By nature, I love to plan. In fact, doing things last minute makes me panic. When it comes to racing, I've always been calculated, most likely tapered, and armed with a plan of attack. When Seth & I decided I would race a few ultras this season, we weren't sure what it would look like. I planned on racing one 50k & one 50 mile race. Just a few months in, I've raced my first 50k, and, not the one I was planning on (Skyline to the Sea 50k in October). Seth has poured over my training from workouts to long runs. With a three day weekend, he suggested I race Pier to Peak, a half marathon in Santa Barbara that goes from the Pier all the way up to the top of Gibraltar. It's a climb! But, it didn't get me excited. I want all the experience I can get on the trails. So, I started to poke around & found the SLO (San Luis Obispo) Ultra with the options of a half marathon & a 50k. Not wanting to jump the gun, I asked Seth about racing the half marathon & he said, "What about the 50k?" I jumped on emailing the race director & finding a place to stay. Two days out, I had made the decision to race my first 50k in SLO. Friday, we made our drive up to San Luis Obispo, picked up my bib, and ate an early dinner at Flour House where we ate pesto pizza & enjoyed some Syrah with focaccia beforehand. I usually don't drink wine before races, but hey, going with the spirit of less planned & more adventure, it was the perfect meal.
We slept early & easy at a long time friend, Rachel, family's home. We entered with a key into a home where we were guests, which felt funny. But, I felt at home instantly. It was warm & filled with family memories from pictures all over the walls, to childhood rooms still decorated as they once were years ago. It reminded me a lot of my dad's home in Oregon, which gave me a sense of peace. Plus, the kitchen had all we needed in the morning from a toaster to a water heater for pour over coffees (& even butter!! I find it's hard to find butter sometimes at homes because people believe it's bad for you. Everything in moderation. And, butter on toast is a must most mornings for me.)
Before hitting the lights, I made my bottles, one with water & one with Matcha & Lemon Skratch then double checked my pack to make sure I had put all my Spring gels (my main source of fuel! Check them out!!) as well as a homemade rice cake made with Jasmine rice, butter, coconut oil, salt, and a hint of nut butter for a savory kick. I also planned on taking one or two snacks off the aid station if I needed it.
I then prepared my outfit (of course!) Since I'm a marathoner & road athlete, I don't have the current trail PRO rabbit kit. Thankfully, my sponsors told me to wear a new trail t-shirt as well as my favorite rabbit shorts. I had zero chaffing for the first time with my pack, so I've decided a t-shirt is my go-to on the trails. As far as my shoes, I wore the new Altra Lone Peak 4.0 which I'll be racing in for my next two Ultras as well. Both rabbit & Altra have been incredible sponsors in supporting me on both the roads & trails. I might be biased, but their gear is the BEST!
I woke up at 4:30am the next morning to make our coffee & breakfasts. I had my usual two pieces of sourdough toast with butter & two medjool dates with peanut butter. I heated up a pumkin Superhero Muffin from Run Fast Cook Fast Eat Slow for Seth. We ate, I stretched, and we were off!
We parked, then walked up to the start of the race, where I dropped a bag with a re-fill bottle of Skratch, my rice cake, and a few other just-in-case snacks, then we waited around for 30 minutes. We laughed about how I wouldn't need to do a warm-up, something that's usually vital to a race morning or workout. After a few walking stretches & praying with Seth, I got on the line. Off we went!
The course elevation map wasn't completely accurate (or else the first 2 miles would have climbed a whole lot). Instead, the steep climb didn't come for about 1.5 miles, which was the most difficult terrain to run up over the whole course. Past that section, it was a lot of fire roads, and only a few single track trails running through a thick layer of fog; it was so beautiful & the perfect running temperature. The first hour flew by & I ran for a few miles with one of the male leaders. After he dropped back a bit, I ran the rest of the race solo. I won't bore you with too many mile by mile details, but I'll give a few highlights:
Mile 17 was the first time I stopped to fill a bottle & grab an orange slice. By then, the sun was shining bright and the trail was exposed. I started fueling 50 minutes in and took a Spring gel every 35-40 minutes beyond that. My thirst level also went up significantly. I still can't believe how much I drank during the 4.5 hours I was out there! It wasn't until a few longer climbs starting around 18 that I started to feel the race a little bit. Keeping my head down, I pushed on. Mile 21 was where I picked up my rice cake & refill bottle of Skratch.
Miles 23-27 were the hardest. There was a steep 3.5 mile climb where I weaved through half marathoners walking up the climb. In fact, I was the only one running up, trying to maintain a tempo & only walking a few times to catch my breath, and finish my rice cake. I was thrilled when that section was done! When I reached the top, the ladies at the aid station exclaimed, "You look as fresh as a daisy." I smiled and laughed, stating, "That was hard!"
Once I came to the last station at mile 30, I started to think, "When am I going to see the finish line?!" In a road marathon, the final stretch is when every fan is screaming how far you have left, "One mile to go!!" "Only 800 meters" "One more hill!!!!" Instead, there was encouragement & asking if I wanted anything. (I wanted to say, yes, the finish line, please?)
After another short stretch, I saw the golf course & knew I was close to the finish. Running over a few lumpy grass hills, no longer on the trails, I could see the finish & smiled. I had done it. As I came to the finish stretch, I saw them stretch the banner across & I pushed hard, feeling the depth of my breathing & tired body. "FIRST FEMALE! RRCA 50K STATE CHAMPION!!!!"
With a finishing time of 4:35 & lapsed time of 6 minutes, I was close to about 4:29 for 30.5 (if I were to actually stop by watch when I stopped). Cutting that time down will be a learning lesson, but I felt really good about my first one. Beyond that, I'm learning so much about myself & how to be successful even when there isn't an exact plan weeks before. I've really enjoyed this season so far. Mentally & spiritually it has been rejuvenating.
Post-race, we got coffee (I had an iced coffee with vanilla bean & a lemon pistachio shortbread cookie) & lunch, where I got a kale salad, lemon soda & ate an entire bag of Siete lime chips (I'm sure Seth couldn't believe how few chips he got out of our "shared" bag). Seth even gently gave me deodorant & told me I could smell up a room. (Noted: t-shirts maybe hold onto that race smell longer, if you know what I mean). After awards, we made the journey home to Santa Barbara, I, happy & content with finishing my first 50k, and Seth, proud, but exhausted. It's a lot to get your person through a big race!
I'm still processing the distance & soreness. I also look forward to being in a competitive field, since I know I have lots to learn & I love to compete. I took yesterday off & today off. Then, this will be a down week with less mileage & no intensity. What I'm finding is, the more I sink into enjoying a new season & new challenges, the more my spirit is at peace & I can hear the Lord clearly. Seth & I know we won't get to do this forever, so why not race last minute 50ks & races that get your heart pumping? I think, the best is yet to come.