I was excited to get my second ultra started after my big changes in my eating habits and great training runs. Over the last few months I had changed so much about myself I wanted to see that transferred over to my race day experience. I wasn't really nervous for the race, I was just anxious to see if I could achieve my goals with better preparation. During my last ultra (PCT50), I faltered at the end because I had not salted or hydrated enough. This time I was determined to get it done right. I had my nutrition, hydration and my salt tabs all ready this time with sound advice from all my training partners during our training runs. Thank you Keith you helped me a ton.
Like always the night before a race, I barely slept because of the anxiety of the race. Waking up at 3:45am race day so that you can make it to check-in between 5:45-6:45am is a lot of fun. Sarcasm... yes it helps get me through the tough times. :) So I got up, did my usual stretches and push-ups to wake my system up for the day. Went down stairs, got some breakfast and coffee in my system and waited for the morning ....hmmm, how should I say it... you know that thing we all must do... :) I know TMI but it's a runner thing... and the conversations are some times a bit strange out on the trail if an outsider were listening in on us. It always helps to have everything out before you start the race.
After check-in I made sure I had everything on my person that I wanted to take with me until I could meet up with my crew at the Noble Canyon trailhead. My crew consisted of my wife and my 6yo son - My 14yo son was at his cross country meet or he would have been helping also. Standing around the start line was different this time around - I actually knew people and we stood around huddled against the cold morning air. It was actually nice on race day - it was much cooler then our training runs so that helped a bunch. It was a total different feel this time... I had confidence I could do 31 miles now since doing the PCT50 and my birthday challenge 37 miles. I did have goals for this race - to get under 7 hours and be able to walk afterwards. :)
The count down went to zero and we were off into the great crisp cool air of the Cleveland National Forest trails. I felt good and wanted to push it on the down hill, so I tried to stay with the people I trained with for the first part of the race. The 6.8 miles to the first Aid Station was mostly flat or down hill so I pushed through and got to the Big Tree Aid Station in about an hour. I filled up on water and headed out, back on the trail trying to stay with the group I had been running with at the beginning. The trails are so diverse at Noble Canyon. One minute you're on shale rock, next you're running through a creek into pine trees and leaves, and next you're running on a rock face... which is scary because one trip and BOOM! you have a bad injury. I fell in love with this trail a bit because of the diversity of it.
On the way to the second Aid Station (Noble Canyon Trail Head) I had stayed with the group the whole way and I felt pretty good. I met my crew there and they fueled me up and pampered me :) like an awesome crew! Oh - my wife is getting good at crewing also... she gets pushy and tells me the things I need which helps a ton. I also saw a friend down there, Matt (who was the captain of the Aid Station), who I had met while volunteering with my 14yo son at the SD100, so that was a nice surprise. I also saw him at the finish... but wait we aren't there yet! I must get back on the trail and start the grueling part - the climb up.
I was so hoping I wouldn't have to remember this part and write it down - I'm just kidding! I actually had fun - it was much better then the training runs. On my training runs, so many bugs would surround my head... on my way up from NCTH I had hardly any bugs bug me - which was a hell of a relief because those things can really tear you down when you're just trying to get back up to the top of the trail again. I had a good strong run going until about half way back up to the Big Tree Aid Station. My stomach started getting bloated and cramping up and lots of painful gas(I know I know TMI) but it had to be said. But I fought it down and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. During the climb up people started getting separated and I ran a lot of this part of the race on my own. That was fine - I need that time alone because I was sounding like a backfiring old car. I was afraid if anyone was around me they would think that some thing was wrong with my engine. :)
I got to Big Tree and was trying to figure out what I could eat to get my stomach to calm down. I had some ginger ale and salty watermelon to see if that would help. It didn't do all that much except make me more bloated. I think I might get a little bit of elevation or altitude sickness when I run at or above 5000 ft, just my opinion. After the Big Tree I made my way up to the top of the trail which is Penny Pines Aid Station, and the second and last time I get to see my crew. They helped as much as they could with me getting grumpy about my stomach. I kissed them goodbye and headed to find the porta-potty to see if I could do anything there. I just could not do anything - so I pushed on with a cramping bloated stomach.
The next part is a ton of fun (crap there is my sarcasm again - defense mechanism kicking in ). Another climb up on the PCT trail up to around 6027 feet - which was wonderful for my stomach. :) I just kept plugging along though. I had to walk some of the climb up, but I was still keeping to a great time so I mentally felt good. I just wished this dumb pain would go away in my stomach. I might have to go camp for a week and get acclimated to elevation before doing races. :)
Next stop was to get me to the famous Rat Hole Aid Station and get some much needed love from the awesome people volunteering. Thanks so much for the ginger ale and ginger chew you guys rocked! Those brownies looked so good I could have just sat at the Rat Hole and had a nice buffet pig out - but I couldn't eat or drink anything at this point. They filled me up with water and one bottle of icy ginger ale woohooo that was good - the sips I held down anyways.
After the Rat Hole there were only 4.2 miles to go until the finish - I just pushed through the pain. I had such a great time and I wanted to see if I could keep it up. I tried to stay with the guy who was having trouble with leg cramps. We kept leap frogging each other - I would be trudging along while he would stop and massage his cramps out of his legs and then he would run by my exploding gassy self. :) He pushed me through some of those periods when you just want to walk - I wanted so much to stay within sight of him that I kept putting one running foot in front of the other one. It worked until we got about 2 miles out from the finish - he disappeared into the finishing stretch while I had the little pond to go around. But it was nice to have him there to help push me. Out on the trails you have each other - no fans screaming GO GO GO!! - it's just you and the others running until you get to an Aid Station. Those awesome volunteers make your minute, hour, mile or your whole day depending on where you hit your mental or physical walls. I do appreciate everything about these races.
On the home stretch entering the AL Bahr campground I got excited because I could feel the finish closing in on me. I trudged on until I saw the big black rat and waving little flags and ran for it. On the last 100 feet I started squirting my bottles of water and ginger ale into the air for my finish and to cool off. :) It was a great race and really awesome people organize and put it on.
I came in at 6:02:45 which destroyed the 7 hour time I was going for! In the end I didn't care about the cramping or pain because I just kicked another goal's ass. :) It was such a great feeling to finish a race strong. I would love to thank all those who put on the training runs before the race, all the people who volunteer for the race and those who organize the race. It had awesome swag at the end also. I would like to thank my wife and son for being there when I needed you most. Thanks to Keith for all your help on nutrition and hydration - and all the training runs you helped me with - it means a lot to have some one go out of their way to help me - I do appreciate it! Thank you Gaby for making awesome GABYBARS!
Overall I had a blast training for the Noble Canyon 50k and running it, and also meeting the awesome people involved in this race and sport. I recommend everyone to come out and have tons of fun running it! Thanks again everyone and you all know who you are and I hope when I see you I can show how much you all mean to me. This sport has changed my life... everyone involved in it has made me part of a great community and family.