6.14.2013

Shadow of the Giants 50k

As part of the training for the What's Beautiful Challenge, which is to run a 50 miler, I also signed up for a few 50k races. One of them was kind of an impromptu race near Yosemite. A couple of friends were doing it and I decided to join them for some fun in the Sierras. I grew up in the Sierras but it was roughly about 300 miles north of where this race was. However, the scenery is very similar in many cases. Evergreen trees, granite and clear mountain streams are the norm.

I drove to Fish Camp on Friday evening, which is where the race started. We won't even talk about the drive right now, as it was full of heat and traffic and wrong turns. Actually, I will talk about the heat a little. The thermometer in the car read 113 at one point. The car did not have A/C. I drank a ton of water. The end.

The race director Baz was a crazy really nice English (I think) guy who dropped the F bomb a lot. With your race entry (for a mere 15 dollars extra) you could stay in the dorms at a kids summer camp up in the mountains. Count me in! I arrived late and crept into the nearest empty bunk.

The next morning there was coffee and muffins and we all got our bibs on and got ready to go. The race started at 7 and it was probably about 55 or 60 degrees at this point. The starting elevation was about 5,000 feet. Baz made some jokes and dropped the F bomb a few times and then we were off! And it was straight uphill. I know, I know, if you got a quarter every time I said "and it was straight uphill" you would at least have $1.75 by now! Well it was...straight up.

For about two miles. In this time, my heart was beating like a tom tom. Seriously, it was going to beat out of my chest. My normal average HR is in the 130s. This was in the 150s! It was going crazy. I know it was probably mostly due to the elevation, because that can make a huge difference, but also it was dusty and it was already heating up (or maybe it was my imagination) and I don't know if I had gotten enough water in me the day before.

shadow of the giants
This reminds me of home

The trail went back down and then we did a little out and back so we could see who was in front of us. There were two girls ahead of me. At this point I was running with my friend and we were trying to guess the ages of the girls to see if they were in our age group or not. Shortly after that, I ditched my friend (on the downhill! She beats me on the ups every time and then I pass her on the down) and headed off on my own.

Now when I say on my own, I mean it. I was alone a lot. Except for one girl in a maroon shirt who was keeping just a safe enough distance behind me that I was taking it easy because I didn't always see her back there.We had a water crossing, which was my first, and then she caught up to me at the next aid station and passed me. Then she stopped to pee and I passed her. Sweet.

Next up was a really cool single track section that went through groves of Giant Sequoias. It was awesome. Then I got to the mile 20 aid station where there was a one mile loop through another grove, plus the volunteers filled up your pack and let you do the loop without it so when you got back you had icy cold water waiting for you. Thank you volunteers! As I left that aid station, the girl in the maroon shirt passed me again and then..

I hit a wall. I had no fight left in me.

I blame several things. 1. I was not hungry. At all. I don't know if it was the heat or what, but at the first aid station I grabbed a banana, took one bite and spit it out because it was not good. So I didn't really eat. For the entire race at this point I had maybe a quarter of an orange, 2 gummy chews, 3 pretzels and a bite of banana. Which is not good. We need fuel to move! 2. The heat. Can you say Sluggish? It was about 96 degrees. 3. The elevation. It affected me more than I thought it would.

The hill at this point was an uphill but it was oh so gradual, but nevertheless, it was killing me. I stopped to walk a bit and seriously considered walking the rest of the way. I was calculating in my heat addled brain how long it would take me if I walked. Somehow I came up with a possible 2 - 3 hours. The only reason I started running again was because I wanted to get it over with and 2 -3 hours more was way too much time to be out there.

At the top of the gradual hill (600 feet in about 2.5 miles) there was an aid station. It was like this:

source

Except they didn't berate me; they gave me food. Food, glorious food. This is the only time I eat Ruffles potato chips and man are they good!

And then it really was all down hill from there! Except for the fact that I fell (again. Oops) and scraped up my knee and hand (again), I felt a lot better after the food and during the down hill. I made it to the finish in one piece and went and soaked in the icy cold creek with a cold beer.

shadow of the giants
The Finish Line

The Verdict? The girl in the maroon shirt beat me by 5 minutes. I finished in 5:04 and change and was the 5th girl overall (I never saw the extra one, I guess) and 2nd in my age group. The kicker? Maroon shirt girl was in my age group. I have to learn to beat those 30 somethings! Young whippersnappers! However, it was a PR for me all the same. But I would have loved seeing a 4: something...

Total elevation gain: 4,078

Would I do this race again? Sure, why not. But next time I would hydrate more the day before and I would plan out my fuel intake a little bit better. And maybe train at a level besides sea level.

Have you ever been affected by the altitude? Or lack of food? Have you ever been to the Sierra Nevada mountains?

11 comments:

  1. Oh wow, that sounds like such a tough race! Especially with the heat and all. Yikes. I think you did awesome, especially considering the elevation and possibly dehydration or under-hydration.

    I got altitude sickness once when I was living out in Colorado in the summer. I felt like I had the flu and was so nauseated. It went away after about a day but I felt pretty miserable!

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  2. Ugh, that sounds 100% miserable! You're way tougher than I am.

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  3. Great job!! I was thinking as I read that I bet the elevation was hard on your body. It's one thing to run up and down hills (even straight up!), but to start at a high elevation is hard. Water the days leading up would be key.

    But, awesome job!!! Except for the falling part. Sounds like a great race.

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  4. Yikes! That's a lot of elevation:/ Seriously no AC?! I love the summer camp bunking for $15, so cool!

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  5. Wow. Sounds like a crazy race. But seriously, despite all your struggles you finished a 50K. That's 50 more K's that I could do. I'm pretty sure I cried running the mile in 6th grade. :) You amaze me!

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  6. Wow, sounds like a very tough race but that is a great time! Congrats...and eat next time!

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  7. Amazing! I wish I still lived in Cali just so I could run in Yosemite. When we lived in OC we went often. Yes, I learned the hard way how lack of food will affect you. Hit the big wall and it's hard to recover!

    I'll reply to your email today about my 50 miler training. This week was pretty much recovery with little running and a lot of strength training.

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  8. Yikes, tough race! Great job :)

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  9. Sounds amazing! I wonder if it's the same camp where I went to band camp in junior high... It is crazy hot here in the valley, not having a/c is crazy! Sounds like a really cool race, may have to train to give that a go a some point.

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  10. 5:04 sounds like a GREAT time esp considering the 4k+ elevation gain. :)

    i bet the altitude exacerbated your dehydrated state. I live at 5500ft, but when I go up to 10k and if I haven't hydrated enough - I have ZERO energy. I swear I have to take 2 or 3 naps a day. Still, good job hanging tough and finishing. Sounds like a fun race.

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  11. Congratulations on the PR and taking second in your age group! This sounds like a tough race and I'm sure the heat and elevation made it even tougher.

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Thanks for commenting! Any suggestions, tips or praise you have is always welcome!