I've been for a walk on a winters` day
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreamin` on such a winters` day
--The Mamas and The Papas
|The Georgian ---a classic hotel in Santa Monica|
|The site of M*A*S*H in Malibu Creek State Park|
The course led us up on the ridge line of the Santa Monica mountains to the Backbone Trail, which offered great running and gorgeous views. Below are a few pics from the first 13 miles:
|Views of Malibu early in the race|
|Typical fire road in the first 6 miles|
|Looking west towards the ocean|
|There were miles of this runnable, buttery single t||rack|
The aid stations were manned by experienced ultrarunners. Each time I arrived I was personally met by a volunteer with a pitcher of water ready to pour in my bottle (this was a cup-free race...of course!) and move me quickly on my way. The aid stations had the usual fare, along with Clif Bloks and Shots, and when I got to the marathon turn-around, a volunteer saw from my yellow bib color that I was running the marathon. She approached me, looked me in the eye, and told me to turn around to go back to the finish. No messing around here --- they made sure there would be no bonus miles! The return trip was a blast with greeting and cheering on fellow runners, most of whom were running the 50K. I did notice that there were many more women 50 and older than I typically see on the east coast, and everyone was incredibly supportive and positive as all ultrarunners tend to be.
|The scene of the crime: course ribbons were moved to direct runners to the left side of the photo|
A volunteer appeared on the ridge (having quickly been sent by the RD to fix the markings!) and directed us where to go. We hammered the final miles of downhill and I tried hard to save my quads for Holiday Lake, but I knew I had been just behind the 2nd and 3rd place females before I went off course, so being conservative was a challenge. I ended up 4th female, about 20 minutes from the 3rd place female (who also went off course), and we had a good laugh at the finish line. This was the first race in my 13 years running ultras that I had gone off course due to sabotage. It can happen on popular trails, and I'm very glad it didn't impact the 100K runners who were going for the Western States slots!
|RD Keira Henninger awarding me my sweet 4th place SOB coffee mug. How did she know I love coffee?|
|Eric and the crocheted shorts that are all the rage (?)|
|The view of the city from Mt. Hollywood...yes, that is smog.|
|Sunset from the beach|
|Looking towards Hollywood Hills|
|Me and hubby at Griffith Park. Yes, it's kinda smoggy.|
Work kept me busy all week and before I knew it I was heading down to Appomattox on Friday afternoon with John and Michelle Andersen, owners of Crozet Running and leaders of the Crozet Ultrarunning Team, of which I am a proud member. Holiday Lake was to be Michelle's first ultra, and we were all really excited to share this special time with her. Holiday Lake 2002 was my first, so coming back each year always gives me a jolt of happy memories...I love watching my friends anticipate and finish their first ultra.
|Michelle, Annie, Martha, Kathryn and me in the bunkhouse just before the start|
So, how did this back-to-back experiment go? In perfect racing weather of temps in the 20s and dry trail, I started fairly conservatively with my mantra all day being, "Your race, your pace." I needed to just run my race and not get swept up with the fast girls. And, for the most part, it worked. I came into the turnaround at 2:30 on the nose, a little fast for me but a good sign that I might come close to my PR of 5:01 which I set in 2012 in very similar temps and trail conditions. I was around 12th place female, about where I usually am at Holiday Lake. And, I was feeling good, so I knew I had something in the tank in case I needed to actually push the pace. At around mile 23 I saw Rob Colenso who was looking calm, relaxed, and very focused. We ran together for the next 10 miles trying to chat but we soon realized the pace was too fast for chatter. At one point I took a nose dive in front of Rob and two other dudes. Rob's comment: "Very graceful!" There is nothing like a face plant and shoulder roll in front of a bunch of dudes to get the adrenaline moving. "Nothing to see here!" was my response and before long I was back running behind Rob, focusing on his Happy Trails shirt to pull me along. Whew. Dodged a bullet there, nothing hurt but my ego!
Around mile 26 we met up with Jason Farr. Jason is a fellow CAT and he has treated me to some fun hill workouts during the past few weeks on Carter's Mountain. As we were crossing the creek, he told me he was hoping for a sub-5:00 finish as well. I was thrilled to be running with these two friends and that we were shooting for the same goals. I learned a while back that running WITH my fellow competitors as opposed to AGAINST them made me a better runner and person. It allows me to dig deeper than I would if I was alone, share the experience of the pain cave and suffering with another, and always reveals to me what a privilege it is to help and share in someone else's PR, win, or course record. Donna Utakis taught me this beautiful lesson at Hellgate and Mountain Masochist. Running with her at the end of both those races enabled me to set a PR in both, even though we were also competing for a top female spot. I try to remember that lesson every time I race.
"Sophie!" Rob is yelling at me but I can't really hear due to my singing "Shake It Off" along with Taylor Swift in my earbud.
"Whatt???!!" I stop and turn. It's about 4 miles from the finish now, and I'm starting to fade a bit.
"If you pass the next female, you'll be 10th!" he yells, before catching up and passing me like I was a tree standing still.
"Awww. Rob! Thanks for the intel buddy! Now I have to race. Geez" I think to myself, though I very much appreciate him finding this out at the aid station and passing it along. Top-10 females get some special schwag at Horton races, as do the age group winners. If I finished 10th, that meant another "old lady" in our age group-- Rebekah, Martha, just to name a few-- could get the Patagonia backpack instead. I dig deep and find the next female a mile or two from the finish. I make the pass, run ahead, and then once out of sight, promptly start hiking uphill. Rob is just ahead so I focus on his shirt one more time and keep moving. The final mile of the race is on the paved road, and I looked at my watch for the first time all day when I got there. 5:00:34. Ahh well, no PR today but at least a top 10! I hammered on.
|Trying to keep it all together on the final paved stretch (photo by SOS photography)|
The finish line celebration at ultras are the best, especially at David Horton races. He loves to announce the name of every finisher, especially if he/she is a first time ultrarunner. I remember finishing my first ultra at Holiday Lake in 2002. I was third female in 5:17 (this year, TEN women broke 5:00!). I'll never forget his welcoming hug at the finish. It was the beginning of a life-changing thirteen years that has introduced me to wonderful friends, beautiful landscapes, and challenged me in ways I could not imagine. Thank you, David, for helping me get my start.
|At the finish with RD David Horton. I had to sit down because he told me I was 11th female, not 10th! It's all good!|
I think about that every time a newbie crosses the finish line, wondering, "Does she know what wonderful times await?"
|Charlottesville Area Trail Runners! We are growing, and it is awesome.|
Ultrarunning Team-- Bethany (first female...and she won in 2002 also!),
Marc, Michelle, Dan (11th), Horty, Nick, Annie (7th female), Jeff
(first old guy), and John (10th!). Love these people.|