John Hockett Version: I ran strong for the first 30 miles, got lost twice and almost self-destructed mentally, but pulled it together to finish strong for the final seven miles.
Regular Race Report: Back in 2010, I had just finished my second marathon and was looking for the next way I could test myself. My friend lent me Dean Karnaze’s book Ultra Marathon Man and I was completely fascinated that we as humans could push ourselves much further than the distance of 26.2 miles.
I searched the internet to learn more about ultra marathons as well as a race that I could sign up for. This was around May and I ended up finding a race called Lost Boys 50 that would take place in October which gave me plenty of time to prepare.
I made a lot of new friends that rookie year in preparation for the race. One of the most significant being THE John Hockett who gives me shit for writing bible-long race reports and which is why I have the no-bullshit, straight to the point versions to start off every race report hahahahaha.
Six years later, I was back at the Lost Boys 50 eager to see how far I’d come. My friend Jeff would be my pacer. He and I ran this race in 2010 and despite doing the EARLY START, still barely made the final cut-off time.
My original goal was to simply finish before sunset, but after a solid day at Oriflamme 50k weeks earlier, I was going to shoot for a finish time between 11-12 hours and if I was really feeling good, shoot for sub-11.
The Good: Start to Pedro Fages (mile 29.4)
The 2016 Lost Boys course had some differences from the 2010 race, but the first 29.4 miles were exactly the same. Nostalgia levels would be high to start the day!
The race started off with ridiculously heavy winds that tossed the desert floor’s sand at us and blew many people’s hats and sunglasses off. I spent the first five miles walking and running at a casual pace with my friend, Greg, who crewed and paced me in my triumphant finish at the 2014 Angeles Crest 100. We caught up on life and once we hit the first aid station, I went into race mode.
As you can see from the elevation profile, the first 10-ish miles are a steady climb incline. I used an interval strategy of 1 minute running and 1 minute walking to steadily ascend these next few miles without tiring myself. At the top, I let it rip down into the second aid station, Pinyon Mountain Valley.
The next ten miles would be all runnable until the base of Oriflamme Canyon, so the plan was to run it all with a 5 min run/1 min walk interval strategy and then recover on the hike up Oriflamme.
In this stretch, there was nothing but great memories of that first year of trail running and I felt proud at how far I’d come in that time span. At the third aid station, mile 18, I was told I was 3 hrs and 40 mins into the race so I was doing ok, time-wise, in chasing my goals.
I continued running strong and was both surprised and happy to see Paul Escola, the race director of the 2010 race, at a street crossing. We chatted a bit and then I continued running until I hit aid station at the base of Oriflamme Canyon. I refueled at and began the climb up Oriflamme.
The climb was a breeze. I had Los Pinos and Oriflamme 50k to thank for giving me the mindset that no climb today would give me any trouble whatsoever. I talked with a fellow named John who helped make the final half of the climb go by super fast.
When we reached the top, I went back into run mode and made it into the Pedro Fages aid station at 6 hrs and 30 mins feeling great and still running strong.
Low Point 1: Pedro Fages (mile 29.4) to West Mesa (mile 36.1)
I left Pedro Fages with Jeff and continued running except now at a 4 min run/1 min walk strategy. The next 6.7 miles would be mainly downhill so my plan was to use this to regain time that I had lost climbing Oriflamme.
Everything was going well until we both noticed that we had run quite a while without seeing any course ribbons. We then saw four guys hiking up the hill we were going down who confirmed that we had gone off-course. We retraced our steps and found where we had gotten lost. I sat down on a rock and ate something while I let off some steam.
We got back on the correct trail and I got into a angry mindset first for getting lost and then at myself because I was still getting upset after a mile later. Quit your bitching, put it behind you, and keep moving, damn it! You still have a good shot at a finish between 11-12 hrs!
Jeff asked me how things were going with Los Pinos and I starting talking about my goal to make this year’s race even better than last year. The talking did the trick as it took my mind off my negativity and I got back into my groove. We ran hard and hammered out the remaining downhill stretch down into the West Mesa aid station at mile 36.
Near Self-Destruction: West Mesa (mile 36.1) to Cuyamaca Peak (mile 42.9)
We replenished fluids, ate, and left the aid station to begin the long climb up to Cuyamaca Peak. There were plenty of runnable spots after the initial incline which was good. My strength is doing actual running and as much as I’ve improved my climbing, I’m still slower than a snail in cement at climbing. As long as little runnable patches like this continued, I would get up to the peak easy-peazy.
I had gotten lazy with eating the past few miles and I could feel my energy levels dropping. Jeff and I took a short break, sitting down on a rock and eating something and giving a few moments to let it kick in. We then took off running again on a downhill.
As we continued on, we hit a trail junction that had no ribbons to tell us which way to go. Jeff ran out a bit to look for ribbons while I stretched out. Uh-oh, is this really happening…AGAIN? Another runner and his pacer arrived and we realized we had gone the wrong way AGAIN! I threw my hiking poles on the ground and was PISSED. There goes my finish time goal! Fan-fucking-tastic!
We turned around and when we saw where we had missed the turn, it pissed me off even more because it was literally about 10 feet from where we had stopped to eat something! It was foggy and misty up there so that explains how we missed that one. Nonetheless, I was pissed that momentum had died yet again.
We continued the climb and now I too was on alert for ribbons to make sure we didn’t get lost again. I stayed in a negative mindset and refused to run at all on when we hit the flat and runnable parts. I was so angry that I started brainstorming of ways to convince someone at the aid station to drive us to the finish line because I was ready to quit. Not because I couldn’t physically finish or was tired, but because I didn’t give a shit anymore. Nonetheless, complaining like a little bitch wouldn’t get us up to the peak any faster so we continued the trek up.
We could’ve gotten up to the aid station A LOT faster if I had just ran and hadn’t had that pity party and meltdown, but after what seemed like forever, we arrived. I had a nice warm cup of soup that hit the spot and after being told it was only 1/4 of a mile to the peak, all of my negativity seemed to just flush out of my mind.
I left my pack at the aid station for the short out and back to the peak. I was starting to gain momentum back and about 3 mins into the climb, John Fucking Vanderpot comes strolling down and we’re both in disbelief at the situation. Myself because he was in front of me. Himself because he couldn’t believe he was ahead of me. At that instant, I didn’t give a shit about everything that had gone wrong. I had only one goal and that was that I couldn’t let Vanderpot beat me or I’d never hear the end of it from both he and our friend and my fellow RD, Steve Peterson!
I had new life and purpose, but the steepness on this climb to the turnaround cone quickly brought me back to Earth. The irony that the long climbs out of Oriflamme and up to Cuyamaca aid station were nothing, but this little 1/4 mile climb was literally kicking my ass! I actually had to stop, leaned over on my knees to regroup, and thought to myself, “What the fuck, did I just magically get transported to Los Pinos? This is ridiculous!”
I apologized to Jeff and thanked him for putting up with my crybaby attitude and now our only goals were to catch Vanderpot and finish strong.
I flew down the road back to the aid station and we soon left to finish and put this day behind me!
Cuyamaca Peak (mile 42.9) to the Finish
As much as I’d lost so much time refusing to run to the last aid station, it allowed my legs to relax and recover. I took advantage of this and flew down towards the finish determined to catch Vanderpot. We passed a few runners and about two miles in, finally caught his ass.
At this point, I was now finally relaxed for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. John, Jeff, and I hiked up the final climb up Middle Peak shooting the shit. At the top, Jeff and I began the final downhill to the finish line.
We hammered it passing many more runners along the way, and finally hit the street crossing for the last few 50-ish yards to the finish line. My legs were still strong so I ran it in fast and strong to the finish line to finish in 13 hrs and 24 mins capping off a day in which the battle was not at all with my body, but with my mind.
Thank You To:
First and foremost, thanks to Jeff for taking time out his day to come out to pace me and for putting up with my venting during my mental fight with myself. Second, thanks to RD Brian Gonzales for bringing back the race of my first 50 miler. Third and most important, thank you to all of the volunteers at the race, many of whom were my friends.
Post Race Thoughts
I realize many good accomplishments were lost amidst the emotion of raceday.
First, I can confidentially say I have figured out my nutrition plan for myself. I honestly believe nutrition is the number one race killer. We can run strong and train hard, but once our stomach nosedives, its a long and grueling remainder of the race if we don’t quit! Honey Stinger Waffles, Ginger Ale, and Caramel Salt gels are the only things I know for sure won’t cause my stomach to go to shit.
Second, I realized that I still ended up reaching my initial goal of finishing before sunset. If I reach none of my goals, I consider the race a complete failure, no ifs, ands, or buts. May seem tough, but I do these races to challenge myself and demand nothing but the best effort I can give.
Lastly, this is more than likely my last ultra for the year. I’ll be gone over the Summer for military training and then will be moving to Arizona to focus on a new job so there won’t be much time to train for an ultra. I spent last year getting enough training, between my internship, ROTC, and school, to barely finish and survive these races. To simply survive is something I don’t care for anymore. If I’m going to do a race, I want to be able to give the best I know I’m capable of. I’ll still continue to do trail runs with friends, but with a limited schedule, will probably just focus more on road running to maybe shoot for that sub -4 hr marathon finish time that has always eluded me. At this point, I feel my chances of that goal are very good.
Thanks for reading! Until next time!