So, we already ran 15K of the Bandit Ultra Trail Run 30K. Are you ready to finish this race? Let's go back into the game.
(Read the first part, here: Bandit Ultra Trail Run 30K [1/2]. Reminder: my race recap version, in black / the playboy's one, in grey.)
Up to the second climb: mile 8.9 - mile 12.4
Big debate with the playboy on this. I say: "false flat going up". He says: "start of the second climb". I let you judge by yourself. I don't want to influence you BUT, see, there's like a peak starting at mile 12.4... that's what I call a climb...
After the stop at the 2nd aid station, I was off to infinity and beyond. No aid station for a 10K stretch, my turtle shell would finally be useful. I knew this part would be difficult. I had pumped up the playboy for it. I was ready.
I was all by myself. I saw 2-3 bike riders and 2-3 hikers going the opposite way who didn't mind me at all. I pictured myself, lost in the mountains, with my bib and my Ninja Turtle backpack (point is: I would have largely survived with everything I had stuffed in it). Rationally, there was no way I could have been lost. I was just alone. It was long (way longer than what I could recall). It was climbing...
Leaving all the people behind, I suddenly feel lonely. Two runners pass me. I don't even try to follow them. I assume they are faster. They may have stayed longer at the aid station. The gap between them and me is growing, little by little.
I also cut this climb into 2 parts. For the first part, I run steadily, at a nice trail running pace (around 9:30 min/mile). It's not too steep. But it seems to go on forever compared to when we ran it during training. I am pretty sure it has something to do with the 15K I just ran... last time, my legs were fresh. Actually, I check my time at the 15K mark. I'm under 1:30. It means I'm way ahead of my goal (under 4 hours). I can carry on like that. I feel fine. It's getting hotter, but, in the shade, it's cold. I stay in the shade as I don't want to overheat.
2nd climb: mile 12.4 - mile 14
FINALLY, I saw the intersection I was longing for (yeah, even if I knew serious stuff was on again). 3 mountain bike riders were there, including a woman. She cheered me on as if I was a great athlete. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but I wondered if a man would feel the same pride seeing a male runner. I hung up to this thought to keep my mind from the fact it was now SERIOUSLY climbing. It didn't work. I dropped my philosophical analysis to focus on the pain.
I gave myself the permission to walk. In my head, 2 sides were competing: "Too hard. Nobody around, anyway." / "What's this crappy state of mind? What does it change? Are you here to get a nice stroll or to see what you have in store?". The 2nd one won. Most importantly, I looked around: the sun, the mountains, the greenery. And I was able to run through it all. What more could I have asked for? Yes, it was hard but the point is not for it to be easy.
I checked my watch for the distance. Mile 13. The playboy had suffered cramps on all of our runs longer than 20K. This place would be a key point of the race for him.
The final ascent was really steep. Before the race, I had planned to walk this part. I walked a bit but I also pushed myself to run the last stretch. It was the last major difficult part of the course, after all.
Once on the second part of the climb, I know it will be harder. The climb is steeper. I try to run. I stop almost immediately and start power walking. I can tell my legs won't be able to push me to the top if I try to run more. I need to save energy for the last descent too. I'm moving fast even if I'm power walking. I pass one of the men who passed me after the previous aid station. I try to speak with him: "Tough one!". He whispers something but I can't get it. I carry on with the climb.
At one point, there's a series of two uphill/downhill portions. In the downhill portions, I run. In the uphill portions, I can't. I start to worry about the rest of the way. It will be tough. When we ran this part on training, I'd been able to run. And now, I just can't. My legs are lead. The heat is taking its toll on me (in full sun, the temperature rose to 95°F). I still try to maintain a decent pace while power walking. The man passes me again. He can run... Another runner passes me too. He is quite unmistakable with his chest hair for everyone to see and his American flag printed shorts. He asks me if the climb is almost over. I say yes and he is on his way, quite easily, it seems to me.
Finally, I'm at the top of the climb. I can breathe. There is a small aid station with 2 volunteers. One of them offers me water. I gratefully accept. She starts opening my backpack. I didn't get they don't have cups to drink. So, I simply ask her to check if I still have enough water. She says yes. I thank her and I'm on my way.
(That's the view from the top. Not bad, right?)
Back to Rocky Peak: mile 14 - mile 16.3
All right, now, it was time to get back to trails we already ran early on. The hard parts were behind me. I thought about the playboy again and hoped he would be fine when he would reach this point.
First, it was downhill. That was more than welcome! To challenge myself and stay motivated, I set a goal: don't be passed by a man with a grey T-shirt I saw behind me, in the distance, on the last climb. Ahead of me, I could see a man with a flashy yellow T-shirt. He was my landmark.
I just went with the flow of uphill/downhill portions which followed. It wasn't easy. It felt longer than expected. I had no way to tell if the last descent would be here soon. On each climb, I believed it was the last one.
This little break was a breather. I'm now on a nice downhill. But, something's off. My legs are really painful. I have to tense my muscles to hold the pain I can feel at every step, even in the downhill.
I can spot the aid station at the corner with Chumash Trail. There's a climb to get there. It's not steep, but I can't run it. As soon as it's climbing, my legs can't hold a run anymore. So, I walk. Once at the aid station, I drink a cup of water.
I'm now off on the same trail I ran so easily at the beginning of the race. I have to get to Rocky Peak to start the last descent. I can feel a sudden pain in my ankle. I try to stretch it. It doesn't work. It's my first cramp. I still have 4 miles to go.
Running the other way, at the beginning, was easy because the series of uphill/downhill was globally going down. Now, it will globally be going up. I couldn't run any of the hills. My legs were tensing more and more. I had like electric shocks, once in a while, just before a cramp. I had to deal with the heat and my painful legs. It felt like this part would never end. I was looking forward to seeing Rocky Peak, knowing it will mean I'll only have the last descent left.
Last descent: mile 16.3 - mile 19.1
Eventually, I could see the last descent. I didn't think too much. Goal: get to the bottom. Instructions: stay vigilant as, with tiredness, I could easily loose my balance. While running trails, downhill portions are not that relaxing.
I ran as fast as I could. Again, it felt so long before I could see the turn to the last single track to get back to the starting park (aka the finish line, now).
I regularly checked my watch for the remaining distance. At one point, I acknowledged my time. "The exact distance is 19.3 miles... hhuumm, I think I could make it under 3 hours... CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!".
A tent, 2 volunteers: "Only 1.5 mile to go! Go smooth on this one". OH YEAH! Once on the single track which was so hard to go up, 30K before, I slowed down. It was hard to climb up AND hard to go down. I didn't want to injure myself.
I was so focused on the trail I didn't think anymore about how far was the finish line. Go down. Don't fall. Dot.
I knew the descent from Rocky Peak would be hard with tired legs. But, really, it's worse than what I thought. Each step is painful. In my head, it's just: "one step after the other". I feel like I'm only scampering along. It's totally NOT what I was hoping for in this last descent. But, at least, I'm running. Because of the cramps, I lost my balance and almost fell multiple times.
After what felt like an eternity, I finally reach the last check point. After that, it's the last downhill part (very steep one) before the finish line. On my watch, I can already read 30K and still, one volunteer tells me I have 1.5 mile to go. I quickly do my maths and end up knowing the course will be 32 km.
This last trail is unbearable. It's so steep. I'm walking/running. I still manage to be faster than hikers. But I am wincing. I almost feel like crying when the pain is too sharp.
The finish: mile 19.1 - mile 19.8
Finally, I was at the bottom! I looked at my time: 2:58. "GGGGOOOO!!" I sped up... except... no one to be seen. Arrows on the ground, turns. I just followed hoping I was on the right part of the course and not the part we ran at the start. I really was surprised because, on the GPS track posted on the race website, the last stretch was in a straight line.
Another turn, and I could see volunteers. I was on the right track. I saw the finish line, on my left, at the end of the trail. I sprinted. I passed 15K runners. A woman tried to follow me. She was running the 15K, but, whatever, I wouldn't let her pass me. Ninja Turtle swear!
I crossed the finish line. It was done. Such a nice race! My first impression: joy to get this race feeling back, and joy to have pushed myself. It feels good. And I can tell, now, I missed it.
3:02. Not under 3 hours, but the course was longer than 19.3 miles (19.8 miles). So, my maths were wrong. But I really don't care.
At the bottom, I should only have a straight line to run to the finish. It gets me motivated to give it all I have left and forget about the pain. I'm thinking the finish line is not far and I'll surely meet people to cheer me on. Well, it's not the case. The course is vaguely following the same route we took, at the start. I feel lost. I can't see anybody. I'm discouraged. I push myself to keep running, but it's too hard. A small hill hits me. I walk.
I can hear the speaker and the music from the finish area. I finally can see the finish. It's only downhill from here. I encourage myself: "You can do this! Run to the finish line". That's what I did. The people cheering on me helped a lot. I also wanted to finish strong. I also heard Marjolaine and, then, spotted her.
I cross the finish line. I stop on a dime, next to Marjolaine. It's so hot. My legs are so painful. I get my medal. But, I'm not yet relieved. At the time, I can't say I'm happy with myself to have finished the race. My time (3:27), which I should be happy about, doesn't matter. I'm hurting so bad that I could cry.
The wait for the playboy
I drank water. I walked a bit and went to check what I could find to cool off. I ate orange slices. I turned down the pizza I was offered (Is it something specific to trail races? It was a bit surprising for me... or it's just because I'm French!). However, I discovered a great post-race snack: peanut butter filled pretzels. PER-FECT. (OK, OK. I realize you may all know about that. Sorry. The French excuse, again).
I was scanning all the runners approaching the finish line in order not to miss the playboy. His goal was to make it under 4 hours. I had time but I hoped he would arrive sooner than expected. I found a spot in the shade and waited for him.
From afar, I identified him. Without a moment's hesitation, I darted out my spot to cheer on him. He looked fine but, still, he wasn't sprinting. I couldn't figure out why. For once, I was moved. This race was important for him. I had never seen him so involved in the training. And here he was, finishing the race.
He crossed the finish line. When he leaned on me to help him walk, I understood the race had been hard to finish for him.
3:27 to complete the race. He can be proud. And even more because he had to deal with cramps, once again.
After the race
I'm so glad I decided to run this race. On a trail race, you can't cheer on the runners as easily as on a road race. I wouldn't have been able to cheer on the playboy much more if I wouldn't have run it. So, no regrets. Trail racing is something different from road racing. I loved being totally by myself and still on a race. It's a great feeling.
The race was well organized. People were warm and friendly. It felt like we were part of a nice bunch of friends. Ready to do it again! (Go check it out: Bandit Ultra Trail Run)
The playboy has already put his medal to good use. Look at that...
He earned it. His final time was 3:27:19 (17th overall - 4th age group), for 19.8 miles and an elevation of 4100 ft.
Me, I added 2 little things to my newly started collection.
3:02:25 - 6th overall (out of 116) / 2nd woman / 2nd age group
After a while, I cooled off and the pain went away. Then, I could think more clearly and was happy to have done it. It's an achievement for me. I've been able to train for this race without injuring myself. But, as for the race in itself, I can't fully say I'm happy with how it went. My main goal, for every race I enter, is to finish it properly. For this race, I've been slowed down because of the pain and not because I had no more energy to put into the race. I could have been able to run longer and further.
Anyway, it doesn't mean I'm done with trail running, quite the opposite! I'm totally in for a next challenge... who said a 50K? (Cédric, I didn't say Marathon des sables ;-)). But, I'll have to investigate about the cramps (If you have things to say about it, feel free to tell me! FYI, I used salt capsules during the race).
I didn't say anything about it in my race recap. But, I did think about Marjolaine during the race. Even if, to be honest, I wasn't that worried about her. As long as I didn't find her green turtle shell, off the trail, it meant she was doing ok.
I also want to say the race organizers were truly great and friendly. You can tell they are passionate. The volunteers did an amazing job too. So, if any of you is reading this, congrats for the race and thank you!
Such a great experience! Now, even more, you can be sure to see us on the Californian trails!
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