Race Report: Santa Monica Mountains 50k

Disappointment or triumph? The Santa Monica Mountains 50k is now history. I will start by saying it was the hardest physical/mental running experience of my life. I said hardest, not worst. It had potential to be the worst - if I would have dropped out when every ounce of me was begging to just turn back and DNF or collapse into a pile.

I had big hopes for this, my third ultramarathon of 2009 and well, third ever. I got about 5 hours of sleep, which I thought was decent. Nicole dropped me off at the trail head and I picked up my number and played the waiting game until the start of the race.

Everything started as planned. 7.5 miles into the run was the first aid station where my friend Evan was working and he told me I was on pace for my six hour goal. This was nearly 40 minutes faster than my previous best, but well within reach...if everything went well. 5.5 miles later I hit the next aid station and loaded up on water. Still on pace for my goal.

The climb coming out of that second aid station about 15 miles in took its toll. Steep winding switchbacks followed by a stretch of loose rock straight up the side of the mountain. The worst part about it is that you can never tell where it is going to level out until you are there...and "there" is pretty far up! I muscled up the mountain but knew that I had lost some time.

Into the third aid station (same one as the first). Even though I knew I was slipping off pace, Evan had encouraging words and told me it was still doable if I cranked the downhills. I left for the next 7.5 mile loop and wondered if I could still pull off a good overall time.

The next long sustained uphill and the full heat of the day gave me its reply. It was no. No on all accounts. Can I power hike to the top? No. Can I take in a gel? No. Can I catch my breath even while standing still? No. Not good. This would be the hard point that I spoke of in the beginning of the post. I fought my way at what seemed like a crawling pace to the last aid station.

The picture below was taken as I was leaving the last aid station with 5+ miles to go. Literally at this point I was hanging on and fighting to make it under the cutoff time.

Nicole came to pick me up and since I was out there a bit longer than expected she and Benton made friends...like this little girl who was waiting for her daddy to finish running.

Time passes...and finally I made my way back down the last mountain towards the finish line. The last mile or two I picked it up to a make it or break it pace. I knew I wasn't in dead last and I knew there were people not far behind. I was determined not to let anyone pass me on this last stretch. All said and done, it took me over two hours longer to finish that I had hoped, and I feel stronger for the experience.

Of course no race this close to the ocean is complete without an icy cold finish. Here Benton and I make our way over the slippery rocks to the frosty waves.
The aftermath. The next morning and all day today I feel great - mentally clear, and physically I have recovered to the point where I can run up and down three flights of stairs with minimal effort. I did, however, lose around 9 pounds during the course of the race. That is some serious performance declining dehydration. I thought I was keeping up on fluids an electrolytes, but something was obviously way off. I have since gained the weight back and find it hard to believe that the race was yesterday. Now I have to decide whether to train for another 50k...or step up to a 50 miler. Too soon to tell.


Ben said...

wow. congrats on your finish. 9 pounds down... whoah! i admire your determination. later.

Alaskan Assassin said...

Congrats on finishing. I think it was just a bad day and was a lot hotter than anyone thought it would be. Losing 9 pounds proves that it wasnt that you werent physically ready only that your nutrition sucked for the conditions. I have the same problem pretty much everytime I race. Ha!

I think you are ready for the 50 miler.

Dawn said...

You are amazing Dave!!!

Post a Comment