Wednesday, May 18, 2016

2016 PCT 50 Miler Race Recap

Another PCT 50 is in the books! This one was a hard-fought finish. I laughed, I cried, I wished I was some where else most of the day...

Before I continue, this is part of my friend Smitha's Try It Thursday blog link up. Be sure to check her page Running with SD Mom when you're done here!

This PCT 50 was a little brutal for me. My training wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, life has been stressful, my insomnia has been hideous and I kind of wanted to just get through the race in one piece. I was expecting pain, I got it and now I'm glad it's over. I've been spending these past few days since the race not running, doing more yoga and just recovering. I'm not quite ready to think about the next big goal in the Fall so I'm just going to spend a little more time recovering and relaxing (well, as much as a busy working mom of 3 can relax).

I guess you could say training for this race began after finishing the San Diego 50 Miler in January. That was the first training run for this race :) I think we took a week off after that race too and then training began again. A lot of people have asked me about my training for a 50 and I can tell you that the bread and butter is back-to-back long runs. You have to get used to running on tired legs. I run a lot of miles, so I always feel like I run on tired legs. But that's the point. I also try to strength train at least once a week but aim for 2 days a week. Now that I've reignited my love for yoga, I hope to have that as at least one of my strength sessions per week. I also like to do a lot of races as part of my training. It helps to have supported aid stations on your long runs! In February, I ran the LA Marathon, in March I ran the San Diego Half Marathon (the day after and a 14-mile run) and the Old West Trails 50K as training runs. I ran Ragnar Relay SoCal as an ultra runner (we weren't an ultra team but one of our runners had to back out at the last minute so I ran her legs too) for training as well, which was about 30 miles. It has been a busy year so far!

Anyway, back to the race. We left for the race, which began in Pine Valley, around 4:30pm or so on Friday. I had all my gear ready: my InkNBurn, my Skratch, all our homemade rice bars, my Altra Olympus, Balega socks, Dirty Girl Gaiters and my Ultimate Direction vest.

Our plan was in place: Vanessa and I were running together and Smitha was there to help us before the race, run the last 10K of the race with us and then help us after. We got to Pine Valley around 6:30pm or so, had dinner at Calvin's (turkey burgers for everyone!) and then off to sleep at the beautiful Pine Valley Inn Motel. Only I didn't sleep. I think I got maybe 1.5 hour of sleep all night. It was miserable.

We decided to do the early start in order to not worry about the cutoff. We arrived at the race start at 4:30am, checked in and got ready to go.
Let's do this thing!

At 5:00am sharp, the Race Director said "Go" and off we went. It was dark but the sun was up quickly. I have to admit I was slow and lethargic from having such a bad night the night before. I was in a pretty bad place mentally and thankfully Vanessa was there to talk me out of it.

Even beautiful sunrises don't help sometimes.
We made it through the first aid station, and then readied ourselves for the highest climbs of the race. As we climbed, we sang and laughed and talked about silly things, which really helped pull me out of my funk. When we got through the second aid station at mile 13 or so, we were both feeling better.

The section between the second and third aid stations is pretty flat to rolling hills. It's not too bad and most of it is tree covered. We continued on to the third aid station, which is Todd's Cabin, without much to-do. We got to Todd's Cabin feeling pretty good. We loaded up on fruit and soda and went onto the next aid station, Penny Pines.

Vanessa and me at Todd's Cabin. Photo from
Shortly after leaving Todd's Cabin, you come out of the pine trees of the Laguna Mountains and head toward the desert. The terrain is fine but you lose your tree cover. And it had warmed up quite a bit at this point. We were still feeling good when we got to Penny Pines and made our way to the halfway point.

We arrived at the halfway point feeling ok, though the heat was starting to affect us. I do not do well in the heat. I just don't. Plus it's been pretty chilly here, with not a lot of sunshine during our long runs lately. We were even rained on a couple of weeks ago. So I just wasn't expecting the heat to be as bad. And I don't even think the temperature got super high but when you're in the mountains and there's little between you and the sun, you feel it.

Our halfway selfie...or halfie 

So hot hot in herre
Ok, we made it back to Penny Pines. Some man told me I looked adorable, which I admit made me feel good. It's nice to be told you don't look like an ogre, especially after you've run 28 miles. Anyway, we ran through Penny Pines and made our way back to Todd's cabin. We were a little disoriented at this point and didn't talk much. It was important to save our energy to move. We were still in the blazing sun, which wasn't helping. Thankfully, as we made our way to Todd's, we were back in the trees. We did see a snake at this point but I know Smitha is reading this and because she hates s-things, that's all I'm going to say about that :)

We got through Todd's Cabin without incident. The good thing about this aid station is that it's someone's actual mountain cabin (Todd, I assume) that lets our running organization use it for this aid station and storage too. There's an actual bathroom with running water and soap, so it's nice to have on a race like this. In fact, it's the only bathroom on the race course besides the port-o-potties at the start.

After Todd's we made our way to the next aid station. Both of us were still feeling ok at this point. We knew there would be some downhill ahead and that is always motivating. But that heat was catching up with me and I was starting to feel ugly. My stomach was cramping a bit, which is never a good sign. I just kept telling myself to hold on. I kept saying that I felt better at that point than I did at the same point a year ago, so I was doing ok. I said that to myself a lot and it really helped.

After the next aid station, we knew we would be seeing Smitha soon. But we were out of the tree cover at this point and the sun was relentless. We also entered the rocky portion of the trail. I freaking hate running on rocks. And these aren't little pebbles. They're like giant boulders and you feel them with every step. By the time we got to the last aid station, I was ready to puke. I was getting chills, feeling dizzy and needed to take a moment to get myself together. I had something to drink and rested in the shade for a minute. I told Vanessa and Smitha to go ahead and I would catch up. Thankfully, they didn't. Something in my heart told me to go. That I would be ok, and I would finish. I don't have any shining moment of glory here. It was just something inside telling me that I would make it. There were 6 miles left and I could get through it. So I did. The three of us left and trekked on.

Last aid station misery 
After about 15 minutes or so, I felt better. I had taken some Advil at the aid station and that helped. I never take anything on the run, and certainly not Advil because it can mess with your kidneys. I only took one and it really helped. Maybe it was a coincidence, but I actually felt better then than I did at the beginning of the race. Sure, my feet hurt from the rocks, my legs were tired but my spirit was lifted.

Finally we got to the finish line. I have never been so happy to see a finish line. As much as I love running, I was so happy to know that I wouldn't have to run for a whole week! Woo hoo!

Finish Line Bliss!

Yay for us! 

The days after the race have been good. I've been able to get some sleep (finally!) and my body feels pretty good. I wasn't as sore as I've been before and I don't have any lingering issues. I've been tired but by Wednesday I was feeling like my normal self.

See you again next year, PCT!


  1. Seriously, I struggled so much with the last 5 miles in my race, which was the same story -- hot (not my hottest, but still hot & also with no time to acclimate).

    I am in awe that you could run 50 Freakin' MILES in that. And how do you run 50 miles without even a portapotty?

    You did awesome. Finishing is indeed winning here!

    1. Thanks so much, Judy. The heat sucks!! Congrats on your race too!

  2. You accomplish the extraordinary, and this was no exception. I'm truly in awe at your fortitude and perseverance. You should be so proud of yourself (and Vanessa). Congratulations!

    1. Thank you so much, Steve. That tealiy means a lot. I am proud. I could be disappointed that I didn't have a better race, but I'm really not. I knew it was going to be tough and I'm just really happy to have gotten through it and feel stronger than I thought I would. Thank you for all of your support. Always :)