Bulldog 50K 2016 recap

I love when the night before a big race I have my things ready early, I go to bed early, and I get the best sleep ever only to wake up feeling so energized and refreshed for the big day. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen the night before the Bulldog 50K.

Most of my gear was all set, but there were a few essential things I needed to do, such as prepare my packets of CarboPro and get my hydration pack filled with what it needs.

I turned in fairly early on Friday night, but I had such restless sleep due to the nervous butterflies springing up which combined with the noise I could hear outside and the ever-increasing anxiety I felt creeping in whenever I saw the time inch closer and closer to my alarm clock setting. My alarm was set for 2:30AM. I woke up at 2:23AM which gave me, maybe, 4 hours of actual sleep. I’m guesstimating. Maybe this sleep deprivation could only help me. Ultra training!

Because our main exit off the 101 freeway was closed to due to road work, race director Nancy Shura-Dervin delayed the start time to allow more people to arrive. This was a very nice courtesy on her part which she didn’t need to extend, but she’s awesome like that.

It was during this delay I got to meet one of the most inspiring ultra runners and an athlete I truly admire and respect, Catra Corbett! I couldn’t tell you when I first heard about Catra Corbett. Could be 10, 12, 14 years ago, not sure. All I know is, it was a really long time ago and I’ve been inspired by her journey ever since. I wanted to ask her a million questions like, what do you eat, what did you eat this morning, what are you going to eat during the race, are you running Javelina…but she, like me, was getting ready to run as well, and probably didn’t need a bazillion questions thrown at her.

With Catra Corbett and TruMan!

Living in a city with a few random celebrity sightings, I don’t get starstruck very easily. Most of the time I really don’t care and the rest of the time my reaction is “Oh, well that’s kinda cool.” I think the last time I was truly starstruck was when I spotted and spoke to Rich Roll at The Veggie Grill a few years back. That was pretty cool. But meeting Catra, was beyond epic for me! She’s an amazingly strong and empowering athlete who really overcame some challenging and rockbottom moments in her life. And the fact I got to meet her dachshund, TruMan, who is absolutely adorable, was an absolute highlight for me!

So far, Bulldog 50K was turning out pretty well. But I still had a race to run…

When we took off around 6:40AM, my body felt cold and my legs felt tight, especially my calves. I’ve felt this before during training runs, but the temperature probably didn’t help because it was cool. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to say anything negative about the weather or temperature. It was perfect! We had that nice cloudy overcast going on which we had at last year’s race and of course, I remember the sun and heat coming out pretty strongly later in the day.

This year I welcomed the heat. It’s the reason I’ve been putting in time with heat training because I was going to be ready for it.

I ran with my friend Saeed at the beginning of the race for about the first 3 miles. Very early on we were last. A woman ran up to us and let us know we were indeed last, and that she was kind of banking on knowing she’ll be last. But as long as she finished with a time of 8:59 or less, she was fine with that. The race has a 9 hour time limit.

I was hoping I was done before the 9 hour time limit too, but I didn’t care what time I finished. I told her, “Unofficial or not I’m finishing 2 loops. Someone will have to drag me off the mountain, but I’m finishing these two loops.” She replies, “Well they can’t do that because it’s a public park.” Fine. That settles it.

Nor, did I care about being last at this point in the race. People took off so hard and for a millisecond I was concerned — not for them, but for me! But then I reminded myself, “That is their race. I’ve got to run my own race.” As I jokingly told Saeed, let them run fast, we’ll be picking them off later. And not to toot my own horn here, but that’s kinda what happened a few times.

I think all this training I’ve been doing and will continue to do is a lesson in that. This is all ultra training! Patience and confidence and trusting in the process.

Once Saeed and I started making our way up the Bulldog and the big climb, I power hiked my way up and slowly lost him. I felt really strong, and based on my training runs which were a lot slower, I wanted to tackle this climb hard. My first and only concern at this point was making the first cutoff time of 4 hours for the first loop.

Once I hit the first aid station at 4 miles in, I didn’t need to stop for anything so I kept going and ran into my friend Crystal. We hiked up, and chatted for a bit until I powered on through.

Crystal and I were race twinsies with our Leona Divide shirts.

A few minutes after leaving Crystal, I heard something.

“Christina!”

Did I just hear my name?

“Christina!”

I turned around and recognized Jimmy, a guy I ran with very briefly back in June when he was running 20 miles with my friend Doyle. I joined them for about 7 miles that day.

He was coming up from behind me and I was perplexed.

“How in the world did you know it was me?”

He points down to my shoes and says, “I recognize your watermelons!”

My watermelon gaiters! How I love them so!

On this day, I also got some other compliments as well. Many people recognized me from the video I made about the Bulldog course preview. I made a couple of them, but it was the first one I’m sure they were referring to mostly — the one where I lived up to the “mess” in my name.

Before the race, as I was in line for the restroom, I was talking to my friend Roxanne and a woman behind us told me “You’re the girl in the YouTube video. I just watched your video!” And while I was walking to the start line another guy told me, “Hey I watched your video! I watched it like 3 times and then I saw you suffering and had to stop.” This made me laugh! Even Jimmy, who wasn’t running the race, told me he watched it and showed it to a bunch of people. Throughout the entire race I had people recognize me by either saying “I just watched your video,” or if they weren’t sure it was me, I heard, “Are you the girl who made the course video?”

Everybody was so kind. And to be completely honest, I was surprised people even knew who I was. I was completely humbled. I’ve never had anything like that happen to me during a race, but I sure hope the video helped someone not do what I did during that training run.

Before the race, I wasn’t sure whether I would take any video or not. My primary focus was to run and finish this race and frankly, I was on a time crunch.

When I got to the second aid station at Corral Canyon around 7.5 miles in, I refilled my OrangeMud bottle with CarboPro. I was on a nutrition plan and I was going to stick with it! I made enough packets of CarboPro for 4 refills but I only refilled three times around miles 7.5, 13, and 22. I also had my favorite Lemonade flavor Hüma Chia Energy Gels with me.

Basking in the cloudy overcast.

With runners from the 25K coming up and passing me, I pretty much cruised along for the next 5 miles or so into the third aid station at Tapia. When I got there, I refilled my CarboPro and turns out the guy who helped me, was the same guy I met during my 24 mile training run with my friend Melody! He can be seen at the end of the video with his friends.

This is why I love the trail running community so much. It’s such a smaller community that I tend to run into the same people at races, or on trails.

By this time, I was fully aware I was getting close to the 4 hour mark, but Carlos assured me I would make it because I was only around 2.2 miles away from hitting the second loop.

I took off like a bat out of hell and ran my way up to the “Little/Angry Chihuahua” section where I power hiked again up the climbs, and once I reached the top, ran all the way down to the next aid station where the second loop begins.

When I reached this 4th aid station at Malibu Creek, I looked at my Garmin time and couldn’t believe my eyes. 3:34!! Holy Mackerel!! Are you kidding me??

I completed one loop in 3:34??? Who was I?? I was shocked and bewildered!! As I rounded the corner I had a big ol’ smile on my face and got a high-5 from race director Nancy. I felt so good! I wanted to scream and tell everyone at the aid station, I beat the cut off time!! Last year I only had a minute to get in and out of it and this year I have 26 minutes to spare!!!

I didn’t. But I wanted to. But I didn’t.

When I completed the Bulldog 25K back in 2012, which is one loop of this course, I completed it in 4:31. Yes, I just knocked off about an hour off my time.

Even my training runs were not less than 4 hours. Of course, I chatted a lot more with people and lollygagged up the mountain during those runs.

I left that aid station and started the second loop with much confidence and new found energy. I couldn’t believe how great I felt! I felt absolutely wonderful!!  Well, let me rephrase that. My energy was great. My body, on the other hand, was feeling a little tired. My back started to hurt and my quads were feeling it. But somehow I managed to run most of the way for the next 3 miles.

By the time I hit 16 miles, I was only consuming CarboPro, but I had marked down I would have a Hüma gel at this point. Downing it was a different matter. I took a couple of slurps of it and my stomach felt odd. It wasn’t nauseous, but it felt a little crampy on the left side. I folded the gel packet to put back in my hydration pack pocket and decided to not push it. I drank a little more water and took a break on the nutrition just to allow my stomach to settle down. Knowing I was about to hit the big climbing section, I didn’t want any problems as I climbed a couple thousand feet in about 4 miles.

At this time, the cloudy cool overcast gave way to the sunny blue skies. The heat was about to come out, but it was beautiful. The heat was out, but it wasn’t strong. Last year it was much hotter.

When I reached the next aid station at around 19 miles, I put ice in my bandana and got my head doused with verrry cold water. However, once I took off, the ice was so cold in my bandana, my neck felt like it could potentially get frostbite. The heat wasn’t intense enough to melt it quickly, so I dropped several cubes to feel more comfortable.

The next few miles of this climb were tough. I knew they would be.

In my head though, I knew I was in a great position. I knew I would hit every single upcoming aid station cutoff time. I knew I technically had about 5.5 hours to finish the rest of the race after leaving the 4th aid station at Malibu Creek.

I slowly made my way up the Bulldog climb. During the first loop I kept looking out for the Tower my friend Doyle pointed out during our training run. I missed it. However, when I saw it during the second loop my initial feeling was, “Awww man, I still have a mile to the top!” Whomp Whomp.

Once I reached the top, my stomach had felt better, but my back was hurtin’ pretty good. I intentionally tried to keep my water level low in my hydration pack bladder to prevent the strain on my back because I have a tendency to hunch over as I make my way up the big climb. It didn’t work. Umm, this is why people say core work is essential! Note to self: more core work.

From this point on, until the end of the race, I kept reminding myself, pain is temporary, pain is temporary, pain is temporary. Because I felt it. My back was hurting. My shoulder joints and arms were hurting. And my quads were screaming. I still had well over 10 miles to go.

Pain is temporary.

Not for some people, but for me it was. I thought about this a lot during the race. Whenever I feel discomfort, I think of people who can’t escape discomfort. This pain was temporary.

Reaching the next couple of aid stations (Corral and Tapia) well before their cutoff times, and I’m talking 30 to 45 minutes before their cutoff times, made me feel amazing despite the physical aches I was experiencing. I knew I was going to conquer the Bulldog 50K. I knew I would, once I started the second loop. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind after that point. Because I knew, if I could complete that first loop I’d make it. Unofficial or not. I was prepared to run on my own. Bulldog was not going to defeat me this time around.

I reached the aid station at Corral Canyon again and got another CarboPro refill and a fabulous treat! I got an Otter Pop!! It was so delicious. Note to self: buy Otter Pops.

Enjoying an Otter Pop around mile 22

Making my way over the rock formations and through the next several miles into the final aid station at Tapia was tough. My body was really aching at this point and running down the steep downhills was really hard on my quads. Energy-wise I was still hanging on. I even finished the Hüma Lemonade gel that I had folded in my pocket and didn’t have problems with it.

When I hit the final aid station at Tapia I was set on not even stopping. I was going to be in and out in a flash and push through the final miles. But then a wonderful volunteer asked me, “Do you want Coca-Cola?” I paused. And then I heard Jimmy Dean Freeman say, “we literally just got it and you’re the first person being offered it.” Well now, how could I resist?! I’ll take a shot! And it was divine.

Getting a shot of Coke.

After a few minutes, I set off to tackle the last go-around of the “Little/Angry Chihuahua” section. I was tired and sore but kept one foot going after the other. Eventually I reached the top and ran my way down, pounding my quads even more, until I reached the bottom.

I was so close to the finish!!!

When I made the curve from the rocky pebble section back onto the single trail I heard my name being called up ahead. It was my friend Saeed! He ended up dropping from the 50K down to the 25K after the first loop and he waited to see me finish!

And finish I did!!!

Running into the chute I felt such pride and excitement. I knew I felt stronger going into the race this time around. And I surprised myself in more ways than one by not only conquering the Bulldog 50K, but getting a 50K PR and chopping off 10 minutes! Whoa. Okay, I think training actually works.

My first race buckle!
With Saeed posing with our race bling!

I honestly couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. I got my buckle and I got the biggest slice of watermelon I could find after the race. Yeah, it was a pretty good day on the trails.

Post-race eats!

Thank you to race director Nancy Shura-Dervin, and to her wonderful aid stations and fabulous volunteers for putting on an absolute stellar race filled with support and encouragement! 

Thank you to those who marked the course. It was awesomely marked!

Thank you to CarboPro and Hüma Chia Energy Gel for fueling me. 

Thank you to Injinji and RunGoo for keeping my feet blister free!

And Thank You for reading!

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