Two weeks before this race I decided to challenge myself to eat a vegan plant-based diet for thirty days. This race fell right in the middle of that time period, and while I knew that it may not be such a great idea to change eating habits so close to a race that I trained months for, I stuck it out. A few friends of mine discouraged my decision and thought that while the challenge seemed interesting, a month down the road would be better. Nevertheless I was determined to finish this thing and prove that I could do it.
The night before the race I did everything different from what I had ever done the night before a race. Usually I’m up all night trying to figure out what to bring and stress out because I know I’m not ready. I actually laid out everything I needed and met with Trisha who was going to crew me during this race. Even though their would be plenty of aid stations, I needed a vegan food caddy and some motivation from a buddy. So everything was in place the night before and I actually went to sleep by 8:30. The next morning I woke up and headed out the door at 5:30.
We arrived by 6am and were met by a huge unexpected group of family and friends who came out to support me for my first ultra race. Seeing them made me so happy and even more excited to get this thing under way.
The race started at 7am and I was off! The temperature at the beginning of the race was a chilly 42 degrees, and since I knew that once it warmed up I would never be able to run in long sleeves or pants, I started off wearing shorts, a tank-top and arm warmers and still had to open and close my hands as I ran to warm them up. While training for the race I wore a hydration pack but once I figured I was going to have a crew person there, I decided a hand-held bottle would work better.
My plan for this race to was to focus solely on getting to the next aid station. So after the race started the first station was 4.6 miles away. The crowd stayed together mostly during this time, but the terrain was very technical at times, and with the sun rising in your face it was really hard to see where to place the next step.
Between the start and aid station 2 which was at mile 8.5, I tripped 3 times and actually did a superman fall on the second trip. I quickly grabbed my hand-held off the ground and got up and just kept going with a freshly trail scraped leg and all. I had no time to see what kind of damage was done. I had to get to station #2 where Trisha was waiting for me.
When I arrived at station #2 Trisha was there ready to help me with anything I needed. I peeled off the arm warmers and my tank top, and she refilled my hand-held with the pink electrolyte drink, handed me salt caps and I was quickly on my way to the next station which was at mile 13. I continued to run and didn’t slow down pace, which was not part of the plan. I felt I was running too fast to sustain to the end, but it’s hard to make yourself slow down when everything is going smoothly. I made it to aid station #3 and while my hand-held was being refilled by the amazing aid station volunteers, I grabbed salt caps and a handful of pretzels and quickly left the station.
During my preview runs of the course I planned out where I was going to make myself walk. Aid station #3 was at the base of Raptor Ridge hill, the biggest climb of the course, and I planned on walking up the entire thing. I started out walking/hiking up this thing and at times found myself running the flat parts and slight dips in the hill. I find that I’m too competitive to just walk, so this part was difficult for me.
Once the hill started descending I began to run again. The next aid station was not until mile 18.75 from the top of Raptor Ridge, and at this station I got to see Trisha again. The stretch of trail from the backside of Raptor Ridge until the next station was very hard. The trail had absolutely no shade coverage and meandered for some miles through fields. The temperature was rising and I was getting very hungry. After what seemed like forever I finally made it to aid station #4. Trisha was there with food and whatever she thought I might need. I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had prepared, as well as some Sprite which I thought was water. I spent 20 minutes at this station and the longer I stayed the hotter it got. I packed some dried mangos as well as an Odwalla bar into my handheld and continued on my way. This station was at the furthest point in the race, now I had to turn around and go all the way back. I would not see Trisha again until the finish line, a mere 12.6 miles away.
In the beginning of the race I planned on not listening to any music until I left aid station #4. This way I would have something to look forward to when I wouldn’t be able to see Trisha again.
As I went back out on the same stretch of trail I had just ran, the temperatures got hotter and I got slower. This part of the race was super hard for me and once I got to the base of the backside of Raptor Ridge I hiked the entire way up. I was running very low on fluids, and had to force myself to conserve. Once I got to the top of the hill I ran the entire way down, to the bottom where aid station #5 was. I had my hand-held refilled and took more salt caps, then left.
I had 4.5 miles to the next station and this part of the race was the worst for me. Temperatures increased 40+ degrees from the start of the race, and most of this portion of the trail had no shade at all. My legs were very cramped and I was forced to walk a lot of this stretch. I wanted to get back to the station as soon as I could especially since I ran out of my electrolyte drink a mile away from the station. Once I got to the station, I downed a bit of Mountain Dew, dunked my hat in ice water and refilled my hand-held. I left the station running, excited that I only had less than 2.5 miles left and had a beer waiting for me at the finish line. The final stretch of the trail was single track that weaved around the shore of the lake. It included dips and hills in the shade that made it so much easier to run than a flat straight path in the sun.
Finally I came around the corner to see the finish line and ran to the end. My family and friends were there to celebrate with me and handed me a beer as I received my medal. I couldn’t have been happier that I was finally finished.
I went into this race thinking I would conservatively finish by 7 hours. I knew that if I ran super fast and had no issues I could possibly finish in 5.5 hours. I officially finished in 6:23:55 fifth in my age group. I officially finished my first ultra.
I learned a lot from this race and now know how to plan better for the next one. I think the biggest problem I had was that I let the heat mess with my mind. After running 20 miles the last thing that I needed to worry about was how hot it was getting. I also probably could have benefitted from more super long training runs to acclimate to how long I would actually spend running. I thought I went into the race with a good plan as far as how to make the most of the time passing. I also think a huge mental advantage I had was that I preview ran the entire course. I knew where I had to run to and where the difficult parts of the trail would be.
This race was organized by Paul Jesse of Off Road Pursuits and I thought the race was very well put together. Everything was organized and all the volunteers were amazing. The course was clearly marked and the aid stations were packed with anything you could need as well as an awesome team of support. This was an inaugural race and I have no doubt it will become a successful event for many years to come.
Overall I had a great race experience. I successfully completed this race on a vegan diet and mostly felt great throughout the entire course. I can’t wait to do the next one!