lovely tall grass.
|Some runners I was trying to catch in the distance. Little black specks.... see them?|
Looking decent, if not feeling if not
|About 2 miles before G got a good radio station and ditched me.|
|Gators, gators everywhere!!!|
This aid station was a sight for sore eyes, and arms. I started feeling a hot spot on the backs of both arms about 1-2 miles out from this aid station. So I spent a good portion of that time running with my arms out to my sides. Backs of my arms, how completely random and weird. But the 'Gator Pond' had a hugetub of Vaseline to help, and some great spirits to boost my tired spirits.
Never a good thing to be warned of, but always good to know!
I finished loop 2 just as the sun was setting, so the final 18 miles would be in the dark. Thank goodness a friend told me that it would be windy at Sunrise highway, because I just wanted to be done, and may not have taken the time to change if she didn't mention it. I switched over to a longsleeve, downed some soup and grabbed my headlamp.
Back up the hill, this time following the yellow tape flags marking the course. I ran by myself, chasing G who left the campgrounds as I was came in. Running in the dark was surreal. I don't know if it was the excitement of this being the final loop, the cooling temperature or just having some food in my stomach, but I ran a fair portion of the flat grassy section. I kept an eye out for the mountain lions because I kept smelling what I thought was mountain lion urine (that, and I remembered that sign earlier). I was sure there was a pissed off feline hiding in the grass just waiting to pounce. It picked up my pace a bit. No mountain lions sighted.
I finally caught up to some headlamps in the distance. I did a nice fast hikes up the hills, ran on the flats, and ran runnable portions of the downhill. The headlamps (and the fatigue) made finding my footing a little tricky on the rocky downhills.
I was so menally drained, that at one point I kept thinking that the mist/fog patches that we kept going thru were the result the cold air condensing my breath. It wasn't until a fellow runner mentioned the fog that it even occurred to me that there was any!
I finally caught up with G at Sunrise highway, mile 51. Only 11 more miles to go!!! I had been worrying about at what point in the race my stomach was going to turn on me, and so far it was cooperating. I left Sunrise in good spirits and excited about being SO close to the finish. Five miles to the next aid station. Five rocky miles.
At the final aid station I was still feeling ok and planned to run as much of the remaining 6 miles as I could. I should have been prepared for the wheels to fall off... The first 2 miles were great. Excitement for nearly finishing and non dead legs propelled me. Until my stomach said 'Ok, enough. I'm tired of bouncing. I want to be done.' Then every time I attempted to run nausea flooded through me. I could walk, and I could hike fast, but I could not run. And I didn't think it was bad enough to take the time to remove my pack and get my crystalized ginger to nibble on. But it was time. I did 2 more miles at a fast walk. Watching my estimated finishing time slip by, then the estimated finishing hour slip by. I was demoralized. This sucked.
Time to stop being a baby and suck it up and go. I tried to run, made it 20 yards before my stomach really let me know it didn't appreciate my efforts. Tried again, made it 10 feet, same results. But, now I felt so much better! And it was downhill, time to run.
I was able to run more than I walked the remaining 2 miles and finally finish. 17:32. Not stellar, but given it was my first 100k on a true trail, I'll take it.
I came into the race without the proper respect to the distance. It was only 12 miles more than a 50 miler, right? I forgot that 50 miles was damn tough, and I still needed to get there before getting to the additional 12. Live and learn. I'm so glad I had my family at the end to bring me home and my great running friends waiting to cheer me into the finish. I know that if I had never started running with the Trail Crashers, I would not have even signed up for, or finished this race. Thanks guys!