Life takes you to incredible places with some amazing people. In my journey of triathlon I am blessed to be surrounded by so many runners. My wife, cousins and close friends are passionate marathon runners. They set out to finish the 2015 year by completing their first Ultra Marathon and I decided to follow along. I have been laying out my wife’s race schedule this year and found the Malibu Canyon 50K as a fit.
Running is such a demanding sport so proper training and a solid nutrition plan is a must. My wife and I were coming off the Long Beach Marathon in October where she did the full and I did the Half. Off of that we were confident we can run the distance all we had to do now is train for the elevation. So our weekend long runs turned into trail runs and fine tuning our nutrition. We did a lot of training local to us in Turnbull Canyon and a couple of course previews in Malibu.
Race day came faster than any of us expected but we knew that it was going to be a fun day of suffering. Lets be honest there really is no easy 50K and the Malibu Canyon 50K with 5,940 feet of elevation gain is no walk in the park. We gathered at the start line joined by others crazy enough to take on the challenge. i looked over to my right and saw a gentlemen wearing sandals, a toto and holding a 20 ounce bottle of water. At that moment I felt over dressed and over packed. I remembered the tips everyone had given me, it’s better to take off layers and its better to have more nutrition. I told myself that I was going to run my own race and not concern myself with everyone else and repeated that for the next 31 miles. The plan was to run all flats at 10mm, hike the uphill and bank time on the downhills.
3,2,1, Go! and we were off nice and steady jog out of the parking lot and into the canyons. The course is two loops each loop has four aid stations. The second aid station is located at mile 8 at the peak of the course. That is correct you are climbing for the first 8 miles of every loop. In the beginning all the runners stay together in a single file as we went up the single track hill in the first few miles. Once you pass the first aid station at about 2.5 miles in the crowd starts to thin out, This is where the hiking began for me. Power hiking was key in this race, keep moving at a steady pace and save energy. The views were beautiful and it made the initial climb much more enjoyable. I packed enough GU’s for every hour, I was hoping for a 6 hour finish, plenty of shot blocks and some bean burritos along with my 70 ounce bladder of water and bottle of energy drink. I stuck to the GU every hour on the first lap taking shot blocks as needed. As for energy drink I made sure to finish my 20 ounce bottle before every aid station so I can refill for the next portion. It was so great to get to that second aid station on mile 8 and eat one of those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, This was also when I started taking the salt tablets.
After the second aid station there is a small hill then the fun down hill running begins down Bulldog Road. I think I went to hard on the first loop going down hill. My running pace there was 8-8:30mm and that burned me out a bit. The third aid station is at the mash site about 3 miles from the end of the first lap and turn around. I drank a coke at Mash and bombed it to the turn around. I noticed that I was running at a sub 9 minute pace as I lead to the turn around going completely against my plan. I finished the first 25K at 2h54m and I knew then that there was no way I was going to hit the 6 hour finish. It was going to be tough to do the second lap at that exact pace. The fourth station is at finish line/turn around, I drank some more coke checked that I was good with water and refilled my energy drink bottle before starting the second loop. With some cheers from the few spectators I took a deep breath and was off for the second loop.
Oh my God that second loop sucked, I remember thinking to myself “I can’t believe I’m going out and doing this again”. I held a steady jog to the first aid station, filled up my energy drink and ate some pretzels to start my climb. Everyone was hurting at this point, we hiked up and talked to anyone who was next to us. As I approached the runner in front of me I asked “How’s it going?” and other runners did the same to me. Everyone was so encouraging and I guess we all were also trying to hide the pain. “Chest up, Breath, Keep going.” I repeated to myself. I felt exhausted and didn’t want to take another GU because of fear that it would upset my stomach. At this point my plan was walk everything with a slight incline and try to jog anything that’s flat. I needed to keep my legs moving and although plenty of rocks looked like excellent chairs to take a break that was not an option. I knew that as long as I made it to that second aid station I would be home free.
And there it was the second aid station on the second loop. Those PB&J sandwiches never tasted so great but I couldn’t just yet come to a complete stop. I took a salt tab grabbed a sandwich to go and walked a bit to Bulldog Road. I took a deep breath and started my decent. Oh man going down hill was awesome. I wasn’t moving as fast as the first time but that didn’t matter, I was getting it done. All down Bulldog Road I was alone not a runner in sight. I was one of the most peaceful experiences in the race. I was hurting but I was enjoying every minute of it. This is what it’s all about I though as the miles increased. It was then when I hit the Marathon at 5h33m and it started to become the longest run of my life. I arrived at Mash the last aid station and drank a Sprite, the guy in front of me took that last coke and that upset me a bit. Only three miles left and I was done, but those were the hardest ones.
I started to cramp between mile 28-29 and was forced to stop and walk a bit. But it didn’t really mater at this point I was on my way to become an Ultra Marathoner and nothing could bring me down from that. I crossed the finish line running with my hands raised at 6h16m55s, 28th over all and 8th in my age group. I could not be happier with that finish and to wrap up the year with such a great and rewarding experience.
2L water pack
8 20oz sports drink
The best PBJ sandwiches I ever had.
2 bean burritos