Sunday 15th of February was a special day for the playboy. After months of training, he finally was about to conquer a 30K: Bandit Ultra Trail Run. A week before, after checking with him multiple times, I also decided to run it. 1 race, 2 versions.
I cut the recap into 2 posts I published all at once (Bandit Ultra Trail Run 30K [1/2] - Bandit Ultra Trail Run 30K [2/2]). It allows you to take a break from reading, and you won't have to wait for the end. I thought it would be nice for you to read my version and the playboy's version next to each other, for each part of the course. Mine is the first one (because I was ahead), in black. The playboy's version is in grey. Enjoy!
This race was the playboy's main goal. Not mine. I didn't intend to be a part of it, except from the sidelines. He was the one to introduce the idea of me running it. We ran his long runs on the trails together and he kept telling me: "You could totally run the race too". Maybe. But I didn't have the desire to race it, until we ran some parts of the course to check it out. Stunning views, various trails, not-so-undoable hills (proof: I survived). From there, the idea started to grow on me. 2 weeks before the race, I kept annoying the playboy to be 100% sure he wouldn't mind me running "his" race. If he would have had even a slight preference for me to be on the sidelines, I wouldn't have raced. As simple as that. His only conditions: I shouldn't stress him out before the race (I didn't get this one, I mean, I am such a cool kid before a race), I should let him do his race, so no running with him and no help. A week before, I ordered an hydration vest online. I still wasn't sure. On the Thursday night, I signed up. To be honest, I was scared. This race was no joke.
For me, no stress and no pressure. I had no expectations. So, my plan was: If I don't feel well, I walk / If I can't run the hills, I don't. Goal: enjoying the scenery... while running, though.
I didn't want it to be about me, so I focused on the playboy: his race strategy, his running fuel...
The days leading to the race, I started getting this familiar feeling of excitement before a race. I couldn't wait for it to come around. I could tell I trained well. It was the first time I had been that well prepared for a race. I think it was because I really was willing to perform and I really was motivated by this race. But not only. It may also have something to do with my personalized training, courtesy of my coach ;-)
I stayed focused on the playboy. At the meantime, in my head, it was like that: "Sooo... I will also race... damn... Will I be OK? Yes, I will". At 6.45am, we were on site: friendly atmosphere, 50K start (sparkles in the playboy's eyes). Then, race check list: bib, sunscreen (it was planned to be HOT out there), hydration vest adjustments and short warm up.
I have to tell you, the playboy and I were ready for a non assistance 5-day run. Our hydration vests were full: full capacity water, salt tablets for him, energy chews, sugar cubes, homemade almond paste, cereal bars. I only had to hang a blanket on my turtle shell, and I could have improvise a picnic up there! And, all in all, I ended up eating: 4 energy chews...
(Not a picture of my fully loaded backpack... but a reminder of why I think I'm a Ninja Turtle)
On race morning, 4.30am wake up call. No stress. I only want to be there, toeing the starting line. I can picture myself, during the race, totally focused. We have breakfast. We take care of the last details and we are off to the race start, in Simi Valley.
Once there, the first thing I notice is the cold. It's not easy to think about applying sunscreen when the cold bristles your hair! So, a warm up run is welcome. Also, we know the start will be tough. Our muscles have to be warmed up.
7.20am, time to get to the starting line. It was a small race, so not so many people. I like that. We didn't position ourselves too far. I was still totally focused on the playboy. Was he calm and ready to give it all he got? I could tell he was a bit nervous. He made me laugh (but I kept it to myself) when he told me: "You start ahead, OK? It would be awkward otherwise".
7.30am, we were off. I did as asked, I went ahead. From this moment only, I focused on me and the race. Now, I couldn't do anything more for him.
The race started with a 1.5 mile loop in the starting park. A little warm up for what was coming next. After that, mountains, straight ahead: steep hill on a rocky single track to get to the main trail to the first summit.
10 minutes before race time, we gather next to the start line. It's 7.20am. The 50K runners started at 7am. The race director gives us a speech. Marjolaine and I wish each other good luck. 7.30am, time to go!
The race starts with a 1.5 mile loop, mostly flat, on loose ground. Thanks to the loop we can be cheered on, one last time, by the spectators. As usual on a race, people start fast. I try not to make this mistake and avoid being out of breath from the start.
(photo: Chuck Utash)
The first climb: mile 1.5 - mile 4.3
We only had checked this climb from the main trail. Not a piece of cake. But the single track... OH.MY.GOSH. From the bottom, we could see the grueling track snaking on the hill. I had no other choice, so I started climbing. My quads started screaming. My calves were on fire. I became asthmatic. Runners were walking ahead of me. I walked. I had planned for it, anyway. No need loosing strength on an impossible to run portion. I walked and ran when possible. I passed 2-3 runners. It made be feel unsettled: "Am I making rookie mistakes? Should I not even try to run? Do they think I'm stupid?". We reached the main trail. Larger and already checked.
From there, I became more confident. I had run this before. I knew I could do it again today. And I did.
(photo : Chuck Utash)
After the loop, I start the first ascent to Rocky Peak. I had cut this ascent into 2 parts. The first part is on a steep track we didn't check out during our long runs. The second part is on a larger trail we did check out. So, I knew I could run a good amount of this second part.
As I don't know the first trail and want to save my energy, I decide to climb the first part power walking, or running when possible. My plan is to wait for the second part of the ascent to fully run.
On the second part, I manage to run almost all the way (except for some too steep portions). I really want to be cautious for my calves. During my runs longer than 12 miles, I had cramps, at the end. At the top of the ascent, I am relieved and excited to carry on the race.
Rocky Peak to Chumash Trail: mile 4.3 - mile 5.7
Once at the top, I thought: "One thing done, next?". Next, it was a roller coaster (globally downhill), on the ridge, to get to Chumash Trail, THE trail I was looking forward to. We were still going up some hills but short ones and followed by downhill portions. I was doing good. I passed people, including 50K runners.
Before making a left turn into Chumash Trail, the first aid station was waiting for us. Strategy: drink at the first 2 aid stations to save my backpack's water for later. Trail running is different from road running. I don't mind stopping to drink. You don't have a steady rhythm, anyway. So, I stopped: one cup to drink, one cup on the head to cool down. And then, Chumash Trail.
Next, the course is a series of uphill/downhill portions. I feel really good on this part. I run fast, knowing what's coming after: the nicest descent of the course. My paces are as good as the ones I can hold on the road: less than 8 min/mile. During this part, I think about eating and hydrating. I still have in mind to try avoiding cramps. That's my main concern, for the first half of the race: hydration and eating energy chews.
Just before getting into the first descent, Chumash Trail, I reach the first aid station. I only drink a cup of water, and then, full on!
(intersection main trail/Chumash Trail)
Chumash Trail: mile 5.7 - mile 8.9
It's simple. If there is ONE reason why I wanted to run this race, you have it: Chumash Trail. A windy single track. Emptiness on one side, the mountain on the other. Downhill with some bumps. Various ground surfaces (big rocks, soil, sand, slippery stones). We had run it twice and I had loved it: no backpack, my legs, pure joy. I was excited to run it again. However, I was concerned: How to pass people on such a narrow trail?
As soon as I turned into Chumash Trail, I went for it. As I had feared, there were lots of people (30K and 50K runners, hikers) but it turned out not to be an issue. I shouted out "on your left/right" or people heard me coming, and they let me pass them. I still made sure to be extra cautious and slowed down. It's not an easy descent. Plus, it was the first time I was running with a backpack. My balance was not the same. But, I made sure to enjoy it.
After this trail, we had to run on residential streets to get to a second park and the second aid station.
(Remember this video? That's from our training run on this part. Be reassured, I didn't try that on race day...)
My strategy is to run all out, but cautiously. During training, I noticed running downhill is not that easy, and it can be very tiring too. Yet, we must not deny ourselves a good thing. This descent is too great to waste. It's on a single track starting with big blocks of rocks, then loose ground, and a quite technical part with small pebbles wich make it slippery. I ran a big part of the descent behind a man running as fast as I did. I couldn't pass him, except at the end, when he slowed down. We passed lots of 50K runners. They let us pass them when they heard us coming behind them. After the descent, I'm at the 2nd aid station.
At this 2nd aid station, a kid tells me I have to go on the right. That's because it's at this point the 50K and the 30K runners go different ways. I know where I should go. We ran this part, during our long runs. This aid station is crowded. There are lots of people, lots of tables. It takes me a little while to simply find a cup of water. Feeling lost, I forget to smile and thank the friendly volunteers. Then, it's time for the second ascent of the race.
9 miles/15 km DONE. Let's have a break. Grab a cup of coffee. Relax. When you're ready, you'll find the next part, here: Bandit Ultra Trail Run 30K [2/2].
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