Today was my first race of the season, the second 50k I’ve ever run, and a good test for my training regime over the last couple of months. It was also a great effort for some major hill climbing, waist-high creek crossings, and some very muddy trail sections.
Jeff P joined me at 5:30 a.m. for the 75 minute drive from
Orange County to . As we drove under a foreboding sky, brilliant white-topped mountains loomed to the east, a reminder of yet another storm that doused our soggy coast. Clouds lingered and I wondered if we would be spared the rain’s wrath. We exited the freeway, and then decided it was perfect timing to pull over for a hot cup of black coffee under the golden arches. Malibu Creek State Park
Malibu Creek 50k is one of thirty races put on by the Pacific Coast Trail Runs (if there is a business model to make money in ultra running, this might be the winner!). Anyway, Malibu Creek is a formidable course with over 5,900’ of elevation gain that consists of two loops with single track trail limited to the first couple of miles and fire roads making up the balance. Not my first choice of terrain, but what this course lacked in comfort, it more than made up for in grit.
Following a gentle, almost sleepy couple of miles after the start, the course turns up, and up, and up. This was when the runners began to separate.
As I was huffing up the first climb, somewhere between mile 5 and my anaerobic threshold, a youngish runner started to pass me. As he ran buy me he said something about having to “defend his title”, suggesting he was last year’s winner. Cool, I thought, but last year’s race didn’t have the same line up as this year. It occurred to me that this young runner who thought he was racing to win from the back was actually loosing ground to Evan Hone who was in the front, and the ultimate winner of the race.
During the two six mile ascents, it wasn’t enough to simply put my head down and grind out the miles. I tried to keep my feet turning over quickly, with rapid, sure steps. Developing and maintaining a rhythm seemed to get me on my way up these slopes. Today I learned a little more about my body’s limits. I’ve been training on hills more than usual lately and it has paid dividends. Listening to my body rather than relying solely on a heart rate monitor allowed me to push through several hours on these hills at or around my anaerobic threshold. I felt good and in control throughout the entire event which I'm pleased with since I ran all the climbs.
The descents were a little more technical than expected, with fire roads washed out from the rains, but all part of the experience. As we made our way down the first “decent” section of the course, I couldn’t stop often enough to scrape the mud off my shoes. Can I lug this stuff around for another hour or two?
I reached the finish line in five hours and twelve minutes, 6th place overall and 2nd in my age group. Overall, a run to remember with some great climbs, great views and excellent terrain to endure.