We've basically been training for this race most of the year. We registered back in March. In fact, I was in Long Beach with my son the day registration opened and my husband had to register for me so I wouldn't lose my spot. So, we knew about this race for 6 months and most of my focus went into training for it. Upping the miles, upping the strength and balance work and devoting everything I had for this race. Because, in deciding to run this race, we basically decided to do the San Diego Slam. The Slam consists of the 4 major mountain ultras in San Diego County: Noble Canyon 50K, Cuyamaca 100K, PCT 50 Mile and the San Diego 100 Mile. We are half-way through and here's hoping we'll complete it next year!
Pretty soon after we registered for Cuyamaca, I started having some weird health issues. Because of training, work, kids, etc., I didn't really take the time I needed to have things checked out until it was time for my annual check up in July. I found out the symptoms I've been having were related to my pregnancy with my twins. It is a long story but I went through a lot to have those girls as my body does not love being pregnant. I have no problem getting pregnant but staying pregnant has always been an issue. I thought I was done with this crap when they were born healthy in 2011 but apparently not. The sutures that were sewn into my uterus and cervix to keep the babies inside of me were eroding the tissues and ripping apart. They should have been taken out when the girls were born but we were told we didn't need to. My body started to basically deteriorate internally and running these long distances was making it worse. I buried my head in the sand a little because I was just so freaking mad that we didn't have this taken care of 5 years ago. I was worried about losing time off work, worried about how I was going to take care of my kids and, if I'm being completely honest, worried about whether or not I'd get to run this race. So I put it off a little and when I realized I was being stupid, that I could make everything a thousand times worse by not having it taken care of, I saw the doctor and scheduled the surgery. And when I found out it would be AFTER my race, I was secretly relieved but also terrified that I still wouldn't be able to physically handle the race.
Well, somehow, I managed to get to race day. That whole week leading up to the race was incredibly busy, which was actually helpful in that I didn't have time to obsess over it. Before I knew it, it was Friday night and I was in the car with Vanessa, heading to Pine Valley. We got there fairly quickly, checked into the hotel and headed to our beloved Calvin's for a burger and fries. Then it was time for sleep as we had an early wake up call!
Race morning began at 4:15am and I actually slept fairly well the night before! Feeling a little jittery, we both got ready and headed to Camp Cuyamaca, where the race starts and finishes. We were in good spirits, albeit a little nervous. But when we got there, we checked in, saw several friends and just waited until it was go-time!
|Race start and all the gear: Headsweats hat, InknBurn outfit,|
Orange Mud pack, Altra Running Olympus shoes and Dirty Girl Gaiters
The race is run in 3 loops through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, only slightly leaving the park boundaries in loop 3. Loop 1 is the toughest in terms of mileage (it's 32.3 miles) and climbing (you climb Cuyamaca Peak which is at 6500 feet elevation). In addition to all of that, there were sections of trail that were less trail and more boulders. I have never run through a more technically rocky trail in my life. But all things considered, I would say this was the best loop for us. We were happy and singing as usual, enjoying the scenery and letting it soak in that we were actually finally running the race we'd been focusing on for so long. At the second aid station, I was yelled at a little by a friend who was volunteering. I wasn't hydrating enough and he made me promise I'd drink my entire hydration reservoir by the next aid station (which was in 9 miles). I agreed and on we went. In those 9 miles, we climbed Cuyamaca Peak and I have to say, I felt pretty good at this point. I was happy and feeling that we were on track for a good finish. But in my zest for finishing my hydration pack (which I did), I bit a hole in the mouthpiece of the tube. My fluids were leaking all over me and I was soaking wet. This would become an issue later in the race, for sure.
Finally, we finished the first loop. We were so happy to be done with that beast. We were halfway through the race and ready to take on Loop 2. We filled up, ate up and headed out.
|All smiles after Loop 1|
We knew Loop 2 would be challenging as it was now the hottest time of the day and while it was the shortest of the 3 loops (12.6 miles) there would still be some climbing. This all slowed us down some and by the time we finished Loop 2, we were both pretty down in the dumps. My health issues started to rear their ugly head and I felt awful. Vanessa was also having an off day and we just wanted to be done. We got to the loop exchange aid station where we met up with our friend Smitha, who was running the last loop with us. At this time, I filled up, ate some of the hot veggie soup with noodles and changed into some dry clothes (remember, leaking hydration tube). I was starting to get very worried that we weren't going to make the cutoff. After rushing through the aid station, we headed out for Loop 3.
By the time we started Loop 3, it was dark. Headlamps were on and we were pushing through the fear of critters in the dark to get through the 18.3 miles that were ahead for us. But once that sun went down, I was freezing. Even though I changed into dry clothes, my hydration tube was still leaking and I was soaking wet again. Not a good thing when the sun goes down. The winds picked up and that temperature dropped and I was a goner. I had a jacket but in my rush in getting out of the aid station, I forgot my gloves in my drop bag. Thankfully Vanessa lent me her gloves and she used her arm warmers (THANK YOU, sister). After what seemed like an eternity, we got to the first aid station. More hot vegetable soup and noodles and then off we went. We basically just went into survival mode. Smitha led with her bright lights, Vanessa was in the middle and I was in the back. All I needed to do was focus on Smitha's Orange Mud pack as it was lit by Vanessa's light. It was my beacon! We were the Little Engine That Could. We just chugged along, said very little and kept moving as quickly as we could. Aside from my health issues, my feet were burning with blisters. Every step of that very rocky trail sent burning sensations up my legs. I was miserable. We got to the last aid station and learned there was only one person left behind us. There were people still dropping from the race after getting this far. It took everything I had to not be one of them.
The last 6 miles from the last aid station to the finish felt like a marathon. I was shaking with cold, my feet were like stumps and I just couldn't visualize the finish line ever appearing. At mile 58 my Garmin died and that made it really difficult to mentally deal with the end of the race. Not knowing how much we had left was excruciating. Some time after that, the last person passed us (seemingly skipping along, light as air). We were running with another runner, Jeff, who was also in the same mental and physical toilet as we were. He did not finish last year and he was giving it his all to finish this year. Shortly after the last person passed us, the race sweepers joined us. They were happy and positive and kept the conversation going (granted, I can't remember what we talked about). I was audibly shivering to death and one of the sweepers gave me his extra gloves and jacket. Man, did he save me. But then my headlamp died. I had an extra one in my pack but I didn't have the energy to get it. Thankfully the sweeper turned his head so his headlamp was in my line of vision. He saved me yet again.
Finally we saw the "final mile" sign. We hunkered down and somehow got through what felt like the longest mile of my life. And there is was: the finish. Vanessa and I linked arms and we finished side by side, just how we have been through all of our training. I was too cold to cry or laugh or even soak anything in. We were last and they presented us with a bottle of champagne and hat. We gave Jeff the champagne since he didn't finish last year. After some pics, I was brought inside the camp to sit by the fire and warm up while Vanessa and Smitha got the car. The volunteers in there gave me some food, gave me blankets and jackets to help warm me and just really lifted my spirits. It finally sunk in that I was done and, if all goes as planned, I'll never have to do this race again!! Man, I hope so.
|Finished! I barely remember taking this picture!|
|The fire that brought me back to life!|
All hideousness aside, this was an extremely well-organized race. The course was extremely well marked, the aid stations were well stocked with every food item you could want (I now only want to run with Fritos, pickles and vegetable soup with noodles) and amazing volunteers that were supportive and motivating. The medals are great and we also received a long-sleeved shirt, hat and arm warmers for our race swag. If it wasn't such a tough course, I'd immediately say I'd do it again :)
Thank you for hanging and getting through this 100K of a recap. Thank you for being along for the ride. Thank you to Vanessa for always being by my side and going through this crazy stuff with me, Smitha for guiding us home, to the race organizers and volunteers (especially those sweepers) and to all my friends and family for your support in getting me to that finish line.
So that's a wrap on 2016 goals. I have no other races lined up for the year and the only thing on my training plan is to recover from surgery (it was this past Monday, 10/10). Now that I've come out of the week-long anesthesia fog and the majority of the pain, I can focus on getting better. Still dealing with some pain and discomfort but I think I'll be out and about soon. Maybe not running but at least moving forward :)
What do you have left for 2016? Remaining goals for 2016 are the topic of this week's Tuesday on the Run blog link up, hosted by My No-Guilt Life, MCM Mama Runs and Marcia's Healthy Slice. When you're done reading here, go check them out!