Signing up for this race happened so quickly.
My friend Selby and I were looking for races in the area a few months ago and we stumbled on something awesome. I always catch the post-race-omg-i-want-to-get-back-out-there-asap bug. So, after some perusing, we found the Shadow of the Giants 50k (which also had a 20k option….yay!)
I quickly Googled the drive time to the race and with some quick calculations, it was definitely do-able for a weekend trip. Within an hour, I had requested the time off on that Friday, signed up for the race and found a campground about 40 mins from the race. And that was it! We were going up to Yosemite to run in the mountains and campout in the forest. Sounds like a PERFECT weekend right???
And it was.
Friday afternoon was all about getting as much stuff as possible in the car for the girls to drive up and arrive by dinner time. The trip went by fast looking at all the farms along the freeway and singing along to the Wicked soundtrack. After some windy tree-lined roads and scenic vistas we finally landed at the Soquel Campground for the night. Honestly, being so close to Yosemite in the summer, I really expected there to be alot more people. We were greeted by our friendly host, Kasey and found our campsite along the river. I was truly taken aback at how PRETTY it was. So much green! So many trees. Like ALOT of trees. It was amazing.
We unpacked the car, set up our tents and got a fire going so we could cook our pre-race meal which consisted of campfire pizzas! DELISH. (I feel like anything cooked over a campfire tastes better.)
Around 9:30 we all decided to try and go to bed since the 3 of us were all running in the morning. We knew the boys were on their way so it was time to rest.
The 50k started at 7am and since we were about 40 mins away, we figured we needed to be up by 4:45am. (Actually not the earliest I’ve had to wake up for a race, BTW.) We fired up the camp stove to get some instant coffee in our systems. I forced down some oatmeal and half a banana and figured that was enough to get my blood sugar going. Soon enough, we piled in the car and headed for Fish Camp, CA! We passed a historic Yosemite railroad on the way there that used to carry huge amounts of lumber to other cities. I can’t even imagine the work it took to build a railroad up in those mountains. Truly remarkable.
One of the coolest parts about this race was how small and unassuming it was. The 20k was considered a ‘fun run’ and we didn’t even get a bib or a medal. However, the start took place at a kids environmental summer camp with dorm style cabins, showers and a mess hall. The RD was able to offer housing to those who wanted to stay. All the runners had a spread of home cooked food and beer at the finish, raffles and giveaways too.
Before we knew it, 7am hit and the race director was giving his usual ‘don’t get lost, look at the markings, don’t be stupid’ spiel. Countdown….3….2….1…. GO HAVE FUN! (His words.)
Miles 1-5: Up. So much uphill. All the uphill. And at elevation. So this was a little more challenging than expected. I hadn’t quiet woken up yet either since my sleep the night before was sub par…. BUT, as soon as we left the camp, it was nothing but beautiful trees all around me. Like literally, nothing but trees. I tried to keep moving here while also soaking in my surroundings and watching for potential wildlife (bears…). I paced myself but also forced myself to run parts of this section. I wanted to race, but didn’t need to burn out too early. Things got a little scary right before the aid station at mile 5. As I rounded a corner, I saw a group of runners crouched down on the trail over a younger girl. She had a horrible rash and seemed to be having some sort of allergic reaction. I knew the aid station wasn’t too far so I started to run up there to notify someone. Luckily, the gentleman behind me stopped and ended up being a doctor. Phew! That next second, I saw a truck coming down the trail to her aid. She was going to be ok.
Miles 6-7.5: FINALLY! We started to go downhill! After what felt like a looooooong climb, I hit the aid station, grabbed some food and started my decent! I looked at my Strava data after the fact and found that my highest point of elevation was about 6,200ft. Only a little different than the 600ft at which I live… The air felt so clean and crisp. I loved it. ANYWAYS, this part was really fun. I saw some familiar faces here so that gave me an extra boost.
Mile 7.5 was….the water crossing. For some reason, I only thought the 50k runners had to cross the river, but I guess not! I teetered my way to the water and attempted to hop on some rocks but gave up and just went all in. Why not right? EMBRACE THE NATURE.
Once I got through, I was like…. ‘oh crap I still have like 5 more miles to run’ and now those miles were going to be run in soaking wet socks and shoes. OH WELL! After one last small hill, mile 8 to the finish was a breeze.
Miles 8-12.2: SO FUN! Things were going really well even though everything up to my shins was completely soaked. The views were nothing short of spectacular, my stomach was feeling good and I was cruising to the finish. I kept my pace really steady here and enjoyed the ride. Mile 11 was when my legs started to get fatigued but I knew I was almost done. With one last fun little single track down, I was crossing the finish line!
Final 20K time: 2:37! Not bad right? Not amazingly fast but I was running this to have FUN and be outside!
Soon after, I grabbed some amazing vegetable soup, changed my clothes and had a nice cold beer. I mean, how else would you do it? We waiting for Molly to finish her 50k (9th place female!!!!) and then headed back to the campsite.
We all changed clothes, naps were had, veggie burgers consumed and a game of cards against humanity was played. It was amazing. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
My main goal for this race weekend was to get away and soak in my surroundings. On the car ride home, I really felt like I did just that. Spending 72 hours in the woods with no cell reception and fresh air was the reset button I needed. Unfortunately, as we arrived back within range of cell towers, I got a notification instantly about the horrific shootings that happened in Orlando. At the time it made me want to go back into the woods with no cell reception and just run away from it all. But these things need to be taken on with love. Never hate.
A weekend in the woods will truly wash your spirit clean.