Pacific Crest Trial 50 Mile Ultra May 9th 2009 Mileage Completed: 50 Total Time: 666 minutes (kewl number) An unusual run this year for the Pacific Crest Trail 50 Mile Ultra in the Laguna Mountains an hour east of San Diego. Mari and I had planned to stay in El Centro the night before the 6:00am race and travel the hour to the race. However, two days before the race a Marine Cobra helicopter managed to crash into the 3 foot wide trail. Unfortunately the pilot and gunner died in the crash and there was unexploded ordinance scattered around the trail. The race director did a fantastic job of improvising and moved the run to the San Diego 100 course in and around the Cuyamaca State Park north of Descano. I canceled our hotel reservations and found a cabin that allowed dogs 7 miles from the race. Fortunately this allowed us to sleep in till 4:15am with me checking the alarm clock approximately every 45 minutes throughout the night to make sure it went off in time. Anyways it did. We were on the road by 4:45am and as we were driving up to the park, the external temperature alarm went off showing 37 degrees out (later in the day it would be over 90 degrees out). I checked in at about 5:00am and got my race bib then spent the hour hydrating and then needing to hit the bushes three times before the start. The Run Part 0: I got my mileage up to a little over 60 miles a week running the National Trail in preparation for the PCT50 course which “features numerous climbs, particularly on the “out” portion, as well as some rocky sections. It begins at an elevation of approximately 3,000 feet, reaching 6,000 feet in the Laguna Mountains.” My training plan expected a race roughly 25 miles up and 25 mile down. But the first loop of the San Diego 100 course is “entirely fire roads and single track trail with four long but gradual climbs per 50 mile loop.” Training plan was out the window but I was feeling good and thought I could finish in less then 10 hours (emotional goal), 10.5 hours (realistic) or finishing (primary goal in any Ultra). The Run Part 1: Start to Sunrise Highway aid station Leg mileage: 5.9 mile Leg time: 60 minutes (10.2 min/mile) Cum mileage: 5.9 miles Cum Time: 60 minutes (10.2 min/mile)
Race started somewhere around 6:00AM. I wasn’t wearing my Garmin thinking I’d just run how I felt like at the time (and deep down, thinking that if I didn’t know the time, I’d think I was always behind and run harder). The race director gave his prerace speech thanking everyone (and they did a fantastic job) then said “Go”. Everyone stood around not quite sure that that was the formal start and he said “Goget moving”. The race was
on, Start of race I was feeling good and ran with the leaders for about the first three miles when the trail started a steep climb up to the Sunrise HWY aid station at about the same time the sun came up. I was sweating but my arms and hands were numb from the cold. I walked this part at a fast clip with only 5 or 6 people passing me. The trail finally leveled off on the La Cima trail and I was about to run up to the Sunrise HWY aid station for the last 1.3 miles of the 5.9 miles. It was 7:00am and I was happy with the ~10 min/mile pace with the 1000 foot elevation gain. Mari met me with a premixed Endurance drink to change out the bottle of water I had. I grabbed a Succeed tab and slurped a Banana flavored gel from the table at the aid station and started out to Pedro Fages aid station 6.7 miles further on. The Run Part 2: Sunrise Hwy to Pedro Fages Leg mileage: 6.73 mile Leg Time: 70 minutes (10.4 min/mile) Cum mileage: 12.63 miles Cum Time: 130 minutes (10.3 min/mile)
I left the parking lot on a single track that slowly climbed to 5200 ft and was then followed by a rolling and gently descending single track trail through scrub oak. Feeling good for the first mile, I passed about 8 runners when I stepped into a gopher hole and strained my left ankle.
Actor reenactment of Gopher It wasn’t the typical ankle roll that I was used to recovering from and I could feel it start to tighten up. Walked for a while and decided to ignore the tightness since there wasn’t much pain and started running again. The trail at this point was fairly smooth allowing
me to stretch out a little bit.
Coming up on Pedro Fages Aid StationI’m the one at the back
I made it to Pedro Fages at about 8:10AM which put me close to a 9.5 min/mile average. Again, Mari met me with a 24oz endurance bottle. I grabbed some salted boiled potato chunks from the aid station. The Run Part 3: Pedro Fages back to Camp Cuyamaca Leg mileage: 6.7 mile Leg Time: 70 minutes (10.4 min/mile) Cum mileage: 19.3 miles Cum Time: 200 minutes (10.4 min/mile)
I left still feeling good and the ankle feeling no worse than before. The single track trail ran along a hillside above meadows for a couple of miles before turning into a fire road
descending down from 4700 feet to 4050 ft elevation and looping back towards the start line. Arrived back at 9:10AM and surprised Mari just as she got Tsunami out of the truck. She put him back in and then walked with me as I changed out bottles again. If I could have held this pace I would have been a track to finish in 7.5 hours (one can always dream). The Run Part 4: Camp Cuyamaca to Paso Picacho Leg mileage: 6.0 mile Leg Time: 90 minutes (15.0 min/mile) Cum mileage: 25.3 miles Cum Time: 290 minutes (11.5 min/mile)
This is the section where I started losing ground. Where as the original PCT course climbed (mostly) for the first 23 miles, I started my second climb on mostly overgrown single track ascending from 4050ft to 5150 ft which I walked until the trail started descending to 4750ft allowing me to run into the Paso Picacho aid station. It was warming up and I had run out of Endurance drink before the downhill portion.
Mari had chicken noodle soup ready for me, but I had to suck down 4 cups of ice water at the aid station first. I managed to finish most of soup, had a Dr. Pepper, had more water and made a change to the plan requesting my Nathan pack at the next crew area with the 70oz capacity. This was to get me through the only section of trail that did not have crew access between Big Bend and Sweetwater Bridge. The Run Part 5: Paso Picacho to Big Bend Leg mileage: 5.1 mile Leg Time: 80 minutes (15.7 min/mile) Cum mileage: 30.4 miles Cum Time: 370 minutes (12.17 min/mile) .
I left Paso Picacho hoping to make up some time since the course profile showed it to be
fairly flat ranging from 4750 ft to 4650 ft. I made it about a half mile and was running a decent pace on a narrow single track flanked by kneehigh grass when there was a courtesy rattle from a rattle snake wanting the right of way. This was a quick reminder why I don’t run with my IPod. He started crossing about a foot in front of me and kept crossing and kept crossing showing me that he was probably a couple of inches longer then I was tall. The worst part is that he looked like all the fallen branches and the fallen branches looked like him, so I slowed my pace down continually looking at my feet and then scanning ahead for the next half mile until the trail opened up some.
This section was probably the prettiest of the race with open meadows then skimming the edge of Cuyamaca Lake. There was some traversing of mud bogs and streams, but I managed to stay dry. Came into Big Bend and into the only hiccup of the race.
Mari had my pack ready, but when I put it on it was soaked because the mouth piece wasn’t closed nor setup properly. Pack was sticky and I didn’t want to run with it and got a little (OK a lot) frustrated. Mari should have packed up and driven off to leave me to fend for myself, but thankfully she didn’t. I loaded up with a 24 oz Endurance drink and 20 oz hand bottle with water and a piece of pizza. After I left, a guy that witnessed the exchange said he was glad his wife wasn’t the only runner that stressed out during a race. The Run Part 6 Big Bend to Milk Ranch Leg mileage: 5.8 mile Leg Time: Unknown Cum mileage: 36.2miles Cum Time: Unknown
I had called my brother once I found out about the course change and since he had run this course as part of the San Diego 100. He warned me about the “boring ass hill”. It was the third climb, was on a fire road, was lacking vegetation due to a massive fire and it went on forever. (side note: why are all the fires in California massive and how many times has Santa Barbara burned down, you would think there is nothing left to burn unless the new rebuilt houses act as kindling).The course description states “nearly all fire roads, rising over the 1st 2.75 miles to 5700’,then descending to 4960’ over 2.84 miles, & back up to 5110’ at aid station #6”. Walked the first section and managed to pass a couple more people, but on the downhill, my quads were starting to tighten from the ascents and descents along with the lack of shade with the temperatures into the 90’s all starting to take a toll. I was favoring my left leg due to my ankle and had a mother of a blister going on the inside side of my heel. I got passed by a couple running past me at a good clip, but caught up with them at the Milk Range Rd aid station (the only aid station without crew access).. We would go back and forth like this for the remaining 14 miles. I pulled into the aid station and the girl from the couple was sitting and being looked after due to extreme nausea. The volunteers filled my bottle with Heed and water and then offered a ice soaked rag for my neck to cool the core temperature (all the volunteers at the race were great). I sucked down another gel while cooling down and then left. The Run Part Seven: Milk Ranch to Sweetwater Bridge Leg mileage: 6.2mile Leg Time: Unknown Cum mileage: 42.4 miles Cum Time: 540 minutes (12.7 min/miles)
I left at the same time a guy in his 30’s left. We both were walking the ascend so we introduced each other (his name was Jerry) and we talked for about a half hour. He was running his first Ultra and had been training on the PCT course over the last several months. Also, found out he started at the 5:00am start time the race allows for people unsure if they will hit the Sweetwater aid station by the 5:30PM cutoff time. He was worried about not finishing in time (he ended up finishing in 12 hr 37 minutes), but was already talking about running the SD100. Ten minutes into our talk, the “nauseated” girl caught up to us. I told her I thought she was going to rest and she said she did and then ran past us to catch up to her partner. Eventually I left Jerry and tried to make up some time on the long downhill. Finally arrived at the Sweetwater aid station with someone exclaiming “only eight more miles to go” (wasn’t fraking encouraging). Anyway, Mari met me and I told her I needed to change shoes so we walked to the truck and peeled off my shoes and socks, put a blister band aid on, fresh socks and my Cascadias (I was running in Montrails and they were fine during training, but the heel area is tighter). The Run Part Eight: Sweetwater Bridge to Finish: Leg mileage: 7.6 miles Leg time: 126 minutes (16.6 min/miles) Cum mileage: 50 miles Cum Time: 666 (kewl) minutes (13.3 min/miles)
Left Sweetwater and encountered yet another hill. About a mile in, I passed the “nauseated” girl and her partner that was attempting to encourage her (look, there’s a breeze just for you…look, there’s a downhill coming up just for you).She wasn’t buying it. As I passed her, I told her she’ll probably pass me later on. I passed several other people and thought I might actually be making good time. However, I think I might of pushed it to hard on the up, because once the hill crested, I couldn’t run more then a couple of hundred yards at a time. The last people I passed ended up passing me in a meadow. I tried to keep up but couldn’t. I then came across a water source with a sign saying it wasn’t drinkable, but Russ stated the owner only put the sign up for legal reasons and he fills up there. Fortunately it was there because I ran out of water and still had about three miles to go. I filled up, poured it on my head and filled up again. Shortly thereafter, the downhill started and I was doing a Frankenstein trot as the “nauseated” girl and partner flew passed me. Apparently she emptied her stomach on the side of the trail and was now feeling great. They were yakking and having a good time and was soon out of hearing distance, About ten minutes later, I stepped off the trail to let another girl by that was falling down the trail faster then I was. She was making good time. I ended up getting my 8th maybe 9th wind soon after and managed to keep her in sight for the last couple of miles. I finally saw the finish line and picked up me speed a little more. But the trail went down into a gully and loop back on itself for about a quarter mile (cruel, unnecessarily cruel). Finally came out of the gully to the encouraging cheers from people waiting for their runners.
The finish line was about a hundred yards ahead and I saw Mari and Tsunami on the right side of it. Finally crossed and looked for the time keeper to find my finishing time. 11 hours and 6 minutes.
Crossing the finish line.
Took two days of scrubbing to get all the dirtnote blister on inside of the left heel,
An adoring fan