When I missed my 50 k in March due to a long drawn out Flu, and accompanying respiratory difficulties, I was disappointed but happy with the progression of my training up to that point. The training was its own reward, giving me a good base for the upcoming trail half marathon in April. I’d been training on long runs with my friend and ultra mentor, Lori. She had qualified and entered the Western States 100 miler, with a couple of shorter ultras leading up to it as training races. I’d promised I’d assist with those events, so I had to get back into her training schedule rather than just slack off to HM distance training. Coincidentally, she missed the March 50k as well due to an injury so we were both “on the mend” throughout the end of March.
Lori alerted me to the Grizzly Peak Race. When I was able to knock out a 24 mile trail run as the capper to a 40 mile/three day back to back training session, my confidence was high enough. I entered the 50k that would be 14 days later, on unfamiliar trails, with more elevation gain than I had experienced in any one run or race to date. I fully expected that this would be my longest time on my feet in my running career. The course repeated a 13 mile loop twice and finished after another 6 mile section of that trail. Three times I would be at the “finish” and the urge to drop at 13, and 26 was going to be immense on this challenging course.
Saturday evening I made the 50 minute drive to a friend’s house in the Berkeley area. It was 2.5 miles from the Start at Lake Anza. After a Beer and a baked potato with chili that night I retired to my sleeping bag on a Thermarest air matress. I had Nacho the cat keeping me company as I read a few pages of Cormac McCarthy to try to take my mind off the looming race.
I slept well that night and awoke well rested to a cup of coffee and ate 1.5 packets of instant oatmeal. Lori picked me up and we arrived at the Start with plenty of time to spare.
Weather was cool and foggy, with winds up to 15 mph, and occasional showers. 61 was the predicted high and I wore an Under Armour compression shirt under my tech singlet with a Smartwool merino wool longsleeve over the top.
The runners at the start consisted of half marathon, 30k, marathon, and 50k distance. There were 40 runners in the marathon and 40 runners in the 50k distances.
Before we left the start, Wendell of Coastal Trail Runs gave us our pre-race briefing and mentioned that some of the trails were slippery. A half mile in we hit a logjam of runners as we tried to negotiate a clay slick trail section that had us scrambling to keep our feet. My NB Leadville 1210’s did outstanding in the slick mud, but it was still treacherous.
I bypassed the water aid station at mile 1.7 as runners began to spread out. Along the next few miles I began to take stock of who was around me. I noticed an older grey haired gentleman in cutoff jeans with a plastic water bottle, trail shoes and gaiters. I figured him for an experienced mountain goat and vowed I wouldn’t try to keep up with him if he left me in the dust. I later learned he was a 61 year old in the half marathon with 74 Trail races completed in UltraSignup. There also was a pair of young ladies wearing shirts that said they were “Moving for Leukodema”. They had a strong contingent of fans along the course. We traded places back and forth throughout the first loop, walking the steep hills that went up the side of Vollmer peak
The next aid station Big Springs was 600 ft down at the bottom of the Lupine trail that came down off of Vollmer peak at mile 4.7 where I topped off my water and grabbed a quarter of a PB&J sandwich. I would do this throughout the race, and the solid food, along with Clif Shot blocks kept me pretty well fueled.
We took Arroyo trail up to the Seaview trail and ran along the smooth rolling ridge top where fog pushed by blustery wind rolled by, and turned down the Big Springs and Quarry trail that took us back to the Big Springs aid station 3.7 miles later. Another quarter of a pb&j and we climbed back up the side of Vollmer Peak and down the Grizzly Peak trail where we met the slippery Selby trail we had come out.
I turned around at the start line at about 2:50:00 after 13 miles. I felt pretty good that I was now running a trail I’d been on once. The hills weren’t any easier, but I knew they would top out and where there were runnable sections. There was a lot of uphill trudging along the way. On the second loop I took a wrong turn up a trail that added 2 miles (and 25-30 minutes) to my second loop. I could tell because the Leukodema Duo I was leading met me on their third loop as I was a mile from the turn around.
I’ll have to admit it was tough to not get down on myself for getting off course, but I kept my head up and reminded myself I could do the extra mileage. I focused on the trail ahead of me. When I was about 1000 yards from the final turnaround, I passed a smiling 71 year young lady headed out for her final 6 miles in the 50k. She asked if I was finishing and I replied “Nope, I’m right behind you!” That cemented my resolve.
I rolled in to the start area to Lori waiting to kick my ass back out onto the course. I grabbed my PB&J and topped off my water drank a shot of Coca Cola, and ate as I power walked my way back for the final 6 mile loop. My goal was to catch the runner ahead of me sometime in the next 6 miles.
I hit the 1.7 mile water station and no sign of her. On the latter part of the 1.8 mile climbing section, I would catch a glimpse of her purple shirt above me through the trees. I kicked it up into a run on the downhill section, and finally caught her a half mile from the finish. I managed to roll into the finish looking stronger than I felt. The clock read 8:10:xx but I was happy I was able to cover the distance and glad to get my Finisher Coaster with the roaring grizzly emblem. This one will be on my desk for a while.
As I drank my recovery beer, and ate some soup I learned Lori had been 2nd woman overall, and 2nd in her age group. I think she is on track to do well at Miwok in May.
We celebrated with pizza and beer that night and demolished both deep dish and thin crust pizzas. We talked about the Annadel trail half marathon, and how I was going to recover in time to do it. Right now the elation of finishing a tough race is eclipsing the muscle soreness and time concerns of next week’s race.