Headlands 50 (September 14, 2013)
For Rio del Lago training, I signed up for two 50 mile races to prepare me for my first 100. One in mid-September, the Headlands 50. And, one in mid-October, the Dick Collins Firetrails 50. For both, I decided to try going with no crew or pacers. Just me and the 50 miles. No support other than whatever the race provides.
The first one is Headlands 50. . .
The first one is Headlands 50. . .
I got a ride to the race from my friends Tyler and Richard. We made it to Rodeo Beach in time for the start despite a scenic accidental detour on the Richmond Bridge. While hanging out at the start, I see a number of friends I know getting ready to race...a few signed up for the 100 mile race.
My friend Tim wants us to try to run together the first loop. So, I follow him over to the start line. The gun (or horn or whatever) goes off and Tim and I start running and hiking up the first climb. I am prepared for this hilly race in the Marin Headlands.
Tim and I run and hike along up and down the hills all the way to Muir Beach (mile 8.3). The views of the Pacific Ocean are stunning. And, it's nice and foggy out.
Climbing out from Muir Beach, I am feeling pretty strong on the uphills. I move along pretty well up them trying not to push myself too hard. Need to pace myself. I get into a nice groove going up the hill and a little bit later, I turn around and have lost Tim. I keep moving along thinking Tim will probably catch up to me on the downhill. As I am running along, I see Catra Corbitt. We leap frog each other for a bit. Me passing her on the uphills and she flying past me on the downhills. I can hear her singing a couple times as she passes me. At some point, she stops to get something from her pack or something and I continue on ahead of her.
I stop at the Tennessee Valley aid station (mile 12.5) and refill on my bottles. I am trying a new pack today, the AK Ultimate Direction Vest. So far I am liking having the two bottles, one for electrolyte and another for water. I snack a little and continue on...still not seeing Tim.
I continue on towards the Golden Gate Bridge. At some point, I catch up to Eric Schranz (of ultrarunnerpodcast). We somewhat run together all the way down to the Golden Gate Bridge. The trail ends at the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge and we continue along a road that goes under the bridge. This is neat as I have cycled here before and now I am running under the bridge.
At the bottom is an aid station (mile 18.5). I eat some watermelon and turn around to climb back up the hill I just came down. I hike along and see Tim running down the hill. When I hit the trails again, I start running/shuffling my way up the hill. I am still feeling pretty good climbing up the hills. I like that it's still foggy out too. The longer it stays cool, the better it is for me.
After climbing back to the top, I descend down for a few miles and end up back at Rodeo Beach (at mile 25). My first loop was done in decent time (a little after 5 hours). I am feeling good about how the race is going so far. I restock my pack and see they have tortillas with hummus at the aid stations. This is not something I really see at races but have at the Auburn Century and know it works well for me so I grab some to eat as I head out for my second loop (in the opposite direction as the first one).
As I am running back out of Rodeo Beach, I see Eric heading towards Rodeo Beach. I cheer out to him but he doesn't look too pleased. A little later, I see Tim and stop to talk to him. He says he's having a rough time. He's going to stop at the aid station and wait to pace another friend doing the 100 later on. He tells me I'm doing great and will see me later. I am a little bummed to see him stopping. I was hoping he would catch back up to me and we could run together more.
I continue on climbing up more hills and see Tyler and Richard as they run down. That gives me a nice little boost. I continue to power hike and run a little up the hills. My legs are feeling good and I am feeling pretty happy with how strong I am climbing today. All those K2 hill repeats I did in training are really paying off now. I am a so-so downhill runner but happy that I've become a stronger uphill runner/power hiker.
A label on the back of my sports bra starts to bug me a little bit. I can feel it rubbing and scratching my back. I squirm a little trying to adjust it. I can tell that it's going to leave a mark. Note to self, don't race in this sports bra for my hundred miler.
The fog has cleared and the sun is shining but it isn't too hot. I had hoped the fog would stay longer but the temperature is still manageable.
I reach the top of the hill and descend my way back to the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge again. This run down isn't quite as neat as the first time around. But, I eventually reach the aid station (31.5 miles). There are a ton of flies swarming around so they have everything covered. Nothing is looking so appealing so I just continue back up the hill for the second time.
The second time climbing up from the Golden Gate Bridge is not nearly as fast as the first time. I hike a little more than run this time. It is getting warmer so it's a little harder but I am still mostly enjoying myself. I am really happy that my stomach is holding up so well today. I had been a little worried. I decided to change up my usual plan of eating one gel every hour to eating one gel every couple hours and eating more real food. I think the gels really cause all sorts of GI issues. And so far, things are holding up pretty well.
After a bit, I see Tyler and Richard again. It really peps me up to see my friends. Tyler is looking great in his first 50 mile race!
It seems to take awhile but I eventually get to the Tennessee Valley aid station. I grab a few things out of my drop bag. Karen is hanging out at this aid station and comes over to help me out. She helps refill my bottles and snaps a quick picture of me with food in my mouth.
I continue on for the final stretch of the race still doing good in staying at about the same pace I started out with.
When I make my way back to Muir Beach (mile 41.7), the view of the Pacific Ocean is even more spectacular than in the morning. With the sun shining now, the ocean is a beautiful blue-green color. I am really loving running out here. I need to run out in these bay area trails more often.
I go up and down some more hills and make it to the last aid station. I see my friend Tom (who's doing the 100 miler). I am a little tired but feeling happy that I am right on pace to finish under 11 hours.
As I leave the last aid station, I miss seeing a couple flags and end up by some horse barns. A few people direct me back to the trail I had missed turning onto. I need to pay attention. This is the second time I veered off the course by not paying attention.
I climb and climb and climb all the way to the top of the ridge. I then start running down and down a long hill. About halfway down the hill, I realize I haven't seen anyone in awhile. The trail weaves around and I can see ahead and I don't see anyone. When I look back up the trail, I don't see anyone. There was a guy I had passed climbing up the hill not too long ago. He should be passing me on the downhill by now. I keep running downhill, with a little hesitation that I have veered off course again. I hope not. I am not sure how I could have veered off course. I thought it was pretty straightforward. I am getting frustrated as I am right on track in finishing under 11 hours and I am 48 miles in. I hope I haven't gotten so off course, I have to run a lot of extra miles.
I hit the bottom and see some flags and feel some relief that I have found my way back on course. The flags are at a corner. Some going straight and some going left. Which way should I go? I pull out my phone to figure out where I am. I decide to run left. I run a bit and feel like I am going away from Rodeo Beach so stop and check my phone map again. I turn around and run back the other way. Ugh, I am so frustrated now and really confused as to where I am.
A mountain biker rides by me and I ask her (in a possibly frantic voice) which way is Rodeo Beach, she thinks it's that way (the way I had turned around to go). So, I run along. I see another guy walking along and ask him if I am going the right way to Rodeo Beach. He says I am exactly a mile from the finish. Thank goodness.
I run along, 49 miles has passed. I then hit the road and know exactly where I am. F**k! I must have gone down the wrong trail and I am where I was when I was finishing the 25 mile loop, on the wrong side!! Ugh. Now I am stressing that I will get a DNF since I went the wrong way at mile 48! ARGH!!!
I run along the road back to Rodeo Beach. I make the turn and go into the finish line chute. My garmin says I've run a little over 50 miles (I think the course is a little short of 50 miles so I ended up with a little extra). I tell the person at the finish I had gone off course towards the end but I still did 50 miles and show him my garmin.
And, my finish does count!
Official finish time 10:50:17.
Other than the stress of getting lost at the end of the race, I think Headlands 50 was one of my best ultras as far as execution goes. Eric had said running with no crew and pacers can be good as it gets you to focus on yourself. I think I was good about that. My pace was steady all day long. My legs felt good all day and strong on the hills. I had no cramping issues. I didn't bonk. My nutrition plan went well and I had no stomach problems. I liked the new pack I got. It worked pretty well other than some soreness on my ribs from the bottoms pressing up against my rib cage. I couldn't be happier with how the race went and am feeling ready for RDL. . . .