Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bulldog 50k 2010

"Acceptance is the only way you can reintegrate such disparate, obnoxious, and unhappy aspects of yourself."
Matthew Pallamary, Spirit Matters

The drive out to Calabasas was painstakingly slow – bumper to bumper traffic on the 405 and the 101.  The hour and a half drive took us about three hours.  On the good side, we all found Calabasas charming.  And our hotel was lovely, not fancy, but clean and comfortable, downtown near a wonderful little restaurant.  I couldn’t have asked for a better pre-race night.  I did notice that the evening weather was much warmer than I’m used to.  I wasn’t worried.

Relaxing in Jacuzzi with oldest son the night prior to Bulldog 50k


Dinner at Cosmos Grill / Calabasas


I slept well.  The family drove out to Malibu Creek State Park to drop me off at 5:30 AM.  The sun had not risen, the weather was cool but not cold. 

My hip ached a bit, so I was sure to lay on a table and align it before taking off.  I felt okay, not great on the start.  It had after all, been an entire week since I’ve run. 

The creek bed on the left was dry on our run into the canyon.  I admired the view as the sun lit up the mountainside.  Surprisingly, the weather heated up quickly for such an early hour, pretty much as soon as we got out of the shade.  The climb up Bulldog Road was tortuous it was so dang hot.  By the time I reached the top of Bulldog, I was still smiling and had my wits about me. 

I could feel my hip had rotated forward from the Bulldog climb.  Finding a spot away from the runners, in the shade I laid on the ground to realign.  A woman sprayed me down with water (all the station workers were such a delight, so helpful and friendly).  Before getting my pack back on, that same woman rung a few large sponges of cold water over my head.  After grabbing some gel, and a red vine, I ran off for those several false summits.  IT WAS HOT.

The Climb has not begun


Aid Station # 1


Going Up, Up, Up (Bulldog Road)


Some down hills existed and flats as well, in the many climbs after Bulldog.  My legs threatened to cramp.  Having taken Endurolytes along the way as well as downed Pedialyte and water, of course, I began eating salt (CONSTANTLY, which kept the cramps just at bay).  Problem was, I could not cool myself down.  Even pouring water on my head at the stations, and drinking constantly, I grew unbearably hot. 

I knew my time was my worst ever on this course for one loop (I’ve run this loop 3 other times before).  I tried not to think about the second loop because I was so overheated as it was, that thoughts of the second loop only made me anxious.  And so I just simply focused and tried to relax my limps.  I ached, I mean ACHED for shade.  Finally running down a single track canopied by trees I halted, stooped forward, put my hands on my thighs and cooled down.  That cool down lasted for about a MINUTE.

Aid Station three I was beginning to lose my wits.  All I cared about was cooling down.  Nothing, I mean, nothing could do that.  I wrung a sponge of cold water over my head, drank up cold, cold drinks.  Then I took off running FORGETTING to grab calories.  Big mistake, I had only taken in about 400 calories so far. (But I was getting my electrolytes)

Once out of the shade, heat exhaustion reared its ugly head.  As runners gingerly stepped on rocks to cross the stream, I laid right down in the middle of it.  Feeling cool once again, I would have been content to lay there for the next several hours.  But I had to finish this race, so up I went, my clothes and shoes completely drenched to finish off the last 3 or so miles of the first loop. 

Out of the shade, the heat overwhelmed me AGAIN.  Going up Back Bone, I doubted I could make the cut off for Aid Station 4, which was 10:30 AM.  I had thirty minutes.  And Back Bone was excruciating – not just for myself, but it seemed for all the runners about me.  But I kept those arms pumping and marched what I hoped wouldn’t be the death march.  Unfortunately the wet clothes did not keep me cool.  Hope came when I gained some strength running the backside of Back Bone  It was mainly a nice long, shady switch back.   

I arrived at Aid Station #4 (about 15 miles into the race) with another woman runner, two minutes past the cutoff.  The station workers said it was up to us whether to continue, that we needed to talk it over.  The woman said, we should stop.  I said, “No way!”  As I scrambled for my drop bag the other woman and the station workers discussed a withdraw.  “No! No! No!”  I was actually yelling.  “I want to go!”  I really felt I could make the next cut off.

“You’re going to be the last one on the course,” someone said.

“No, there’s quite a few 50k runners behind us,” I argued. 

“As of now, we’re closing the course – the other runners won’t be able to continue.”  I moved faster, almost in a panic, to get back on the trail.   The sweeper took off, seeming angry that I was choosing to keep on.  “You got to keep up with me,” he yelled back looking over his shoulder.  Though he was probably a nice guy, I didn’t like the sweeper very much right then. : )

A female volunteer took the pouch out off my pack as I crouched down going through my drop bag.  She refilled me with water and I grabbed a cliff bar.  Just as I was about to dart off, a male station worker took my shoulders in his hands.  “Lauren,” he said.  “Look at me.  Listen to me . . . “

His words, his voice brought back a flurry of memories, strange things I had completely forgotten.  Things to remind me about my personality, my greatest downfall, yet oddly one of my best traits:  I don’t quit. 

“I need you to repeat after me,” he continued.  “I will run when I feel I can, but I will WALK when I need to.”

“Okay,” I mumbled.

“No, Lauren,” he said, “repeat after me . . . “

And so I repeated his words and took off running down the trail for another loop.  As I ran,  I thought about going up Bulldog and then running the ridge in the hottest part of the day.  I could not quit.  I could not quit! 

I wept as I ran down that trail.  I didn’t want to make the decision.  I COULDN’T MAKE THE DECISION.  I felt like a soldier on the battlefield wishing someone would shoot him in the leg so he could get out.  If I only had an injury, I thought.  If I had only twisted my ankle, then I would not be able to run, and I would have to withdraw – it wouldn’t be my choice. 

I had no injury, no twisted ankle, no cramps even, unfortunately no one had shot me in the leg.  I kept running, still unable to cool down, even in the shade.  And I began weeping because I knew that I HAD to make the decision.  I needed to beat my downfall – the fact that I don’t know when to quit.  I didn’t want to make the descent down that mountain in a stretcher.

And so I stopped. 

And I turned around and walked back that mile to Aid Station #4, weeping.

When one aid station worker saw me, he said “She’s back!”  The other, the one who made me repeat after him said, “Oh, Lauren!  I am so glad you came back – you made a very courageous decision.”

I don’t feel so courageous, I told him.  He could tell I wept behind my dark sunglasses.  “You’re sad because you’re not a quitter,” he said.  The station workers were all very friendly with kind words as I walked off to the crowds by the finish line.  I drank up anything cold I could find there – water, sports drinks, acai water.  Then I found a hose, apparently a volunteer noticed that I couldn’t keep the hose running.  She held the faucet on while I hosed myself down.  I thanked her, picked up my race t-shirt, stretched and walked to the front of the park where I sat in the stickers beneath a shady tree for a while waiting for my family to arrive. 

I never imagined it would be heat that took me down.  I was so careful to prepare for everything:  strength, endurance, cramps, fueling, hydration . . .   But I didn’t count on heat : )

Miles logged:  16

I’ve got some of all now (Did Not Finish, Dead Friggin’ Last, Did Not Show, and Finished)

54 Finishes


  1. Nice pictures and race report! The new video camera seemed to work great.

    Looks like your training paid off well, but the heat must have been terrible! You were forced to make a VERY HARD decision, and I think you did the right thing. I'm proud of you for that.

  2. Good talking with you a bit yesterday. You did all you could so keep your chin up. See you at another race soon!!

  3. I loved reading your race report. As a runner in Texas, I can relate to the impact of the heat. You have an impressive record. Keep at it!

    The Trail Jogger

  4. Lauren, the heat is a killer and without the summer heat we usually have we're all suffering from not being able to acclimatize!

    Don't forget DNF = Did Nothing Fatal, you'll be back I am sure!

    If they're not on your radar check out PCTR Pt Mugu in November or Calico 50K in the new year...way cooler and just as far ;-)!

  5. Lauren - sometimes the battles are not with running. Sometimes they are in our head (like knowing when to quit). So you may have DNF'd but you won the battle. Nice report and pics and smart decision!

  6. First thing - I need to push all the goosebumps back into my skin. Amazing effort Lauren.

    Don't beat yourself up about your decison. Remember - making decisions is *always* hard. It would have been far easier to ignore all the signs and come down in a stretcher with the paramedics.

    I'm with Stuart on this one. DNF is not bad. You're around to battle again next year.

  7. Thanks for the race report and nice youtube clip.

    The race will be there next year. You made the correct decision. Even though you didn't complete the 50K, you were recently able to complete the double loop at Aliso in both directions. Don't forget that you did accomplish that.

    As Stuart noted, the 30K PCTR Pt Mugu course would be a good one for you to try if your hip problem gets better. It is not too far off. It is an absolutely beautiful course though the first part of the La Jolla Trail is a little rocky but you just have to deal with that and it is only about 1.2 miles that that is rocky and it really isn't that bad.

  8. Thanks Tom! Yes, the video did work out well. Just need some good inexpensive editing software (using Windows Live now, not good).

    I know I did the right thing. Oddly, I'm still a little overwhelmed by it all.

    See ya soon!

  9. Hi Evan! It was nice chatting with you too. You are an amazing runner. Congrats again! I'm sure I will see you at another race. I'm getting my check in the mail hopefully today for the Saddleback Marathon.

  10. Thanks Thomas -- I've done lots of running in Texas too. If summer, I have to get out there before the sun rises (that should have been a hint for me that I needed to train in the heat for this race). Yet when we visit Texas in the winter, I run bundled up running in wool!!! Good luck with your running.

  11. Hi Stuart -- Calico is my favorite race, definately doing that, but will do the 30k. Do you know of any semi-close 50k's in December?

    I like "Did Nothing Fatal" -- I really felt that's what it was about.

  12. Thanks Jessica -- you are so right. I never would have thought that I would feel this way, but I do feel like I won the battle. It was the hardest thing I can remember doing, stopping, turning around and walking back. It tore me up. : ) I hope your recovery is coming along well.

  13. Thanks Glenn! I'm not sure about next year -- the emotions I went through on this one really wiped me out : ) I was so sick minded that I actually would have been relieved if someone shot me in the leg!

    I'm sure I'll see you at a race soon. Good luck with your running!

  14. Thanks Eric! I'm glad I have many months to consider Bulldog for next year. And yes, I still have my training. I put a lot of hard work in, but still I can't help think, not hard enough. Would love to run Pt Mugu. But I'm aiming for the Saddleback Marathon in November which is practically in my backyard.