Well. Here we are internet! You are now reading the blog of a runner that completed an incredibly tough and intimidating 30k trail race this past weekend! I don’t want to sound overly confident, BUT it’s pretty cool to say I’ve run 30k. WHAT!?
Let’s back up a little.
I signed up for the Bandit 30k back in September 2015. My running was in a good place and the race was far enough in the future that I felt I could get a good base in. So I went for it.
The craziness of the holidays brought on a difficult task to stick with my training for this race. The month of December was key. I needed to keep my weekly milage consistent and being on the east coast… who knew what the weather was going to be like. So I packed my cold weather running gear and jetted off to Upstate NY to be with family and friends for about 10 days at Christmas.
Throughout my time there, the weather was abnormally warm (for the most part). My first run out was a short 3 mile out and back on our country road and it was around 32ºF and incredibly windy. OUCH. I don’t think my body ever really got that warm… I needed to realize that all of my runs were going to be cold over the next few days. BUT THEN… Central NY had warmish weather on the horizon!
Saturday morning was slated for a 12 miler. It was still right around freezing but the wind was gone and the sun was out. So I strapped on my pack, grabbed some gels and headed out around town for the morning. Speed was not my priority here…only needed the miles and the time on my legs and it was fun! I loved running all around my hometown. Made me feel all nostalgic (awwwww) and the views were amazing!
So to get to the point, I was able to keep my milage up while I was back east due to abnormally warm weather. Christmas Eve was in the 60s… I wore a tee shirt! CRAZY. Legs were feeling good and as soon as I got back to LA, I knew it was time to hit those trails.
During the first weekend of January, a group of us who were all running Bandit decided to check out part of the course. I heard from other runners this trail was intense but I had no idea how crazy technical it was until I got out there. We started from Coriganville Park in Simi Valley and headed up and GOOD LORD was it steep. It was all rocks, very narrow and incredibly steep for well over a mile. This was when the panic started to set in. How the heck was I going to get through 18 miles of this?! I knew the whole trail wasn’t like the first mile but having to come back down that after doing 17 miles on tired legs was something I didn’t think I could do. After 4 miles out, we turned around and headed back to the park getting 8 miles total. OOOOOOOF.
I totally let myself get psyched out and that wasn’t good. When we finished that run, I was pretty set on dropping down to the 15k. I just didn’t have the legs to do 30k.
The next day, the same group of us wanted to go back out and see another part of the course. This section was only for the 50k runners but I figured getting the elevation and miles couldn’t hurt. My legs were not totally destroyed from the day before so we ventured out. Talk about a terrain change! We started out from a little neighborhood by the trail head and it was like we were in a completely different park compared to the day before. Rolling hills and grassy cowpaths…not rocks and stones and sharp inclines. THIS was fun. Ended up logging 10 miles for a total of 18 for the weekend. This was essential.
My runs the following week on the road caused some knee pain… I chalked this up to just fatigue from the weekend prior and decided to take it easy and rest up for more miles over Saturday and Sunday. We wanted to take on that same intense trail on again the following Saturday. I knew what was coming so I mentally prepared myself. The weather was good, I was in great company and was ready to take on this trail head first. Long story short and 10 miles later, my confidence was back! I was convinced right then and there that dropping to 15k was a silly idea.
After a couple more weekends of really solid trail runs it was time to race…
Here we are! I didn’t get the best sleep the night before but 2 nights prior was pretty solid. Alarm was set for 5am, drank a little coffee with some toast and we were off!
The 50k gun was 7am and the 30k at 7:30. Before I knew it, I was peeling off my long sleeve, grabbing my pack and walking over to the corral. It was actually happening! (Side note: The race director asked everyone to raise their hand if this was their first 30k…so I raised my hand and someone from I think a realty company handed me a $25 iTunes gift card. Cool!)
Countdown…. 3…. 2…. 1…. GO!
And we were off. Ok, this is happening start running but go easy. You have alot of work ahead.
Mile 1: We did a short loop around the park which actually I didn’t know we were doing until that morning… OOPS! But in reality, it was nice to get a warm up in before hitting that awful uphill.
Miles 2-5: I felt decent through here. That climb went smoother than expected and I think it’s because I stuck with a group and eavesdropped on their conversation about their someone with a broken foot…. Hey, it kept my mind at ease OK?! Mile 5 was our first aid station and by this point, alot of the steep climbing was done. I had almost 3 miles of a single track downhill ahead of me!
Miles 5-8.8: The Chumash Trail. This was alot of fun. All downhill, single track and the girl behind me decided to tag along and we bounded down together. Around mile 6.5, my stomach started to cramp real bad. I was definitely eating, drinking water and I snagged some electrolytes at the aid station so naturally, I thought I was set. Guess not… I had to slow down and let the girl behind me go by. I had no idea what was causing this cramping!!! By the time I got to the aid station, I figured maybe I needed something salty. Up until that point, all I had was some Clif Bar Banana, Beets and Ginger energy food and some Honey Stinger chews. Something salty sounded nice so here’s what was consumed: a shot of pickle juice, potato chips and then some Coca-Cola. YUCK. BUT IT TASTED SO GOOD. And just like that, stomach was back in action. THANKS SALT!
Miles 9-14.5: The climb back up. Remember when I said that The Chumash Trail was all downhill? Yeah well we needed to go back up at some point! Yeah… this is where I started to get discouraged. The next almost 6 miles was all uphill. And it was just uphill enough to not be able to run the whole thing. My mind was getting to me.
This is so stupid… I don’t know why I’m doing this… I have so much more to go… this hill is never going to end….I’m going to be out here forever…
I had my phone with me and decided to put one earbud in and play a podcast or audiobook; anything to get my brain off these negative thoughts and back to the task at hand. After a while I noticed no one was passing me. The 2 guys in front of me remained in my sights and I realized that everything was going to be ok. We were all in this climb together and it was tough on all of us.
One foot in front of the other…I have working legs, there’s no reason I can’t do this… You knew this was going to be hard…
I ended up catching the two gents in front of me and another woman caught along so we all started talking to each other. One guy had alot of experience in endurance races so this wasn’t his first rodeo. He was loud, chatty and encouraging: everything we needed to get up this climb. When we finally reached the top and we saw a mini aid station where a guy checked us in with our bib numbers and a woman greeted us with water and popsicles. When she told us the top of Chumash was a mile away and the terrain was ‘run-able’, I grabbed a green popsicle and started running. It felt so nice to not be power hiking for once! And the popsicle was wonderful sugary goodness.
Miles 14.5-19.5: The climb was done! The hardest parts were all behind me! This was where I saw Rocky waiting for me and got excited. Major kudos to the aid station volunteers all around! They were all incredibly helpful and energizing. They even had beer at this station. They knew we needed it… Every time I saw Rocky, he told me to smile and I cannot tell you how much this helped my spirits. No matter how much my legs hurt or how tired I was… smiling made a world of difference. It reminded me that I was out there to have FUN.
Remember that really intense uphill at the beginning? It was time to go down that now on very tired legs. I was almost done. One foot in front of the other… and don’t fall… Right before I hit the tunnel, I was surprised by my good friend Lora. This was the perfect surprise. As soon as I got down that hill with her, I was back in the park and I had less than a mile to go… I started to hear the crowd and the music at the finish… Rocky was there, Lora was running with me… I was so close. I turned the corner and I had one turn left! This was when my breathing started to get hard. In the moment I had no idea what was going on, maybe I was really pushing at this point but I was so tired I didn’t realize. Now that I think about it… It was my emotions getting to me. Seeing all my friends cheering for me, seeing the finish line and finally having the chance to give my legs a break… it was emotional.
Ok Stephanie… stop the nonsense and finish strong. You can cry later if you need to.
I quickly got over all the emotional crap and powered through with thumbs up, a smile on my face and a jump across the finish.
I was done. 30k done. Demolished. I don’t even care how long it took me. This 30k was one of the hardest courses in SoCal and I just finished it. It was actually a long 30k… just shy of 20 miles. So there’s that too.
After all of this, I have to say thank you. A lot of hard work went into the training for this race. Thanks Steve for being there to answer all my silly questions, thanks Rocky for being there when I was getting frustrated and thanks to all the rest of my run family for being there and taking on this race together. I couldn’t have done any of this without your support. And thanks Mom, Dad and Sis for sending your love from 3000 miles away! To say I feel accomplished is a HUGE understatement. Never in a million years would I ever think I would be where I am with my running. I was a sprinter in high school and now I’m running long trail races. Who knew?! Sometimes life likes to surprise us. And I decided to take this surprise in stride (hehe.. get it?)
So now what?
My legs have never worked so hard before so I’m planning on a nice recovery for about a week or so. Real easy short runs, a massage and maybe some yoga. But I’m itching to get another race on the calendar. I’m good with the middle distance right now. I’m going to see how my fitness progresses before I decide to take on something longer. For now, I’d like to stick to half marathon-30k distances and just explore the trails around me. Not a bad idea right?