Just two months after my first 50K my wife and I decided to take on our second one at the Sean O’Brien 50K. A few weeks ago I came to my wife and cousins with a crazy idea of running another 50K in February. A friend of mine Raul was going to run the Sean O’Brien 100K so I had that one in mind. While my cousins though it was a crazy idea my wife was totally up for it, I know we’re a perfect match. So I logged in and took the last two registration slots for the 50K and the wife and I were all set.
The date arrived and we woke up early to prep the kids for their visit to grandmas and ourselves for a long day of running. We arrived about an hour early to the race to get our packs all settled and use the restroom before toeing the start line. We were very blessed to have so many friends there at the race start. Our good friend Liz came to run the first 7 miles with my wife, I had plenty of Instagram friends racing and getting to meet them was a real treat. The countdown began so I turned to kiss my wife, told her I loved her and wished her a great race. 3,2,1 and I was off.
I headed out with the crowed weaving to the front as we passed the campgrounds. It starts with an easy climb on a single track before reaching a dirt road that will take you to the creek about 2 miles in. When you get to the creek you have two options, wait in line to cross over using the rocks or be a bad ass and walk right into the knee-high water. On the way of I used the rocks because there was no wait on the way back I took the bad ass approach. For the first 7 miles you are going up so power hiking is key. I had done this climb in the Malibu Canyon 50K so I was confident in my climbing, especially if I only had to climb it once in the day. So I power hiked my way up enjoying the great view of the Pacific Ocean all the way to the first aid station at mile 7. At the aid station I saw my friend Mauricio who cheered me on as I drank my coke, filled my bottle with cliff electrolytes and munched on a few snacks. I didn’t stay there to long and made my way deeper into the mountain, Mauricio was there to give me a high-five as I left the aid station. I got to tell you that gave me a huge burst of energy and I started hauling ass down that single track.
This portion had some steep rolling hills so I would catch way to much speed and I would find myself running way to fast down and up the climbs. I hooked up with a group and we started hammering, although it was fun I knew it was too fast for such a technical portion of the course. I didn’t feel confident in my shoes, I felt that they were not reacting quick enough on the rocks and it would cause ankle stress towards the end. The excitement pushed me to keep up with this group, later I would find out they were doing the marathon distance. When I got to the second aid station I could feel my knee a bit funny, the pounding on those down hills started to take a toll and I needed to slow down and strategize. I was finishing a 20 ounce bottle of Cliff electrolyte drink before each aid station so my hydration was right on point. I was also taking two salt tablets at every station to prevent future cramping, that was my down fall last time from finishing strong.
I arrived to the last aid station before the turn around and all those fast-moving marathon people turned around, “thanks for killing my legs” I thought, but we all know it was my own damn fault. This is the first time you see your drop bag, If you have one, I didn’t so my stop was quick. A few bananas, some coke and a couple of salt tablets and I was off. Not far from the turn around so I kept pushing at a good pace. Seeing the folks at the turn around was amazing, I gave them all a high-five and thanked them. I was half way to completing my race.
The second half was definitely rough. My knee started to hurt when I passed that first aid station heading back to the finish line. Leaving that aid station is when I saw my wife heading in the other direction. Stopping to give her a kiss and cheer her on was just what I needed, She asked how I was doing and I could only reply “I’m hurting”. She seemed fine and enjoying the race but then again so was I when I reached that mile mark. She didn’t hang around long I guess I was the one looking for a small break, I said good-bye and continued to grind on. I started to feel a pinch on my left ankle later I realized it was my shoe bruising the back of my ankle as I ran. I pushed on happy that she was having such a great run and that at least I was heading to the finish, it will just be a grind to get there.
I had only 10 miles left and 3 till the last aid station but the negative voices were starting to get louder in my head. With a bruised ankle and now knee pains I didn’t think I had much left. A run told me it would probably be my IT Band and recommended some stretches to help. I found myself stopping more often to get those stretches in these last three miles than the previous 21. Whatever I needed to do to get to that aid station and reevaluate my game plan, I was hurting and stopping to prevent more injury was a big possibility. With Vineman a few months away the last thing I wanted was to be injured and not be able to train. After several breaks I made it to the aid station, It was Star Wars themed and Kilo Ren was a big help, I think they knew I was hurting. Kilo came straight to me to fill my water and take care of me. I took my time eating some potatoes, drinking electrolytes and water, stretching some more importantly convincing myself that these next 7 miles were going to easy.
The truth is that they weren’t even with all of the down hill, that did not help my knee situation. It was time to dig deep, stay positive and believe in myself. I kept a steady jog going and assured myself that in fact I could finish this race and smile at the end of it. I arrived at the small creek from the beginning and happily dunked my feet in to cross. The cold water felt so good on my beat up feet, I paused in the middle for a bit and enjoyed the running water. Only about a mile and a half, one climb and then into the parking lot where the finish line was waiting for me.
I turned the corner and saw a crowed of people cheering on the finishing runners in the grass area. With a gasp I said thank you and raised me hands as I crossed the finish line. I tell you this is the hardest running race I have ever done. It beat me down mentally and physically, I can’t wait to do it again. The support out on the course was amazing I cant find a way to thank those volunteers enough.
I’ll end this post here but leave with one last thought, Ultras are not easy and they takes a lot out of you but running in nature and challenging your body in this extreme sport is amazing and so fulfilling. I am currently looking into my next 50k.