Thursday, December 17, 2015

2015 Malibu Canyon 50k Race Report

This happened to be a hard race report for me to write. I am physically, emotionally, and mentally tired. My Grandpa passed away the week of Xterra Trail World Championship. Instead of Hawaii, I ended up back in Chicago. Then, my flight from Chicago to LA was cancelled, due to a crack in the windshield, so I had a 24 hour layover in the Windy City. By the time I made it to CA, I was drained and didn’t know if I really wanted to race 50k.

My plan for Malibu Canyon 50k was pretty simple. Run the flats hard, don’t give up too much time while climbing, and bomb the downhill sections. I raced MC as my first ultra in 2014, so I was pretty familiar with the course. I felt that if I could hold the leaders to less than a 3 minute gap to the top of the 2nd climb (mile 23), I would have time to still run them down on the descents and flat section.

The first mile or so of the race is flat. Perfect. I got out quick and used the flat sections to put a gap between Dean and Mario. I remembered them from the previous year, and they are strong climbers. There was another dude a few meters in front of me, and he looked strong. I wasn’t sure if he was running the 25k or 50k, but I was afraid to ask. a bit over a mile into the race, right before the first water crossing I asked, “Are you doing the 25k or 50k?” Luckily he said he was running 25k, and then mumbled something about me going out quick for the 50k. Turns out he had just finished 3rd at Xterra Trail Worlds the previous weekend.

Going out quick? i know something about that. Last year I came through 25k around 1:52…3-4 minutes under the 25k course record and still had another lap to run. oops! I ended up finishing broken in 4:35…absolutely hating the 50k, but in love with the challenge. I was determined to not make the same mistake this year.

When the climbing started, I decided to back off the effort. I have had a few blowups from trying to climb too aggressive, so I used this time to focus on hydration and nutrition. I don’t run all of the climbs, I actually power hike a lot of it. I was having issues with both achilles going into the first climb, and I was seriously considering dropping out. I didn’t think I would be able to climb to the top of the canyon, let alone do a second loop. But, I thought about it, and convinced myself that if I could climb for a little less than 2 more miles, I would finally get to start descending and could drop out at 25k.

As I was climbing, I saw Dean gaining on me. I wasn’t sure that I could hold him off on loop 1, but I figured I may as well put some more energy into holding him off to get a bigger gap into loop 2. Somehow I made it to the top of the climb before him, and was able to start the descent — alone! My first 3 miles on the descent were 5:33, 5:53, and 5:53. Somewhere during the 5:53, I blew out my knee and tweked my IT Band. My worst nightmare. Luckily I had KT Tape on my ITB so I felt like I had some support, but definitely not enough. I was only 20k in, could I run for another 30k in pain?

I arrived that the 25k mark around 1:52. F**K!! Been there before. I knew it was going to be a rough second loop, but the bright side was my achilles were finally feeling better. About half a mile into my 2nd loop, I saw 2nd and 3rd coming up the stairs on loop 1. At that point I realized I had ~6 minutes on the chase pack. I had hoped to arrive at 25k <2 minutes behind the leaders, so to be up was great. At that point I realized I had a legit shot at possibly winning the race.

I pushed hard through the flat section, and pushed even harder trying to make it up the climb. I remember getting passed at mile 21.3 and 22.8 last year, but I made it to those marks without being passed. I looked back and still didn’t see anyone coming up behind me. I was relieved. There was just one more nasty climb, and then its downhill or flat. Leaving the aid station I looked back and still didn’t see anybody. Starting the climb to the climb to the descent I was scared. I knew these dudes are strong, and I was not going to be able to descend as quickly due to my knee.

The descent and flat section to the MASH aid station is kind of one big blur. I just tried to find the most direct route down the switchback and really had to hold back. I was super happy to finally get to flat land again. With 5k to go, I was just hoping there wasn’t a storm brewing behind me, but I wasn’t going to look back!

There is about a half mile section of road to finish the race. I made it up the stairs and onto the pavement and realized I was going o be a couple minutes under the course record. At that point I just told myself the faster I finished, the faster I could get off my legs. I crossed the finish line completely shattered and so alive. I was just so relieved to actually have things work out. I was 29 minutes faster this year compared to last year. This race has been in the back of my mind since crossing the finish line last year.

I’m not afraid to race on courses with a lot of climbing, I just know that my strength is not in the hills. 2015 has been a year of exploring and challenges, but I have been learning so much. I still am not sure how I managed to win a 50 miler and 50k in less than a month, but I am extremely grateful and excited. I have such an awesome support crew and I am glad that I have been able to race well for them.


Hydration - 30oz water
Nutrition - 5 Maple Bacon VFuel
Electrolytes - 5 Salt Stick
UltraSpire 1L Hydration Vest
Hoka Challenger
Darn Tough Socks
Colorundies/LRCo Singlet

Also, it was great to meet Seth, Paul, and Alex. We’ve been following each other in Instagram for over a year, and it was great to finally put a face with a profile. I am definitely going to need to do some more CA training when I get settled back into Vegas. Also, Alex ran a big 50k PR on that nasty course! Also, thanks to Rylan and Nikki for letting me stay with them. It's always fun to catch up with old college teammates/friends.

So what is next? I am not sure. I will be back in IL for the holidays, and then it is kind of up in the air. I have considered running Austin 3M Half Marathon, or Carlsbad Half Marathon, or a fun trail race in January. I would like to get in a road marathon, trail 50 mile, and a 10k on the track this spring also. Should be fun.

Thanks for reading and have a great holiday season.