John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ray Miller 100k

Hooooo boy! My legs hurt and I currently walk like a stick man.

I recently took on the Ray Miller 100k 2 weeks after running 100 self-supported miles in Yosemite because I wanted to see the course and experience the race that everyone who had raced the 50-mile version 3 years back had praised endlessly.  I was in for a treat!


I had no expectations, and was hoping that my legs and stability would hold together to allow me to finish.  For some reason, however, people kept telling me that I was going to win: my friends, the assistant RD (who I had never met), other runners...not sure why, since I'm not all that fast to begin with, let alone 2 weeks after the hardest and longest effort of my life, but I appreciated the faith in my abilities.

What having no expectations did mean, is that I could run as hard as I wanted and not worry about blowing my race, since I wasn't too concerned about it anyway.

The rad course zig-zags and loops and out-and-backs its way through the North-West end of the Santa Monica Mountains, starting and finishing at the Ray Miller Trailhead.  The Ray Miller Trail, famous for its ocean views and runnable, butter-smooth single track, climbs out of La Jolla Canyon to the rest of the course, and subsequently deposits the runners back into the canyon at the finish.


Starting Line with my puffy on.
The 22 starters lined up at 5 minutes to 5am and took off into the darkness following leadout pacer Jesse Haynes to the trailhead from the starting area.  My buddy Greg went out hard and I started out in a close 2nd, running the climb.  Almost immediately my friend Megan called me out from behind and we chatted while we ran the first climb.

I was worried about my body's stability giving out, so at about mile 4 I pulled back a bit and let her go on with 1 other dude to chase Greg in the lead.  That put me in 4th.  My heart rate was skyrocketing and I didn't know why, so I ignored it because I felt fine and kept running sustainably (?) hard.
Dawn over the tri-peaks ridge.
Sunrise from the La Jolla Canyon trail, rounding Mugu Peak.
Looking out at the Channel Islands (I think?) from the side of Mugu Peak...we then ran all the way down to that parking lot.

The 100k was going to be a bit short, so we took a slight detour down a huge, steep hill around mile 8, tagged a parking lot trailhead at ocean-level and climbed back to rejoin the 50 mile course up near Mugu Peak.  Those 50-mile jerks didn't have to do that climb! The wind howled and I leaned into it to make my way through the Mugu Peak Saddle, after which the wind died down and I continued through La Jolla Valley.
La Jolla Valley with Tri-Peaks ridge in the background.

I came into the mile 13-ish aid station still in 4th, but I noticed a guy in  a red sleeveless jersey coming up the hill as I was leaving the aid station.  My hamstrings were already tight, and my legs were stiff, but otherwise I felt good, so I started the next loop section, which would come back to this aid station, at a run.  Not much later, however, I saw a shadow creep up next to me and the guy came up and passed me.  I cheered him on and continued at my own pace, trying to keep a solid cadence down the hill into Wood Canyon.  This descent is mild and fun, but my legs were tight and it was tough to make good time...oof, I was starting to suffer already and it was affecting my confidence!  Could I last the whole race at this pace? Was I blown? This didn't feel blown, but why was I going so slowly?

Either way, I kept the red shirt dude in sight and ran as hard as my stiff legs would allow up to Hell Hill and hiked into the aid station.  The aid station was a mess of runners in other distances coming through, but I managed to find my way in, get my Tailwind mixed up and take off for the Wood Canyon Vista/Backbone descent into Sycamore Canyon.  I could still see the red shirt dude about 2 minutes up, and my friend Megan about 8 minutes up.

The next loop up the Coyote Trail, past Hidden Pond and down Sin Nombre into Danielson Horse Camp was rough.  So stiff.  Climbing difficult. I was lucky that my buddy Bill (running in 2nd in the 50-miler at the time) came up on me and we started conversing about running and racing, shoes, etc.  It took my mind off the legs and I was able to push through the pain and feel rejuvenated!  Thanks for the miles dude!  I was also glad that he informed me that the dude who had just blown by me was leading the 50.  I thought I had gone out way too hard and that the 100k-ers behind me were going to start blowing me up from here on out!

At Danielson, I packed up some Tailwind, got my reservoir filled (or so I thought) and headed up the biggest climb of the race: Blue Canyon to Chamberlain Trail, about 2300 vertical feet.  More importantly, however, is that just outside the aid station, there was a fresh-cut stump on the side of the trail, and I decided to stretch out my piriformis on it, followed by hip flexors and hamstrings.  All of a sudden, my hips released and I felt like I could move again!  I charged on up the hill, sure not to overdo it with my newfound enthusiasm, and headed for the summit at a run/hike.  About 5 miles out from the aid station, I was disappointed to discover, however, that my reservoir was only half full and I ended up running out of water on this long, hot, section.  It wasn't a super bad situation, but it was a little worrisome since I wanted to keep my hydration topped off after guessing that my hydration at Wasatch Front is what caused some stomach issues.
Unknown valley between Split Rock and Mishe Mokwa Trailhead Aid Station.

Either way, I kept a solid pace all the way into the Mishe-Mokwa aid station where I saw some friends, filled up an ice bandana, and headed off for the 100k-only out-and-back to the Grotto.  Howard, Mike, Manly, Chamoun, Pedro and some workers that I didn't know all worked to get me hooked up at both my trips through this aid station.  I headed out for 1400 ft. down, and then a 180 degree turn to right back up!  The downhill hurt a bit and I could feel my stability was suffering...aching in my glute and some nerve pain in my left quad were mild but present.  I was making some groaning noises and dealing with some nausea, but nothing too bad...just beat up a bit.

I saw my girlfriend Crista who was staffing a road crossing on the way down, and then an hour or so later on the way back up.  Unfortunately, Greg got lost down in the canyon near the turnaround because someone had vandalized the 'Turn Around' sign, which was marked 'Right Turn' on the back, so he wandered around for a while before figuring it out, but he had lost the lead to unnamed dude and Megan, who was in 2nd trailing by only a minute or two climbing back out of the canyon.  I was about an hour behind the lead at this point.  Woof!  Greg and red shirt dude had fixed the sign and warned me about it just in case when I saw them climbing out together.  Thanks dudes!
Makes sense.  My buddy Marshall marked the turnaround.

When I arrived back to Mishe-Mokwa for the 2nd time, I refilled ice and took off on the home stretch...less than 20 miles to go!  I was stoked because my legs felt good enough to slow jog or run the uphills, however, I was getting beaten up on the downhills and flats because everything ached so much!  I stretched every few miles and tried to move well.  I knew I had a couple miles on the guys behind me, so at least I could hold 5th if not make up some time to catch 4th overall.  I hoped that the twinges in my back were just twinges from being fatigued and wouldn't develop into a full on back-spasm that I have seen other runners endure.

I made it down Chamberlain Trail, took a quick break to pass through Chamberlain Rock to 'shed my sins', as is tradition, and turned down Serrano Trail, still very tight but managing to keep a 12:30-ish pace into the Serrano Canyon/Sycamore Canyon Junction Aid.  I refilled bottles, and was told I only had 5 miles to go! Woohoo!  I was pretty ready to be done running, both with the race, and the season.  Time for some R&R!

I ran the Fireline Trail climb and hiked the steeper top section well, ran the Overlook Trail, and cruised the Ray Miller descent in front of a brilliant sunset over the water.  I held sub 10 minute/mile pace as the sun dipped below the horizon and in no time I came through the finish in 12:25.


When I crossed the finish, I found out that Megan had won!  Nice! Last I saw she had 20+ miles to go and was only trailing by a minute or two! Stellar job Megan!!  I sat down and drank a Cream Soda and tried to feel normal, but everything hurt!  Ouch.  It was uncomfortable and my stomach had been churning for miles!  I finally made it through a couple Subway sandwich pieces and drank some water, after which I held on to consciousness until my last friend, Erin, finished before I hobbled off to sleep in my tent.  I was lucky that my girlfriend was volunteering because we were allowed to camp at the start/finish area.  It was amazing because I was in no shape to drive an hour home!  I couldn't even crack open my finish-line Sculpin!

So what did I learn from this whole ordeal?  Well, first off, don't race a 100k hard 2 weeks after running a hard 100 and going deep into the cave.  I was beat up and felt it all race long.  2nd...I can run hills better than I thought!  I was consistently able to chug up hills that I normally don't...maybe it's because I spend enough time running in the San Gabriel Mountains that I wasn't used to my own capability at sea level over ultradistance, but it felt reassuring that even in my beaten down state that I could still push the climbs a bit.  Maybe I just hadn't ever attacked a race like I did this time because I was too conservative and worried about blowing up...time will tell if I can put in that type of effort in another race to yeild a positive outcome.

Keira's race delivered in spades and I am totally happy that I put up with the suffering to make a finish happen. 

Now it's time for a month of recovery and then getting ready for next year!