Monday, February 15, 2016

Race Report: Sean O'Brien 50 and the First Ultra Puke

The Sean O'Brien 50 Miler proved to be the perfect excuse to leave the DC winter for a bit. I headed out Friday before the race, and was able to stay a few extra days to recover and hang out with my awesome cousins. It was an incredible weekend - especially since my Broncos won the Super Bowl!

Below is a quick recap of the race...it wasn't smooth, but ultimately, I'm happy with how things turned out.

Quick Stats:
Time: 9:24:44
Place: 3rd OA, 2nd AG
Gear:
 -Shoes: Mizuno Wave Hayate
 -Shorts: Saucony
- Shirt: TNF Marathon Shirt (Neon - thought I'd go with bright)
- Nutrition: Tailwind, Coke, Candy, Ginger Chews, PB&J, and Chips (but mostly Tailwind)
Course: Non-technical fire road-ey type trails and single track with 12K feet of gain.
Weather: Freezing for 40 minutes, then eventually hot as all get out.
Aid Stations: Top notch nutrition, incredible volunteers.

Miles 1-6.5
I drove about 10 minutes from my hotel to Malibu Creek State Park, where I quickly learned the temperature in that area is about 20 degrees cooler than where I was staying (or at least it felt that way). All I had was a long sleeve shirt, and I was FREEZING. It was crazy. I was walking around with my hands in my shorts to try and stay warm, and even ran back and forth from my car to get the blood flowing before the start.

Although freezing, I was partly distracted by the stars and awesome moon over our heads as we waited for the proverbial gun to go off. It was a great reminder about how lucky I was to be spending the day running in the mountains, and made me appreciate my time away from DC.

When we finally started, I was actually looking forward to getting my climb on, because I knew my hands and feet would finally warm up. It was a bit awkward the first mile because I couldn't really feel my toes, but fortunately that didn't last long (and also fortunately, I was able to avoid stepping in the water at the creek crossing located at mile two). As I was climbing in those initial miles, not only was I happy with the returning sensation in my extremities, but also with the incredible sunrise over the ocean! It was an awesome view that helped fuel me through the first part of the race.



When I got to the first aid station, I confirmed that I was in second place, and was feeling pretty good. I probably had a little too much gear on me (my long sleeve shirt, Go Pro, etc.), but I just had to deal with it until mile 13 or so when I got to my drop bag.

Miles 6.5 - 30ish
The short version is I felt awesome...until about mile 30. I was climbing well, hitting the downs hard, and felt like I really had it in me to hold on to second place. It was around that time when I was able to catch up to a buddy doing the 100K. Still feeling strong, he  warned me that some of the worst climbs were coming. Boy was he right.

The temperature started to rise, and my DC winter training just wasn't enough to get me ready - my body slowly began to freak out when I got to the 50K mark. I was feeling less Super Man-ey, and more like I was going to slide all the way to the back of the pack.

Just before the aid station at mile 31.3, the third place runner caught up to me, and boy was I struggling. I was hot, didn't feel like eating, and was super thirsty. The latter concerned me, because that meant I was on the path to dehydration.

At the aid station, I chugged a bunch of ice water, ate some grilled cheese, and chilled for a bit before heading out. Right after the aid station was a downhill, and my stomach did not like that. I started to get super nauseous before hitting another big climb.

I eventually had to pull over because I was so nauseous and coughing so much, I knew an ultra puke was imminent. I found a nice spot off the trail, but I just kept dry heaving, and feeling so much worse. Eventually, I new I had to force myself to throw up to feel better, and that's just what I did. I lost all the water I drank, but not the food, which was good because I knew I really needed it.

A couple of 100K runners had just hiked by and asked if I needed any help. Realizing I didn't have my Ginger Chews with me, I asked them for one, and fortunately they had some! I noshed on that for a while while slowly hiking up the hill (I had back-to-back 20 minute miles!).

Mile 30ish - 45, a.k.a, "The Comeback Stretch"
I knew if i didn't get myself together, I would just keep dropping back in the back, and would have a miserable time getting to the finish and recovering. I've also learned from that shit just goes wrong in ultras, and you can bounce back if you have the right mentality. I took my time at the incredible aid stations (the volunteers were all over my like a surgical team - ice, bottles, ginger chews, bread, etc - it was amzing!). I was slowly able to get more liquid down, and was beginning to feel better.

When I hit mile 45 or so, I actually came across a pretty demoralizing view of the trerrain in front of me. It seemed like more endless climbing, and the heat was only getting worse. That said, I knew I had less than a 10K to go, so I kept pushing.

Mile 45 - 50
I pushed and pushed while passing more and more marathon runners, which really helped - seeing people and getting words of encouragement was a nice boost. Plus, it helped shame me into more running, and less walking :)

As I got closer to the finish, I remembered running on that same trail while it was barely lit with my headlamp, and took a moment to reflect. It had been a very long day, but I was happy that I was able to overcome the struggles I had earlier, and be able to finish.

When I got to the finish, I heard a couple of new friends cheer for me, and was thrilled to receive my medal and prize for third place. I hung on!

Huge thanks to Keira Henninger and all the volunteers for an incredible race! Next up...Thomas Jefferson 100K!

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