Monday, September 17, 2007
Big Basin 50k race report
RUSTYBOY SAYS: DRINK COKE®!
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.
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.
Coming in to the finish amidst the "cheers" of the "crowd":