Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Razorback 50 miler - Race Report

Get comfy y'all. This is gonna be a long one!

Razorback is held at Harvey Bear Park in San Martin, CA.  It's a 2.01 mile loop of paved trail with 2 gravel trails on either side so that you have the option of surfaces to run on.  Razorback offered half marathon, marathon, 50k, 50 mile, 100k, 100 mile and 125 mile distances.  Since I have two marathons coming up in the next two weekends I opted to run the 50 miler and treat it as a training run for Nanny Goat 100 miler.

San Martin is approximately an hour drive away from where I live so I decided to wake up early and drive up on race day instead of camping out there the night before.  Boy am I glad that I made that decision!  It was storming pretty badly on Friday night and all could do was pray that the weather would clear up for the race.

  Race gear all set up and ready to go

I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning. 3:00 AM to be exact! I technically could have gotten up a little later but I wanted to ensure I gave myself enough of a time buffer just in case I got lost.  I had my typical pre-race breakfast (a plain bagel with peanut butter and a banana), double checked my race bags, then headed out the door to San Martin.  I got to Harvey Bear Park aroound 4:45 AM to see several cars already there.  Packet pick-up was supposed to start at 5:15 AM but because of the storm the race crew was having problems setting up the tents.  Since I was early I decided to lend a helping hand and helped sort the race shirts and hold the tents down.  By this time it really started raining and the wind had picked up.  It took six people to hold down a tent so that it could be staked down! Craziness!  Pretty soon they were up and running and packet pick-up was quick and easy.

So glad I finally got to meet Shrina

Once I got my bib on and my bags were set up along the course path, I huddled up with fellow runners under the aid tents making the usual pre-race small talk about weather conditions, fueling plans, and distances everyone was aiming for.  Before we knew it, it was time for the race to start and without much fanfare we were off! Holy guacamole was it cold! The rain was just dumping down on us and the wind was ruthlessly blowing into our faces.  Within a few feet of fighting to run into the wind up the first incline I was laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation.  It was the most inclement weather the area had seen all year and yet here were all these runners charging into it and chatting it up like it was a normal sunshiney day.

Surprisingly, despite the weather those first several miles went by quickly. It's always fun to pass the miles getting to know fellow runners and sharing race stories.  It sure does make everything go faster that's for sure!  At some point the poncho I was wearing tore in the wind and did nothing but make me look like an awkward ghost flapping about so I ditched it.  About four hours in, the rain stopped (even though the wind didn't) and we were greeted with a beautiful double rainbow.   

For the rest of the race it stayed fairly clear with the rain showing up every other hour to remind us what we had gone through earlier in the morning.  The wind, however, never ended.  It was absolutely relentless and it was starting to exhaust me. No matter which direction on the loop we were running we ran into a headwind. How does that happen?  The only exception was during a 1/2 mile downhill section of the loop. So, I had decided early on in the race to charge down that section as fast as I could to balance out the section where we turn right into the worst of the headwind (I found that trying to run into that section was fruitless so I pretty much power walked it for most of the race).  My little strategy was working out well and I was feeling a million times better than I had the previous year at my first ultramarathon, Run-de-Vous 100k (which ironically had been held at the exact same course location).  I was having so much fun and loved sharing miles with my runner friends (both old and new ones I met on the course) including Shrina, Leigh Anne, Sophie, Charlyann, Bill, Raman, Reshu, Danni, Catra, Ed and so many more. I was aiming for a 12 hour finish and was thrilled to see that at the 50k mark I was right on pace for an 11:20 finish time.  And then...the wheels started to come off.

My friend Josam caught this shot when the rain stopped. So happy!

All throughout the race I had been fueling and hydrating like a champ.  I carried my handheld water bottle to ensure I consistently drank on the course and I grabbed food every 2 miles, starting with a Banana Blueberry PowerBar Performance pack each lap for the first 3 laps and then switching to solid food for the rest of the race.  The race food was AH-MAZING and I indulged in peanut butter stuffed pretzels, fruit, boiled potatoes, crackers, dates, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, black bean vegan burgers, pizza, and soup. Unfortunately, I think I may have lapsed at some point after the 50k and allowed my tummy to get a little too hungry before eating and after that my stomach was never the same. At mile 38 it decided to become really, really angry and made some really loud noises to let me know as such. Awesome! We all know that making potty stops along the race course is never ideal but can you imagine trying to hurry to a porta-john but not being able to run because it made things worse? Yeah. Not fun.  Thankfully, the RD had porta-johns near the starting line and two other portajohns about 3/4 mile out from each other on the course.  But I was in trouble. After that I literally had to stop every 1.5-2 miles for a potty break. Talk about killing the time I had banked! At that point, I didn't even care anymore.  I just wanted to be done in one piece without hurting myself or having an "accident" on the course.

On my last loop, I managed to find my friend Charlyann who was gunning for her first 100 miler.  She was struggling a bit as the wind had really zapped her energy and her feet were just raw and in pain.  So I made her a promise that once I finished I'd continue to walk with her until she was allowed pacers at the 50 mile mark.  So I did just that. I crossed that fnished line, grabbed my medal, and headed back out on the course with Charly.  For anyone who has never ran an ultra, it really is the biggest mental and emotional rollercoaster you will ever experience.  You go through bouts of the happiest highs and the lowest lows while trying to battle fatigue and pain.  Last year, I was completely unprepared for the waves of emotions that would hit seemingly out of nowhere for no reason and I literally had a full on meltdown on the course complete with ugly crying.  If it wasn't for my crew supporting me and encouraging me, I don't know what I would have done.  This year, I had the honor and privilege to be that support for my friend.  And this is where the beauty of ultramarathoning lies. During the dark of night, when the miles seem longest and hardest, runners band together to support, encourage and motivate each other to keep putting one foot in front of other.  Everyone wants every runner to succeed.  And I am always awed and inspired by the strength and determination of those who, like Charly, are battling not only physical pain, fatigue, nausea, etc. but also those mental demons that so often end races earlier than any physical issue would otherwise.  Charly ended up dropping down to the 100k distance but I cannot tell you how proud I am of her for pushing through to the finish. Given the condition of her feet as well as the nausea she was fighting, I don't know if I would have had the strength to do what she did.  She's my inspiration!   

WOOHOO! 50 miles DONE!

At the end of the day, I am proud of how I did at Razorback.  I may not have finished within the timeframe I wanted (stupid tummy!) but overall I performed the very best that I could given the conditions and I never allowed those mental demons to get the better of me.  Recovery so far has been going surprisingly well.  Sunday was a bit of a challenge in the morning as my hips were a little tight and I had pain in my ankles and shins from power walking into the wind (shin pain is totally new to me!) but otherwise I felt pretty good!  Since it was raining outside and I had more than my fill of walking in the rain during the race, I walked laps around my apartment to keep my muscles loose. My gait was a little stiff at first but loosened up pretty quickly.  Monday I was walking around normally with some residual stiffness/pain in my ankle/shin area.  Today I'm back to normal!  My legs are obviously still fatigued but there's no pain/stiffness/tightness.  It's apparent that I'm in no condition to race the LA Marathon this coming weekend, especially if I plan on racing the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon the weekend afterwards, so I'm skipping LAM and focusing on rest and recovery for Shamrock.  Gotta love tapering! HA!

Oh and this whole ultramarathoning thing isn't over yet.  I'll be gunning for my very first hundo at Nanny Goat in May so stay tuned!

Have you ever ran or thought of running an ultramarathon?  If so, which one?


  1. Great job and great accomplishment Sharon! You are an inspiration! I DNF'd the Full mOOn 50K last year. Going to give it another go this year if I'm in town. Best of luck these next few weeks.

  2. What an amazing recap Sharon! I hope I get to see you during Shamrock to high five your awesome self :)

    1. Thanks Edith! When will you be at the Expo? If anything, hopefully I'll see you at the RFRC pre-race meet-up, on the course or in the beer tent. :)