First race of the year, first 25K, first recap of the year! And it was a doozy. I tend to get long-winded in recaps so let’s see if I can condense this somewhat. And feel free to shake your head and grumble/ yell while you read.
Thursday- Checked the race website late that night and discovered a course change. They had offered a 5 mile, 7 mile, 25K and a 50k. Now the 7 mile was an 8 mile and the 25K course had changed. Previously the description said that the course was out the Bluff trail up and down Valencia Peak, back to start and then up to the grassy summit of Hazard Peak and back. Now, it stated that the course was up Hazard Peak, down the backside to a farther point before turning around. Waah. Truthfully, I had been trying to talk my mom out of doing the 25K for the last two weeks- all the way up to start time.
Race morning dawned bright and sunny. It was 65º at the start with not a cloud in the sky nor fog-in January. See where this may be going? There were a few pre-race announcements and we were off!
Miles 1-3 —-14:02, 14:02, 15:52
Ok, not too bad, we’re doing good. Damn, mom walks fast, I can’t keep pace, but when I jog I out pace her. Tricky, tricky. Mile 3 starts the climb.
Mile 4-5—- 18:34, 26:48
Hello Valencia. I start outpacing my mom, her knee was sore but it was manageable. I stopped and waited for her at times on the way up. Disclaimer- she told me to do that- shouldn’t have done that. The thing about Valencia is that it is deceptively tall, you think you’re near the top, but it takes so long. Plus the shale makes footing sketchy. But we made it- first climb done.
Mile 6-8 —- 22:14, 15:27, 15:38
Again, shale made the first part of the downhill sketchy but we turned to a different trail down. Hard pack, much better. Picked up the pace as we made our way down to the start line and only aid station. Those continuing on for the 25K and 50K went down some funky stairs behind the finish line before going through the parking lot up another set of funky stairs to another trail. Let’s call them the stairs of death. Man-made, uneven, random heights and absolute hell for someone with a sore knee. Can you guess what’s coming?
Mile 9-11 —- 20:53, 22:41, 25:37
Heading up Hazard in full sun, the temp had climbed to above 70º. My mom was in pain and slowing down. I was trying to not get too far ahead of her but sometimes I did and would double back. She started cramping at mile 10 but refused to quit. She had been drinking water and had eaten her fruit snacks but it was hot out there. We stopped and I made her drink more and gave her the pretzels that I had in my pack for the salt. I also took her pack at this point. We continued up pausing for all the runners coming back down and mountain bikers and horses. Once at the top of Hazard, I tried to get her to quit again. I also thought it was only .5 mile to the turn around. Ha!! Closer to a mile. A nice runner offered my mom a gel but we didn’t think it would help. I had become a water dictator and was telling my mom to drink every 2-3 minutes. I also noticed that my Garmin was off… by a lot.
Mile 12-14 —- 23:12, 23:35, 20:04
It was hot, she was cramping but refused to quit. I ate it on the shale but managed to pull some cool shale surfing move and stayed mostly upright. At least it felt cool, not sure what it actually looked like. At this point a woman passed us on her way back and says-“Oh, I thought I was last”. Umm, not cool. Particularly when there were 2 people behind us. On the way to the turn around, I pulled out my phone and noticed numerous texts from the Pops. Crap. I tried calling but lost signal. A nice runner man had given my mother 2 salt tabs at that point. They didn’t stop the cramps but probably kept them from getting worse. My phone rang when I was almost back to the top of Hazard- Pops!. My mom was a little behind me. He asked where we were (mile 13) and I predicted it would be another hour at least. He asked about our water- I said she still had a bottle and I had given her my Gatorade. What I didn’t tell either of them was that I was completely out by then and we had 3+ miles to go. I felt fine but knew it was getting warmer and that was still a fair amount of distance to go. I popped a piece of gum so I could trick myself. :) I had started the day with 3x the amount of water I usually take for a half marathon.
The hideous I’m out of water face
Miles 15-16.2 —-18:12, 17:56, 3:17
We kept plugging along. I stilled yelled drink every few minutes and we paused when she had a cramp. She now says she will never tell a tennis player to play through the pain again. Just before mile 15, I looked ahead on the trail as it had widened out and saw something awesome. Pops!!! I literally threw my hands in the air and yelled this. He’d come to see the finish but brought supplies because he’s awesome like that and had started hiking our way when we had talked on the phone. He had his camelbak and 2 20oz bottles of water. He’s the best. I took a bottle and we trekked on. .3 miles from the finish line, the only 25K person who was still behind us ran past. Boo. Once again we ended with the damn stairs before crossing the parking lot to the finish line.
Finish — 5:18:10
Once crossing, a volunteer saw me first and asked if I wanted a soda or water. I said my mom needs water, she grabbed a bottle and ran to my mom. We made her drink that and brought her some watermelon as well. She was glad she finished but she was hurting. After water and some stretching I realized that we should have seen Pops by now. So I left her at a picnic table with the packs and water and went to find my pops and get the car so she didn’t have to walk back up to where we parked. I found pops waiting in his truck, he said he’d already walked more than planned and was not going down to the cove. We chatted for a bit and I went to move my car to go pick up my mom so we could all go to lunch.
I was stuck. I tried to back up and just spun my tires. Seriously?! My poor car. I was near my pop’s truck, so I opened my door and yelled for my daddy. There was group of high school boys out hiking that day and 2 of them came over to help too. I finally got loose and headed back to the cove. By now my mother was walking up because she was wondering where the heck I was. So with all the drama, we have no finish line pictures. Boo.
But we finished! Should we have? Probably not. She agrees that next time she will stick to the 8 mile. If this race had been last November like usual, I think she could have rocked it. It wouldn’t have been so warm and she wasn’t hurt yet.
I am not sure why my Garmin was almost a mile longer. I know I walked balk to her a few times but even she agrees it wasn’t enough to get anywhere near a mile. I am not sure if anyone else had a similar issue as we were the last 25k finishers and didn’t do a lot of chatting after. The race was very explicit about the fact that they only had the one aid station and that you needed to carry your own water in between but I think with the temperature being so freakishly high they should have put some water bottles up by the turn around. Just after we left my pops on the trail, a volunteer with a full camelbak was heading up. His plan was to be a roving water station, but by then everyone was 5 hours in. Looking at the finishing times, one 50K’er took the full 9 hours. It hit over 80 that day. Which is great for a day at the beach not so much for an ultra marathon.
Giant shout outs to everyone who helped that day- the girl who offered the gel, the man who shared his salt tabs, the awesome volunteer at the end who helped my mom. I am horrible and didn’t get names but they were all awesome! And I met another SLO ambassador at the top of Valencia- Hi Jason! And to my awesome pops, he saved the day,
Damn, that was still epically long. Sorry!
No questions today, just share your thoughts!