Monday, March 4, 2019

Griffith Park Trail 50K Race Recap

Saturday morning was my first official 50K race - the Griffith Park Trail 50K.

Okay, okay, so I know I've run a 50-Mile race already and have hit the 31 mile distance on training runs before, but this is the first race I've entered that was deemed a 50K (key word "deemed", but more on that later).


If you remember, back in November, a few of us created a challenge called #Dirt2Strip, where we ran 3 races in 2 states over 2 days. The first race was the "dirt" portion (a trail race in LA) and the two remaining races were the "strip" portion (races run on the Las Vegas Strip). {We've done similar challenges in the past, but never with a trail aspect included.}

The first race of the weekend, the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon, was up in the air until a day or two before the race due to the wildfires that were ripping through Los Angeles County. Due to safety reasons, the race director, Keira, had to change up the course to keep everyone out of harm's way. I'll be honest, I am a stickler for numbers, so I was a bit bummed that our half marathon turned out to be only 11.5 miles, but due to the difficulty of the course and our tight turn around for our morning flight to Vegas it worked out in our favor. With that said, Keira went above and beyond and when I sent her over my recap and thanked her for my entry to the half, she mentioned she'd love to offer me a comped entry for the March race which she promised would be accurately measured ;) This was definitely not something she needed to do, nor was I expecting her to offer, but was greatly appreciated and of course I took her up on the generosity!

Keira and I after I finished the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon in November

As far as training, I used the same website to create my training plan that I did for the Avalon 50-Miler and our Grand Canyon #Rim2Rim2Rim adventure (it offers options for both a 50K and 50M plan). Since I was already technically trained from Avalon, I just worked backwards from the race date and added in the runs to my calendar for the 6 or so weeks before this race, which also included the Rock 'N' Roll Arizona Half Marathon and the Mesa-PHX Marathon.

Yep, I still write out my training plans with paper and pencil and hang them on my fridge!

I've gotta say, my training went really great. Obviously with ultra marathon training you're doing more distance than speed work, but still, I was surprised with how well my legs were holding up with all of the mileage I was requiring of them. But, like I tell folks when they ask how I can run so many back-to-back races without getting injury, RECOVERY IS KEY!

Some of my recovery tools - PRO Compression socks, iRolflex, yoga mat, etc.

As race day approached, the weather was not looking promising. Surprisingly for California, we were actually getting "weather" and having periods of rain! Don't get me wrong, the state NEEDS the rain (although not in the onslaught it's been coming lately, seeing as the land can't soak it up as fast as it is being pelted down), but rain tends to put a damper on my joy. I run in the rain whenever possible because you never know what elements Mother Nature will bring on race day {I'm looking at you 2018 Boston Marathon}, but I'll be honest when I say I much prefer sunshine! Anywho, although I don't like looking at the weather forecast too far in advance, when I did start looking the rain didn't seem to be going away.

100% chance of rain doesn't sound like much room for sunshine, does it?!

Ah well, weather is one of the elements that you can't control, so there is no use getting stressed out about it, right?! There's nothing you can do about it other than run in whatever conditions are present when the starting whistle goes off (and hopefully be prepared with adequate clothing, of course). Thankfully the temps weren't supposed to be terrible and I kept hoping that the rain in the forecast would be "California rain" {i.e. drizzle} as opposed to real rain. Whatever the case, I figured I'd wear dark colors for the race to try and hide the rain and mud as best as possible.

The theme for this race's #FlatCarlee was "try to hide the mud and the fact you will look like a drowned rat by the end" ;)
Grey Dot PRO Compression Socks, Gunmetal Sparkle Athletic Skirt, #TeamSparkle trucker (from a few #Ragnar4Rett's ago), WeRunSocial
, black Brooks FastForward Crossback sports bra, Nathan VaporHowe Hydration VestPROBAR BOLT chews, PROBAR BASE
, Handful Bra muscle tank, elite Road ID, black and pink QALO silicone wedding bands, watermelon nuun hydration, Brooks canopy
(previous year model), black and grey Momentum Jewelry wraps, COROS APEX Watch and Brooks Cascadia 13.

Since the hubby and I live about 90 miles from Griffith Park, we decided to drive up the morning of the race as opposed to spending money on a hotel. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the hubby was running the half marathon while I was running the 50K. Keira was also kind enough to offer him a discount on his entry fee as a way to apologize for the previous short course. Our game plan was to leave our house by 3:45am so hopefully we would get to Griffith Park by 5:15am (without traffic it should take us about 80 minutes, but with the wildcard of rain and less than amazing California drivers I was worried it might take us longer). Bib pick-up started at 4:45am for the 50K distance and the race was set to begin at 6am.

Surprisingly I actually slept until my first alarm went off!
That NEVER, EVER happens before a race! 

Truth be told, although I was trained for the distance, I was slightly nervous about the elevation. You see, 99% of my training runs (minus a handful of runs with friends and then my 50-Miler) have been on roads. Even though North County San Diego is not flat, I would say we are not dealing with the type of elevation gain I was expecting during the race...


Obviously I wasn't planning on winning the race, but I wanted to put out a good effort. I decided my game plan would be to run it "comfortably uncomfortable". I mean, shoot, I have another "ultra" (the #Ragnar4Rett Ultra Relay) in less than 6 weeks so I didn't want to go gang-busters, but I still wanted to see what my legs could do. Not to mention, if the weather was as crappy as they were predicting, I didn't necessarily want to be in the elements all day long (there was a generous 9.5 hour limit for the 50K, but with the weather and elevation I wasn't sure how long it would realistically take me).


Sunrise was set for 6:21am, so I decided I wouldn't run with a headlamp seeing as it would be "bright enough" by the start at 6am. With the rain clouds I wouldn't say it was bright out, but we definitely weren't fumbling around in the pitch dark.

And we PAY to do this, HA! WE BE CRAY-CRAY!

I threw in my legit rain jacket before we left, figuring I'd wear it before the race when I was out in the elements picking up my bib and using the potty. Little did I know I'd end up wearing it the entire race. (My Brooks Canopy jacket is "weather resistant" but I wouldn't say it's rain-proof. It keeps you warmer than not wearing anything, but it does soak through eventually. With the rain never letting up throughout the race I was glad to have something that kept me a little drier.)

Walt didn't want to cooperate with a photo, but what's new?!

Pre-race was a little hectic. About 20 minutes before the race started I braved the elements and made my way to the port-o-potty. There was no line so it was a quick in and out. When I got back to the car to see if the hubby and pup were ready to walk me over to the starting line (the hubby's half didn't start until 7:30am so he and Walt had some time to max and relax in the car before he had to get ready to go), the hubby let me know that Walt had just thrown up in the back seat. I don't know if he was car sick or what, but having to deal with this was NOT what I was planning on doing before heading to the starting line. Thankfully when we grabbed our bibs and participant shirts they came in little bags so we were able to use those to clean up the vomit. Oy vey. Once we had a handle on the mess we quickly bee-lined it to the start.

Let's get ready to PAR-TAY!

I missed the majority of the pre-race instructions, but did hear Keira mention two things. First, she mentioned the course was very well marked and anywhere there was a questionable point she would have volunteers directing us where to go. Second, she mentioned the weatherman said the rain was supposed to let up around 11am. (We all chuckled and said "we should be warmed up and used to it by then".) Shortly after that she was counting down and we were off.


If you've been around my neck of the InterWebs for a while, you probably know I am not the best at pacing myself, especially when it comes to races. I figured what I would do was when I saw the people in front of me walking/ hiking, I would do the same. A 50K is a long way, no one needs to try and win it in the first mile or two.

I was just planning on playing "follow the leader" and "monkey see, monkey do"

I felt like I was chugging along at a decent speed, especially with the rain coming down and the mud we were trekking through. Although I had looked at the course map I didn't have it memorized. When we got closer to the Observatory (which I had remembered from the Half we did in November because there was an aid station there and that is also near where we took our Hollywood sign photo) I noticed runners were coming back at us so figured we were on an out-and-back section. I know some runners don't like out-and-back sections because it often seems like a race is just making up extra distance, having you go out and double back, but I love being able to look for friends, cheer on fellow runners, etc. I noticed at this point that I was the fourth female overall (although I wasn't 100% sure because most runners were bundled up under their rain gear so there was a possibility I missed a female or two passing in the opposite direction). I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited about my current place, but knew we still had 25+ miles to go and a lot could happen before we got to the finish line. I kept telling myself "stay in this mile, stay in this mile", trying not to get too far ahead of myself.

It was important for me to stay present and not think much further pass right now.

As Keira mentioned, the course was marked perfectly. I never felt like I went more than a quarter mile or so without seeing one of the pink flags in a tree, on a pole, etc. There were also signs saying "Right Turn" or "Straight Ahead" when there were forks in the trail. For the first maybe 10 miles or so I felt like I was running fairly close to the folks in front of me, so I had the added comfort of following them. (Note: The trails were not closed to the public, although, truth be told, there weren't a ton of people out due to the weather, but you had to be careful not to follow the wrong person in front of you ;))


We came to another section of the course where runners were coming back towards us and I realized we were on another out-and-back section. Again, I was totally okay with this because I was keeping my eyes peeled for friends, cheering on the faster runners, counting the females in front of me, etc. The hard part was that because the trails were so muddy, everyone seemed to want to run on the same path (the path of least standing water and sticky mud), so you really had to watch for runners coming at you. Thankfully I didn't see any collisions occur, but you definitely had to pay attention.


Around Mile 15 or so there were two female volunteers pointing us in the right direction and they told me that I was the third female to come through. I was pretty pumped that I was gaining ground and decided to keep chugging along. I still did my best to take the uphills easy (no use killing my legs when I could power hike up probably faster than I could "run" them) and made sure to focus on my fueling. [FYI: I took my PROBAR BOLT Chews around Mile 4.5, 9, 13.5, 18, 22 and 26.] I'd love to say I made up time on the downhills, but those were rough too with the slippery mud we were dealing with.

The rain never let up, and the further along in the race we got, the muddier the course got, not only because of the rain, but also because more runners were using the trails so the once firm path was now getting churned up.

Let's just say we were slipping and sliding all over the course!

I kept telling myself that everyone was dealing with the same conditions and that I had run in the same or worse weather (when the hubby and I took our three-week van trip up and down the West Coast last year, we were traveling during the soggy spring and ran and adventured in rain 95% of the time). I just kept smiling, thanking God for the ability to be running and the opportunity to be out on the course, and continued putting one foot in front of the other.

As you can see in the background (if you can see around my giant face), we are socked in!

Eventually I came to one of the aid stations and had asked if one of the volunteers could get a pack of my chews out of the back of my hydration vest so I could put it up in one of my chest pockets. (I think this was probably around Mile 20 or so.) Keira's hubby, who is a very speedy and talented runner, was standing there and he was chatting with one of the volunteers. I heard the one volunteer say something along the lines of "yeah, the last girl who left was in second, so she is third". I looked over and mentioned that I thought I was in third from what I was told by volunteers and from what I could count on the out-and-back sections. Keira's hubby sprung into action (the volunteers trying to help me didn't seem to be moving at a very quick pace), he said "Hurry, guys, she's racing this thing" and got my fuel out for me. As I was running away he yelled back to me and told me the second place female was maybe a minute and a half or two minutes ahead of me. This lit a spark under my booty. Don't get me wrong, I realized that there was still plenty of time to catch the second place female (we still technically had over ten miles to go), but I also didn't want her to gain any more distance on me.


Let me stop right here and say I am NOT someone who normally focuses on times or places. Sure I love putting in hard work and seeing a goal to fruition, but running is normally about the people I run with and the places I get to see. With that said, possibly placing in the top three females in the race had me jazzed. I had no idea how close behind me the fourth place female was, but I did remember that on the previous out-and-back section I was able to count the top 10 or 15 females within that two-ish mile stretch so I knew we all weren't that far apart. Not only was I thinking about possibly catching the female in front of me, I was also worrying about possibly bonking and then getting passed by the females behind me. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my goal was to run comfortably uncomfortable. I didn't go in expecting to place, so if that did or didn't happen I would be totally okay with it, I just wanted to put forth a strong effort and enjoy myself (and not falling in the mud would be an added bonus if I could accomplish that too). I had to continually remind myself to run my own race and that no matter what place I finished in I was having an amazing time.


Around Mile 23 or so I could see the second place female in front of me. I told myself that if I could keep her in my sights then maybe over the next seven or eight miles I would be able to gain a couple feet here and a couple feet there and eventually have the strength to pass her. Well, I'm not sure if I was just feeling great or she wasn't feeling so awesome, but I seemed to be gaining ground faster than I was expecting. By the next aid station I was right on her heels and shortly after I passed her. At that point I think we still had about four or five miles to go, so I didn't want to push too hard and not be able to hold on to the lead, so I tried to chug along at a consistent clip. (#RealTalk - When there was an opportunity to look over my shoulder to see how far ahead of her I was, I would take it - trying to determine how hard I needed to keep pushing. Eventually I felt as though I had a comfortable enough lead and stopped sneaking peeks.)


A few miles from the finish I started coming across runners from other distances. It was sort of a mind game because I thought I was in second, but then I'd come up on a female and notice she was wearing a bib and have to determine if she was running the half or the full or if I had possibly taken a wrong turn and was now not in the place I thought I was.


At this point you could definitely tell the trails had a ton more use on them than when we first came through. The muddy footprints were much deeper and were covering the entire trail now. It reminded me of the Avalon course where we saw runners literally running out of their shoes because they would get stuck in the mud and come right off their foot.


Around Mile 27 I could hear people cheering and I was a little confused. I didn't think I remembered seeing a spot on the course map where we went by the finish line and looped back for an extra three to four miles, so I thought maybe the cheering was for something else... but no... it was the finish line. I'll be honest, I was a little heart broken. I thought that somehow I had cut the course without knowing it and had cheated. I saw Keira sitting at the timing table and I went up to her immediately. I asked her if the course was short because I only had about 27 and a quarter miles on my watch. I think she could see he panic in my eyes and confirmed that the course was in fact short. She said that somehow everyone had missed a turn and therefore had come up with a shorter distance. She chuckled and said that she couldn't believe I had run two of her races now and both had been short when her courses are normally spot on.

Rain gear a-plenty!

Since the hubby wasn't at the finish line when I crossed, I figured he was probably in the car with the pup, so made my way to the parking lot. As I expected, they were snuggling in the car when I got there. I asked the hubby if he'd come take a couple quick pictures of me at the finish line before I changed out of my wet clothes and we hit the road.

Can you see that it's raining in front of my face?!

There was quite a big spread of goodies at the finish line, but because of the weather, everything was under two pop-up tents, which everyone was using to avoid the rain, so it was a little tough to get around. I snagged a vegan carrot cake cupcake and the hubby got a veggie Subway sub for the road (he had already snacked on a few of the sweet treats when he finished an hour or so before me). I didn't noticed any hydration but then again I wasn't really looking either.

Yummy yummy yummy in my tummy!

Surprisingly I wasn't too terribly muddy. The hubby actually said he thought he got muddier than I did (I joked and told him it was because I was running so fast that I was flying above the mud).

Good call on the black socks, otherwise my PROs would have been thrashed by the mud!

Technically I finished with 27.28 on my COROS APEX Watch. I also ran with my Garmin Forerunner 935 so I could compare the two, but you'll have to read my review later in the week to see how they stacked up against one another. With that said, the folks I follow on Strava who also ran the race had a range of 27.2 - 28.3 miles for their distance. But, hey, even if it wasn't actually 31 miles, anything over 26.2 miles is an ultra, right?!

[In case you were wondering, I did put an asterisk next to my 50K personal record in the right hand column of the blog, because the time isn't for a complete 31 miles. I will update it when (or if) I run another 50K. This was an automatic PR since I hadn't run this distance before in a race... but I guess I technically still haven't raced a 50K distance ;) ]


After changing out of my wet gear, it was time to hit the road. Google Maps showed that although it only took about 90 minutes to get there in the morning, it was expected to take us about 120 minutes to get home... oh the joys of driving in the rain in California... Thankfully there didn't appear to be any accidents on the drive, just a lot of slow drivers.

Every single time... It's like the car rocks them to sleep...

Even though the course was short (Keira did mention that once they realized the fast runners had missed the turn they put volunteers there for the rest of the race) and the weather was less than ideal (apparently it was ideal for me since I came in SECOND FEMALE OVERALL and FIRST IN MY AGE GROUP), this is definitely a race I would love to run again. The views are said to be amazing... but because of the overcast and fog we didn't have a chance to enjoy any of them (hence why the photos from the race are lacking... they all looked the same... hazy, grey, muddy and wet). If you are considering running this race, I would highly recommend it! It isn't an easy course, that's for sure, you have to work for the finish line, but there are definitely runnable areas, the volunteers are extremely helpful and encouraging, the course is well marked (apparently except for the one turn everyone missed, oops!), getting to and from the race is easy, the aid stations are fully stocked (although I didn't stop at any of them myself) and Griffith Park is a pretty amazing place to run.


Have you ever run a race in the rain?

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Yes! I did two 5K's (same course) in the rain! One year it started about 10 minutes in to the race. The other had rain from hours before and showed no mercy. I also had a race that was on what is already an unforgiving course, but rain the night before made it even more so.