Don't let people fool you, don't listen when they say 'ultra runners are the best, they are so nice and welcoming...'. Ultra runners suck. They con you into all sorts of races. Sweet talkers, every single damn one. Why? Why? Why did I sign up for this race????? Why?????
I really should have called it a day after Cuyamaca. Boom, first 100k done, it's now fall and 'racing season' is over. Sleep in, gain weight, rest. Sounds good right? 'It's a great race, it's only 26 miles, you'll love it.' No, I hated miles 4-26. Hated it. Bleh. Ok, I'm done whining, I just really needed to say it.
Mount Laguna marathon was a very well put on race. Small and intimate with amazing volunteers. Volunteers are the heart and soul of a race, really. They see you at your most tired and challenged and find ways to help you, they push you out of the aid station, they take time out of their day to feed you, they go out early and mark the course, and then clean up after you run by taking down all the flags that kept you on course.
Two of my road racing friends like to get a little dusty on occasion and joined me on the trails today. It was a nice and balmy 35 degrees when we arrived at the start, but quickly warmed up to perfect running weather. We really lucked out on the weather today! No rain and no wind.
The race started out on softly undulating packed dirt roads before hopping in the Pacific Coast Trail. The route joins the PCT at one of my favorite segments of the trail; it's flat, soft ground with great tree coverage. The beginning of the race is a mixture of very runnable hills, with a couple of great drops around mile 6, and again at 17 before a steady climb from18-20.
Fall happens in SoCal, you just need to keep your eyes open and visit higher altitudes than the beach. The views were amazing during the race. It almost made up for how beat down I felt. I started that morning with an icky stomach, barely managing to eat a slice of bread and a banana. I also had a whopper of a headache. Water didn't sound like something I really wanted, so I waited until the first aid station to take some Advil with some Coke. I'll count not drinking anything until mile 5 as dumb move number one.
I've been running races for about 13 years, primarily half and full marathons, and only recently moved on to the trails. And I've noticed that I need to eat more when running trails. But my icky stomach kept me from eating. I felt my energy levels drop and my legs getting heavy. So....not eating = dumb move number 2.
This old rusted out car is a fabulous marker for a popular aid station location up in the mountains. When I see this car, I always know that I'm within 1/4 mile of the aid station at Penny Pines, which really helped today.
After Penny Pines, I plodded along. Walking, grumbling, occasionally running and just having a grand old pity party. I'm so glad I was not running with anyone for the rest of the race, because it was ugly. Whine, whine, whine. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Ugh.
A small 2 miles of climbing before a great downhill run at mile 17, unfortunately my nutrition and hydration had been so bad that by this time I was a wreck. I got to Noble Canyon Trail, but instead of heading downhill (glorious, glorious downhill) the route had us head back up the mountain. Really, it wasn't super steep, but I didn't like it. Not one bit.
Coming in to the last aid station I told myself I would eat something. Anything! So far that day I had a piece of bread, a banana, 1/4 blueberry muffin, 1/2 a Coke, 3 slices of orange, and 3/4 a packet of very stale Probar chews. Probably not enough to push me through 20+ miles in the mountains. Food, I needed food. Browsing the food available, I saw they had a beautiful, scrumptious, mouthwatering Julian Apple Pie! Hmmmm, I had a half a slice of pie and had a volunteer help me retrieve my bag of roasted cashews from my pack. I ate half a slice of pie and 6 cashews, it was amazing what some food will do. I felt slightly better. And with only 6 more miles it felt doable. Then they threw in this gem (log below). Ack, climbing that was no fun. I honestly stood back and contemplated first going around (but both ends were in brambles) or going under. Really, going under. Finally sanity prevailed and I found a way to clamber over. It was ugly and it hurt, but I got over and went on my merry way (can you feel the sarcasm?).
|The portion of the race that shall be referred to as 'that damn log.'|
Don't get me wrong, I was still pretty wrecked, and I stopped at every opportunity to take a pictures (photos below!). But, I was determined to not let anyone pass me. No one had done so for a few miles now, and that's really all I had left mentally. 'Don't let anyone pass you.'
|The Meadows aka The Biggest F'ing Field in the World.|
|A reminder that this is the great outdoors and predators are all around us.|
|Finally, an indicator to the finish!|
We were told that the last few miles would be gently rolling with a climb at the end. I enjoyed the gently rolling portion a lot. I didn't enjoy the sadistic climb at the end.
|A cruel cruel climb to the end.|
|Whoop whoop, coming in with a smile.|
Ah, sweet sweet finish.
So happy to be done.
I can say, in all honesty, that I got my butt handed to me in this race. I didn't train adequately, I didn't hydrate, and I certainly didn't eat well the day of the race. What did I learn? Don't freaking take a marathon for granted. 26 miles is a long way to run, and you (I) really need to prepare, get your (my) head on right and eat something. And that pie is good. If they have pie at an aid station, have some. Pie is so very good during a race.