We’ll start with a race report. Training was pretty good for the Siskiyou Out Back 50 miler, with lots of hill repeats, mini trail races, and long long runs at high cascade locations. My husband and I even ran most of the course for back to back weekend long runs. Luckily, Mount Ashland isn’t too far away from where we live. (I say training was ‘pretty good,’ because there’s always room for improvement. I thought training for this year’s Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 miler was ‘very good,’ for example.)
Joe and I camped up at the start of the race, just at the parking lot of Mount Ashland. I slept just fine, as I usually do in my amazing sleeping bag and camp set up (sometimes, I think I sleep better in a tent!). It was smoky due to a lightning storm that rolled through just the day before. The fires that started near Grants Pass (later forming the Big Windy Complex) were producing enough smoke to smell it and see a slight haze, but I didn’t think it would impact my performance.
We leisurely got ready, drinking coffee, eating oatmeal, I drank my 24 oz of Perpetuem. Suddenly it was 20 minutes before the race with a long bathroom line. I threw the tent in the car with everything in it and ran to get in line while still needed to lace up my shoes and put my race number on. Friends of ours were gathering to watch the start and wait until the start of their race (the 50K) and wish us luck, but we were already sprinting to the start line. Two seconds later, the race was off. (!)
Since we ran most of the course for practice, I knew what 7,500 (or so) ft elevation gain/loss felt like and the nature of the hills up ahead. For this reason, I made a conscious effort to hold back. I was behind this loooong string of people that were blocked by one woman. I counted 18 men (my husband included) stuck behind this lady on single track. Probably good! The leaders got a good head start while everyone else got to hold back, intentional or not! Eventually everyone made it past, including me.
So I ran easy/effortlessly down the first hill and managed the first big uphill fine. I noticed that everyone around me stopped and walked and I continued to run (although, more of a ‘shuffle’ which is how I practiced). I probably passed 20 people up that first hill without a ton of effort. I started chatting with a guy in an orange SOB shirt from a prior year, and we ran the next 5+ miles together. I enjoyed the company, but lost him by the next big uphill.
Just before that uphill, was an aid station, the last one in 6 miles (which included the turn around point, at 25 miles). So this aid station was at approximately 22mi in. The next 3 miles, up to the turn around, were a big grinder. I was thinking, “That’s it? Only 3 mi up and 3 mi down?” Now, when I ran this hill in practice, it took me about 45 minutes to run up one way, and I didn’t practice running up to the big rock at the top (couldn’t figure out how to get there). So apparently this 3 mile stretch up to the turn around was steeper than I thought. At the aid station, I squeezed a sponge over my head and dunked my hat in water. I filled up with water for the first time in the run. It was starting to feel hot. I also ate 1/8 of a potato. At this point, I hadn’t eaten anything yet in the race [looking back: big mistake, again].
I started the climb with my shuffle jog and I don’t remember passing anyone. I actually don’t remember seeing anyone at all, in front of or behind me. This part was pretty exposed and was definitely feeling hotter by the minute. Finally, the men leading the race started to fly by, and I kept hearing that I was #2 woman. This didn’t surprise me, because I didn’t see some of the people I had expected at the start. My husband flew by in 18th place (!) and looked great. I headed to the top and finally saw the first woman, also from Klamath Falls. Then I looked up and saw the big climb… and ended up walking/hiking strait up to the boulder at the top while some people were skidding down beside me. There was a single guy at the top cheering for people. I touched the boulder then scrambled/ran/skidded down to the PCT to head back. 25 miles down.
Heading downhill, I tried to keep my pace in check while drinking water and taking salt tabs. I quickly finished all of my water and was wondering how quick 3 miles can go by. I was feeling pretty hot at this point because of the exposure and the lack of water and certainly didn’t want to eat anything else. I reached the aid station and asked for ICE then water. The amazing aid station folks did exactly that, filling my handheld with ice and water… water never tasted so good! I dunked my hat in the water/sponge bucket again and squeezed the sponge over my head before heading out.
The next section was sort of rolling hills (luckily in shade) where I didn’t see anyone. I definitely slowed in pace somewhere in this section (but I don’t wear a Garmin so it’s hard to tell by how much). I made it to Jackson Gap where it meant that there was about 15 more miles to go. I refilled water and headed out, and felt a bit nauseated at this point. I just kept drinking water and I think at some point I had another salt tab. This next section heads down a dirt road and is exposed, so again, I felt hot. Hot and nauseated.
The hot/nauseated feeling didn’t lighten up by the time I reached the next aid station.. one where there were two ladies and a cooler with water. I say, “do you have any Tums???” and they both look at each other, then one says, “no, we have Altoids though.” I thought about this wayyyy too long, thinking… what the heck is an Altoid?? Would it make nausea go away? I say, no thanks, then head on out to the PCT again, happy to be off the exposed road. This section is a LOT of downhill and I was looking forward to chilling out and getting over the stomach knots after the one mini climb…. but then it hit me. I was doubled over and ……. yes. Yacked. For the first time in an ultra! I think I saw a salt tab in there, fully formed and undigested (sorry to be gross. it was literally just water and a salt tab). I walked for a bit to try to recover and after a few minutes, I tried to jog again (because it was downhill), when it happened again. And again, and again. I kept walking and continued to walk up the hill where I ran into the guy in the orange shirt (from near the beginning) and he walked up the hill with me. I tell him my ailment, and he was feeling sorry for me. There was nothing for anyone else to do, I just had to walk it off or make it to the next aid station. I didn’t dare eat anything at this point. When the hill ended, I tried jogging again, where IT happened again, and my whole front of my body went into a cramp. Neck, abs, quads even… and I was somewhat paralyzed.
At this (horrible) point, I didn’t know what to do. I obviously wanted a WS100 qualifier, and I thought long and hard about what it would take for a DNF. I considered how long I had to go, how I couldn’t seem to run (cramping, yacking), and whether it was worth it (for health) and wondering if I would even make it under 11 hours at this point (considering I had 8 more miles after the aid station and quite a few uphill miles). I decided it was best to drop. I walked myself to the next aid station where my friend Jeremy was waiting to pace me in, and announced that I had to drop. And that I was serious. Was I serious? Yes. I guess.
I weighed myself and had lost almost 10 pounds of water weight.
Seemed like a good decision.
Just before that aid station, I should mention, the [new] second place woman passed me. I must have walked/yacked for 6 miles for her to finally catch up to me! Darn! At any rate, it solidified that I needed to drop.
Jeremy drove me back to the finish like where my husband and friends were waiting. Everyone seemed to have a fantastic and stellar day! Lots of successes! Joe finished his first 50 mile and ran an 8:40 on a difficult course. Klamath Falls represented!!!!
Looking back, I believe that my stomach stopped ‘accepting’ food/water when I didn’t eat for a while in the middle of the race. This exact thing happened during this year’s Peterson Ridge 40 miler, but it was 29 degrees (and the yak part never happened). It probably happened because I stopped eating/drinking enough during the uphill parts of the race, which was 50% of the race. In the future, I need to be wayyy more diligent on eating every 30 to 45 minutes or find a watch to beep for me. This probably would have easily been a WS100 qualifier and a big PR for 50 miles. Overall, I enjoyed the course, and I will definitely consider it for next year. I think the 50 miler is more difficult than the 50K (not just the distance, but the terrain/ elevation gain). That middle climb to the boulder is rough on the legs in the middle of the 50m.
My first DNF! Better luck next time.