The San Diego 50 miler was a new race created by my good friend Paul Jesse – his third as an RD. It would be relatively flat with a few hills which gave me confidence that I could finish in an outstanding time. In addition, it was on my stomping grounds in Lake Hodges and the San Diego River Park which would help when things got tough mentally. The only problem was that I showed up to the race a bit TOO confident. My friend Mark and I were aiming for a finish under 9 hrs or 10 or 11, anything before the sun went down basically! Before the race, we met up at the location of the second aid station where I left my car with alternative foods and drinks to the aid station foods in case the food selections couldn’t cut it.
At the starting line it was freezing cold but it was good to see so many familiar faces and friends. At 6:30, Paul cut everyone loose onto the course!
Start – Raptor Ridge (Mile 5.7): I ran the first section with Mark, Brian, Trisha (all 50 miler virgins) as well as Vanessa. After about 3 miles, the pack started spreading out and myself and Brian stuck together as we approached the climb up Raptor Ridge. As we neared the top, I took out my pediasure drink and chugged it when I should have drank it more slower because no sooner did I finish it, I felt bloated and had an upset stomach. After about a few minutes though, I felt a bit better and began hollerin’ and hootin’ to let the first aid station know that runners were coming. I grabbed a salt tablet and a cup of water and was out within 10 seconds. I knew my fluids would last me to the next aid station and I had no time to lose if I wanted that sub 9!
Raptor Ridge (Mile 5.7) – Sunset (Mile 10): As I left, I saw Mark ahead of me and after a few words, he took off down the stretch again. He was faster and about 60 lbs lighter than me so I figured if I could keep him within my sights for the most part, I had a chance at sub 9 or 10 because I was certain that at least he’d make it. We ran on and soon my stomach started bothering me again and I had to take a crap in the worst of ways! I contemplated running off into the bushes and using a giant rock as paper like I had done at Chimera but I was not going to let my stomach stop me from getting that sub 9! Besides, I knew the course and knew there was a port-a-potty at the next aid station. I continued running and felt myself pick up the pace because I really had to go! Eventually I reached the port-a-potty and saw a line. Fuck! No bueno! I saw that a cyclist was waiting for his turn and told him “My friend, I have to use the bathroom in the worst of ways right now, I would be forever grateful if you let me go ahead of you!” He laughed and in his funny European accent told me that I could. I ran in, took a crap, came out and would have done multiple somersaults and cartwheels if I wasn’t on a mission for a fast time. I told the cyclist, “God bless you and your family. I will tell stories to my kids and their kids about you and how you saved me from shitting my pants!” LMAO! He laughed and I ran up to the next aid station.
Sunset (Mile 10) – Del Dios Park (Mile 15): Since I had wasted time taking a crap, I decided to gamble on making it to Del Dios Park without a fluid refill. It was still fresh and cool so I was confident that I could. I came up and told Julius and Carl my number and just ran in and out of the aid station. I was feeling dandy as candy once again until about a mile in, my stomach starting acting up again. Not again! Stupid stomach! Luckily, I knew there were port-a-potties up ahead. I mixed up my running and walking strategy because I was not going to blow up like I had at Nanny Goat where I just went pedal to the metal which resulted in me having to walk miles 80-99. I continued on alongside the lake and hit a point where the road splits in two with one path going up and another going down. I was hoping Paul had designed the course to go down but I was wrong and had to go slightly uphill. It wasn’t too bad going out but I knew it would suck coming back. My stomach issues went away but I decided to use the bathroom just in case and heard a bunch of people run by. I figured Mark was in that group since he wasn’t too far behind me. I got out and felt better again. As I kept running, I noticed a really fat and bald old man running stride for stride with me on the trail across the street. I laughed and mention this because aside from some stomach issues, I was doing good and having a great time. I don’t usually set big goals but when I do, I usually lose focus of the beauty of trail running and the comfort it brings to me mentally. Up until this point, I was having a blast!
Del Dios Park (Mile 15) – Bing Crosby (Mile 20.25): I rolled up into the Del Dios aid station to the cheering of my friends Randy and Paul who refilled my bottles and got me food. I asked them what time it was and they told me it was a little over 9. I had covered 15 miles in a little over 2.5 hrs. I figured it would prolly take me 3-3.5 hrs on the way back to hit the finish so if I could knock out these next 15 miles within 4 hours, I would have a shot at sub 9 or worst case my second goal of a sub 10! I ate up, took some salt and amino acids, and went back out on the course.
As I ran, I caught up to Jean and yelled “You’re not going to beat me this time!” She had smoked me both times at the end of 2011 and 2012 Rocky Road 100m so I had to avenge getting chick’d x2!
This area I felt pretty good until I popped out of the lake and alongside the Del Dios Highway. It started to get warmer and expect for a few runners out in the distance, I was all by myself so I just sang the chorus to my new theme song Suit and Tie by my boy Justin Timberlake to distract my mind until I reached Bing Crosby. As I neared it, I had a guy tell me that the aid station wasn’t about 3/4 of a mile ahead. Yeah right! I’ve heard that one before! I figured I had 1.5 miles to go because people are ALWAYS wrong when estimating distance to the aid stations so I usually just add 1 or 2 miles to whatever they say. Surprisingly, no sooner had I thought that, but I saw cars and a tent in the distance. Holy crap! He was ACTUALLY right! I heard girls laughing so I made sure to run into the aid station to look strong 😉
Bing Crosby (Mile 20.25) – Turnaround (Mile 25): I ran into the aid station to the cheers of some cuties and compliments on my tux. Tu sabes 😉 . Since I had not stopped to pull out stuff from my car at Sunset, I was glad that I had gone through and actually used a drop bag when I didn’t plan to originally. I grabbed my pediasures, refilled my fluids, took some salt, and ate some oranges and headed back out towards the turnaround point.
This next section would be somewhat uncharted waters because I wasn’t too familiar with the trail and had only gone about half way on a training run up to the two hills with multiple switchbacks. If I was going to get that sub 9, I really had to be smart and careful with my pacing here.
The heat really started to wear on me and I did a lot of walking here. After a while, some of the lead runners ran by me and we exchanged good lucks and supporting words. Brian also caught up to me and he was starting to feel the effects of the heat. He ran off and I wanted to chase after him but I decided to play it smart and use this walking to give my legs a rest because I had pretty much ran 90% of the race up to this point. I decided to slowly pace myself up until I hit the two big climbs with switchbacks which I walked.
As I climbed up, I noticed that my bottles were already halfway empty. Luckily, once I reached the top to the powerlines, I saw Keira on her way back. Seeing her cheerful and joyful self lifted my spirits as we exchanged good lucks as well. I ate a chia seed gu and began a steady shuffle down the hill. I hit my first wall here because I was wanting less flat so I could walk a bit more. I knew I could run it’s just I didn’t want to, I wanted a quick break or some hills. Unfortunately, my wish for uphill was not too far away! I think it was more of being in an unknown area with low fluids and the sun beating down on me that was killing my mood.
I approached a small road crossing where I asked a volunteer if the turn around was just water or a full stocked aid station. He said he was pretty sure it was neither. WHAT?! YOU MUST BE HIGH TO BE MAKING THAT KIND OF AN ASSUMPTION! He said he was calling Paul to double check but I told him to forget it and that I would just keep moving. I asked the next runner on their way back the same question and she told me that I was about 2 miles out and that the turnaround was a full stocked aid station. Awesome! That’s what I want to here!
I continued on and eventually came to a small stream crossing. Once I had crossed it, I noticed some uphill and was relieved to see some non flat! As I went up, I began to really feel the effects of the heat (it didn’t help that I was wearing all black!). Once I got up the initial uphill, I was greeted with even more uphill! As I climbed up I couldn’t help but smirk and think that maybe Paul had put this hill in just for me for running my mouth about the Baltimore Ravens since the end of the season hahaha.
More runners continued coming and I knew that I had to be close! All the great friends and special people to me lifted my spirits as I was trying to shake out of my funk while nearing running out of fluids.
When I finally reached the top, I began running again. Mark and Brian had to be up ahead since I hadn’t seen them yet. I heard someone yell out my name and it turned out to be Chris Fales. I asked him if he had done the early start and he laughed. He told me that he had very little training because of an illness so I assumed he had but it seems I was wrong. I must’ve been beet red from embarassment and I told him, “Ah ha! So you were lying when you said you were undertrained!” He replied by saying that I would eventually catch him.
I reached the aid station where John Martinez and Christine were. They told me that I had to run out 1/4 of a mile for the turn around point so I took one of my bottles, left my vest, and ran down. As I was going, I saw Brian hobbling and asked him if Mark was behind him and he told me no. I was surprised but had to keep moving. I hit the turnaround point and asked Christine what time it was when I got back. She said I was at 5 hours so it took me a minute to accept that I wasn’t going to hit a sub 9 finish time. I still had a decent shot at a sub 10 though so the letdown didn’t last long as I merely switched to goal B.
Turn around (Mile 25) – Bing Crosby (Mile 29.75): I grabbed my stuff and Brian and I headed out to begin the trip back. He told me that he was hurting so I gave him some amino acids hoping it would help him out and I began running back down the hill. Along the way I saw Jorge and not too far behind, Mark and Vanderpot! As I crossed the stream, Vanessa and Trisha were there as well!
Seeing friends and finishing half of the race was the answer to snapping out of my funk and I began to run a bit more. Climbing back up to the power lines, I caught up to Chris and his friend Mike. Mike was hurting pretty bad and they asked me how I felt. I told them my legs were feeling the effect of so much running and not enough walking and that my mind was telling me to walk the rest. Mike laughed and said he was thinking the same thing. I told him to relax and to let it run its course because Chris had felt terrible and was on the verge of quitting at mile 35 at Nanny Goat before roaring back and finishing the remaining 65 miles.
When we reached the top where the powerlines were, I saw John Lucero coming up. John showed up to the race on basically no training. I was VERY impressed that he was only a few miles behind me. He asked about Mark and Brian and I told him that they weren’t too far behind. He said that he was gonna call it a day and I thought about telling him to turn around and drop at Bing Crosby, however I thought, Nah, he can climb that big hill coming up like the rest of us hahahahaha.
With the heat out in full force, I got weak minded again but managed a decent walk/run combo with Brian to the Bing Crosby. Since this was his first ultra ever, I passed on the advice to Brian to have his hat soaked in water as well as put ice in the hat like I did. I splashed water on my neck and head to cool myself down and told Brian to brace himself as I dumped a cup of ice cold water down his neck which made him jump and yell out loud from the shock which made for a humorous moment haha.
Bing Crosby (Mile 29.75) – Del Dios Park (Mile 35): The toughest part of the race physically was now behind me, however I would go on a big mental grind over the next few miles as this next section had rocks everywhere and was really dry. Chris ended up catching up to me and we talked while continuing our relentless forward motion. Since I was feeling like crap, I started organizing thoughts in my mind to help me look at things in a positive point of view. I concluded that although I was grinding away, I could reach the aid stations within no time because although there was incline, I wasn’t in the mountains. Also, I had been doing well at rationalizing my fluids really well despite taking lots of gulps and pouring water over my head every 5 mins or so. Having my mind distracted worked as soon I found myself back near the Hernandez Hideaway which was about a mile and a half from the aid station.
My friend Fernando had caught up to me as well and we talked for a bit to regain our composure. The conversation along with the shade provided from the trees in the area and the abundant amount of green from the grass and plants and sight of the lake helped as well. We picked a point to resume running and I arrived into the Del Dios Park aid station to the sight and support of my friends Chris Brill and Jeremy.
Del Dios Park (Mile 35) – Sunset (Mile 40): At Del Dios, I sat down for a few minutes and told Chris and Jeremy that Mark and Vanderpot weren’t too far behind me. After being on my feet for so long, it felt good to sit down in a chair. I ate some food, chugged two coconut waters, had ice put in my hat and headed back out. Chris Fales who was there as well told me to have his beer ready at the finish but I told him he would catch up to me since I was really starting to feel the effects of the race in my legs!
I left the aid station and continued a run/walk combo running a good distance before going into a walk up until the next ribbon appeared. I was doing well until I hit the uphill that I had dreaded when I came back. At this point I started being a baby again but then told myself to stop being a pussy and keep my ass moving because I just had to get past this climb and back to where the road splits and everything else would be all the familiar territory that I knew like the back of my hand. I noticed that my walking was slowing down as well and picked up that pace and before I knew it, I was at the road split. Back in familiar territory, I picked up the pace with my run/walk combo and made it to Sunset.
Sunset (Mile 40) – Raptor Ridge (Mile 44.3): Pushing the pace made me decide that I had earned a moment in the chair at Sunset. I talked to John and Susan while Trasie attended to me. I asked her what time it was and she told me it was 3:15 putting me at 8 hrs and 45 mins. I got a bit demoralized again as I realized that my second goal of a sub 10 was history as well but I had 2 hours and 15 mins to get a sub 11. Another runner at the aid station told me that if I wanted to head out together for moral support since we were both pretty beat up at this point. I refilled fluids and got 3 cups of water poured on my neck and head and we headed back out onto the course.
As headed into the trail he asked me if I planned to run any of it and I said of course because I was trying to get a sub 11 hr finish time. He immediately told, “Ok well I’m not so I’ll see ya then!” I went back to my run/walk combo except the amount of running was now very limited from a few minutes of running to about 30 seconds before having to walk again. The grind now switched to a physical one instead of mental since I knew the rest of the area by heart except my legs were falling apart. I took some amino acids and hoped that they would kick in in time to help me speed up to get that damn sub 11!
Raptor Ridge (Mile 44.3) – Finish line: I arrived into the Raptor Ridge aid station to more friends, Chris Sigel, and Chad and Beth Spaman. I ate some food, refilled my fluids one last time and immediately headed up to the final climb up Raptor Ridge. I steadily powered up this final climb and when I reached the top, I looked over my shoulder to see if Mark, Vanessa, Vanderpot, or Jean were behind me since I had walked so much and I couldn’t be passed up now, especially Jean!
As I began my final descent down Raptor Ridge, I decided to walk it instead of running because my quads had really taken a beating on my last training run out there when I hauled ass down the hill. As I made my way down, I heard “CARLOS, C’MON MAN! DON’T WALK!” I turned around and saw Chris who now seemed like Jason from the Friday the 13th movies in that no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get rid of the guy! He sprinted down the hill along with the guy who I had left Sunset with as well as Fernando. The sun was setting which meant it was around 5 so I might not make it under 11 hrs but I was saving myself for one last push. I’m going to walk it down to the hill and then go into Beast Mode for the last stretch and I’m going to catch those guys!
The sun setting ushered in cooler temps and as soon as I hit the flat section, I went into Beast Mode. Fernando and the other runner were within my sights so I just to reel them in one by one. I picked up a good pace and caught Fernando and soon took a slight breather with a quick walk and then continued again to catch the other guy. The other guy was much further ahead as I had to slow and walk again for a few seconds but soon was able to accelerate and catch him. The second I caught him, I saw Chris running across the bridge. I got up and ran across the bridge planning on walking up past the milk farm and then just turning on the jets until the finish line. Chris turned around and I think seeing me made him pick up his pace as well as I couldn’t gain any ground on him but he stopped on the section where I did and we both walked. I can catch him but I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold this pace until the finish.
As we passed the milk farm, Chris started running again but I waited until we were off the rocky, gravel trail and onto the dirt where I was just going to let it all out to try and catch him. As soon as my feet hit the dirt, I turned on the jets but Chris was still running hard too. I picked the final spot to walk and before I even hit it, Chris slowed down and when I reached him, he told me good job on a great race and I did the same telling him that I was really pushing it and that he might still pass me at the end. He doubted it but as soon as I hit my last check point, I continued pushing the pace as I came upon the orange trees which was the final stretch. I ended up having to walk again but didn’t want to turn around and see Chris because if I had and he wasn’t that far behind, that might demoralize me so much that I’d end up walking the final 1/4 of the race. I shook it off and kept running fast and within minutes, I saw the finish line out in the distance! I didn’t have a flashlight so no one saw me run up until the last second when I crossed the finishing line clocking in at a final time of 11 hrs and 26 minutes! I hadn’t reached any of my goals but since I had only 1 other official 50 mile finish, I had PRed by 3 hrs and 2 minutes.
Much thanks to Paul for putting together a race that humbled me and beat me down pretty good as well as all of the volunteers who helped out. A big thanks to Shez Photo (http://shezphoto.zenfolio.com/) for some of the great pics at the race and to everyone who lent me some form of support! Also a big shout out to my boys Mark and Brian who finished their first 50 miler as well as Trisha who nabbed her first 50 mile finish as well! And thanks Chris for pushing me to a strong finish!
It was a good first race of 2013 and the first step towards conquering the biggest race of my life in August, The Race Across the Sky: Leadville 100!