I had a pretty good day out on the trails of the Santa Cruz mountains
. Not quite as good as I had hoped going into it but considering it was my third ultra within 22 days, I'll take it.
Whitney drove me to the start and if you've read one of my race reports you know what was playing on the car audio system. Her sister lives pretty close to the start and she spent the day there and met me shortly after I finished the race. I got my bib and then went to the back of the very long line for the port-a-potties. I didn't think I was going to actually make it in before the race start but after about twenty minutes or so and with ten minutes until the start I got lucky. While in line Joyce Lee
came over to say hello and we talked for a while. We met at Run de Vous in 2016 and crossed paths there again last year. She wasn't racing yesterday but was there to support a friend of hers. I heard the race director say "Let's head over to the start line" while I was still in the port-a-potty. I made my way over there and had to weave through the crowd to get somewhat close to the start. The results show 104 marathon finishers and 135 in the 50K and this large group was starting pretty much right onto single track trail. I didn't want to be stuck too far back.
We got underway at 0900 and it didn't take too long for things to work out as far as pace was concerned. It wasn't very far into the race when I came to a spot where the leaders had gotten off course and were coming back to join the trail. They were all very eager to pass and get back to the front. It was a bit dicey for a while. After they all got around I found myself stuck about thirteen deep behind a guy that was moving rather slowly. I was getting a bit impatient and thought about yelling out that he should pull to the side and allow everyone to pass when we came to a short section of roadway that gave us the opportunity to get by him. This was just about two miles into the race and it felt good to really start moving. Somewhere along in here a guy behind me said something like "I've seen you at a few of these events and you never seem to slow down" I responded "I figure I have to keep going as fast as I can for as long as I can". I asked his name and he said Ben. Looking at ultrasignup
I think we have only done two events together. I did the 100 miler back in March of 2016 when he was doing the 50 mile race. I remember thinking not too long after our conversation that the pace may be a bit too fast but I wasn't going to slow down until I had to, and eventually I had to. I recall doing the math around five or six miles in that projected a 4:30ish finish time.
The first aid station came at 6.5 miles in, I ate a piece of orange, took a gel and topped off my bottles. I decided to carry two, one for water and one for electrolyte drink. This would allow me to squirt some water on my head once it warmed up and I knew it was going to get hot. In fact it was rather warm right from the get go. Fortunately most of the course is under tree cover so that helped. Might have lost a place or two while in the aid station but I did get out of there rather quickly. The next section had a good amount of climbing and I went to hiking anything that was slightly steep. Overall this worked out well for me. I would lose a little ground to people ahead of me while they kept running but then when I started running again I had recovered well enough during the hike that I would catch back up.
Pulled into China Grade aid station (11.2 miles) still feeling pretty good. Ate some watermelon and a piece of banana, topped off the bottles and moved on down the trail. This area had some of the few sections that were exposed and I could feel the heat. Perhaps a mile or so later it was back under the trees and maybe another half mile or so there was a creek crossing. I jumped off the foot bridge onto some rocks and almost fell down because they were very slippery. A guy that was right behind me asked if I was okay and I told him that I was, that it was a rather dumb move to have made by not thinking they would be slick. I dipped my hat into the water which was nice and cold then got back on the trail.
Began to feel the effects of the early pace along with the heat as I was making my way to the Gazos Creek aid station (15.9 miles). It wasn't too bad but I could tell things weren't going the way I would have wanted. More watermelon & banana here along with bottle fills. Just before getting to the aid station a few guys had gone by me moving really well. It dawned on me while at the aid station that they had probably already done the loop and were therefore 4.5 miles ahead of me. Out of there and I saw some dogs, asked their human if I could pet them and he said I could. The collie was friendlier than the husky. Then it was time for a nice long uphill hike. Near the top it was exposed and on rock that was pushing the heat back up and it felt like an oven. Got onto the downhill and was moving well. The legs were definitely happier going in that direction. Made it down to where the loop connected back to the course and I was passing quite a few people, some were marathoners that wouldn't be doing the loop.
Back to Gazos Creek (20.4 miles) for more watermelon and a mini Twix bar. Filled the bottles and got out of there quickly. I knew it was another hike back up the road ahead of me and I was definitely feeling the heat. This next section was the longest without aid, 8.6 miles to the next one. I wasn't sure how far it would be and failed to ask but I did know it was the longest. For a long time I could hear a creek not far off the course and I kept hoping to get close enough so that I could use the water to cool off. I came around a bend in the trail and there was a guy down at the edge of the water splashing some on his head, shoulders and back. It was a very narrow access point so I waited until he was done and then moved down to dip my hat in. Got a minor thigh cramp for my effort. Not very far down the trail there was better access and I actually sat down / laid back into the water. This was a far better move but I got a calf cramp.
I adjusted my toes and the cramp went away. On my way towards the finish I would get in the water two more times. At one point in this section we came to a spot where there was a waterfall off to our right. I stood there for a moment appreciating the beauty of the scene.
Within the final four miles two guys in the 50K went by me, I would eventually pass one of them back with less than a mile to the finish. When I got to the last aid station (29.0 miles) I ate more watermelon, had some Coke and only filled my water bottle. As I was leaving a guy showed up that I thought might have been in my age group. That scared me enough to push me to the finish line at a decent pace. I really wanted to pick up some points in the year long Blazer series in my age group. I knew there was a guy there that was very likely to beat me but I held out hope of coming in second. Shortly after crossing the finish line I found out that I had in fact finished 2nd out of 12 in the 50-59 age group (turns out that guy from the last aid station was not in my age group, I thanked him for the scare all the same). I was 20th overall out of 135 and 19th male out of 84. My finish time was not close to five hours but 5:46:00 was a good time under the conditions.