John Hockett version: First ultra since February. Cramped up super bad but kept control of my mindset and I finished. On to SD 50!
Regular Race Report
My interest in running peaked in the Summer of 2014. It was there that three years of training paid off and I was able to win my rematch with the Angeles Crest 100 mile endurance run after DNF’ing in 2011. After AC100, I slowly began to slowly lose my motivation and interest in ultra-marathon running. The following year I dropped out of San Diego 100, not because it was difficult, but because I had no desire to finish. Over the next three years, I’d say my only proud accomplishment in running was finishing the Twin Peaks 50 mile race in 2015 and having a solid Oriflamme 50k in 2016.
Fast-forward to June 2017, my passion and desire to do ultra-marathons was re-sparked by monitoring friends running the San Diego 100 miler. I decided to start training to get back into 100 miler shape with the goal of shooting for San Diego 100 in 2018.
Having had my endurance and running diminish so low from 2014, I should have started with a 50k as my first big test. But being the not-so-bright guy that I am, I figured I’d run a race that I never had done, the Cuyamaca 100k.
Long runs were hard to come by in the inferno Arizona Summer, so this was never meant to be run as a race, but rather a test to see where I was at after only three months of training. There were also some bad habits that I’d developed over the past three years that I needed to get rid of.
As I lined up to start my journey at Cuyamaca, I went over my objectives for this training day:
- Win the nutrition battle – keep your stomach from tanking and don’t throw up.
- Get in and out of the aid stations as fast as possible
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
- Accept your current limits – you’re not the Carlos who ran AC100 or Twin Peaks. There’s a high probability that your legs will give out around the 50k, but don’t let it discourage you. You’re not in 100 miler shape…yet.
- Stay in a positive mindset and don’t get frustrated if you don’t reach your time goal of sub-14.
Loop 1 (Start – 50k)
At the starting line, I started chatting with Ashley and we started the race together. Our conversations were so great that her and I spent the entire loop together catching up and BS’ing a lot to make time fly and boy, did it fly! What felt like only a few miles turned out to be us breezing through the first two aid stations (a/s) at a calm pace.
After leaving the second aid station at mile 14.2, we started the climb up to Cuyamaca Peak. It was here that we saw quite a few runners already hiding in shade and taking a second to recover. Seeing them made me thankful I was with Ashley who knew how to pace herself having run this race multiple times.
The Los Pinos effect came into play (aka nothing is harder than the Los Pinos ridgeline) as the climb up to Cuyamaca peak was a stroll in the park/easy peasy. But, here’s where I made my critical mistake: not staying on top of my hydration. I had built such a mental tolerance for the heat from living in Arizona that it never once occurred to me throughout the day how warm it was. Apparently it was a pretty warm day, but regardless of not sensing it, I still had to carry adequate fluids and drink adequately – neither of which I did.
As we neared the paved road to the Cuyamaca a/s, I realized I was out of fluids but Ashley generously gave me some of her water. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal because I wasn’t gasping for fluids nor did I struggle at any point on the climb up. Looking back now, that was my race killer.
Ashley and I popped out of the trail onto a paved road that led up to the Cuyamaca Peak a/s (mile 23.2). My stomach was feeling generous and allowed me to scarf down a bunch of PBJs and delicious bacon. This was a loud, fun, and full-of-life a/s but, I had to stay on my objective and get in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible. As Ashley and I walked down the hill, she actually thanked me for getting her out of the a/s. It’s a compliment to how great the a/s was when you realize if you didn’t get out, you could easily lose a lot of time!
We continued on – now downhill – and jumped on a really rocky and technical trail. Everything was going fine until I kicked a rock at the wrong angle and suddenly my right calve locked up with one motherfucker of a cramp. It caved in and spasmed like it was possessed. I managed to find a YouTube video of what it looked like – I shit you not!
After a few minutes, the calve relaxed and we walked for a bit to let it ease down. When I felt better, we started running again. I kept running consistently, but started to be a little more cautious and soon found myself having trouble keeping up with Ashley because I didn’t want to cramp up again.
Luckily, Ashley stayed with me and soon I felt comfortable again and we picked up the pace to come into the Paso Picacho a/s (mile 28.2). I made small talk with Keshav, ate some watermelon and potatoes and salt for the cramping, and we headed out.
I was able to keep running on this final stretch and although, it was only a 3.6 mile stretch, I completely drank all of the fluids in my flasks just to keep hydrated. My calves were beginning to get tender and it was here where I started to see my current limits. Ashley and I cleared this stretch and we completed the first 50k of the race in 7 hrs and 49 mins.
Loop 2 (mile 32.3 – mile 45.1)
I was told this next loop was the easiest and very runnable. If it was even remotely close to straight running, I would be fine and maybe make up enough time to finish around 15 hrs. Well, Loop 2 said “that’s cute” and served me with a hill immediately at the start of this second loop hahaha.
I’d told Ashley at the campground that she would likely have to take off and not let me and my dying legs slow her down. On that initial climb she took off and I was now good to re-collect myself.
Mentally, I was fine, but my quads were now getting cranky and I soon slowed down and made small talk with a fellow runner. He told me a story of how he was injured and after not running for half a year, decided to run a road marathon. He said that he finished, but it was extremely painful and not the smartest thing he’d done. I laughed and said that was basically my situation right now. I had only trained for three months and my longest run was a 28 miler. Now, here my stupid ass was, using a 100k for a training run hahaha.
He eventually pulled away as I continued to climb slowly but it was here that I realized I was embracing a positive attitude and not self-destructing from frustration like I had the last two years. Another runner passed me by who I shared the same good news with. I told her how I realized I wasn’t going to reach my time goals but I didn’t give a flying fuck about it! I had maintained a positive attitude by accepting my own current limits.
She pulled away too and I continued to get passed by more runners but as soon as the trail flattened out and became runnable, I was able to run again and catch some of the people that had passed me. It was a good confident booster and I rode this momentum until we started another technical downhill section that resulted in both my calve and quadriceps locking up.
I sat on a rock for about 5 minutes unable to do anything until my muscles relaxed and I walked it out until the downhill ended and I was able to run it into yet another amazing aid station, East Mesa Trailhead. (mile 39.8). I drank up, ate, and was out of there as quickly as possible.
My legs were now really starting to fall apart on me. Once again, I had to come to a complete stop on a climb because my legs were completely locked up. I sat here for at least 5 minutes unable to do anything. When my legs came to their senses, I managed to get a little rhythm to run the flat sections of this next stretch and eventually made it back to the campground to finish the second loop and 2/3 of the race in 11 hrs and 52 mins.
Loop 3 (mile 45.1 – the finish line)
I quickly regrouped myself at the campground, grabbed my trekking poles, ate some noodles and got my ass out of there with my pacer, Regina.
I told Regina my legs had died basically before the end of the first loop but that I was meeting all of my other objectives of maintaining a positive attitude, accepting my limits, and not lingering at the aid stations too long. She was very supportive and her companionship made the climb up to Sunrise go by quickly.
When we reached the Sunrise aid station, my buddy, Tony, was there and that lifted my spirits big time. We exchanged a few words, took a pic, and got the fuck out of there.
The last long climb was behind us so I was able to run more along this section to make up for the walking on the downhills. I’d paced Ashley and my friend, Mark, on this final loop at past Cuyamaca 100ks so I knew exactly when to run and how much to push to get to the last aid station, Pedro Fages (mile 56).
I quickly ate and drank at Pedro Fages and got out because the next stop was the motherfucking finish line!
Things were going smooth for three miles and we finally reached the final drop down to the finish. I took it easy on some of the steep sections and saved my legs for the final push. Once we reached the bottom and I knew the finish was in site, I started pushing with what I had left. Running the flat and as much as the uphill and downhill as I could.
I rode this momentum on the final stretch and crossed the finish line in 17 hrs and 48 mins!
Out of the objectives I set out to accomplish, I accomplished all but one: hydration. The most important thing was that I kept my attitude and mindset in the right place and I am actually very surprised that never once did I ever get discouraged. In the past, I would’ve dropped out of frustration and anger given the circumstances.
But, the race was very well-organized, the aid stations were unforgettable, and overall, it was a great day to nab my first official 100k race. So, regardless of how bad I did time-wise, I still PR’ed my 100k, bitches!
Next up, a huge focus on speed as I go for my 6th finish at the San Diego 50 miler in January. Until next time!