Skyline Endurance 50K Race Report

Today is the day after my 3rd 50K and boy am I feeling it. This race is historic, the oldest running 50k in the US. I’ve wanted to run this race for over a year, some of my friends were running it and I thought – what the heck! I was feeling apprehensive once committed because I’d been injured during my last 50K in December 2015 and haven’t been running at all until approximately April of this year. I hadn’t really been training too much or been getting any midweek runs in since May; I’ve been working 2 jobs. I started really putting in mileage over the past 4 weeks with 5 really long weekend runs. I believe it was the back to back weekend runs that really helped me pull through and finish yesterday however, I feel my hill climbing and cardio sure have suffered.

The long runs I’ve done leading up to this race: Dirty Dozen 27.7 miles with 3 miles the following day. 8 miles of the French Trail (course) and 13 miles the following day. 23 miles in the headlands with 3 miles the previous day. 21 miles the following week with a 5k the day before and last weekend I ran part of yesterday’s course (a part I knew was hard) 13 miles and that’s pretty much it.

I don’t know if I am crazy or really strong or both – I am going with both!

Yesterday came so quickly and I opted for the early start, I wanted to give myself an extra hour of cushion just in case I needed it. I didn’t start out too fast yesterday knowing I had a long day ahead of me and didn’t want to use up all my energy at the beginning. I started with 3 lovely ladies and quickly fell behind them but was quite happy to do so. I kept a nice even pace and was feeling quite happy for the 1st 5 miles. My one friend is much faster than I and quickly was completely out of site. I knew that would happen and felt completely fine to run the whole course on my own. My 2nd friend went out pretty quickly at the beginning fell behind at approximately mile 8. When I got to Bort Meadows Aid Station I knew I had a huge climb ahead and didn’t want to wait for her because I was on a roll, so up I went. This was part of the course I had run the previous week and knew exactly what to expect. It was brutal but I got up and over in 17:51 which is huge for me! It was 1 mile straight up with 405 feet of elevation at a 5.3% grade. Whew!

dusty bottoms

 

I came flying down the hill to Big Bear Staging Area and came upon the most wonderful group of Aid Station volunteers I’ve ever seen or heard. Dusty Bottoms. They were spot on, happy, energetic and super helpful. The nicest group of people EVER.

 

Next stage was into the Redwoods Park, up to Skyline Gate and then back down French Trail. My goal was to get to Skyline gate by 10:00 am – and I got there by 10:15. Not too shabby. I stopped to eat PB&J and pulled by small bag of pickle flavored chips out of my backpack. I walked eating them for about 1/4 of a mile and then picked up my pace through out the whole of the French Trail. It was beautiful, shaded and some of the most technical parts of the course. I was feeling quite strong at this time and passed quite a few people. I was so glad I had run this part of the course a few weeks prior. Going through my Strava results I realized that I PR’d this part of the course with best times for the climbs and descents through all of the French Trail areas. That was a nice surprise. [photo credit: Michael Li]

french trail french trail sunlight

 

 

Coming down a very technical part of the French Trail, I saw this gorgeous view and finally stopped to take my first picture of the course (approx mile 16). The climbing was beautiful with the sunlight coming through the trees. I ran through this part all the way back to the Dusty Bottoms Aid Station again. The next part of the course was going to kick my A** – I just knew it.

Climbing back up and over the McDonald hill was so difficult. It was hot, exposed and I was tired. The climb started at mile 20 and it was a mile straight up and down to the next aid station. Even though it was difficult I kept moving forward and got my 3rd best time climbing that 1 mile up. It was 509 feet of elevation at 8.6% grade. It took me 22:31, not great but not too bad either. It’s here where I ran into a really good friend, boy was it nice to see a friendly face. I’d been running all by myself for the past 22 miles and it’s always nice to run with a friend. We stopped filled up our backpacks (actually the volunteers took my backpack, filled it up and then held it for me to put back on – AMAZING) with ice and had some slices of watermelons and we were off.

She had a goal to reach 25 miles between 6:30 and 7:00 because she’s training for a 75 mile race in September. I picked up my pace and ran with her for the next 3 miles with a 13:00 minute average pace. I was surprised I still had so much gas left in the tank. Once we hit 25 miles she said she would let me lead the pace. She wanted us to finish and cross the finish line together. For the next 6 miles we averages between 12:00 and 14:25 minute miles. It was so amazing to have her there. She really pushed me and kept me going strong. At mile 28 I was losing steam but luckily we had an aid station there and were able to eat some more watermelon and begin our decent. The view at mile 28 was spectacular!

lake chabot mile 28

 

 

 

The last 3.4 miles were downhill with rolling hills on pavement. I was pretty much spent at that time but kept on moving, thanks to my friend. I wanted to be sure to run across the finish line so I kept moving at a brisk pace. I didn’t want to think about anything but finishing. I had come so far and all I wanted was to cross the finish line with my friend.

 

As we crossed the finish line, I thought; There is nothing better than crossing the finish line with a friend! She really pushed me the last 10 miles and helped me see that deep inside I had enough strength and will power to finish this race. [photo credit: Mindy Brown-Lechner]

finish with tessa

I don’t mind running by myself or finishing a race by myself, I’ve done that enough times to know it feels good to finish but finishing with a friend who has helped you dig deep the last 1/3 of a really long race is so meaningful. I’ll always be grateful for her love, support and determination that rubbed off! [photo credit: Sally Arellano]

fun with friends after the race

 

 

Here is the link to my Strava results from yesterday’s Skyline 50K!!! My 3rd 50K! Now, to start training for my 4th. Skyline to the Sea in October! Stay tuned for more.

 

http://www.strava.com/activities/668446577

[photo credit: Oscar Mejorada]

finish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 50K North Face Endurance Challenge Journey

I have been training for this 5oK for 3 1/2 months and nothing could have prepared me for this amazing yet difficult adventure. So, here goes my race report before I forget everything both good and bad that happened during my 9:45 minutes of trail race. I didn’t take any pictures during my race, only before and after so you’ll just have to visualize my race.

This is the starting chute 6:00AM in the morning in the Marin Headlands. It was starting to get real.

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I was feeling good, had a great night sleep and a warm breakfast and some coffee and was ready to hit those trails, the same trails I had been running for months now. I got into the chute but kept to the back of the pack because I tend to get caught up in the excitement and start off too fast. This time I knew it was going to be a long haul and wanted to pace myself. And I am off, up the slight incline from the hostel area and out to the hills of Marin and Mt. Tamalpais.

I felt great going up Miwok, felt the strength of my arms propelling me up. I was so happy, it felt like I was floating up what used to be my “nemesis”. I felt strong and not tired at all. I got to Old Springs Trail and just flew down; it’s one of my favorite parts of the course. It’s so lovely and beautiful, I just ran and took it all in. By the time I got to Tennessee Valley for the 1st time it was mile 5 and I was 1/2 hour ahead of my time that I predicted to get there. I said Hi to one of my coaches who was there volunteering, got a hug, ate a few chips, a drink of water and kept on moving. I didn’t need to stay at that aid station for too long, it must have been less than 1 minute.

I hiked up Coastal which is no big feat, but again I was using my arms to get me up and it seemed like I got to the top before I knew it and was getting ready to go down to Pirate’s cove feeling strong. Here is a picture of me at the top of Coastal.

top of coastalI got down Pirate’s Cove without incident and then back up to Coastal again pretty quickly. I was feeling quite good. Keeping ahead of my times that I had set out for myself. I saw another friend at Muir Beach aid station, filled up my water bottle and the bottle with my electrolytes. She was kind enough to do all that for me while I ate some cut up bananas, hot veggie broth and BP&J squares. I hate the crusts so it was pretty much one bite sandwiches. I was at the 2nd aid station for about 3 minutes, mile 8. I still felt really good and wanted to keep moving. Next stop – Heather Cut Off.

Running along the road to get to the next trail section is a bit nerve-wracking as it is a live road and there are cars and tour busses zooming along. There were signs for runners but not everyone cares or slows down. About another 1.1 miles and I am at the bottom of Heather cut off. I am still feeling great, strong and know that my next aid station is at the top of Cardiac. I know my friend Pen and Amer will be there and I could make it. I was able to run the flat areas and climb on the uphill. I got up to the top of Cardiac in 3 hours which was totally amazing for me. I was way ahead of schedule and I still felt strong, healthy and was staying on the top of my hydration and food. Eat / Drink early and often my coach always says and all those training runs really paid off. I just ran 3.8 miles from the bottom of heather cut off to Dipsea is which is 1,659 ft of elevation at a 6.4% grade in 1:11:42, I am feeling so happy with my time!

So now I am off down Muir Woods and the Dipsea Trail to the hardest part of the course for me. I had reason to be worried because over the past 6 weeks I had fallen 4 times around similar places on that trail.  I put my running gloves on just in case I fell and I took it a bit easy, I knew that I was ahead of schedule; I wanted to keep running downhill and pick up some extra time but didn’t want to fall and get hurt and potentially pulled off the course. So down I went and kept going down and up until I came to the Lost Trail. OMG – the Lost Trail. It’s .7 miles straight up (745 ft with a 15.1% incline grade) with stairs that aren’t even, it’s like doing squats the whole way up, and it only took me 24:54 which was my fastest time. It’s tough and without doubt the most difficult part of the course for me. I got to the top feeling really good still. My legs weren’t wobbly in the slightest and I knew I had this. It was a great feeling. I was on my way to The Sun Trail which was a rocky but a gently decline and from there I would run more of the Dipsea Stairs and into Muir Woods. I was feeling great!

Then it happened — about mile 20 or so, my IT bands in both legs/knees started acting up and started causing some pain. It wasn’t too bad so I stopped and did some stretching and it felt much better. I got down to the next step of the Dipsea stairs and every step was excruciating. I had to go down the stair sideways because running down or walking down the stairs was not going to happen, I didn’t know what to do but keep moving forward. I finally got to the next aid station at Muir Woods and asked for some tape for my knees. I thought if I taped up my knees it would relieve some of the IT band issues I was having. I filled up my water bottle and electrolytes up too along with some PB&J and coke. I didn’t want to have any coke or soda until I was at least I was 1/2 way through the race to help me finish strong, this was more than 1/2 way so I felt great about having coke now.

I crossed through Muir Woods and was able to run up the next set of Dipsea Stairs. I was able to run up the hills as my knees weren’t bothering me on the uphill it was just all the down hills and some of the flats if they were angled downward. Running from Muir Woods back to Muir Beach is fairly flat so I felt like it would be fine to keep running. I got back to Muir Beach and had to sit down because my knees were not cooperating. My friends Paulina and Josephine were so great; helping me this last stretch of the way back up Coastal Fire Road to Fox Trail. I was still in pain but going up didn’t seem to bad, but I was still going slowly because of my knees. This was the 2nd to last climb and I wasn’t going to give up. It took me 41:18 to climb 1.5 miles (900 ft with a 10.5% grade) and boy oh boy could I feel it.

I got to the top of Fox Trail and my friends Paulina and Josephine took off down the hill and I had to walk down, my knees were screaming. It felt like I was taking baby steps and thought it had taken me 40 minutes to get down but after analyzing my run I see that it only took me 24 minutes. That was the longest 24 minutes of my life. I wanted to quit, I didn’t think I could go on any longer. I knew I only had 6 miles left but I didn’t think I could make the cut off and honestly I didn’t care at that point. I was in so much pain, I was crying all the way down Fox Trail. I got back to Tennessee Valley and saw my friends Christine and Laura; they both gave me hugs and told me how awesome I was doing. I told them I was afraid I was going to get swept off the course and they told me that I still had almost 1 1/2 hours to finish. They gave me the determination I needed to keep on going. More coke, a quick trip to the port-o-potty and I was off up Marincello for my last climb of the race.

Like I said earlier, going up was easier for me then down or flats. So, for the first time in my life I was RUNNING UP MARINCELLO. It was exhilarating! To put this into perspective; it is 2 miles uphill non-stop and I was running it. I got up to Alta which is the last aid station and had almost caught up to my friends which felt amazing. Even with all this pain I was pushing forward. Now came the last part of the course. It was all down hill and I was so scared I was going to need to walk it but luckily I saw a way down so I didn’t have to bend my right knee. There were peaks and valleys in the road so I kept my left foot on the high ground and my right foot on the low spots so I could sort of just swing my right leg down the 2.5 miles and actually run. The thing is that I wasn’t tired, my legs weren’t tired I physically felt great because I hadn’t actually been doing that much running since mile 20; only 2 miles up Marincello and these 2.5 miles down near the finish.

coming down from Alta

I got to the bottom of the hill and realized I only had less than 1 mile to the finish line. Most of it was flat with a slight incline at the end. I wasn’t going to quit! I wasn’t going to stop until I crossed that finish line. My “C” goal was to finish under the 10 hours and if I could I was going to make that cut off. With about .4 miles left to go I saw my partner Lynn, seeing her was the best thing in the whole world to me. She ran about .1 of a mile with me while I cried and thanked her for being at that spot for me. If she could have been anywhere along the course — THAT is where I would have wanted her to be. It was absolutely perfect! I found the strength inside of me to keep running back up that last small incline to the finish line….and I am happy to report…..

I crossed the finish line with 15 minutes to spare!

crossing the finish line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though that was my 2nd 50K it was by far the most difficult, not because of the knee pain but because of the cold weather, the elevation gain and the difficult terrain. I am going to do this race again next year with the intention of a PR – no IT band/knee issues and will be stronger than ever!

I have the best friends, coach and running buddies in the whole world.

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