Monday, September 17, 2007

Big Basin 50k race report


For my 2nd to last long-ass run before the 100, I opted for the Big Basin 50k run up in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Ann was set to do the 17k - which somehow, overnight, became a 15k - version of the race, so we headed northon Saturday, arriving in the UNBELIEVABLY GORGEOUS, LUSH, GREEN, AND AWE-INSPIRING redwood forests around 4:40pm. We changed clothes and ran/hiked the first mile/mile 1/2 of the course to get a feel for what we'd experience only 15 hours later. I was blown away by the vegetation and trail conditions: Technical, well-kept singletrack winding through thousand year old redwood trees, shooting 100+ feet straight above us.

We finished and drove 15 minutes to our hotel, the Brookdale Lodge. The place. Was. Amazing.

Amazing in a, wow, this place was built in the 1920's and has been cobbled together over the last 50 years without real, professional or thought out renovations, kinda way. We settled in the dining room that an actual brook trickles through the center of, put some pasta and risoto down our gullets, had some beers in the room, and passed out.

Up at 6:30, we got dressed and headed to the trailhead. It was a cool morning, the marine layer blanketing the massive forests surrounding us. As we gathered at the start, Miki introduced herself. We know each other through the blogosphere (I now officially hate myself for typing that word). It turns out she'd be running the 50k as well, even on a twitchy ankle she'd injured back in December that was giving her issues.

The 10k, 15k, 25k, and 50k all started at the same time (weird), so on the word "go", about 200+ of us were off....walking up singletrack in a traffic jam that would rival the 405 freeway on any Friday afternoon.

Ann and I stuck together the first 5 or so miles, as I wanted to use this as a training run and not a race, and we both wanted to enjoy the sights and smells of the forest. After only 1 mile, we saw people huddled on the side of the trail, in an all-to-familiar "somebody's hurt" gathering. Sure enough, it was Miki, and she'd rolled her ankle and was NOT happy. About 5 of us hung with her 5-10 minutes, I tied her bandana snuggly around her ankle for compression, and another 50k runner headed back to the trailhead to get help.

This was another weird thing about this race: The first loop was 9.5 miles, with no aid stations in that loop.

We wound up and down the track, when suddenly, a group of screaming women echoed from ahead, who were being attacked by a gang of pissed off wasps! We sprinted through the area they pointed at as the nest without so much as a buzzing in our ears. As it would turn out, nearly EVERY runner would be stung by yellowjackets or wasps by the end of the race (except for us. Seriously), the record being 17 stings! Shit, another element of danger, and I'd be doing this loop a second time: Twice the chance to get attacked.

After scaling a massive incline up the sheer side of a rocky cliff (complete with a tow-line to prevent your tumble down a 100 foot drop), I told Ann I was going to run up ahead a bit and see her at the top.

That's when the itch hit me. I was feeling really strong and knew I'd been holding back enough. So I took off at my steady, comfortable pace, keeping in mind this was a training run, not wanting to trip or injure myself 30 days out from the 100.

More wasp attacks on runners ahead and behind, but again, nothing on me. I popped out the first 15k loop in 2 hours and hit the aid station table for water refills and some grub. Miki was there with her boyfriend, her ankle on ice, cheering us on! She said she'd gotten over the feeling-sorry-for-herself phase, which I was glad to hear. The aid station workers pointed us to the 10k loop and promised "no wasps", and off I ran...not 10 feet before a 25k runner told me she just got stung below the eye.

Oh Jesus.

The 10k loops was FAR steeper than the 15k, and somewhere along the way, I met with "Grant"; a 55 year old runner of 100s. We climbed the steeps together, him regaling me with stories of his Western States and Leadville runs, explaining to me what to tell my crew during my first 100, and before I knew it, we'd crested and were running back down singletrack towards the start/finish for our 2nd loops.

I heard Ann yell, "Go, Rusty!" up to us, to which I yelled back, "Did you win?!". It turns out she'd finished her 15k only 12 minutes behind me! She ran with us the 1/4 mile back to the aid station and told us they'd re-routed the 15k so we'd miss the wasps. Thank. God.

More water refills, a Coke®, and I was back out, now doing an out-and-back of 9.5 miles. I was starting to pass 50k runners now and still feeling strong, but I reeled it in and held back my pace (plus, I was still a little low energy since I'd run a 50k a week prior), did the turnaround and managed to get back to the aid stop in 4:47-ish, 25 miles in. Not bad, considering the difficulty of the course, I thought. Ann filled my bottles (my brain was a little mushy to make decisions) and I choked down some calories and dashed back out for the final 10k loop, saying I'd be back in 1:30...a very hopeful estimate.

After passing two runners, my stomach started giving me issues (too many calories at too fast of a pace), but I knew it would subside, and it did, and I was relieved...and then came the climbs. Not as easy second time around and by myself. The steeps, now that I was paying attention, were around 20% grade at some points, and LONG, but I power-walked up and eventually hit the ridge. I'd reached the OKAY, I'M DONE NOW point, now around mile 29, and my eyes scanned ahead as I ran, searching for that singletrack that signaled the final mile, and once I hit it, I took off.

Dropping out of it where Ann had met me the first time, I knew jeep roads for about 6 minutes were my path until the finish, and then, ahead, I saw another runner. Thank God, a rabbit to chase! I poured on the gas and caught up, asking how she was feeling. "DONE!" she yelped, and we laughed. I pulled away, hitting the bridge before the finish to the cheers of roughly 6 spectators (these races aren't for the ego-driven), and passed the finish in 6 hours, 42 mns.

We stole away to the campground showers, cleaned up, ate a couple of Foster's Freeze burgers, and hit the road, back towards Los Angeles.

Perfect. Weekend.

Coming in to the finish amidst the "cheers" of the "crowd":


ReneeMc said...

Great race! Of course, you both rocked it.
I can't believe the dangers on this course. First you could trip over something on a trail. Then you could trip over Miki on a trail. Then you could get stung by shit. You are SO BRAVE!

Congratulations on another well-run training run that sounds harder than most races I do. I can't wait for the photos. No pressure. Really.

miki said...

I still have the footprint on my back from where your brother pushed off to get his great 50K time. :p

Kidding! Congrats on a safe, well run race Rusty. And thanks for tightening the bandana. I can't believe you guys avoided ALL the bees and yellow jackets. What's your secret?

It was great to meet you both and to hang out with Ann at the Aid Station. She took some awesome photos of my foot which I'm sure you've seen. She's funny. Gave my boyfriend shit which is always good. Something about hanging out with squirrels and sneaking away to get drunk and stuff. :p

Brookdale Lodge is suppose to be haunted by the way. It's always on those ghost shows.

Ann said...

OHMYGOD my ass is broken!
But damn, that was fun. Wasn't it?

I would like to thank my late Great Aunt Dorothy for the four leaf clover charm I was wearing for our escape from the stingers. At one point, there was a lady in front of me who had been stung 4 times, once in the butt. And a woman behind me with 3, also stung in the ass. I don't know how we made it through.

It was great meeting you too Miki and I just sent you the photos so you can post them with pride. I cringe just looking at your poor ankle.

And photos to come Renee! I'm making sure to delete all photos where we don't look totally heroic and muscular. It might take a while.

Dumbfunk said...

Alright Mate!

Good result yet again. I enjoy reading your reports even though I believe myself to be absolutely physically or mentally incapable of ever recreating them myself. Good luck in "the big 'un".

michelle said...

Woo-hoo! I'm still stuck on the part about the rope. And the wasps! And not the good kind, with cocktails and sailboats.
Y'all are my heroes.

Addy said...

great job out there!!! Especially somehow not getting stung! I still keep feeling like they're crawling in my hair. You must have kind of special talent with them....any chance you'll give some lessons so that I can have the same fate the next time around? (the 50 miler I'm signed up for next has rumors of more yellow jackets :( )

really though, sounds like you had a really great race out there! Congrats on the awesome time :)

stephruns said...

Oh the fun of trail running!!! What would it be without all the little challenges. I only recently heard of the killer bees out in the desert that will attack in thousands when you hit only one of them. NICE!!!

You and I should be sponsored by Coke - as I SWEAR on it, too!!!!!!

ReneeMc said...

The photos! The photos!

You guys are one with the wasps, you feel their energy, they speak to you as you tell them to sting the runner in front of you...

No Wetsuit Girl... overseas! said...

*Sniff* you make me homesick. You make it sound so easy! I hear Ann on the "Oh my gosh, my ass is broken!" I had to walk the whole last 5k of that race when I did it (and I only did the 15k or 17 or whatever it was) and I didn't have any wasps to contend with!!! You're both legends!

Gretchen said...

Awesome! Sounds like a beautiful weekend, wasp whisperer.

Mr. Satan A. Chilles said...

What a great story. I don't know how you 'nature runners' do it, I'm so much more used to dodging crack whores in the big city. And those wasps would've chased my ass for sure.

Well, that turned out well, and 'races' make the best training runs, don't they? Good job!