It was and was not a good day. I’m still trying to figure out why I felt so not-great and semi-nauseated the entire morning and race.
The week leading up to the trail race was a 6 out of 10 – I was trying to keep my work stress under control in the midst of the pre-menstrual hormonal shitstorm. Despite feeling like a madwoman for 7 days, I had some good runs which left me hopeful for this weekend’s racing. I had wanted to complete one more hill workout before Saturday just so my legs wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed by the elevation changes (4,928 ft. of climbing), but I didn’t get around to it. These last few months have been up and down in terms of training – I’ll have a great, high quality week, followed by a sub par week. I attribute the inconsistency with a shift in my life balance as of late. I’ve definitely been placing more focus on work and excelling in the office, than on putting in a lot of morning and evening miles. I’ve written about the difficulty in not comparing the now to the before, but I think I still do that with running. Fortunately, my work-self and work quality has improved, which is a refreshing change for me. However, my running and training has suffered. With all of that being said, I knew that my fitness going into Saturday wasn’t going to be spectacular, and I wasn’t planning to “race” as if I were fit to podium. My goal was to get a solid 15.5 mile trail run in and feel good enough to run a half marathon the very next day.
But first, some historical information on my WIEM performances. The first time I ran Whoo’s in El Moro was in May of 2013, and I placed first overall female for the 25K with a time of 2:00:34. I remember feeling so fresh at the finish, like I could easily run a few more miles. I came back in May of 2014 for the 50K and ran 4:53:24. That was the year of miracles for me with something like 6+ sub 3:10 marathon finishes, so the 50K didn’t beat me up too much (plus I walked away with $1500 in cash – score!). Last May, I set a personal record on the new and more difficult course with a 4:49:44. With all of those race recollections in my head, I calculated that I’d feel decent running the 25K this October. I knew that I wouldn’t finish as fresh as I did in 2013 and I expected to be a bit tired and sore.
I slept well enough the night before and did not feel sleepy-tired on race morning. I ate half of a Balance Bar and consumed a medium-sized decaf coffee (caffeine raises my heart rate too much before a race if I got enough sleep the night before) on the way, parked near the start of the 25K, hit the bathroom, stretched my hip out a bit*, and then waited for the 25K runners to head over from the 50K start line. The 25K race course is the second half of the 50K course, and the 50K turnaround point/25K start line is about half a mile away from the finish line.
*My hip has been sore for about 2 weeks now, since I’ve implemented more tempo running into my “training.” I’m not sure if the pain is derived from more impact, or from a greater lifting motion associated with faster running.
The start is low-key and relaxed, which I like. The race director, Molly, advised us on the course and what to pay attention to (the pink ribbons, chalk course instructions, mountain bikers, and hikers/other runners), and then wished us good luck. I knew that we had an immediate 1.5 (?) mile climb up No Dogs, so I found a sustainable pace and settled into the grind of the climb. I saw Josh up ahead and wondered how he would fair on the course – it would be his longest trail run, and on a tough course, but he looked pretty strong. I chatted with some friendly folks while going down the very steep Poles and then a sharp left turn took us onto Machione and over to No Name Ridge. The climb up No Name Ridge was a lot more difficult than I’d remembered! It felt very long and relentless; my legs started to feel tired only 3.5ish miles into the race. It didn’t feel like I was pushing hard or running the uphills too quickly, and I wasn’t power hiking any of them nor did I plan to. My breathing was fine and at no point did I feel like I wasn’t cardiovascularly unfit, which is a positive, but my legs did tire out much quicker than I’d expected. At this point, I was reminiscing about the 2013 25K and remembering the aid station (old course) up near Bommer Ridge Road. I’d received a huge boost of energy from a friend who was there with a large sign and a noise maker, plus the delicious coconut chips which I’d tried for the very first time.
After the long climb, we took Redtail Ridge and went down Rattlesnake, the most technical descent of the race. I saw the leader of the 50K race here and he was close to, if not more than, a mile ahead of the rest of the runners. He looked pretty strong, so I foresaw an easy win for him. The leading 50K female also looked great going up Machione, which the 25Kers took down to the West Cut Across Aid station. Matt helped me get a cup of water, I wiped my sweaty face, and was off toward my least favorite parts of the course: El Moro Canyon to Slow ‘N Easy. It’s basically a just-get-to-the-next-aid-station section for me, with the exception of a really lovely forest-y stretch which seemed to be 15-20 degrees cooler than the rest of the course. I’ve struggled on this part of the course for the last two races/50Ks and although I didn’t have 18+ miles on my legs this time, I still felt like shit. I’m not sure if’s a mental attribution now or if my quadriceps muscles were just over the elevation gains and losses. I passed two male runners here and told one of them that this next section was my least favorite, but I wasn’t quite sure why. Was it the two really steep, but short climbs which brought the legs to the far reaches of weariness? Was it just overall net gain in elevation and (what felt like a) lack of long stretches of downhill? Was it the constant exposure to the sun and increase in temperature due to being later in the morning? I’m still not sure, but that crappy feeling settled in as expected. I guess the positive is that I was prepared for it and mentally ready to fight.
The next-to-last aid station marks the end of this tough section, so it is always a welcome sight. I usually find my second wind on Missing Link and manage Moro Ridge fairly well (both are net downhill), but not this year. I knew that my endurance wasn’t as good as in previous years and that I would be reminded of this during the latter miles, but I really came to crawling at this point. I’d been able to keep the second place female in sight (later learning that she had completed and Ironman one or two weekends before, badass!), but gave up on that. While ambling along Moro Ridge, I was passed by a petite Asian gal who was running very well, so ideas of placing in the top 3 were blown. I most definitely entertained the notion of making the immediate right down I Think I Can and earning a shiny DNF while ending the misery sooner, but gained some motivation from sharing pieces of conversation with fellow runners who seemed just as tired and worn out as I.
This is where I started to feel unwelcome discomfort in my chest. A fellow runner, Jen, came up alongside me and I expressed that I was experiencing an odd feeling in my chest. “You know when you eat french fries too fast, and it feels kind of ‘stuck’ in your throat and chest area? That’s how this feels” I told her. I started to feel stupid for not thinking to carry water with me, as I think it may have been dehydration. I had no idea how far away the last aid station was, but I knew I wanted to get there and drink water quickly, so I managed to pick my pace up a bit. Though Jen said she felt tired and was just trying to get through the rest of the race, she still looked pretty good and I was mentally preparing to eat some more dust. The thickness in my chest lasted about 1.5-2 miles and had mostly dissipated by the time I reached the last aid station.
The 2014 course change added an out-and-back section on Moro Ridge, which I do not like. While on the ridge, there is a right turn which leads to the long and delightful downhill trail I Think I Can/East Cut Across. It is the beautiful homestretch. However, the course now takes us past that turn, continues downhill for 1ish mile, and then heads back up. Those 2 miles feel like 5 miles on tired legs. “Just two miles!” I reminded myself while heading back to the turn-off. John (runs 1:3x on this course and is a super talented trail runner) was there to direct runners and I’m sure he thought “wow, she looks like shit.” I made a funny face at him and finally started to descend I Think I Can. The pain in my hip was the worst it’s ever been at this point. I usually fly down this hill, ignoring any fatigue in my legs and imagining a strong finish, but I was trying to minimize the impact and felt very jerky and awkward.
I ended up walking a few times during the last 1.5 miles. I felt tired, deflated, and empty of motivation. I perked up when I saw a few of the lead 25K runners starting their cool down run – I knew this meant I was close. “Just a quarter mile to the finish” the lead male said to me as he passed. I saw Telan, crossed the bridge, smiled for the camera, and received my medal.
I felt pretty nauseated and wrecked, but happy that I’d finished. I downed an ice cold coconut water and got to see Carrie and Josh finish. I also talked to the guy who I’d warned about the tough section (El Moro Canyon and Slow ‘N Easy) and he agreed that it was a more difficult part of the course. I was looking forward to some delicious TK Burger after the race, but they seemed to be running behind and the wait time was 30+ minutes. Since I really did not feel well, I opted out of the post-race story trading and waiting game for the burger, and started the uphill half mile walk back to my car. It felt very long, and very uphill. Jen was parked near me, so we talked for a while about the race. I finally cleaned myself up and started the drive home.
Game plan before the race: run the 25K, drive home, shower and eat, head to the Rock ‘N Roll Los Angeles expo to pick up my half marathon race items, run the half marathon (tired) on Sunday. Evidentally, I think I’m still 22 years old…
Game plan after the race: drive home, shower, eat, sleep, think about running the half marathon on Sunday while knowing that it probably won’t happen.
Why did I feel so nauseated before and after the race? Why did I feel so crappy during the race? What is going on with my hip? Is it the lack of miles which is making me feel so badly? I had a lot of questions after the race, but allowed myself to relax and read for the remainder of the day. I took yesterday (Sunday) off from running an I am feeling a little better today (Monday). My upper body was oddly really sore yesterday – my left shoulder and back especially. I texted Carrie, who also ran the 25K, and she said her upper body was also sore. I slept in today and hope to run the aches and pains out tonight, but am concerned about my hip pain.
Update (Tuesday): I ran 8 easy miles last night and my hip is in a lot of pain – a scary amount of pain. I need to make a decision as to whether I will shut it down for November and December, and try to start fresh in January. The only “major” races that I am registered for in 2016 are Boston and Big Sur. There’s piece of mind knowing that I’ll be really busy through the end of December with work events, but also dread with the thought of not being able to run for a long time. I’m going to see how this week goes, try to make a doctor appointment, and then go from there.