San Diego 50 Miler

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - BannerScroll all the way down to the end of the post for the tl;dr version.

Prologue

Inspired by the Barkley Marathons documentary and a Marathon Talk episode with Elisabet Barnes describing the Marathon de Sables, I thought I might try a serious multi-day running event someday – something like 70 miles over two or three days.  Running a 50-miler seemed like a sensible introduction to ultra-endurance racing.  Plus, I’m not getting any younger and thought if I ever wanted to run an ultra-marathon, now is the time to do it.

I researched a lot of races on UltraSignup.com.  I settled on the San Diego 50 Miler because it had a high number of finishers (about 150), seemed well supported, and it was in my hometown.

I started training for the race back in November, two weeks after running the 2017 New York City Marathon.  The first five weeks were fine but then record-setting freezing temperatures and a cold during the first week of my taper got the better of me.

Goals

Personal Records: This would be my first 50 miler and my first run over 30 miles!

Achievable: Finish.  I felt confident that if I ran smart, I could complete the race.

Likely: Sub-9:10 (11:00 pace).  I managed roughly 10:40 pace, including breaks, during my training runs.

Stretch: Sub-9:00 (10:48 pace).  If I felt good, I might be able to run a bit faster than 10:30 pace for some of the day.

Strategy:  Since the aid stations were spaced every five miles, I trained thinking I would treat the race like 10 five mile runs.  I would try to run an even 10:30 pace from the start, skip the first aid-station but then give myself a 2-minute break every five miles thereafter (with the exception of a couple of bathroom trips and a drop bag stop at Mile 30, which might take a little longer.)  I’d hope to head off slowing down to 11:00 pace until around Mile 40.  But, that strategy changed during my flight to San Diego…  For nutrition, my plan was to eat about 200 calories and one salt tablet every five miles.

Course

The course is an out-and-back mix of double track, single track, fire road, and a small amount of pavement.  It starts at the San Pasqual Valley Trailhead.  From the start, the route travels about 2.75 miles through an agricultural area to the Coast to Crest Trail.   The highest climb of the race is Raptor Ridge, a three-quarter mile ascent at Mile 5.  The race hooks up with the Mule Hill Trail between Mile 8 and 9.  At San Dieguito River Park, runners are routed to the North Shore Lake Hodges Trail.  This 6-7 mile trail is mostly single track overlooking Lake Hodges.  At the north tip of the trail, the route travels to the very rocky and steep Del Dios Gorge Trail.  At the end of that trail, the course continues to the Santa Fe Valley Trail, which has two sets of switchbacks.  This trail ends in another set of switchbacks that lead to the Lusardi Creek Loop Trail.

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Course

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Course

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Elevation Profile

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Elevation Profile

There are aid stations every five miles, approximately.  They would be stocked with water, an electrolyte drink (Tailwind), salt tablets, and snacks.  Runners for the 50 miler are required to carry a bottle or pack that can contain at least 20 ounces.

Playlist

I organized five hours of music to play at various parts of the course.  I organized them chronologically.  I thought it would be interesting to hear the music become more recent and know it meant I was nearing the finish.

I also downloaded the audiobook, “A Wrinkle In Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle.  I never read it as a child and it’s being made into a movie.  I listened to a few chapters ahead of the race so I would have about four hours of listening time for the race.

Pre-Race

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Flying into San Diego

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Flying into San Diego

Wednesday

On the flight to San Diego, I re-watched the Barkley Marathons documentary for inspiration.  I also re-read my training book.  In one chapter, the author wrote, “You are at the race to run.”  I re-thought my race strategy and decided to run through more of the aid stations.

After landing in San Diego and getting settled, I drove to La Jolla Cove (there’s a “This American Life” episode on the seals) and did a short run.  I suppressed my fish taco craving and had a sandwich at Mendocino Farms instead.

Thursday

On Thursday morning, I finally got around to really studying the course and re-visited someone’s race report from two years ago.  In the process, I realized that “Raptor Ridge” is long and steep; and the trail would be very difficult between Mile 22 and Mile 28.

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Del Mar Beach

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Del Mar Beach

I packed my “drop-bag”, which would be waiting for me that aid station at Miles 20 and 30:

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Drop Bag

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Drop Bag

Friday

On Friday morning, I filled my Camelbak Dart with water and packed the pockets with items I wanted handy during the race:

    • A first aid kit w/Ibuprofen, cleansing wipes, and band-aids;
    • A utility tool w/scissors, a knife, and a nail file;
    • A pen with a small amount of duct tape wrapped around it (so I could MacGyver any problems I encountered on the trail);
    • Toilet paper (I hadn’t found any information about bathrooms on the course);
    • Squirrel’s Nut Butter; and
    • Sword Caffeine Chews.
2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Camelbak

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Camelbak

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Shirt

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Shirt

I went to pick-up at Laces Running Company in Scripps Ranch.  It only took a few minutes to get my bib and shirt.

Back at my hotel, I laid out my outfit for the next day:

 

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Race Outfit

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Race Outfit

I probably should have had a big pasta dinner, but I went back to Mendocino Farms for a sandwich.  I went to bed a few minutes after 8:30pm and fell asleep immediately.

Saturday

I woke up at 3am, checked the weather, and made in-room coffee while I got dressed.  Mentally, I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous.  But physically, I felt off.  It had been a month since I’d run over 20 miles and I haven’t raced well with big cut-backs in mileage during the taper.  (Although I ran well at the 2015 California Marathon, I think I under-performed.)  I ate a banana, watched a little television, and finished my weekly training report before leaving my hotel in La Jolla at 4:15am.

I planned to have breakfast at a Denny’s on the way to the race but didn’t pass one on the way.  Instead, I stopped at a gas station off of Interstate 15 and purchased an egg sandwich, a Gatorade, and water.  I turned into the race start site and was a little confused about where to go.  But, I followed other cars and parked by 5am.  I sat in the car and ate breakfast.

There was a mandatory check-in between 5:30am and 6:15am so that the organizers would know who was out on the course.  When I left the car, there was a warm breeze blowing.  One of the runners remarked, “It’s going to be a hot day.”  I went to the porta-potty and then back to my car after taking a picture of the sun rising:

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Pre Race Sunrise

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Pre Race Sunrise

With about 15 minutes to race start, I saw runners heading to the start, so I joined them.  The race director made a few announcements and then, we were off at 6:30am!

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Start Line

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Start Line

Weather

The temperature was in the mid-60s at the start.  It climbed to about 80 around noon and stayed there for about four hours!  The wind was 15 miles per hour with 25 mph gusts out of the east.

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Weather

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Weather

The Race

Early Miles, Part I – Miles 0 to 5.7 (Start to Raptor Ridge 1)

From the start at the San Pasqual Valley Trailhead, the route went west on a dirt path next to a fence for about a quarter mile before turning left.  I listened to my audio-book, (“A Wrinkle In Time,”) and settled in for a long day.  I felt sluggish but pushed the pace so I could pass a few runners and get my speed up to 10:00 pace.  I didn’t want to take the race too seriously, though, and made sure to take in the view of the scenery.

The route went right to Bandy Canyon Road for a stretch.  Although it was early in the race, I started a Luna Bar (Smores) and sipped water from my Camelbak since I didn’t have a very filling breakfast.  Keeping with the spirit of reigning in my competitive side, I stopped to take a picture of the sunrise:

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - View of Mountains

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – View of Mountains

After about 2.75 miles, runners were diverted to the right again and hooked up with the Coast to Crest Trail.  It was a very gradual climb through an agricultural area.  I still felt tired but thought, “Maybe you’ll feel better after a few more miles.”

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Farms in the Valley

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Farms in the Valley

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Raptor Ridge - Photo by Ilian Moctezuma

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Raptor Ridge – Photo by Ilian Moctezuma

The ascent to Raptor Ridge began at around Mile 4.25. I was running 9:50 pace going into it, which was much faster than I’d planned. The trail was single to double-track with packed dirt. There were beautiful views of the valley below. I passed a guy walking up the steepest part and wondered if I should do the same. I slowed to an almost walk. The climb peaked at Mile 5.

Coming down the mountain, I was grateful for the downhill and felt relaxed listening to my audio-book. I ran behind a runner in a blue Nathan pack. I noticed how he was running from side-to-side, unlike how I was running in a straight line. I copied him and it did seemed like less stress on my legs. The course wasn’t closed and at one point, there were mountain bikers on this single track trail, so space got a little tight. I ran through the Raptor Ridge aid station at around 7:30am.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 5.73 miles in 58:09 (10:09 pace).

Early Miles, Part II – Miles 5.7 to 10.2 (Raptor Ridge 1 to Sunset 1)

After Raptor Ridge, the trail flattened out and the course cut through a valley.  The terrain was less rocky and I finally felt free to run!  Still, I tried to keep my mood light.  The sun was rising to my right over the ridge and I stopped to take a picture:

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Sunrise over the Mountains

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Sunrise over the Mountains

I was still feeling a little flat, so I started a different Luna Bar (Chocolate Peppermint Stick).  I thought the mint flavor might perk me up.  I passed two men running together.  They were going very slow and it made me wonder again whether I should be following the example of others.  I was going faster than my planned 10:30 pace for these early miles but not by much.  Running by a fence, the path narrowed at one point and I spent a lot of mental and physical energy trying to stare the trail.

At around the 8.5 mile mark, the course hooked up with the Mule Hill Trail.  I smelled a familiar spice in the air that I couldn’t quite place.  Allspice?  Nutmeg?  It lifted my spirit a little.  By the end of that stretch of trail, my legs felt better but my breathing wasn’t quite right.  I’d had one complete Luna Bar and two or three salt tablets but thought perhaps I should drink more water.

We turned left and ran next to a busy roadway before turning left again to go around a park of some sort.  Just before the aid station, there was a porta-potty with a few women in line.  I arrived at the Sunset aid station, which was in San Dieguito River Park, at around 8:15am but didn’t stop.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 4.47 miles in 44:41 (10:00 pace).

Early Miles, Part III – Miles 10.2 to 15.2 (Sunset 1 to Del Dios Park 1)

Leaving the Sunset aid station, the course ran along a concrete sidewalk parallel to Interstate 15.  There were a few people out walking, some with their dogs, but it was easy navigating around them.  I had a few Clif Bloks Energy Chews (Watermelon).  The course went under the freeway and around Mile 11, there was another porta-potty next to a pedestrian bridge.  Then, the course linked up with the North Shore Lake Hodges Trail.  Having listened to three chapters of my audio-book, I switched to my music playlist to break the monotony.  I also stopped to take a picture of the lake:

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Early Lake Hodges

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Early Lake Hodges

A short while later, the trail turned rocky again.  I came to a small creek.  Reluctantly, I put my foot in the water and giggled as I skipped through the water towards dry ground.

I passed Mile 12.5 and acknowledge that a fourth of the race was done.  Shortly before Mile 13, I slowed but didn’t completely stop to take a picture and send a status update to social media.  The next thing I knew, I went airborne!  (Coincidentally, I saw the woman ahead of me go down, too!)  I got up and immediately started running again.  The palms on both hands my hands were dirty and stung but the skin wasn’t broken.  My shorts were wet with sweat so I wiped the dirt off on them.  But, most of the pain was coming from my knee.  I glanced down and could tell it was scrapped.

I ran more cautiously after the fall.  There were two sections where I had to stop and carefully lower myself down large rocks before continuing on.  But after Mile 14, the trail flattened out.  It was still narrow, though, and I was rattled by a group of cyclist who passed me from behind.

I arrived at Del Dios Community Park at around 9:05am.  The volunteers asked if I needed anything but I ran through the stop.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 5.04 miles in 51:47 (10:16 pace).

Middle Miles, Part I – Miles 15.2 to 20.5 (Del Dios Park to Bing Crosby)

The course hooked up with the Del Dios Gorge Trail, which had bigger obstacles than the previous trail!  But, there was the slightest bit of tree cover, which was a relief.  I slowed down so I wouldn’t kill myself on the terrain, which gave me a chance to catch my breath.  Since I was going so slowly, I stopped and looked at my knee.  There was a trickle of blood and gunk leading from my knee cap to the top of my compression socks. Even though I had a first-aid kit in my Camelbak, I wanted to get going again.  I realized one of the downsides of running with a bladder instead of a handheld is that I didn’t have free flowing water.

There was a very steep incline leading to a section of fire road next to the Lake Hodges Reservoir at around Mile 17.  There were quite a few cyclists on this stretch but the road was wide enough that it wasn’t hard sharing.

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Del Dios - Photo by Ilian Moctezuma

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Del Dios – Photo by Ilian Moctezuma

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Car Art

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Car Art

At the southern tip of Lake Hodges, around Mile 18, the course hooked up with the Santa Fe Valley Trail, which has a short switchback.  One uphill was so steep that I decided to walk it.  I texted my friend who was meeting me at the finish and told her the course was much tougher than I thought and the race might take me longer.

I was anxious to get to the next aid station, though, to get my knee cleaned up.  My Garmin showed 20 miles had passed already when I finally saw the cabana at the Bing Crosby aid station at around 10:15am.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 5.23 miles in 1:05:32 (12:32 pace).

Aid Station Activity. One of the volunteers remarked that I looked salty and asked if I was taking fluids.  I assured her I was.  I asked for first-aid for my knee and sat in a camp chair.  The attendant put on gloves, and then cleaned the wound with a paper towel and water.  He warned, “Here comes the sting,” but it didn’t hurt.  After a few minutes, I was off and running again.  Time at Aid Station: 2:17.

Middle Miles, Part II – Miles 20.5 to 23.3 (Bing Crosby 1 to Turnaround)

I left the Bing Crosby aid station and restarted my audio-book. The leaders were on their way back. “I can’t believe I’m 10 miles behind them,” I thought. And, they all looked remarkably fresh and happy! Ever the competitor, I counted female runners and guessed I was 20th.

The Santa Fe Valley Trail ends with a series of switchbacks.  The first set of switchbacks were so steep that I walked them.  I spent the time getting back on track with my food and hydration.  I could tell the bladder in my Camelbak was running low on water, though.

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - View of Rancho Santa Fe Neighborhood

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – View of Rancho Santa Fe Neighborhood

I had to walk the second set of switchbacks, too.  I got a little down about how much walking I was doing.

At Mile 22.5, a volunteer told me that after I took a right, the turnaround was about a half mile ahead.  The course was going to be short!  When I got to the turn, I asked the volunteer if he knew whether the course would be lengthened.  He didn’t know for sure but guessed not.  Surprisingly, I wasn’t upset at all.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 2.85 miles in 42:20 (14:51 pace).

Middle Miles, Part III – Miles 23.3 to 26.1 (Turnaround to Bing Crosby 2)

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - View After Turnaround

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – View After Turnaround

I left the turnaround at around 11am.  I walked the steep uphill and told the runners behind me, “Good job.”  At the crest, I started running again but went back to walking when I reached the back part of the first switchback.

Heading to the second switchback, I tried drinking from my Camelbak and it was completely out of water!  I felt a little light-headed and told myself to walk for a while to avoid getting more dehydrated.  I checked my nutrition.  I’d packed 15 salt pills and nine left.  I’d only had one and half Luna Bars, so I started another one (Chocolate Hazelnut).  I worried about upsetting my stomach when it didn’t have much water.

I pulled up to a guy who was also walking. I told him that I was out of water and we walked together for a while. Sensing I was close to the aid station, I left him and started running a little. But, I had to walk again after about 200 meters. He caught up and asked if I wanted some of his Tailwind. I declined but appreciated the gesture.

I arrive at Bing Crosby for the second time at around 11:50am.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 2.88 miles in 54:52 (19:03 pace).  I forgot to hit the lap button for this aid station stop.  I was there for a while.  My guess is between 3 and 5 minutes.

Aid Station Activity.  A volunteer asked what I needed and I asked him for some water and my drop bag.  I took off my Camelbak, changed my shirt and hat, and re-arranged my gear.  I noticed the volunteer was hovering over me.  I realized he wanted to make it clear he was there if I needed anything.

Middle Miles, Part IV – Miles 26.1 to 31.4 (Bing Crosby 2 to Del Dios Park 2)

When I left Bing Crosby, I couldn’t help thinking how much changed over the last 10 miles.  I went from running strong to mostly walking in about an hour.

I came to the short switchback on the Santa Fe Valley Trail.  On the downhill, I noticed I had a cramp in my right quadraceps.  I needed to start running again!  I re-started my music playlist for motivation.  I bargained with myself.  “Okay, you can walk 30 steps, but then you have to run.”  I thought about taking some caffeine for an extra boost but couldn’t find a packet in my shorts.  I realized I didn’t transfer my first aid items and Sword Energy Chews from my drop bag and Camelbak at the aid station!  I managed to run-walk for a little while but soon was back to walking.  I went back to my audio-book thinking maybe I’d want music later.

Around Mile 28, I took a picture of the reservoir in the distance:

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Reservoir at Lake Hodges

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Reservoir at Lake Hodges

Since I had my phone out, I texted my friend again and let her know I probably had 3 more hours ahead of me.

I tried getting myself to run again by focusing on a woman ahead and telling myself, “Whenever she walks, you can walk. When she runs, you run.” It kept this going for a good while before I lost sight of her. With about two miles until I reached the next aid station, I ran out of water in my handheld.

On the Del Dios Trail, an older woman came up and complemented me on my legs, which was nice.  She could tell I was struggling and tried engaging me in conversation.  I reached the aid station a quarter mile walk later at around 1:20pm.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 5.36 miles in 1:24:57 (15:51 pace).

Aid Station Activity. A volunteer immediately asked what he could fill my water bottle with.  I asked for Tailwind.  He put plenty of ice in it, too. He asked if I wanted cold water sponged over my head and I eagerly agreed.  Afterwards, I sat down and applied Squirrel’s Nut Butter to my thighs.  It was so warm that the salve oozed out of the container.  Time at Aid Station: 3:49.

Later Miles, Part I – Miles 31.4 to 36.4 (Del Dios Park 2 to Sunset 2)

I left Del Dios at 1:25pm power walking behind a young, seemingly fit guy who was also struggling.  The terrain was flat on this initial section of the North Shore Lake Hodges Trail.  I went to take a picture of the water sparkling on the lake but my new phone but it was dead!  I realized it was probably water-logged from the water bath I had at the aid station.

The terrain turned jagged and steep in a couple of points.  The muscles in my feet and calfs spasmed when I propelled my body up the rocks.  I listened the ending of “A Wrinkle In Time”.  I didn’t love the ending, but it had been a good distraction.  I re-started my music playlist.

The older woman who complemented my legs on Del Dios was ahead of me, walk-running with a friend.  I tried to keep them in eye-shot by trying my “30 Steps of Walking Rule”.  I pulled up to them and two other runners at the creek.  I saw everyone crossing over the water using a cluster of rocks and laughed at myself, “So, that’s how I was supposed to that earlier!”  The woman’s friend insisted I go ahead of her.  I think she could tell I was in trouble and wanted to make sure I crossed safely.  The five of us walked-ran in close proximity for about a mile.  I tried keeping up with them but I was constantly tripping over rocks and stopped to walk.  I thought, “You’re running Boston in 14 weeks.  There’s no point hurting yourself.”

Running under Interstate 15, I enjoyed a brief moment of shade!  A little while later, I arrive at the Sunset aid station at around 2:40pm.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 4.87 miles in 1:15:38 (15:32 pace).

Aid Station Activity. An enthusiastic volunteer refilled my water bottle.  Realizing I might still be out on the course after sunset, I asked whether I was required to have a headlamp.  The volunteer thought I’d be fine.  Time at Aid Station: 2:07.

Later Miles, Part II – Miles 36.4 to 40.9 (Sunset 2 to Raptor Ridge 2)

I left Sunset just before 2:45pm.  I restarted my music playlist to finish out what I thought would be two more hours on the course.  Exiting the station, I passed a guy with trekking poles and a woman walking together.  We wondered if we were going the right way.  I saw the porta-potty from earlier in the race and told them we were.  I re-started my 30 step run-walk program.  I kept it up for most of the Mule Hill Trail but couldn’t keep it up any longer.  The trekker and friend passed me along with another woman.  It was demoralizing seeing them pull away.  By now I was walking almost exclusively.

It was very hot during this stretch of the course.  The sun was ever present and there was a dry headwind blowing from the east.  I felt like I was in some terrible Western movie where some outlaws stole my horse and I was forced to walk back to town with vultures circling overhead.  I was afraid of running out of water again, so I started rationing it as I walked.

A woman came up and we chit-chatted for a while.  When I told her I was dehydrated, she asked if I had water and I affirmed that I did.  She offered me something that would make me feel better.  I asked, “Caffeine?” but she handed me a gel instead.  I thought, “Sure.   Why not take a strange gel at this point?  What else could go wrong?”  It tasted alright – honey and ginger – but I didn’t want to finish it.

Closing in on the next aid station, I saw Young Fit Guy closing in on me.  I didn’t want him to pass me, too, so I tried running again.  But, all I could manage was a few steps.  It didn’t take long for him to pass me.  I arrive at Raptor Ridge aid station just after 4:00pm.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 4.47 miles in 1:19:01 (17:41 pace).

Aid Station Activity. Immediately, a volunteer in a New England Patriots shirt asked what I needed.  I gave him my water bottle to refill and also asked for some Tailwind.  I asked if I could sit down to get the gravel out of my shoes.  The volunteer asked if I wanted an orange slice.  I was puzzled.  “Did I?”  I replied, “Yes.  Yes, I would like an orange slice.  Thank you.”  He came back with the orange slice and a piece of banana that I didn’t know I wanted.  As I tried to put my foot back in my shoe, my calf seized and I winced!  He went to massage the muscle but the pressure hurt.  “I need to stand up,” I said.  Once I was standing, the cramp when away.  I stood there for a moment drinking and eating.  Young Fit Guy was sitting and didn’t look like he was going anywhere anytime soon.  “Would you like some ice water on your back?”  I looked at him and squealed, “Yes, that would be awesome!”  He sponged me down and I knew I needed to leave that man or I’d be there forever.  Time at Aid Station: 4:37.

Later Miles, Part III – Miles 40.9 to 46.6 (Raptor Ridge 2 to Finish)

I left the aid station at around 4:05pm and started the steep climb on Raptor Ridge.  The lower part of my shins hurt so much when I pushed off that the only way I could make my way up the mountain was to turn my feet outward.  I duck-walked the three-quarter miles up the trail.  I looked at the pace on my Garmin and realized this segment was going to add a lot of time to my finish.  A few minutes into the trek, a volunteer from the aid station came up from behind me.  There was a runner down ahead and he was taking him water and a banana.

The sun was setting and I found myself reflecting back on the race, even though it wasn’t quite over yet.  It hadn’t gone as I expected but I asked myself, “What did you get out of this experience?”  It didn’t take long for me to answer, “I need to accept help from other people.”   In most situations, if someone offers me assistance, my automatic reaction is, “No.  I’m okay.”  I’m very independent and try to take care of most things on my own.  But, I let people help me today and…  It felt fantastic!

After the peak, I enjoy a full mile downhill!  I ran a little but still could only manage a dozen or so steps at a time.  I saw the volunteer on his way back.  He said the runner who went down wanted to finish.  He asked me to give him some encouragement when I passed him but when I caught up to him a mile or so later, he was walking with someone else and seemed alright.

I started run-walking again just as my Garmin gave me its first “Low Battery” warning.  I saved the activity when it hit 43 miles.  I think my watch automatically would be I didn’t want to lose the record of this race!  By now, it was after 4:40pm and with the sun going down, it felt cooler.  I managed to run a lot more than I had been.

Just before reaching Bandy Canyon Road, I came upon the Trekking Pole Runner and Sister.  I walked with them for the next two miles.  We talked about the day and other races we’ve done.  I checked my phone and it had come back to life.  I texted my friend to let her know I was about a mile from the finish.  Then, out of the blue, I started to feel weak.  It’s always strange to me when my body wants to give up so close to the finish!  I didn’t mention it to my new friends but I was glad they were there in case something happened.

We walked along the road and then north towards the San Pasqual Valley Trailhead. – a little more than a half mile – in the dark.  Another runner came from behind us.  He and I paired off for a short while.  Through him, I finally learned that it had been 80 degrees for most of the day!  He joined his wife and child near the finish line.  And, I managed to jog to the finish line!

I finish the race at 5:48pm.

Distance and Time (by Garmin): 1.99 miles in 40:09 (20:11 pace) + 3.29 miles in 1:01:31 (18:41 pace).  I’m guessing my Garmin missed the last half mile of the race.

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Finish Line

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Finish Line

Post-Race

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Finish Line Picture

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Finish Line Picture

A dear friend and her husband were waiting for me at the finish line.  The race organizer handed me a pint glass and my “medal”, which is actually made of wood.  Later, at dinner, I knew I should be famished but only managed to eat two slices of pizza!  I took another salt pill, though.

My knee was still weeping a little on Saturday night but scabbed over the next day.  The only blister I had was on my right pinky toe.  I actually looked forward to the flight home because I could sit for seven hours!

Result

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Pint Glass and Medal

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Pint Glass and Medal

My time was 11:19:00 (14:37 pace) [Log Details, pt. 1; Log Details, pt. 2].  (The results list the course as 46.5 miles.)  I was the 83rd finisher out of 212 (top 59%), 29th woman out of 52 (top 56%), and 14th in my age group (40-49) out of 21 (top 67%).

In the elite race, the male winner beat his competition by almost 30 minutes, but the women’s race stayed close.

Epilogue

It was a tough day that involved more walking than running.  I thought I could come off a strong marathon cycle, do six weeks of training, and run fin; but that wasn’t the case.  I learned (or re-learned) a few things:

  • Don’t start too fast!  I knew this but for some reason, went out faster than planned even though I didn’t feel particularly well.
  • It’s important to run on the surfaces I’ll be racing on.  I knew this, too, but discounted it for this race because I thought the trails would be flatter and better groomed.
  • It’s important to acclimate to the temperature that I’ll be racing in.  It’s been cold on the east coast and I wasn’t prepared for 80 degree weather.  I probably would have fared better at a spring or fall event.
  • Don’t change your race strategy at the last minute!  I should have stuck with my plan and taken short breaks in the early miles.

When it came to nutrition and hydration, I didn’t do very well.  I had two Luna Bars (a full Smores, half a Dark Chocolate Hazelnut, and half a Chocolate Peppermint Stick), and the Crank Sport Electrolyte Gel at the end of the run.  I think that meant I only ate three bars and a package of Clif Blok Energy Shots – about 800 calories.  I had two salt tablets (out of 15), left over.  It occurred to me that despite all the water I drank, I never felt the urge to use the bathroom.  In hindsight, I should have kept my Camelbak instead of leaving it with 20 miles to go in the race.

I don’t see myself attempting this type of distance again, although I may still attempt a multi-stage event in the future.  For now, I’ll take a few more days off or easy before starting to train for the 2018 Boston Marathon on April 16th!

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - View from Airplane Flying Home

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – View from Airplane Flying Home

Abridged Version

2018 San Diego 50 Miler - Selfie with Medal

2018 San Diego 50 Miler – Selfie with Medal

This was my first ultra-marathon!  Starting the training cycle, my goal was just to finishAs I trained, I thought I could run it in about 9 hours.  On race day, I started faster than planned.  Then, I fell at Mile 13 and skinned my knee.  The course was cut short at Mile 23.3 but I wasn’t complaining.  I ran out of water in my Camelbak after the turnaround.  By then, the temperature was at least 80 degrees!  I struggled to stay hydrated drinking from my 20 ounce handheld.  I walked most of the second half.  I finished in 11 hours and 19 minutes!

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4 Responses to San Diego 50 Miler

  1. Bonnie says:

    Congratulations on your finish!! Been looking forward to reading your RR all week long. I know, I need to get a life. LOL. So interesting to learn about ultra-running through your experience. Glad you made it through ok on an especially tough weather day. Recover well.

    • JT Running DC says:

      Thanks! I thought it might be helpful to other runners to read about someone’s first ultra. I have a “Run Indoors in 80 Degree Weather” Rule, so I’m glad I didn’t know how hot it was until the end. I might have been tempted to quit.

  2. Kim K. says:

    YOU DID IT JT!!! Congratulations! I can’t imagine running for that long in that heat (and on that terrain). Kudus! Looking forward to cheering you on when you come up here to Boston!

    • JT Running DC says:

      I DID IT, KIM!!! Looking forward to Boston. Although, this year, it might be more fun watching for the women’s elite race.

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