Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mt. Disappointment 50K Trail Ultra Marathon

August 11, 2007: Link
Place: 79 (out of 145) -
Overall results
Bib: # 131
Distance: 31.5 miles / 50.7 km
Net Time: 7:55:23
Average Pace: 15:05 minutes / mile
Elevation Gain: 5600 feet
Blisters: 5+
Black toe nails: 2
Running Shoes: North Face Arnuva 50 Boa

Mountain Disappointment race was nothing like any of those I tried before. It was definitely a way more difficult than any of my previous races. But the strange thing about it is that it is the only race when I did not promise to myself not ever do it again and quit distance running as soon as I get to the finish line. This is exactly how I felt during my half-marathons and marathons in the past – although that feeling goes away as soon as I reach the finish line. Strange thing I did not feel like that during this race. Whatever the conditions were I was actually enjoying most of the race and in any case did not curse this one while I was running.

Another remarkable thing about Mt. Disappointment is that it is the first trail ultra marathon in my life.
Yahoo!!! I am officially an ultra-runner now :-)

I arrived at the start area at around 5:25, about an hour before the start when it was still dark. The road to the start took longer than I thought it should and I even started to wonder whether I had missed the right turnout from the Angles Crest Highway to the Mt. Wilson. When I parked, there have been already a hundred cars on the lot and a lot of people with headlights in the morning dusk.

I met a number of fellow runners from Southern California, whose blogs I have been reading – many of whom are members of OC Trailrunners club: Eric, Greg, Kevin, Steph, her friend Amanda, Suzy Degazon and a few others.

After Gary’s foreword he called up a dozen of names of the people that were to start the race – these were the Marines.

First 2.5 miles went very smoothly as they were all downhill. Then we had a small uphill part and a very big and steep downhill again. That was a pure 100% fun. I was running pretty fast making big (and sometimes quite scary too) leaps across (and sometimes high above) boulders and roots on the trail. The first aid station (Red Box #1) was quite unremarkable except for the volunteers that very totally excellent – I did not refill my backpack or a bottle once during the whole race. It was all done by volunteers on every station while I was enjoying cold orange and watermelon slices.

After Red Box station we made our way on a very mild and extremely picturesque downhill trail through the woods. It was not steep enough to fly above the trail but extremely breathtaking!

When jumping on the way to the Red Box station I got a lot of dirt in my shoes, something I did not pay proper amount of attention to due to my overall over-excitement. As the result I got a burning sensation in both foot soles by mile 9 and had to ask for help at the Clear Creek aid station. They did not have any duct tape there but one of the volunteers – god bless her kind hands – helped me to clean my feet and apply bandages to my developing blisters, which really helped.

I also met a guy at the Clear Creek, who was running the whole 50K race without any shoes – barefooted. He mentioned there is a bare-foot race sometime soon and he will participate in it. Well, best of luck to him! I can hardly imagine how this guy was running at all, as many parts of the trail were completely covered with sharp rocks!

One of the least enjoyable parts of the course was the Strawberry uphill part of the trail. First of all it was an uphill, second of all my blisters started to bug me again and third of all I did a mistake when I put down the list of the aid stations with the mileage to them. I was absolutely sure we are finishing our Strawberry loop and hitting Red Box #3 station at mile 18.9. Around 18.2 mile I passed by a runner on the trail and to make him feel better mentioned that the Red Box is just around the corner and we have less than half of a mile to go to it. Little did I know back then that the Red Box was located at mile 21.2 and, we still had 3 miles to go. As I said I was expecting to hit Red Box any minute – even despite the fact that it did not feel like Red Box area as we were still too high in the mountains. I was getting more and more impatient, angry and tired. My blisters were very sore and I almost fully ran out of water.

I slowed down and started to walk again. Even on some downhills I should have been running on. A bunch of runners passed me by, including Suzy who looked pretty strong and fast. When I eventually reached the Red Box I could barely stand, and volunteers asked whether I needed anything at all, I only asked for more duct tape.

I spent at least 10 minutes at the Red Box #3 station – changed bondages on my feet, ate more watermelon (I could have eaten it in unlimited quantities, especially when it is cold and it that hot outside) and had volunteers to refill my bottles.

When I took off from the Red Box I was feeling pretty strong again and even passed by several slower runners. But heat of the day started to get its toll on me. As I was going through the last section of the road with a very mild downhill before hitting Kenyon Devore steep uphill trail, I caught myself dreaming about Kenyon Devore more and more – as there I will not have to make myself run anymore and can legitimately walk all the way to the finish, while on the downhill I felt I did not have enough excuses to switch to walking.

I made a quick nature stop, and as I was coming back to the trail out of the bushes, I scared another runner almost to death – he evidently took me for a bear :-)

The last aid station #4 at the West Fork was a lot of fun. Gabor Kozinc was one of the volunteers there and did a great job cheering the runners up. At that point we all finished a standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. 50K runners had their last 5.2 climb (which seemed pretty insurmountable for most of us) and 50-mile runners were just half way to the finish – many of them a bit behind the schedule – probably just 30-40 minutes ahead of the cut-off time. Gabor finished Badwater this year and told us some stories from the race. He also mentioned he often drinks beer on his 50- and 100-milers. As someone doubted people would ever do that he actually got a couple of bottles of Foster's from a portable fridge to our surprise.

The last uphill stretch was not as bad as I expected. I knew it is really the last part of the race and was walking most of it anyways. The good part was most of the Kenyon-Devore trail is under the trees and sun does not really get to you as much as on the open sections of Strawberry trail or Red Box fire road. A part of Kenyon-Devore trail turned out to be pretty scary as it is completely surrounded with poison oak bushes – one wrong move (or got forbid – tipping over) and you are right in it.

At mile 26.5 I caught up with a couple of runners. They tried to step aside and make way for me to pass by, but I just waved at them and said “No way, guys!” – and was right about it, they lost me in just half a mile after that.

Around mile 27.5 I discovered that I ran out of HEED in my backpack. I was totally surprised by that as I was less than two miles away from the West Fork aid station where Gabor had refilled it. I discovered I got a leak in my water bag only later at home…

Around mile 28 I met two more runners moving uphill pretty slowly. I joined them was trailing them for a while. Soon after that Kevin Nasman (another OCTR member from Aliso Viejo) joined us and pretty soon we passed by those two guys in front of us and were walking together. I guess I would not finish in under 8 hours if Kevin did not help me during the last 2-3 miles of the race. We are talking about what he does (he is a software engineer), what I do, about old good assembler times, and things like that. It all kept my mind away from the trail and race, and thus helped me a lot to run through (well, mostly walk through, to be honest) the last miles of the course.

After we saw antennas on Mt. Wilson, Kevin suggested running and I sprinted ahead. In fact, I was running pretty slowly but it felt fairly fast to me at that point.

Finishing on Mt. Wilson was fun too. I reached the area of the parking lot and did not know what to do. I could not see arrows or standard orange trail markers or anything else that would suggest where I should go next. I reached the building where I got my bib earlier that morning and saw a bunch of runners on the patio waving to me.

“Where should I go?” – shouted I. “Where is the finish line?”
“Turn right and go around the building,” – I heard back from the patio above me.

I did go around and again did not see any signs of finish line or any other runners heading to it.
I was getting desperate – I knew that if I am going to break 8 hours I will break it by just few minutes and I was loosing time and did not even know how far I was from the finish.

“Where is it?” – shouted I again impatiently.
“Go around! It is just around the corner!”

And here it was. The finish line was actually at the entrance to the building. I put myself together and managed to run the last few yards… and finished the race under 8 hours just as I was dreaming about during the last few miles of it!

Red Box #1 -- 00:58:44 -- Mile 5.7 (4640 ft)
Clear Creek #2 -- 02:00:32 -- Mile 10.8 (3650 ft)
Red Box #3 -- 04:52:53 -- Mile 21.2 (4640 ft)
West Fork #4 -- 05:57:34 -- Mile 25.9 (3050 ft)
Finish -- 07:55:23 -- Mile 31.5 (5650 ft)

Photos from the race:


stephruns said...

Nice re-cap! I had similar experiences...especially at the end coming out of the trail my eyes were searching - screaming for the finish line. A well marked trail, but a teaser at the very end!!!!

Blisters and black toenails ? Huh, I can't even wear closed shoes right now. I think it happens on the down-hills.

Have a good recovery!

e-rod said...

congratulations on your first ultra, dmitri. on my first ultra, i think i swore off doing anything like it any more. with mt. d, i had fun and was constantly thinking of ways i can do to improve while i was running.

great meeting you last weekend. i liked how you put your "cheat sheet" on your arm...pretty smart.

hey, i was wearing a pair of those dirty girl gaiters, and they kept dirt and pebbles out of my shoes. they worked great.!

i see you're in oc. come out and run with us.

see you soon.

Dmitri Chechuy said...

My cheat sheet was a bad execution of a good idea. As I did a mistake with the Red Box aid station #3 location, I almost shoot myself in the foot. I was so pissed off with the Red Box not being where it was supposed to according to my cheat sheet that it drained a lot of energy.

cyberyeti said...

Hey Dmitri ... sorry it took me so long to find your post, but just wanted to say thanks for the company on the last climb. That was killer!