Monday, September 13, 2021

37 Miles for my 37th Birthday

Let's just say this is NOT the post I was expecting to share, but I'll try not to get ahead of myself. This past Friday was my 37th birthday, so I tackled 37 miles. They weren't the 37 miles I was planning to run, but they were 37 miles nonetheless. 


And now that I've at least gotten the "finish line" out of the way, let's go back to the beginning and see how we got HERE


The hubby and my birthdays are three days apart (although he is almost a year older). We wanted to do a camping trip to celebrate, so six months before (around the beginning of March) we started looking at the different campsites we love in the Eastern Sierras. Because some of the popular campgrounds can get reserved almost as soon as they become available, we figured where we wanted to stay and were online, ready to grab the site as soon as they went live. Once the clock struck "OPEN", we were able to make our reservations and then could "set it and forget it" for the next few months.


A few weeks after we booked our site, my wheels started turning and I came up with the idea of possibly running 37 miles on my 37th birthday. I had seen a route on the JMT (John Muir Trail) from Yosemite (Tuolumne Meadows) to Mammoth (Devils Postpile) was about 35 miles, and thought, what if I ran from Yosemite to Mammoth for my birthday?! We'd already be up there (camping at June Lake from the 9th through 13th), so why not make an epic adventure out of it?! I cautiously mentioned it to the hubby to see if it might be something he'd be willing to join me on. To my surprise, he was totally in!


Technically we started our training in mid-June. I used a 50K training plan (obviously 37 miles is more than 31 miles, but I figured I'd rather have us slightly undertrained than overtrained {50K vs 50M plan}). If you remember, I dealt with some Achilles Tendinosis at the beginning of the year (stupidly I was running too much too quickly at the end of 2020 and ran myself into an injury) and then once I got that under control, I had left foot pain for a few weeks and took more time off. Thankfully I was able to start adding some base mileage around the end of April so I'd be ready to jump into training.


The training plan we used (I've used it for most of the ultras I've done in the past) was 13 weeks long and ran right through the thick of summer. Normally SoCal doesn't have too much deviation in weather throughout the year (60s and sunny in the winter, 70s and sunny in the summer with a few weeks of fog {what we call Marine Layer} for May Gray and June Gloom), but this summer was humid and soggy! Training for fall races/ adventures is never easy [but, let's be real, training is never easy, AmIRight?!] because you have to put in the majority of the work during the hottest part of the year, but I always try and remind myself that summer sweat makes you stronger and will make the fall running feel even better. 

Sweat, sweat and more sweat!

The hubby and I were rockin' and rollin' with our training. We would do our long runs together on the weekend and during the week I'd normally run before work and he'd run on his lunch break. I was getting in the same (if not more) mileage he was doing, but I was doing it in fewer days... so instead of a 4-miler on Tuesday, an 8-miler on Wednesday and a 6-miler on Thursday, I'd get in a half marathon on Tuesday and a 10-miler on Thursday. You gotta find what works for you!


Although you'd think the training would be the hardest part of this adventure, you'd be wrong. Because the route we were planning on running was a point-to-point (meaning you start one place and run to another place, unlike running out-and-back {running out to a point, turning around half way and running the same route back} or some sort of loop), which means A LOT more logistics. Originally we were hoping some friends would join us for our birthday camping trip (and be willing to shuttle us to the run), but that didn't work out. Then we were thinking maybe I could talk a friend into running with us (and therefore they'd have a second vehicle), but that was a no go. You see, the main issue was transportation. I put messages out on my social media platforms, hoping we'd get some kind soul willing to pick us up at the "finish line" and drive us to the "start" (that way when we finished, we wouldn't have to deal with having to drive anywhere or coordinate rides). Unfortunately that didn't come to fruition either. We finally came down to having to either drive two cars or just driving the AdventureMobile and renting a car while we were there. Not exactly ideal but we'd have to make it work.


Now, here's the point where I need to mention that the hubby started running because he saw how much I loved it. I wouldn't say running is his passion or even his preferred way to get in movement, but he does it for me (cue the collective 'awwwww' ;)). With that said, once we started getting into our longer back-to-back runs on the weekends {instead of running 30 miles in training at one time, we'd run say 18 miles on Saturday and another 10 on Sunday, that way you are training your body to run on tired legs without having to get in the straight mileage} it was a bit of a struggle for him. Don't get me wrong, he did the runs, but once we started going over about 10 miles I could tell he definitely wasn't enjoying himself. About a month before the big day I offered Ryan an out... I mentioned I'd obviously LOVE to have him run with me, but I also wanted him to have fun (not only during the run but during the last few weeks of training). He took a few days to consider it and eventually decided to opt out (as long as I promised I wasn't disappointed - which I wasn't!). 


With the hubby no longer doing the run with me, the logistics were worked out. He decided what he'd do was to run the first 5ish miles with me, then run back to the car, drive to the "finish" and then hike in until he found me so he could run me out. We figured he'd still get in about 20 miles of running (which he was totally trained for at that point), running the first 5 and last 5 with me - leaving me to tackle the middle marathon on my own. We looked over the map, sent the route to my watch so it'd notify me if I was off track and got comfortable with everything. Again, it wasn't exactly what I was originally envisioning, but I was excited that we had a definite plan and that everyone was excited about it. LET'S DO THIS!


The plan was we would leave on Wednesday, September 8th, drive up to Mammoth and stay on BLM land that evening. On Thursday morning we were going to go to some of the first come, first serve campgrounds near the Tuolumne entrance of Yosemite to try and snag a spot for the night. Friday morning we'd hit the trail around 4:30am, I'd run for 37 miles and then we'd head to our campsite on June Lake through Monday. In theory it should've worked perfectly...


Well, that is until the hubby got an email ONE WEEK before we were set to leave... It was letting us know that the National Forests in California would be closing down from August 31st through September 17th and therefore all campgrounds in those areas would also close. They issued us a refund for our campsite and explained that the closure was due to the wildfires crisis. The fires were not threatening where we would be, but because of all of the fires, they thought it best to close down the other areas so they could focus their energy and efforts on the fires raging across the state. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely understood it (and agreed with it), but that doesn't mean it was any easier of a pill to swallow.


Yup, so after training for this awesome adventure, the plug was pulled. We tried to call an audible and figure out some other alternative, but with such a short amount of time and so many pieces of the puzzle to plan, we decided it'd be best to consider the trip a loss. [Note: I absolutely understand that this is a #FirstWorldProblem. We were healthy and safe, our home wasn't being threatened by wildfire, we had the resources to be able to plan a trip like this in the first place, etc. With that said, I still believe it is totally okay for me to "grieve" the loss of the mountain run I had been planning/ training for.]


And so NOW you are all caught up as to how we arrived HERE (back in Oceanside, CA) for my 37 mile birthday run.


Seeing as we weren't going to be able to make a Mammoth camping trip happen, I told my manager that I no longer needed to take all of the days off and got rescheduled for the few days leading up to my birthday. I told her I'd still like to keep Friday off so I could get in a run of some sort, but other than that I was free to work. I probably should have thought it through a little better, seeing as I would be on my feet for 9ish hours the day before running 37 miles, but, hey, why not add a little more challenge to the adventure?! Not to mention, this was just FOR FUN so there was no pressure/ time goal.

I got home Thursday night after work around 7:15pm, ate some dinner, filled my hydration bladder and soft flasks (in case you were wondering, I use water in my bladder and watermelon nuun in my front flasks to change up the flavor and add some electrolytes back into the mix {pro tip - I normally let my nuun sit in the fridge overnight so all the bubbles work their way out}) and tried to go to sleep as quickly after that as possible because I knew the alarms would start EARLY

Not surprising, my body had me up by 1:44am...

My hope was to start my 37 miles by 3:37am (yup, I'm a numbers nerd), hence the 2am wake-up calls. I normally like to have an hour between waking up and starting to run so that I can eat something (I normally stick with a PROBAR PROTEIN bar) and have time to leisurely get ready (not to mention use the restroom before heading out #Priorities). Thankfully I had everything laid out the night before and didn't have to think after the few short hours of sleep.

Although I didn't have to work on my birthday, I also didn't necessarily want to be running ALL DAY LONG, which is one of the reasons I started early. Another reason was because we had some heat headed our way (the high was in the mid 80s), so I wanted to try and finish before it got too toasty warm. The humidity has been nasty this summer and I thought I'd be getting away from it for this run ("high" humidity in the Eastern Sierras is like 30%, whereas in Oceanside it has been over 80% humidity just about every run in recent memory), but at least I knew the feel... SOGGY!

Ready to get this party started!

When our trip got cancelled I was trying to look up some alternate running routes, so I wasn't just running the same thing I do day in and day out. I saw that I could run from Mission Beach (down in San Diego) to Oceanside and get in 35 miles {so I was sure I could add in a couple detours for photo ops to get in the extra 2 miles), but the hubby was away at a photoshoot for work all week (he didn't get back until Thursday night) and didn't want to have him wake up super early just to drive me 37 miles away from the house ;) I decided I'd stick with my standard route (along the Pacific Ocean, NOT TOO SHABBY) and run from Oceanside to Del Mar {or wherever 18.5 miles out would take me) and back. Since half of the run would be in the dark, I figured I wouldn't be taking too many pictures, but the nice thing about an out-and-back route is that you go by the places twice, so I could always snag a daylight photo on the return run! #RunningBlogger

My North County Coastal Tour took me from Oceanside to Carlsbad to Leucadia
to Encinitas to Cardiff to Solana Beach to Del Mar and then back again.

Seeing as this was just a celebration run for me, I didn't have any goals in mind. I told myself I would walk when I wanted to walk, stop for photos when I saw something awesome and just take the morning to be grateful that I was healthy enough to be able to run 37 miles (and blessed enough to live in a safe area where I could do it without too much worry). 

Had to snag a picture of the sunrise

And I obviously had to document other awesome things along the way!

I was pleasantly pleased because I felt strong through the first 28.5 miles. I stopped to snap photos and walk through a couple rock gardens, but other than that I didn't stop for walk breaks or anything. I conquered the "hills" without wanting to walk or catch my breath (which I think is thanks to trail running for making me a stronger runner!). I was chugging along great, but once the sun came out it started to get toasty quick. I mean, when I started it was 68* and 89% humidity and by the time I finished it was almost 80*. I might have been running in the humidity for the past few months, but I'll be honest and say that I don't think I ever really got acclimated to it (or at least never stopped whining about it ;)). Also, I'm normally done running by the time the sun comes up, so the warmer temps did start to zap a bit more of my energy.

My turn around spot ended up being at Dog Beach in Del Mar. I didn't plan it that way, but I wasn't mad
 about it (and might have stopped for a few extra minutes to watch the pups frolic around in the ocean ;))

How awesome are some of these rocks?!

My views definitely didn't suck... but you can SEE the humidity in the air!

Right around the time I was starting to "feel it" a bit, I crested one of the hills on my route and who do I see?! THE HUBBY AND PUP! They were tracking me and came out to give me a cheer! I was so thankful to see them right around Mile 30.

Walt even wanted to do a little running with me! I mean, it didn't last long, but it was
just the motivation I needed to keep me going those last 7 miles back to the house!

There was never a point in the run where I felt like I wouldn't finish (I mean, I could always just walk it if I needed!) or that I was dreading the next step. I never hit "the wall" and although my legs were tired (which also could be from the fact that I am also standing on them 40+ hours a week at work) I never really had any pain. For those of you curious, I use PROBAR BOLT Chews as fuel and took them (one serving is about 5-6 chews) at Miles 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 29 and 33. I also had 56 ounces of water in my bladder and another 24 ounces of water in my soft flasks (the two 12-ounce flasks each had one nuun tablet to add in some electrolytes and give me a little flavor). {Note - Had we been doing the original run through the Eastern Sierras, I would have added in some "real food" to the fueling. Although my chews would have sufficed, when you are trail running your pace tends to slow down [due to the terrain, elevation, etc] so when you are out there longer you miss actual meal times, so I usually add in other foods like PB&J sandwiches, dried pineapple, Clif bars, etc.}

Pink Lemonade is my JAM! The hubby likes the Berry Blast because it also has caffeine in it. 

I know I said I didn't have a goal time, but for some reason I was thinking I'd shoot for about 6 hours. I started at 3:37am, so told the hubby I was hoping to be home between 9:30 and 10am. Well, once I started running I could tell my 9 minute miles were quickly slipping to 10 minute miles with my photo stops and having to watch my footing running in the dark, so when I saw him at Mile 30 I told him it'd probably be closer to 10:15am or so. When I got home I checked the weather and saw why my pace was probably a bit slower than expected... Almost 80 degrees at 10am and still with a humidity of 80%. 

It might not "seem" too warm, but let me tell you, when you're 20+
miles in and the sun is beating down on you, it gets warm QUICK!

Oh yeah, and I was still pretty close to my 6 hour finish time when all was said and done... I finished the 37.37 miles in 6 hours and 15 minutes. My watch had my average pace at 10:02/mile (I don't stop it while running) and my Strava had my finish time at 6 hours and 3 minutes with an average pace of 9:44/mile (it takes out the time when my watch isn't moving for things like photo ops, traffic lights and bathroom breaks). I'd say I pretty much NAILED IT if you ask me! Not to mention I finished with a smile on my face as well as joy and gratitude in my heart, so I'd call it a MAJOR SUCCESS!

37.37 miles done in 375 minutes... #NumbersNerd

To top it all off, I got home and had some notifications on my phone. There were a bunch of well wishes, but what made me the happiest was a post my BRF PavementRunner shared... He challenged people to get active and to give back in my honor! He called it #37PlusOne and asked people to move for 37 (whether that was - minutes, kilometers, miles, etc) and then do 1 act of kindness. Let's just say my heart was bursting! I HAVE THE BEST FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY!

Brian is THEE BEST and I am forever grateful that running brought him and his family into our lives!

How did YOU celebrate your birthday this year?!

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