Race Recap: Harding Hustle 15K/50K

When G said he was going to sign up for the Harding Hustle 50K a couple of months ago, I thought “Sweet!” I have really come to love the trail and ultra running community, and truly enjoy crewing and cheering for G at every race. Then he dropped the bomb: Because there was going to be more than 7,000 feet of elevation change during the race, the only crew/spectator access point was the start/finish line. What was I going to do for more than 7 hours in the middle of nowhere? Run the corresponding 15K, of course. My first true trail race!

Signing up was the easy part. Then I started to get nervous as the weeks passed. I’m a tried-and-true road runner, and while I have done trail run/hikes with G, I certainly had never run 9 miles of trails alone. Bonus: This 15K has about 2,400 feet of elevation change – the first 4.5 miles are straight up.

The race started near Lake Forest in Orange County (about an hour northeast of where we live), so we got up early the day of the race to drive to the location where we would take the shuttle bus to the start. There is a 15K, 30K and 50K with staggered start times. G took the 4:45 a.m. shuttle, which left me wondering how to pass the next few hours until my 7:30 a.m. bus left. Luckily, there was Starbucks nearby, so I was able to eat a real breakfast at a normal time and catch up on magazine reading.

Once I got on the shuttle bus things started to feel VERY real. I had my Nathan hydration vest filled with water, Clif Shot Bloks, a couple of GUs, sunscreen stick, etc. We were told in pre-race communication to prepare for very hot weather. I can’t believe how lucky we actually were. It was completely overcast for the 15K and stayed that way until about 90 minutes before the last 50K runners finished. There were only about 15 of us running the 15K, and at 9 a.m. we took off – straight up.

Harding Hustle 15K Elevation Profile

15K Course

 Start—Laurel Springs (0 – 4.5)

I’m not going to lie: the 1,200 feet of climbing straight up in the first 4.5 miles was the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced in the best way. I’m used to a fairly flat surface and I’m comfortable in that element. And I’m used to running all trails with G. He’s the one constantly pushing me and encouraging me. Though I felt strong the entire way up, I certainly respect the difference in road vs. trail races.

I made sure to eat 2 Clif Shot Bloks every mile and take in as much water as I could to stay ahead of my hydration in case it did get hot. Luckily, that never happened and I made it to the turnaround aid station in about 1:15. I had a mini Snickers bar, a potato with salt and electrolyte drink and then turned to head back down. Two things got me to this point: 1) knowing G was somewhere out there and had been for more than 4 hours already, and 2) the incredible views on the way up.

Harding Hustle 15K

Gorgeous views from Mile 4.5!

Laurel Springs – Finish (4.5 – 9)

I was elated I made it through what I presumed was the toughest part of the race (and overall, it was). But 4.5 miles of straight downhill running, and the risk that poses for potential quad and knee injuries, is nothing to take lightly. G had coached me to hold back some on the downhill portion because that was the recovery part of the race and because I have future road racing goals that I don’t want to jeopardize. So I held back as much as possible, ate my bloks at every mile and sipped my water.

At Mile 7 I realized I was on pace to finish under 2:15, and decided to kick it up a notch to ensure that happened. I have never been so happy to see a finish line, and crossed it in 2:13:33! The biggest takeaways for me were that trail running is a lot of fun (even when it’s very hard) and that I am much tougher than I give myself credit for. I will definitely be tackling another one before the end of the year.

 

—G’s 50K Recap—

Since putting my DNF at the San Diego 100 behind me, I began looking for my next race and was glad to score one of the last (if not THE LAST) entry into the Harding Hustle 50K. Constant climbing during races has always been an area I need to improve on, so I decided what better way to come back to the trails than a race with 7K of gain?

Harding Hustle 50K Elevation Profile

50K Course

Start – Laurel Springs (0 – 4.5)

At 6:20 roughly 70 runners took off and began their climb. And by climb … I mean, climb. The first 16 miles of this race are uphill and ran on fire road. I started power hiking up, but quickly remembered I want to use this race to get better not just get by, so I settled into a slow jog and began the ascent.

 Laurel Springs – Maple Springs (4.5 – 9.1)

I ran through Laurel Springs aid station at about 7:40 and was feeling great, once I left runners were spread out and no one else was even in site.

View above the clouds Harding Hustle 50K

Above the cloud line

 Maple Springs – Modjeska Base (9.1 – 11.7)

At 5,300 feet, we had already climbed pretty high from the start (1,400 feet). I did a great job managing my nutrition/hydration and was feeling great. We were lucking out on the weather, too!

 Modjeska Base – Santiago (11.7 – 15.6)

The top of the course is where things got just plain cruel. First you summit Modjeska Peak, then you run down, over, and summit Santiago Peak … THEN you go BACK and summit Modjeska Peak. Again. Though I was physically feeling good, mentally this part of the course was a real killer. I just kept telling myself “What goes up, must come down!”

Santiago Peak Harding Hustle 50K

Santiago Peak

Santiago – Modjeska Base (15.6 – 19.5)

After a brief refuel at Modjeska Base, I grabbed some M&Ms and a fun-size Pay Day and started the long, downhill return.

Modjeska Base – Maple Springs (19.5 – 22)

Although I was running the downhills hard, I was cognizant not to overdo it and risk injury.

Maple Springs – Laurel Springs (22 – 26.5)        

The weather had been great all day, the sun finally decided to show itself, and, wow, if that was any indicator on how the weather usually is during this run – it’s indeed a hot one. I stopped at Laurel Springs just long enough to dip my hat in water, put ice in my bottles and bring it on home.

Laurel Springs – Finish (26.5 – 31)

These were my strongest miles of the day (I know, I know steep downhill followed by a relatively conservative run? Shocker right?) and I was able to bring it home in 7:42.

All in all a great “welcome back” race that helped give me back the confidence that the SD100 had momentarily taken away. In addition to a renewed sense of confidence, I used this run to try out several new things, most notably a new pair of Hoka One One’s – the Stinson ATR. A few quick comments on them:

  • Others complain about their quick-lace system – I personally love it, and found it very helpful in minimizing time tying shoes or dealing with laces during my run.
  • They are a bit heavier but I got used to that quickly.
  • The amount of cushioning is amazing – couple that with the Meta-Rocker and you’ve got one smooth ride.

It should be noted that I’m not loyal to any one particular brand, but, as a bigger runner who likes to log a lot of miles on the trails, I have gravitated toward more of a “maximalist” style of shoe. I’ve run in both Altra Olympus and now the Stinson’s and must say each will continue to have a place in my shoe running arsenal.

Perhaps best part of the day, though, was knowing that we had both accomplished something big today. I was able to get back in my groove, and C was able to experience her first trail race – which she loved!

Take care,

GnC

Harding Hustle

Proud finishers

 

5 Keys to Effective Fitness Marketing

As most of you know when we’re not running, cooking and traveling, we’re both marketers by day. Marketing (especially small business marketing) is something we are both very passionate about, and we wanted to dedicate a post to recognizing fitness brands that are truly making an impact on the marketing landscape.

Brand marketing is ever changing, providing unique and creative challenges and opportunities for those of us in the industry. Fitness marketing truly takes that to the next level, and as more and more Americans place a personal emphasis on being active and healthy, fitness brands are poised to realize complementary increases in sales.

We’ve identified fitness brands that are utilizing our 5 Keys to Effective Fitness Marketing to help illustrate what works well in an increasingly crowded market.

Understand the importance of brand recognition. A company’s brand is more than just a logo or slogan. It’s the culmination of creative elements, message building, and a long-term vision for a company. To that end, it’s crucial to spend real time in this phase of a company’s development because it ultimately conveys what your brand (and company) deems important from a product and values standpoint.

Though many of the most famous fitness brands started small, it’s the ones that clearly took the time to build a cohesive brand statement and strategy that are the most well known.

Our favorite used-to-be-small-but-is-growing-fast brand is Altra. This running shoe company started out fairly under the radar while building a brand that sets itself apart from the other, more commercialized running shoe brands. Altra didn’t begin in a corporate boardroom; it began in the back room of a Wasatch Mountain running store. Elite athletes and running store managers, alike, wanted to create a shoe that allows people to run the “way they were born to.”

While the notion of zero drop shoes is controversial in the running world, we can’t deny that Altra has taken their belief in the base components of running and evolved that into functional trail and road shoes for a passionate community of runners. Altra is synonymous with runners who are blazing their own trails.

Altra, Fitness Marketing

Know the effects of website user experience. Usability probably sounds like a buzzword by now, but the importance of consumer experience on a brand’s website is paramount. This experience should be pleasant, helpful, and provide much more than the consumer is anticipating. And it can make the difference in them buying from one company versus another. The fitness industry is already a competitive one. Don’t let poor website usability be the reason for lost sales.

At the outset Lorna Jane Active Living is an Australia-based women’s fitness apparel company. By offering attractive, comfortable, and more cost-effective options than some of the competitors in their space, an increasing number of active women are learning about the benefits of their apparel. But those aren’t the only pluses.

The brand’s website is extremely user-friendly. Simply want to shop? Perfect; that option is right on the homepage. Want to feel like part of a larger movement of women encouraging women to be fit and healthy? You’ve come to the right place. From the homepage you can visit the Move.Nourish.Believe blog that offers endless health, fitness and life tips/tricks customized for women. You can also access the My Active Life video series, as well as the Active Living Magazine.

The experience is so incredible on this site; it’s truly a one-stop-shop for purchases and information, with plenty of calls to action. This is the stuff website dreams are made of.

Lorna Jane, Fitness Marketing

Focus on building an arsenal of original, owned content. Social media is a wildly effective tool for brand promotion, thought leadership, and consumer engagement, but it’s even more important that the content a brand creates and shares via social channels lives on an owned platform (such as a website, landing page, or blog), as well. As the social space becomes more crowded, and platforms shift brand account valuation as they see fit, fitness companies need to focus on marketing their original content.

Take, for example, the mobile and online app Strava. It comprises a community of athletes from around the world and gives them the opportunity to connect and compete with one another through social fitness. But Strava takes it a step farther than most other “exercise tracking” apps; they actually foster the community itself through owned, original content that lives on their blog.

From tips such as “How to Prepare for Riding a 100K” to personal runner testimonials on what inspires them, Strava is more than a tracker. It’s an educational resource and motivational tool for runners and bikers, alike. They also provide app feature update information (critical in this age of ever-changing technology capabilities). There’s no need to search an endless, gray FAQ page; Strava offers up their own content in a way that’s engaging and helpful by knowing what their customers want and need and then providing it to them within their properties.

Strava, Fitness Marketing

Maximize the best mix of media relations and promotions. We talk to small business owners all of the time who don’t yet know the power of media relations (free, earned media) + a strategic paid promotional plan. Startups and young businesses often don’t have the budget to pay thousands of dollars for print and web ads. Regardless of how much a company can spend, it’s important to understand the importance and credibility of earned media coverage.

Now more than ever, consumers are relying on reviews, articles and influencers to shape their purchasing decisions. It’s rare to find someone who just saw a pair of trail shoes on the shelf and spent $100+ without reading reviews and/or asking another runner for their opinion. The same goes for fitness trackers, headphones, activewear and the list goes on and on. One company that seems to have found the right mix is Jawbone, maker of the UP wristband and app system designed to help you be more in tune with your body and become healthier over time.

Yes, they advertise here and there. But honestly they have received a TON of earned media coverage by showcasing the company’s ever-evolving marketing and development plans. From new features to app updates, there’s hardly a month that goes by where they don’t have something new to talk about. And because getting and staying fit is more important to Americans now than ever before, the earned media coverage prospects for Jawbone are almost limitless.

Jawbone, Fitness Marketing

Create and activate an engaged customer base. Influencers, ambassadors, community members – all ways to describe people so in love with a brand that they are willing, often unprompted, to share their positive experiences via social media, product reviews, and blog posts. So why not leverage this positivity and give them ways to engage further?

The fitness industry comprises everyone from the first-time exerciser to elite athletes and everyone in between. Which means there are customers at every stage of the health/wellness/fitness journey who are passionate about the role fitness plays in their lives and would be willing to share it with others. It just takes a little research, consistent follow-up, and management to create a positive community that enjoys writing, posting, and reviewing on a brand’s behalf.

We love the #teambits social ambassador community Energybits has created by selecting people who are passionate about health and fitness, having them sample the product and then asking them to promote their experiences online. Through blog and social posts and unique discount codes for their readers/followers, this brand went from a barely-known product to being a recognized choice of fitness instructors, cyclists, and ultra runners alike.

Energybits, Fitness Marketing

Building an engaged customer base is scalable and doesn’t have to require a large budget. Some of the big-time bloggers will want payment for posts, and if you’re comfortable with that, great. But there are also thousands of health and fitness bloggers who would appreciate the opportunity to beta test a new product or the invitation to be part of a grassroots community that promotes a brand’s products and values.

We know. We’ve put a lot of information out there, but it’s important to explain that all of these elements can work separately or in tandem with one another. The best marketing plan for one company won’t be the best for another.

Active Harmony is not just a blog. It’s also an agency managed by two people who are passionate about small-business marketing. With more than 15 years combined experience in marketing and public relations, we understand what it takes to give brands a competitive edge. Have an idea or need assistance? Visit our website to learn more and request an initial meeting.

Guest Post: 7 Fitness Tips That Will Improve Your Life

It’s no secret we have been busy lately with increased responsibilities/roles in our professional lives and have been traveling a bit for family events. While we have upcoming fitness goals and race recaps to share with you soon, we’d like to thank our friend Michael Volkin, creator of Strength Stack 52, for writing the following guest post for us!

There is so much to learn about working out properly, it can be as confusing as you want to make it. However, there are some simple tips and tricks that anyone can employ to make working out easier and more effective. Below are some simple fitness hacks that you can incorporate today to take your fitness to a higher level.

Eat more meals. I am not saying eat more food; I am saying break your meals into smaller portions and eat more frequently. Ideally, you should eat a meal every 3 hours. Doing this will keep your blood sugar levels in check, keep your appetite under control so you’re less likely to binge on an unhealthy snack, and increase your metabolism.

Tell the world. Tell the world, or at least your world, that you have a goal to lose weight, gain muscle, or even finish a 5k. Most people are willing to let themselves down before they let down friends and family. Whatever your goal is, telling your friends and family will keep you accountable to them and not yourself. Social networking websites are a great medium for announcing your goals.

The “new exercise” rule. Too often I see people in the gym doing the exact same exercises day after day. Your body has an amazing ability to adapt, and exercising is no exception. Over time, doing the same exercises over and over will decrease the effectiveness of your workouts. Make it a goal that every Sunday night you will search the Internet for one new exercise you want to do at least 3 times during the upcoming week. Not only will this new exercise be a learning experience, it will take your fitness to a higher level.

Workout with a friend. Fact: Working out with someone will make you less likely to skip a workout and more likely to complete a workout. So grab a buddy who is a similar fitness level to you and be amazed at how far you push yourself.

Reward yourself. This tip is especially useful for someone who can never seem to work out consistently. One of the biggest problems newbies have is they quit because they don’t have an end goal, or their goal is too long term. Make a short-term goal, just a month or two away, and if you complete your goal reward yourself with new workout clothes. Having a short-term goal and a reward will make you more likely to finish what you started.

Exercise to fast music. A recent study concluded exercising to fast-paced songs made people exercise harder and longer. So load your phone up with heart-pumping music before you exercise to increase the effectiveness of your workout.

Active work meetings. Why does a day at work have to involve sitting at a desk 8 hours a day? A recent study concluded sitting is deadly, literally. Schedule an active work meeting. Instead of sitting at a conference table with others, burn some calories and take a walk around the building.

Torrey Pines Gliderport

Note: If you can’t make it to the gym for a workout, we’re fans of using the great outdoors (like hill repeats at Torrey Pines Gliderport).

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Michael’s work yet, click here to learn more about the Strength Stack 52 bodyweight fitness cards that make exercising more fun, while providing long-term results.

 

Race Recap: The San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Run—My First DNF

It’s been more than three weeks since my first DNF at mile 64 of the San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Run.  In that time I’ve replayed the race a hundred times in my head, analyzed the highs and lows, and have come to the following conclusion: I needed that. But I’ll explain what I mean by that later. Here’s the recap:

C and I picked up my buddy Mark—who was also running—and headed out to the pre-race meeting at Lake Cuyamaca. Once we got out there I saw several other people whom I had trained with and had the chance to chat and check in with them all. Race Director Scott Mills gave a great pre-race briefing, and then it was off to our hotel for the night in Julian.

SD100

The pre-race briefing

I slept surprisingly well and was up by 3:45 a.m. getting ready and at the start line by 5. The next hour was the worst. I just wanted to start running!

SD100 At 6 am sharp, I got my wish and 222 runners took off from the start.

Lake Cuyamaca – Paso Picacho 1 (0 – 6.8)

The first section had about 1,300’ of gain so I took it easy, settled in and climbed. My strategy for the day would be simple: walk the ups, jog the flats, and run the downs.

Paso Picacho 1 – Chambers 1 (6.8 – 12.5)

After a brief pitstop, it was time to head up and over Stonewall Peak. By now, runners had spread out a bit more, which was nice. Before I knew it, I was up and over Stonewall and running through the fields nearby, still feeling great.

SD100

View from the stop of Stonewall Peak

Chambers 1 – Pedro Fages (12.5 – 18.5)

I checked in and out of Chambers in less than 5 minutes and continued on my way. Not a lot to report on this section other than some beautiful singletrack.

SD100

Heading into Anza Borrego

Pedro Fages – Sunrise 1 (18.5 – 23.2)

I got into Pedro Fages and was ahead of the cutoffs by and hour. I was feeling good and was managing my nutrition and hydration pretty well, too. The next stretch left the runners pretty exposed, and as the day wore on, it quickly became apparent that the “heat” was wearing runners down.

I say “heat” because, while it didn’t necessarily feel hot out there, there was nothing protecting the runners from that sun! Staying on top of electrolytes and hydration became paramount. Before I knew it I was rolling into the Sunrise 1 and was incredibly excited to see Christina there (Sunrise was the first spot for crew access).

SD100

Coming into Sunrise 1

Sunrise 1 – Pioneer Mail 1 (23.2 – 30.4)

After talking with C and Jessica (my buddy Mark’s girlfriend), I was out of there and back on my way. Oh, and the views got better, too.

SD100

Great view from the Laguna Mountains

Pioneer Mail 1—Penny Pines 1 (30.4 – 34.4)

Felt great here and actually started getting some time in the bank, which felt great.

Penny Pines 1 – Todd’s Cabin (34.4 – 39.6)

Nothing much to report here.

Todd’s Cabin – Red Tail Roost (39.6 – 44.7)

I had run this area on several training runs (as well as during the PCT 50), so knowing what was just ahead was helpful. I’d caught up to several other runners I’d trained with in the months prior and we ran it in towards Red Tail Roost.

SD100

The last photo before my phone died

Red Tail Roost – Meadows (44.7 – 51.1)

As I came into Red Tail Roost, I was still feeling good – but was hungry. I knew I’d been on the move all day (in and out of aid stations in less than 5-7 minutes) and hadn’t rested much at all, due to skirting some of the cutoffs. I decided to sit, and have some real food before heading out and picking up my pacer at Meadows.

Boy, things did NOT work out like that.

I left Red Tail Roost feeling good, but didn’t get more than a half-mile out when I got an unbelievably intense sharp pain in the bottom of my forefoot. Sharp enough to stop me in my tracks. Now, I’ve had blisters, and “sore” feet, but this was unlike anything I’d ever felt.

I stopped and started walking, noticing that if I kept my weight off my forefoot I could at least keep moving. So, move along I did … all the way into Meadows, but my running had been replaced with a slow walk.

Meadows – Penny Pines 2 (51.1 – 56.3)

It was dark by now, and the last section had cost me dearly in regards to time. I was back to less than an hour to hit the cutoffs. Not a place I wanted to be with a bum foot.

I picked up my pacer, Paul, who was gracious enough to offer to pace me on my first 100. At this point I felt like I owed it to him to keep going. He had been out there for a few hours and I wanted to desperately believe that this pain would subside and I’d be able to keep going. I modified my stride and incorporated a walk/run and somehow managed to get to Penny Pines 2.

Penny Pines 2 – Pine Creek (56.3 – 64)

We got to Penny Pines 2, and Paul could tell that I was hurting pretty bad. I’d dropped pretty far behind him and couldn’t shuffle along for much more than 20-30 yards without having to stop.

To say I was thinking clearly at this point is probably inaccurate, but aside from the physical pain, I was mentally and nutritionally still very much in this race and wanted to believe that I could keep going. I left Penny Pines with Paul and was still somehow managing to make forward progress, even though we were predominately walking by this point.

Then, it happened. My foot literally “gave out” and I couldn’t put any more pressure on it. Zero. And I knew right there … I’d be getting my first DNF in the San Diego 100.

After a brief mini blow up of emotions—frustration, anger, sadness, etc.—I pulled myself together and slowly (read: very, very, VERY slowly & with the help of Paul) made it to the next aid station, where I turned in my bib (I’d missed the cut off by 20 minutes).

My first attempt at 100-miler would end at Mile 64, Pine Creek, after 19 ½ hours on my feet.

-3 Weeks Later-

If my recap seems a bit blurry compared to ones in the past it’s because it is. The past three weeks have been full of me replaying the race in my head, asking myself tons of questions about what I could have done differently, and self-diagnosing myself through research. At first I was determined to find out what went wrong.

  • Was I undertrained?
  • Had I not tapered properly?
  • Was running in minimalist-style shoes a bad idea for me?
  • Did running the PCT 50 just four weeks prior set me up for an overuse injury?

The questions went on and on, which is one of the reasons it took so long for me to write this post.

After three weeks, and a lot of questions, I believe I have the answer and–regardless of what happened out there—my reasoning for not finishing was much simpler than I wanted to believe.

It just simply wasn’t my day.

Once I was able to accept that, I was able to move on and begin again. Which is exactly what I did yesterday, as I went out on my first run since the race. Time to start looking forward and stop dwelling on the past. That’s what it’s all about, right? Relentless Forward Progress.

Man, I needed that.

Book Review: Running Through the Wall—Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon

I love reading about other people’s experiences on the trails just as much as I love running and recapping my own, which is why Running Through the Wall by Neal Jamison was a such great find.

Running Through the Wall

Published by Breakaway Books, Running Through the Wall is broken up into 40 mini-recaps, each of which left me thinking long after I closed the book. There were recaps from some of the sport’s greats (Tim Twietmeyer, Ann Trason, to name a few), recaps from some veteran ultrarunners – as well as recaps from those new(er) to the sport.

What I loved most about this book were the incredibly different perspectives on the sport we all share.  No two were the same. However, while none of the recaps were the same, there were some common themes that were weaved into the majority of the stories:

  • Overcoming adversity – be it physical, mental, spiritual or otherwise is common.
  • Ultrarunners are incredibly focused & driven individuals who demand the most out of themselves in running … and in life.
  • The comradery found within the ultrarunning community is truly unparalleled.

The book takes a good look into the minds of athletes who have run some of the most challenging ultramarathons in the country (and abroad). Races like Barkley, Western States, Hardrock , HURT 100 and more were incredibly detailed and provide the reader with an amazing look into what the athletes of these races were up against — physically, mentally, personally and more.

Without giving away too much, a few of my favorites focused a lot on overcoming adversity. While the reasons each of those people ran were deeply personal, the way they were able to talk about their experience conveyed such a real and honest sense of achievement.  A sense that they truly did overcome whatever adversity they were experiencing—either in the race or in life—by spending time on the trails.

If you’re looking for a fun, inspiring and insightful read about other’s experiences on the trails, I highly recommend Running Through the Wall. The way it’s broken up allows you easily set it down and return to it later … though I doubt that will happen once you pick it up.

Take care,

G

Top 3 Reasons Joining A Running Group Is Renewing My Passion To Train

When I started running eight years ago it was purely to lose weight. That was it. Then someone asked me to register for a 5K with them, so I did. And then I found longer races, and ran them. And through it all I loved the training, but I lost my love of just running.

During the past year I learned to love running again in one of the most beautiful, running-weather-friendly cities on the planet, but the impetus to set goals and truly train was lacking. G suggested I join a local running group – something I had considered in other places I’ve lived, but never done. About six weeks ago, I joined the Seaside Striders, a group that meets twice a week: once for speedwork and once for a weekend long run. So far, I LOVE it, and here’s why:

I love surprises

I love not knowing exactly what the workout will be until I arrive. That gives me zero time to dread something or imagine that I can’t do something that will be prescribed to the entire group. Talk about peer pressure! We’ve been focusing on hill repeats, followed by speedwork for the past few weeks and I can already tell it’s making a difference in my other weekly runs. It also made a huge difference in my overall performance at the La Jolla Half Marathon last month.

Seaside Striders, La Jolla Half Marathon

Seaside Striders at the La Jolla Half Marathon in April

I’m not a great solo runner

For the past six months or so, I’ve done solo long runs on the weekends while G is up before the sun and training for the San Diego 100. Though I’ve only done three long runs with the running group thus far, it has made it easier to get up and hit the road knowing that a larger group will be training along the same route. It’s also nice to have someone else select the route each week, because I am a runner of habit and tend to choose my trusty, regular routes when left to my own devices.

Seaside Striders, Los Penasquitos

A small Seaside Striders contingent running in Los Penasquitos Canyon.

I’m inspired by others

While I have new short- and long-term goals, my ultimate goal is to be a good bit faster than I currently am. I really think being a part of such a dynamic group of runners will push me in all of the right ways. At last night’s workout we talked a lot about our team mantra: “Never outrun your joy of running”, and several people shared what being part of the group means to them. For someone who has never been part of a formal running group, I know being around faster runners will challenge me in a positive way.

I’m planning to train hard for the America’s Finest City Half Marathon (which G and I ran last year) in August, with my sights set on a faster marathon time this fall.

Stay tuned!

C

 How about you? Are you part of a running group? What do you love about it?

Race Recap: PCT 50 Mile Ultramarathon

I signed up for the PCT 50 as soon as it opened back in January … and it was a good thing I did. The race sold out in just a few days! After doing some research and spending some time out on the trail itself, it was quick to understand why: The Pacific Crest Trail is absolutely beautiful.

The race was ran primarily on single track trail in the Cleveland National Forest, and provided unbelievable views at altitudes ranging from 3,000-6,000 feet. The race also boasted 7,500 feet of elevation gain. Needless to say, today would not have been the day to forget my race pack!

With the race start being about an hour east of San Diego, we got up at 3 a.m., picked up my buddy Mark, and headed out. We got to the start (Boulder Oaks Campground) about 5:15 a.m., just in time to pick up our packets, say hello to some running friends, and get those last few pre-race jitters out. And then—before I knew it—I heard “3 … 2 … 1!”

We were off.

PCT 50

Runners preparing to go at the start

Boulder Oaks Campground – Fred Canyon Road (0.0 – 6.4)

The race wasted no time in sending us “up”. My strategy for the first part of the race was simple: fall towards the back and power-hike the first 14 miles, since they were mainly uphill. I ran the flats and downs but wanted to conserve as much energy as I could, which made this stretch pretty uneventful.

PCT 50

A.M. reflection on the PCT

Fred Canyon Road – Dale’s (6.4 – 13.7)

I arrived at Fred Canyon aid station with no trouble. I topped off my bottles (one with water, one mixed with lemon-lime First Endurance EFS & Carbo Pro), grabbed some pretzels and an orange, and took off to continue my climb. The trail got a lot more technical during this stretch, which meant I spent a lot of time looking at the ground instead of the scenery, but before I knew it was rolling into Dale’s aid station.

PCT 50

Climbing on the PCT

 Dale’s – Todd’s Cabin (13.7 – 17.5)

After a quick pit stop, I was back on the trail and on my way. I knew the next few miles were predominately flat, so my plan was to hammer them out as quickly as I could. This stretch was mainly shaded single track, so it was the ideal place to bank some quick miles while getting a break from the sun.

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Solitude out on the PCT

Todd’s Cabin – Penny Pines 1 (17.5 – 22.7)

I cruised into Todd’s cabin, quickly remembering how much tougher it is to run at elevation than it is at sea level (where we live). Luckily, I had run the next 5 miles on a previous training run, so I knew when to conserve/when to push. The scenery was crazy. Apparently, several years prior, the area had experienced a massive fire that scorched the earth. It felt like you were running on a different planet at times. I started hiking up the last big climb to Penny Pines and could see C at the top waiting for me. What a great sight that was!

(Sidenote: C, and all the volunteers, crewers, pacers, medics and sweepers who donate their time and energy to helping make the runners’ day successful deserve the biggest, most sincere THANK YOU I could possibly offer. You guys/girls are simply amazing. Thank you.)

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View from up top

Penny Pines 1 – Turnaround (22.7 – 25)

As soon as I got to Penny Pines, C went to work getting my bottles filled and making sure I had everything I’d need. My pacer, John, had also just shown up and was preparing to run the last 25 miles with me. I was talking with them when I overheard someone say “cutoff time.” I froze. It was 11:40, and all runners would need to be back through Penny Pines by 1:30. John looked at me … I looked at C … we all looked at each other, and I busted ass back out onto the trail.

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Grabbing some fuel at Penny Pines

Note to self: pay more attention to cutoff times!

Turnaround – Penny Pines 2 (25 – 27.3)

I couldn’t believe I could have been so careless. Although hiking the uphill at the beginning was allowing for some pretty fresh legs here – my back was now against the wall and I was going to have to work hard to stay ahead of the cutoffs on my return. Luckily this section was pretty much rolling single track and I was able to cruise pretty quick back into Penny Pines.

Penny Pines 2 – Todd’s Cabin (27.3 – 32.5)

I came back through Penny Pines, picked up John, and we were off – ahead of the cutoff by about 40 minutes. We started on our way back and were making pretty good time, passing several runners along the way. Although it wasn’t hot, per se, this section of the PCT left you pretty exposed, and I could tell the sun was starting to hit me pretty hard. However, the spectacular views of the Anza Borrego Desert nearly 5,500 feet below made the trip pretty enjoyable. As great as the views were, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t checking my watch continuously … the cutoff at Todd’s was 2:30.

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On the way to Todd’s Cabin

 Todd’s Cabin – Dale’s (32.5 – 36.3)

John pushed me pretty hard on the return and got me in (and out!) of Todd’s Cabin by 2:15. The return stretch here was pretty rough for me, as I could feel two hot spots on my feet starting to flare up. This resulted in some sort of walk-run-shuffle-tiptoe-forward motion that somehow got me to Dale’s.

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Heading to Dale’s

Dale’s – Fred Canyon Road (36.3 – 43.6)

There was no cut off here, but they informed us that there would be a final cutoff at Fred Canyon at 5:30 p.m. Needless to say, we grabbed what we could and took off. While I’m not a huge proponent of out-and-back courses, I will say that it was nice to know exactly what type of terrain I had to run over to get back to Fred Canyon in time.

Fred Canyon Road – Finish (43.6 – 50)

I made it to Fred Canyon by 4:55, and saw my friend Mark there getting ready to head back out. We all ran together for the first few miles, then we split up. My return to the finish was FAST! Probably some of the quickest miles of the day for me – all over some pretty technical and rocky trail. As we descended the final few switchbacks, I couldn’t help but smile. My strategy had worked!

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PCT 50: Complete

I crossed the finish in 12:32:32—a 17-minute PR at the 50-mile distance—on the most difficult course I’ve run to date.

Overall, I’m incredibly happy with how the day went. It’s funny, as with any race, I learned so much that will be valuable for future races. Although I was feeling a bit stressed on the start of my return, I do not regret my decision to power hike the start. Yes, I lost a decent amount of time there, but it resulted in an incredibly strong finish, with enough in the tank to keep going if I needed to. In conclusion: Physically, mentally and nutritionally, things clicked.

Thoughts Looking Forward

As many of you may, or may not, know, I’m running the San Diego 100 Endurance Run on June 7. The PCT 50 was my last long run before that race. If you’ve followed along, I’m sure you’ve noticed my last few tune up races have had all kinds of issues, leaving me feeling a bit uneasy. Yesterday’s race, however, erased all of that and provided me with the confidence I needed to be able to toe the line on June 7.

Take care,

-G