Bishop High Sierra 50 Mile

Saturday, I ran the Bishop 50 mile for the 3rd year in a row. It was a super last minute decision as I decided to run the race last Sunday since my 50k the day before ended up going well. However, since I only decided to run only a week before, I unfortunately could not find anyone to go up with. Mark would be running the Grand Canyon only a few days before and would be too trashed to do another long drive and run (and we normally don’t do the crewing/pacing thing for each other) so he was out. All my running friends were either out of town or couldn’t get off work and my Mom was also out of town. So, I decided to be a big girl and have an adventure and make the 5 hour drive up to Bishop, camp and run the race al by myself.

So Friday morning after coaching a few Crossfit classes, I packed my Jeep with all my running and camping gear as well as 18 tubs of Vitargo that Genr8 graciously donated to the 1-3 male/female winners of the 50k, 50mi and 100k events. The whole back of my Jeep was packed full (its amazing/kind of ridiculous how much stuff is needed just to run!). I left a little before 11 and then made the drive up the 395, getting up to Bishop in great time. Now don’t laugh, but the part of this who solo trip that I was stressed the most about was not the drive and not the run, but actually being able to put up a tent all by myself. I don’t camp all that often so haven’t had that much practice. I ended up getting the tent up all by myself, however it was the cover that gave me issues. I probably spent like 20-30 minutes trying to figure out which direction that damn cover fit over the tent. Im sure all my camp mates found it quite amusing.

After I settled in to my campsite, I ate dinner (which I forgot a fork for so had to resort to fingers, which again I’m sure people thought was either amusing or were probably disgusted by). Then I headed down into town for the pre race dinner meeting (I don’t do pasta so I just ate on my own). While there I saw several friends, including my friend Meredith, who I met at last years race and we pretty much laughed non stop through the whole dinner. It was a good time! Then it was back up to camp and off to bed. Btw, I’m pretty sure the worst thing about the camping/racing combo is trying to hydrate enough for the race but then having to wake up in the middle of the night and have to walk ALL THE WAY in the cold to the bathrooms. UGH.

The race started at 6am the following morning and I made it to the start line just in for the “3, 2, 1 Go!” At the start I felt really good about the day I had ahead of me, even though I knew that I would probably get my ass kicked by this course just like the other two times. I had ice cold Vitargo laying in each one of my drop bags, waiting for me at all the major aid stations, plus my magic powder at mile 32. I knew the first half would be tough, but if I could just through it, then I would be able to pick up the pace and hopefully make up some time on the second half.

The race starts out around 7,000ft and the first 17 miles are a very slow, steady climb, in soft sand. I was able to run the first 5-6 miles or so but then had to start alternating walking and running. I always have such a hard time moving in sandy terrain and throw in altitude and uphill and then I really can’t move. The only really good thing about this section in my opinion is the views that you get of the High Sierras. Its breathtaking.

I reached the 17ish mile aid station in a little over 3.5 hours, which is pretty slow. This is the aid station where the 50k runners get to turn around and honestly, I kind of felt like turning around as well. My legs just weren’t feeling as good as I hoped they would. However, I grabbed my bottle of Vitargo from my drop bag and forged on, hoping that they would feel better in the later miles.

So after already having gone uphill for 17 or so miles, we now got to do some more climbing for another 2-3 miles to where the race peaks out at 9,400ft. This was mostly a hike for me. The altitude was making me feel a bit weird. I couldn’t even run for minute at a time on the sections that flattened out a little. Although the scenery was probably the best out of the whole race once we hit the top, I was very relieved to be able to then head back down into the previous aid station.

I refueled with some more Vitargo back at the aid station and then headed back out for another 13 mile out and back deal and guess what.. we had more climbing!!! This next section we ran, definitely was not my favorite part of the race, but I knew that once I got done with the “out” part, the way back would be primarily downhill for the rest of the race.

MORE UP!!!

MORE UP!!!

I continued to move at a pretty slow pace. It was now getting to be pretty warm and my legs just did not want to climb at all anymore. However, even though my legs didn’t feel all that great, I was still having a really good time. Mentally I was strong and knew that I would come out of the low my body was feeling and so I kept moving the best I could. And actually the instant that I hit the turn around point, about 6.5 miles later, I instantly got a little more spring in my step knowing that I would now be on my way back to the finish line, with “only” 20 more miles to go!

3 miles later, I hit another aid station and was so excited because here I had a drop bag containing a bottle of Vitargo and my “magic powder.” As soon as I drank my special formula I perked up even more and was running pretty strong. I finished the out and back and came into that main aid station right at 8 hours and now only had 15 miles left in the race. From there, I had about 2.5 miles of some rolling hills, which I power walked the ups and ran the flats and downs and then it was pretty much all downhill from then on. I hauled ass for another 4-5 miles, thinking that when I reached the next aid station I would have only 8 miles or less to go. If I could get there in under the 9 hr mark, I MAYBE could have a chance at beating my time from last year (10:29). Unfortunately, even with pushing really hard, I got there a little past the 9 hour mark and it was about 9 miles to go instead of 8. I still kept pushing the pace after I left the aid station, but forgot about some rolling hills that were after that and I slowed down a bit. My foot also started to not like all the soft sand and was bugging a bit and so decided to slow it down a bit since it didn’t seem like I would beat my time or catch up to anyone of the women in front of me.

I hit the second to last aid station with 3.6 miles left in the race, right after the 10 hour mark.  I barely had any water left and was feeling pretty overheated and like my back side was getting majorly sunburned, however once I got there I was asked if I wanted a popsicle! Um, duh!!!! Popsicles are my favorite thing ever during hot races. So I ate my popsicle while jogging the last few miles of the race in at a comfortable 10 minute pace and ended up finishing the race in 10:38.

It definitely was not my best race on that course (my PR out there is 9:59) but nevertheless, despite my legs feeling pretty beaten up all day, I really had a good time. I also didn’t have any stomach issues which I was majorly happy about! The past two years I felt like vomiting the last 10 miles, which was a pretty horrible feeling! My time was also good enough for an age group win and 5th female overall, so not as bad as I thought that I did. I guess I also can’t be too upset or expect really great results when I really didn’t train for this race at all. I did one 50k (a week ago) and other than that, just have been trying to get back in shape after surgery. So all in all it was a good, not great, day, but well worth the trip, especially since this was also the last year the RD, Marie Boyd, will be putting on the race. Hopefully the race will be continued in the hands of someone else because even though very challenging, it is a spectacular race.

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Whoo’s In El Moro Race Recap (and win!!)

Yesterday I ran the Whoo’s in El Moro 50k for my fourth year in a row. Going into the race, I had no intention of racing it. I just started running again about three weeks ago now after having foot surgery and my longest run in months was 12 miles, which I did last week. So I was honestly kind of nervous about just being able to complete the distance, let alone try and push the pace and be competitive. My goal was basically to just go out to enjoy some good trail running and be able to finish the distance. Coach Lisa’s goal for me was pretty much the same… complete the distance, walk if I felt like I needed to, but NO hard running.

Mark and I got to the race about 30 minutes prior to the start, picked up our bibs and all our stuff together for the race start. I also met up with my friend, Gisele right before the race as well. I had convinced her to run the 25k event about a week before. A couple minutes before the start, we toed the starting line and I was talking to a couple of runners who I use to run with right when I started getting back into trail running when I was 19. They were laughing (but not in a mean way) about how I could barely do a 6 mile trail run without dying. Ha, so funny… 

Anyways, so the race started at 6:30am. The course consists of two 25k loops, with the second loop just being the reverse loop of the first. Since this was my fourth year running the race and I have helped mark the course for the past two years and I run El Moro a lot in my own training, I know the course well. I know where all the hills are and which ones to push and which ones to walk. I know that it always gets pretty hot during the second loop and also that people always go out way too hard during the first half (pretty much like any other race).

The first big hill comes into the race after the first mile and it lasts for 1.2 miles I think. People always run this hill pretty hard, which I think is kind of dumb. It starts off a bit gradual, but steepens towards the top, so after maybe the first third of it, I power walked the rest of the way up. As we were going up though I realized that there were only guys ahead of me, which was weird. I didn’t feel like I was going fast at all and I am not use to leading races. However at about the 3 mile mark, a woman came flying past me. I let her go happily and just continued on doing my own thing.

During that first 25k loop, I was really surprised at how great my legs were feeling. I kept power walking all the big climbs and running at my own pace on the flats and downs, which I guess didn’t end up being that slow, but it felt good for me. I went back and forth with a couple of the men but never felt the urge to try and keep up with them if they did pass me. I had my music on and was just having a really good time. Right before the mile 11 aid station, I caught back up with Mark and we ran for a few minutes together, but then he took off again. When I hit the aid station, the volunteers told me that the first place woman was probably only about 4 minutes ahead of me. Even though I was still feeling great at this point, it was still fairly early in the race and I didn’t want to push too hard with 20 miles left to go still. Plus I had to remind myself I wasn’t racing this and I knew that I would need to save energy for the second loop. So I just left the aid station and went on my merry way.

I love that this race runs the second 25k loop in the opposite direction because you can see exactly who is in front of you and by how much and also who is close behind you. As I was coming into the aid station, I saw the first place female who had just left and gone back out. She couldn’t have been more than 2-3 minutes ahead of me. I came into the half way aid station in a little over 2:20 and dumped a pre-made bottle of Vitargo with Mila into my hand held bottle and then went back out in less than a minute. On my way back out I also saw a few other women that were pretty close behind.

So I know that I said that I went into this race without the intention of racing, but I 100% did not expect to feel good at all. I thought my legs would pretty much be aching from basically no long runs in months, but they weren’t. I felt great so my strategy kind of changed a bit. Since first place was only a couple minutes ahead of me and there were several women only a few minutes behind, I picked up the pace a bit. The way back up to the previous aid station was primarily all up hill, so although I wanted to run faster, I still didn’t want to run too hard on the up and then blow up. I ended up alternating running and walking, but at a good pace. When I got to the aid station, the volunteers now said that I was maybe only 1-2 minutes behind first. I knew that from that aid station to the next was only 3 miles of mostly flat and downhill and so I started running hard. With maybe a quarter mile until the mile 22 aid station, I saw Mark again and then right in front of Mark, I saw the first place woman. I ran with Mark for a minute or two and strategized in my head what I was going to do for the last few miles of the race.

I ended up passing the first female maybe about a quarter mile after the aid station. The three mile section to the last aid station I knew was going to be hot and very hilly, but I reminded myself that I train in heat and hills all the time and this was where a lot of other people would fade. If I could get a bit lead during this section, I probably could win.  When I got to the big hills, instead of power walking the entire hill, I started to run hard a minute and then I would power walk a minute and try and control my breathing. I was still kind of afraid of being passed again and every couple minutes I would look back to see if anyone was behind me (even though I HATE doing that!). The first two times I did, I could see Mark and her, but after that I didn’t see anyone.

I got to the last aid station in 4:05 and knew I only had 5 miles left of some slightly uphill single track, some slight rolling hills, a long downhill and then flat to the finish. There were no more major climbs and so I ran as hard as I could those last 5 miles and even passed a few of the men. At this point not only was I still trying to keep a hold of my first place, but I wanted to beat my time from last year (4:49). With about 3 miles to go though, I could feel my calves and my left quad were on the verge of majorly cramping up. On any slight incline I could feel them starting to tighten up. However, luckily, when they started to get really bad, which was fortunately only a mile left in the race, Mark caught back up with me and he had some salt. He told me that there was no way any women were going to catch back up to me and that I could take it easy the last mile, but I told him I still wanted to break 4:49. So we ran the last mile in together and I ended up with my first 50k win in a time of 4:44.

I was seriously so happy. I felt like I ran a super smart race, which paid off. I realized at the finish that I even ran exactly even splits, which I was very proud of. This was a huge confidence booster for me knowing that I still am in good shape, maybe even better than I was last year at this point in Badwater training. Looks like not only did the foot surgery pay off (knock on wood) but the down time from running allowed by body to recover as well. I also must say that all the crossfit that I have been doing helped to keep me super strong.

To make a perfect race day even better, I saw my friend, Gisele at the finish line and turned out that she won the 25k! Since Oakley is the major sponsor of the race, we both got hooked up with some Oakley gear including some RadarLock Edge sun glasses, which are my FAVORITE! I already have them in white and now I have black/pink!

If you live in So Cal runner, I would definitely encourage you to try out this race. The race director, Molly, now is having the race 2x a year in May and October. She does an incredible job with it and has very well stocked aid stations, which are perfectly spaced out from each other and she has TK burgers at the finish line. The volunteers are also great, the whole atmosphere of the race is super fun and the proceeds of the race go towards the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. Also, if you are a road racer trying to get into trail racing, I think this is the perfect race. Although there is a good amount of climbing, its not too technical at all.

Thank you always to all my sponsors… Injinji and Hoka for super happy feet (no blisters!!) and Vitargo and Mila for fueling me! And Chica bands for making the best non slip head bands 🙂