Los Pinos 50K. I signed up for this race hoping that it would be one of my last epic battle of what is already a great year of running for myself. There were certainly many attractive aspects in this race. First, there were the Southern California elite group of ultra runners. With Michelle Barton, Kate Martini Freeman, Dominic Grossman, Jorge Pacheco, Chris Price, Jesse Haynes and Tom Nielsen leading the race, who wouldn't want to run and see what he or she is made out of. Besides the competitiveness being factored in, you got yourself a really challenging course out in Cleveland National Forest. An 8000+ feet in total elevation all squeezed into 50 kilometer race. Can I just call this a mini Hard Rock? Having a few SoCal Coyotes out there is definitely icing on the cake. Done. Deal.
Going into this race, I didn't feel quite as prepared as I have with most of my previous ultra marathons. I never specifically trained for this race nor have I ran this course besides the training run I had done. 3 weeks prior to the race, we ran up to Saddleback. That was my training run on top of the sporadic long runs I've done further prior to that. I also knew not to underestimate this course. After all, there is a reason why Keira (Los Pinos 50K RD) wrote the slogan, "Feel The Beast".
Fast forward to the start, I wasn't feeling nervous at all. I was, however, on the fence to put "it" down on the line, to give it all I have. What if I blow up before the Los Pinos 8 mile climb? Sure.. why not? What if I have to drop because I went out too fast? I didn't care. I wanted to race a little differently this time, with the exception of driving myself to the ground and hurt myself, inflicting permanent damage. I wanted to compete with myself while motivated by other runners on this course.
Once the timer have started, the elitist group took off immediately, mainly the group of runners I've mentioned earlier. My indecisive me was thinking of hanging back but then I saw George (Gleason) going up strong so I decided to charge with him. The first half a mile of rolling road were actually somewhat tiring, especially because I hadn't done any warm up early on before the race. I also felt my left achillie being tight, but I know that I'll be alright after some warm up, which ended up taking 2 miles to really heat up.
The majority of the first 12 miles were fun, technical and rolling singletrack. Some of the view up there were amazing. The runners of this race may be exposed to the sun early on in the race, but it was absolutely awesome to be able to see the coast line while running the roller coaster (net down) singletrack. However, the view can't be enjoyed the majority of the time because the singletrack out there is quite technical. In fact, with in the first mile, I had already rolled my ankle (slightly but not a show stopper), then once I caught up to George, I witnessed him nose dive twice. I would've done the same if I was to take the lead (lead within that mid pack) in that section. As soon as he let me and the other runner pass, I sped up and try to find a faster but comfortable rhythm, something that is may be slightly anaerobic.
By mile 3 to 4, I was on board and found my zone. It was aggressive but sustainable (for the entire race; or so I thought). My body was not feeling beat, my legs were feeling really strong, I was even going fast on the downhills. By this time, I had also caught up to Michelle Barton and mentally, I was super stoked. This woman is the queen of 50K in SoCal. She seems to have won quite a few of these races down here in SoCal. I was absolutely thrilled to be able to hang with her. I also tried to pace with her but it seems that she was uncomfortable with me running right behind her so she let me pass.
Within minutes, this guy in his hat was in sight. This guy was really difficult to keep in sight and was running really relaxed but strong at the same time. He was coasting like nobody's business (it was only later that I find out that he's Tom Nielsen). Even though the singletrack or at times double wide were quite energy consuming (because runners have to pay close attention to the footing of the trail), it was extremely fun, especially the switchback portions of it. Once we were an hour into it, I finally have my first chocolate gel. Since it was a huge net drop for the first 12 miles, it was difficult to decide when to take in my food for proper nutrition.
On the way down, we ran past numerous mountain bikers, most of them were friendly and mindful, aware that there was a race going on at the time. One of them even counted out loud, letting us know what place we were in. "You're lucky number 7!" I thanked him while I hustle down the double wide. There were a few turns on the narrow path down but the course was exceptionally well marked. No one should get lost here, thanks to Keira and the awesome volunteers.
At around 10.5 miles into the race, my form started to feel strange. My left foot was having slight issue pushing off. I didn't feel any pain or anything for that matter, but that was something that I noticed but ignored. I thought it was something that might go away or a feeling I could run off (as opposed to walking it off). At this point, Tom was still in close sight. We would meet eyes whenever there is a tight switchback. The footing on that section is pretty much a "V" shape trail. The mid-section of the trail is concave deeper than the surrounding sides. I ran on the flatter sides quite often since the footing right in the middle throws my step off. I also feel faster and more efficient by doing so.
By mile 11, I felt slight tightness and pain when I push off on both of my feet. I feel it the most when I push off of my big toe. The inside of my arch became more and more painful. So I slowed down and hoped that the pain would go away. I tried walking a little bit but it wouldn't budge. A minute past, then two, then three, then six to seven minutes past. Michelle and George passed right by me, then Kate and Pedro. At that point, I knew I have to call off my race.
It was funny at the time. Wow, is this going to be my first DNF? It didn't really bother me much until afterwards, when I thought about it a bit more and when my feet feel a little bit better. But back to that point when I was still on the trail. All the coyotes that passed by stopped and asked if I was OK. Family's first. They were awesome. Then Nicole ran by and I greeted her and told her that I was alright. Mainly because she looked really good at that point. She looked strong and pretty damn determined. She, however, noticed my problem and decided to walk with me or hobble with me down that section. Seriously! Savior. Angel. Sweetest coyote. Thank you Nicole (and Jimmy for the ride back to the start later on)! Then Annie caught up to us but she didn't look as good, especially after she had turned her stomach numerous time already. I told them to continue and that I'll be alright. I hobbled down and two volunteer hiked up and ask if I was 557. I covered up my bib but had to unveil it eventually. They were super nice and they hiked down with me.
The idea of DNF'ing isn't all that great but I suppose things could have gotten much worse. I don't need surgery and I'm only suffering early stages of PF (plantar fasciitis). It only sucked because I REALLY wanted to see what I could have done. Would have been able to keep my place, staying between Tom and Michelle? It would've been awesome to see Michelle showing me who's the boss on the beast of the beast, Los Pinos trail. It is what it is and I'm over it. It's the potential that has gotten the best of me mainly because I felt so strong and so good before my feet went south. This will only keep me hungrier for my next one. I hope to be able to toe up with the same group of runners on a course just as difficult.
Again, I want to thank Keira and the volunteers at Los Pinos 50K for putting on a great race. The course was well marked and the volunteers were super nice. It was a carnage out there, congrats to all finishers. Always proud of all the Coyotes that toed up.
Prior to my race, I've ran sporadically here and there including pacing Crispin at Fire Trails 50 Miler (26 ish), ran Ragnar Relay SF to Napa (20 ish), course marked Xterra Pt. Mugu (12 ish), Fire Trails training run with Crispin (55 ish), not in that order. Go check out the blog of Chris Price, Los Pinos 50K winner, it's pretty gnarly! See you on the trail!
|Painting our Ragnar van. Team "We Got The Runs"|
|Mile 8 Exchange|
|Crispin at Mile 26 Turnaround point at Fire Trials 50|
|Dave Mackey leading at Mile 37 at Fire Trails 50|
|Sponge Bob golf balls for massaging plantar.|
|Course marking at Pt. Mugu for XTERRA SoCal|
|My New Balance 890 replacing my Toms Canvas Classic|
as walking shoes.