January 30, 2024
SOB 100k race report - I came to chew bubblegum and climb hills, and I was all out of bubblegum?
My last trail race was a bit over a year ago and apparently these experiences are some of the few I find worth documenting, so I'll bring the imaginary reader up to date on the the last year of running/hiking related activities/health/etc, even though my 2023-in-review post did some light quantification.
After Ray Miller I kept running and ran some road races in NY, including the Brooklyn Half, and a 5k a week later (when I wasn't fully recovered, which was also fun but probably too hard to soon). Later on in May I started having some leg nerve feelings, which ended up being caused by a herniated disc, so I had to cool it on the running for a bit. I started walking a lot. Pretty much any time I would normally bicycle somewhere, I'd walk instead. And as advised, I got a routine going of core strength exercises, and figured out how to continue my glute/hamstring PT. The gym, ugh. I think I read somewhere that gymnasiums were originally places where people would work out in the nude. Maybe the root was the greek word for nudity? anyway I digress. I find myself doing this in text messages too, saying way too much. Do I do it in person too and not notice it because there's no written record of it?
In the summer, Steve, Edward and I all signed up for the January 27, 2024 Sean O'Brien 50 miler. Edward and I ran this race in 2020, right before the pandemic, and joked about how covid would be nothing. When I signed up for the 2024 race, I wasn't running, did not know if I would be running by January, but I figured worst case I could try to power hike it.
I walked the NY Marathon in November (in 5:20 or so), which was a fantastic experience and I would recommend it to anybody who likes to walk. I took videos of a lot of the bands who played and then had a good Strava post which read as a tripadvisor review of the New York Music Festival -- too much walking! I should've posted those videos here. Maybe I still will. Let me know in the comments if you think that's a good idea.
A couple of weeks after the NY Marathon, I started running again, and worked up (with a covid-intermission) to a few 15-20 mile weeks, on top of 40-60 miles of walking. When I was running at my peak, the most miles per week I'd ever sustain was about 40, so I was feeling pretty good about the volume and time on my feet. Then, the week before the race, the SOB organizers sent out an email that mentioned you could change distances, and also that if you were running the 100k and you missed the 17 hour cutoff (or decided you wanted to bail), you could drop to the 50 miler during the race, at mile 43. So it became a fathomable thing -- sign up for the 100k, and if you're not feeling it at 43, just do 50. And not only that, if things go really poorly, it buys you another half hour for the 50 miler. Steve and I decided to do that.
(an old friend saw me off on my journey)
We drove to LA.
(this dog barked at me until I acknowledged him at the red light)
The (almost)-annual pilgrimage to Tacos Delta. Saw Paranorm. ChatGPT told us (and Wikipedia eventually confirmed) that Tarzana was named after the creation of its resident Edgar Rice Burroughs. Steve walked 15 miles the day before the race (!).
Gear for the race:
- I wore the most comfortable shoes I had, which were Hoka Clifton 9s, with probably 1500 miles on them (nearly falling apart, by the end they were definitely falling apart). I've been using the https://www.activeimprintsco.com Active Imprints insoles which are great for some mild form corrections.
- At Edward's strong recommendation, I hiked with trekking poles. This turned out to be a huge help. Game changer. Kept me from tripping on my face countless times and the course has some steep climbs which you really can power up with. They were very common in use, and a few other runners I talked to regretted not bringing them (side note, what's the deal with the TSA requiring them to be in checked luggage? You're going to hijack a plane using trekking poles?! wtf).
- Since the start was before dawn and the finish would almost certainly be after sunset, I needed a headlamp. I modded my Fenix HM50R to be waist-mounted (old SPIbelt, heh). And I had a cheapo 5 GBP LED headlamp as a backup. Seeing other people with waist-mounted lamps, though, makes me want one of those (much wider illumination area etc).
- Backpack (Salomon Agile 6) with water bladder and stuff. I also carried my usual 24oz steel water bottle, which I usually keep and toss with my hands, which is enjoyable, but with trekking poles it was a pain in the ass, and while I could put it one of the front pockets of my backpack, it was a pain to take it in and out, especially as the day wore on. Noted.
- I started trying tailwind a few months ago so I brought some packets of that, stroopwaffels, trader joe's peanut butter pretzels, and some almonds.
The race -- forecast was a low of 55 and a high of 72. Turns out the start was considerably colder, though, due to microclimates of the valley. But it was still quite pleasant having so recently been in the 20-degree highs of NY.
The first half of the race was more of a run than a race, as these things go.
The race begins on a road. Hey wait.
The water crossing at mile 2 was quite a bit higher and unavoidable this year. In 2020 I managed to keep my feet dry. The wool socks I was wearing quickly dried out and didn't give me any problems.
I changed my shirt and hat and dropped off my headlamp at the drop bag at mile 13, around that time I noticed some bits of chafing in spots, put some bodyglide on there and it stopped being a problem.
Peanut butter pretzels were good, stroopwaffels too. I think I might have accidentally dropped a wrapper though, ugh, sorry, hopefully someone picked it up. I put it in my pocket and closed the zipper but when I went to open the pocket at the aid station to dump the trash it was gone. Or maybe I misplaced it. Your brain sometimes loses track of all of these things.
why didn't someone tell me that water bottle looks ridiculous in the pocket?
group of mountain bikers having lunch, I assume. nice spot for it.
this time, on the descent to Bonsall, I could see the trail across the valley that we would later be on. makes me giddy!
settling in to the race and getting ready to fall apart at mile 22, Bonsall
At mile 22 I stopped, saw a guy (hi, Peter) whom I had previously mistaken for Steve, put some squirrel nut butter and a bandaid on a hotspot on my big toe (worked well, never used that stuff before). Filled up to the brim with water.
(crows getting a free ride on the ridge)
I paid more attention to birds this year, and not just the crows. I'd like to go back to these trails with a camera and big lens and time to spare.
The massive climb out of Bonsall was nice since I knew what to expect (in 2020 it was demoralizing, lol), but it was really hot. There was a stream crossing where dipping your hat in the water was an amazing feeling (though within minutes it was back to heat). If I had more time I would've sat in it.
The second half of the race was more difficult. I no longer had the energy to take pictures. The aid station around the halfway point had a lot of bacon. I really wanted some but I couldn't bring myself to eat any. This seems to happen to me at this point, nausea and stuff. I need to figure this out (brain thinks I have food poisoning or something?). Maybe I should've tried a gel. Doesn't require chewing and pure sugar, might have been worth the try. Hindsight.
At mile 37-ish, drop bag again, grabbed lights, long sleeved shirt, other hat. Didn't want to mess with my socks so kept my original pair.
I kept moving, snacking a little bit here and there, trying to down some tailwind along with the water, hanging on. By mile 43 (nearly 11 hours after the 5:30am start) I was 5 minutes ahead of my 2020 time, and only 10 minutes behind Steve, but I really couldn't eat anything. I overhead a couple of people drop to the 50 miler. My legs felt OK, and it turned out if I continued on with the 100k route, I could always drop at 50 miles (since it was a 6-mile each way out-and-back that turned around near the finish). So I continued on. Up a hill, then down a really massive hill. Going up the hill was fine. Going down the hill was difficult. I haven't done enough quad strength training. Tsk tsk. I ran a little bit of it but it was mostly walking. Ate maybe 3 almonds, drank a few swigs of tailwind. It was starting to get dark. At the bottom of the hill it was along a riverbed for a while. Lots of frog sounds. I saw Steve when I was about 15 minutes away from the 50 mile aid station (so his lead was up to about 30-45 minutes at that point, I guess?).
The aid station people gave me a quarter of a banana, which I ate. It was not easy. They were nice (they are all). Someone I talked to earlier in the race asked if I had a pacer for this part, then looked at me like I was crazy for not. I remembered this, and asked if there were any freelance pacers available. No such luck.
Did the riverbed commute back to the climb, now with my head(waist)lamp on. Coming down the hill was a race marshall, sweeping the course. Nobody else would be coming down the hill. I could see headlamps far ahead, and occasionally see them far behind me, but for a long time I saw nobody, and heard only the sounds of frogs and wind. The moon rose, it had a lot of clouds in front of it and looked very red on the horizon.
I running a huge calorie deficit and was having to regulate my climbing of the hill in order to prevent bonking. I'd go too hard and have to back off because I could feel it wouldn't be sustainable. This was the toughest part of the experience, I think, this climb. When I was eventually caught by another runner, it was nice.
Going over the hill and back down to the mile 43 aid station (again, though now at 55-ish), with 7 miles to go. This aid station is a bit remote and you can't drop out of the race there, and I guess it was getting late, so the aid station captain was really big on getting me moving. Tried to get me to eat, but when I did my best picky eater impression he said (very nicely -- everybody volunteering at the aid stations were amazing) something to the effect of "well water is what you need most right now, now get moving." So I did. I ended up not having any real calories to speak of for the last 20 miles of the race, heh. Though almost all of those 20 miles were walked, not run.
After that final aid station, the last 7 miles were challenging but also pretty straightforward, the finish was within reach, and I had plenty of time to not hit the cutoff at a walking pace. My underwear had bunched up and I had some pretty significant butt chafing but it was too late to do anything about it, just had to suffer with it. Should've checked in for it hours ago, doh. Once I got to the flat ground of the last mile, walking at about 13 minutes/mile to the finish felt pretty good (flat!). I was sort of hoping to be DFL, but not enough to slow down when I saw some headlamps behind me.
After more than 16 hours of running and hiking, Steve was waiting for me at the finish (having waiting 90 minutes! <3). There was food, but it would be hours until I could eat anything meaningful. We headed back to Tarzana, and watched some TV (was it Boys or 30 Rock? I can't remember) before crashing.
I got the shivers again. Seemed to be associated with movement, too. Didn't last too long, and not so bad. Way better than covid. Apparently it's about inflammation.
The next day Edward made us steak. Amazing.
There was ice cream, and a cold swim in a 55F pool. Total win.
Am I ready to do this race (including its 13,000ft of climbing and descent) again? No. But it won't be long.