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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bulldog 25K

“That’s the only way to do it – go. When there’s a jungle waiting, you go through it and come out clean on the far side. Because if you struggle to back out, you get all snarled, and afterwards the jungle is still there, still waiting.”

Peter Mattheissen, At Play in the Fields of the Lord.

I woke at the ridiculous hour of 3:45 AM, after dreaming, it seemed all night long, that I was sitting in the bleachers, waiting to compete in a “marathon” swim. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t know how race dive anymore, or at least wasn’t sure if I could. And so I fretted, waiting my turn, trying to sleep, conjuring up ways that I could make up for a poor dive, etc., etc., until my cell phone alarm went off and I lay in bed wondering, “Okay, what day is it, where am I supposed to go?”


That’s where I’m supposed to go!

I headed out at 4 AM, gear bag in hand, coffee thermos in the other. Then at the door the thermos handle broke and my coffee fell to the hardwood floor. My husband was quick to aid, and fortunately I had plenty coffee remaining when I finally hit the road at 4:10 AM. (But as usual, the day started off as an adventure!)

I drove the entire distance under darkness and arrived in Calabasas at the local Albertsons where I picked up fellow club runner, Larry. And then of all things, we got a first row parking space, directly in front of bib pick-up.

In an attempt to condense this blog down from TWENTY-FIVE pages, here’s a few things up front:

1) I changed my mind last minute and went with my standard, oldest pair of trail shoes (New Balance), though I packed the Salomons in case I changed my mind again.
2) The weather was cool and cloudy (Glory be to God!)
3) The freeways were empty and I made it to Calabasas in just under 90 minutes
4) My goal for this tough 25k was three hours, though I knew that would be difficult with such steep climbs, in the back of my mind, I knew that 3 hours would have to be the best trail run I’d ever ran.
5) And finally, I planned to run straight through the creek and not worry about balancing over rocks.

Anyway, I felt strong for a good long while – nice flat entrance on this Bulldog 25k course – perhaps 3 to 4 miles of quick, yet comfortable pace, gorgeous warm-up. It was wide roads, then rocky single track just off the stream. Some time after all that, the climb began and I came upon the first aid station. Water, sports drinks, pretzels, saltine crackers, and candy a plenty awaited us. I took a handful of Skittles, chewed down and sucked on the wad of sugar as I plowed up, up, up towards the peak of the Santa Monica Mountains that overlook Malibu. The climb so steep, it wasn’t long before everyone around me was walking.

Making our way in

Remnants of M.A.S.H. television series set

Climbing . . .

I had some rules for this most difficult portion of the race:

1) No hands on the hips. I put my hands on my hips, it means I’m resting – BIG TIME. Hands on the hips means I lose arm momentum, and going up that steep trail, I need all the momentum I can get!
2) Haul ass on any and all flat portions – that means run fast!
3) Make it to aid station #2 within 1 ½ hours
4) And finally PUSH – not matter what! Even on the steepest of climbs – push, push, push!.

I kept a keen eye on my watch and about an hour twenty minutes in, knew I wasn’t making aid station #2 within my time limit. I kept trying though, and when I got weak, my mantra was “push, push, push . . . “ I kept those arms going and even chatted a bit with other runners on the way up. Then finally, I saw aid station 2 in sight and though I was over my time limit, I raised my arms in victory as I ran down to it. One hour forty minutes it took to arrive to this destination. And even running a bit over time, I called my husband to tell him the news, and I stood in line for the porta-pottys (Gosh, I hate that!!)

Yahoo!!! Aid Station Two

Leaving Aid Station Two

There’s still a climb after that second station, a beautiful, sandstone climb overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Though cloudy somewhat, the Pacific provided a grand view. I spotted a blimp off in the distance. I snapped a few pictures, but at some point I tucked the camera away for good, because I knew I had lots of time to make-up for a 3 hour finish. There were more climbs to make, which I took rather well, power walking some of them, running others.

Awesome Stuff

And then the grand descent began. And what fun it was. I passed some who walked, others who ran it cautiously. Downhill is what I’m practiced at, and this was a nice, wide fire road, for a whole 2 miles. It was beautiful, and I wore a broad smile as I made my way down, relishing music from my ipod.

Just towards the end of this nice wide downhill, I caught a glimpse of the boy’s detention center (where my final ascent would be) and I thought looking at my watch, there’s a very slight chance I could make my time. But . . . after another uphill climb, I fell light-headed and my right leg began cramping. So I downed some Gu. The calories seemed to help my weakness, though the cramping persisted as I ran, reaching back to massage my right calf.

Then off onto the downhill single track I ran. It was thin, and rocky, a few runners ahead and a few runners behind, I took it rather quickly, giddy for the end of this 25k. And then . . . I’m not precisely sure what happened. Perhaps my leg cramped again, or perhaps I simply tripped. All I really know is that on a pretty good descent, I flew and landed hard on the rocky terrain. And when I hit, my body cramped all at once. I scared the lovely lady in front of me, as she turned back to see me sprawled out on my back (I didn’t land on my back, when I hit I rolled.) She ran back to help, as well as, the two or three others behind. They hovered over me, “Are you alright? What can we do?” My hands were bleeding, as was my knee. But I knew nothing was broken. I just had to get out of this body cramp! I wanted to say, “Can you rub my leg to get this cramp gone?” But I didn’t dare ask strangers for such a favor. However, I couldn’t reach my calf myself, because even after sitting up, my body was still full-on, stiff in a cramp. Then one of the gals asked, “Can I help you up?” I gladly responded, “Why, yes you can.” and couldn’t tell them enough how nice they were – they after all took several minutes off their time to help me. Standing up, I was able to reach down and massage my right leg. And one of the ladies gave me an electrolyte pill for the cramping. I was off and running before it even took effect (which it did several minutes later) and at the next aid station I took time to thoroughly wash my hands to make sure I didn’t have any gaping injuries.

At that point I still had too much to traverse to make my time. But I kept on running. I was thinking, “okay, 3 hours ten minutes . . . “ The cramping now gone, I still felt okay, but quite tired. The scenery lush and shady, I ran on through the single track passing runners here and there, despite aching hands and bloody knee. When I came to the stream, I by-passed the line of people waiting to cross over the most opportune rocks. I plowed right through that water, causing an uproar of laughter from those who cautiously crossed to avoid wet feet.

Wet, muddy shoes, I made that last uphill at a fast pace, running when I could, power-walking the rest. A few runners passed me, running amazingly strong. And when I could look down at the boy’s detention center, I felt great relief. Home was just around the corner. A woman behind me exclaimed about then, “Oh my gosh! Did you fall?” I laughed and said that I did, and that nothing was broken, so all was well. “What’s a trail run without a good fall?” I joked. (She laughed and agreed).

I was dead, dead-dog tired. Though flat, the last bit of this Bulldog race was tough for me. Still, I ran it all the way in. I didn’t make my 3 hour limit, but after the initial disappointment, I’m happy about my performance. (Someone called out 3:21 when I crossed the finish line – don’t have official standings yet)

Crossing Finish Line

That’s quite a trail race! Be sure that I’ll be back next year to try for 3 hours once again.

So Happy to be done!

Larry, fully rested after coming in at 2 hrs twenty something minutes!

Kilometers logged today: 25 (just under 16 miles)
Injuries: a bruise, 4 small cuts on the hands, 1 swollen and scabbed knee
Body completely crusted with salt, arms, legs and face filthy but . . . Toes aching: ZERO!

And the tally shows . . .Total number of falls-to-date: 7


  1. Congratulations! Sounds like a great run. Hopefully I will be injury free next year when this rolls around. Would love to do it.
    Again, way to go !

  2. Great job, and what an adventure! Good race report and beautiful pictures, too - it's almost like being there (but without all the running!)

    Congratulations on a fine finish! I see you beat out those two macho-looking guys at the line.


  3. Thanks Tom! I definately couldn't have dreamt of doing that race without all of our hill training!

    I didn't even notice those two guys in the finish line picture until you pointed it out -- me and that tall guy passed each other over and over throughout the race. He'd get way out in front of me, then I'd do the same. I had no idea that I beat him in by a few feet : ))