Race Recap: Oriflamme 50K Ultramarathon

The Old West Trails race did exactly what it was supposed to: get me back on track. With a several good weeks of training in, I was excited to see how things would go for me at Oriflamme.

We arrived at the race start at about 6:30 a.m., got checked in, and then went back to the car to stay warm. While we were in the car talking, I noticed C start glancing around, looking behind the seats, in the back, etc., but didn’t think much of it. I didn’t think much of it until she turned to me and said “Where’s your hydration pack?”

Oh, shit!

After a rather intense 2-3 minute freak out, I came to the realization that in my zombie-like state at 3:30 a.m., I had left at it home and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Luckily, I saw my buddy Mark at the start and he said he had an extra vest with ONE 20-ounce water bottle that I could use. (I usually carry 2 20-ounce bottles AND a 70-ounce hydration bladder).

So, with a borrowed vest and some scrounged-up food (one Pro Meal bar and a single GU) I went up to the start line, knowing full well I had no idea what I was in for.

It was cold and rainy at the start and all I could do is think about how my pack was doing at home, resting in the warm apartment on the back of the kitchen chair. I couldn’t think about it for long, though, because before I knew it – we were off!

A cold and rainy/snowy start – but you can see the sun coming up in the desert below.
A cold and rainy/snowy start – but you can see the sun coming up in the desert below.
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My friend John (left) and the rest of us heading out.

The first five miles were on some rolling single track that’s part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Everyone fell into line and we all marched along. We caught word at the start that the aid station that was supposed to be at mile 5.4 wouldn’t be there. Apparently the car got stuck, so the first official aid station wouldn’t be until mile 13.2.

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Once through the first would-be aid station, we started our roughly 5-mile descent to the desert floor. Part of my strategy was to take it relatively easy on the downhill, as I still knew I would have to climb back UP this trail on the way back (about 2,000 feet).

Heading down Oriflamme Canyon.
Heading down Oriflamme Canyon.

Once at the bottom I picked up my pace on the fire road and ran it all the way into the first aid station at mile 13.2. By the time I got there I was starving (I was saving my bar for the climb out – as I KNEW I’d need the calories). I dined buffet-style at the aid station, grabbed a few gels and took off toward the turnaround.

Sandy down on the desert floor.
Sandy down on the desert floor.
My new Dirty Girl Gaiters really performed well!
My new Dirty Girl Gaiters really performed well!

C was waiting for me at the turnaround, and I could tell she was a bit worried about what shape I was going to be in. All in all, I had managed to refuel pretty well at the 13.2 aid station, so at the moment I was feeling pretty good! I hit the turnaround in about 3 hours 10 minutes and knew the toughest part was yet to come.

I cruised through the desert, reloaded at the aid station and started heading toward the big climb up Oriflamme Canyon. I ate half my bar and started powering up the hill – but not for long. I bonked. Hard.

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The start of the climb up

The run hike out was long, slow, hot and generally miserable. I was WAY undernourished and it was really starting to show. Regardless, I knew this was a good mental test for me to gut it out and keep moving forward, which was exactly what I did.

More of the climb up
More of the climb up

After what seemed like an eternity I FINALLY got to the top and reached the final aid station (Mason Valley, mile 26). As soon as I got there I took some electrolytes and started pounding shots of Coke like it was closing time at the bar. I woofed down 2 cookies and some chips, hung out for a few minutes and then took off.

The last 5 miles were some of the strongest of the day for me. The weather was good, my stomach was full and my mind was at ease.  Oh, and the views were plentiful.

Coming back in on the PCT
Coming back in on the PCT

I finished in 7:11, and in 96th out of 136 runners who started. While I was physically and mentally ready for a stronger finish, I was incredibly happy with my time – knowing that I had overcome (and improvised) A LOT on that run.

Oriflamme 2014 – 7:11
Oriflamme 2014 – 7:11

After the race I had several people ask me if I was upset that I forgot my pack. Now, during the first part of the race – you bet I was! But once I got done, and had time to reflect on how NOT having it really challenged me to adapt and make the best of an unforeseen problem, I said no.

Would having my pack have gotten me a stronger finish at Oriflamme? Probably. But forcing myself to walk up to the start line and take on a course I had NEVER run, without the comfort of my own nutrition and hydration pack, did more for me mentally than a strong finish with my pack could ever provide.

Note: Hydration packs apparently don’t pack themselves
Note: Hydration packs apparently don’t pack themselves

 

Up next: the PCT 50. Time to get back to it!

-G

29 thoughts on “Race Recap: Oriflamme 50K Ultramarathon

    1. Believe me, before the race started I was a complete mess, lol! Thank you — I’m excited to watch you prep for the North Face 50! It HAT was an indicator – you’ll kill it! 🙂

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  1. Wow, Great job!!! I definitely would have had the same reaction had I left my hydration pack or anything like that at home. Glad it worked out that you could borrow someone’s though. The views looked amazing! Good luck to you in your next race!! 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Rachel! It was a beautiful course – and although my pack situation wasn’t ideal, I was glad I was still able to race! Good luck to you, too! Can’t wait to see what’s next! 🙂

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  2. WOW! That’s all. You did a pretty damn AWESOME job my friend!! Way to go!! That’s happened to me before – leaving important things at home!! Once I forgot my shoes!! GEEEZ!!!! Luckily I wasn’t too far when I remembered, lol. BEST of luck at the PCT50!!!

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  3. Man, that’s amazing! Super well done. It looks like a stunning, but tough race! You did well to deal with the minor calamity along the way – it just goes to show that you are a true ultra runner I think. More and more, I’m coming to realise that it’s not about getting everything right from the outset, but about how we adjust to things going wrong on the run. They always do in some way. 😉 Good luck with your next race! I’ve just started training for a 55 mile run in the beautiful Scottish Highlands – first course recce is this weekend, and I’m so excited! 😀

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    1. Thank you so much! I couldn’t agree more with you that it’s truly no about getting everything right, but adapting to what what WILL go wrong. I love your outlook on running — and where it takes you. I think the exact same way! 🙂

      Best of luck in your upcoming training — I can’t WAIT to follow along. Running the Scottish Highlands would be a DREAM come TRUE for me! 🙂

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      1. Thank you so much – I’m doing the first recce of the course tomorrow, and am so excited. If you are ever in Scotland, I’d gladly show you around our trails. 😉

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  4. Nice job. I keep extra stuff in my truck to save my butt in those scenarios . That said I’ve ditched my vest for a few small handhelds for last trail marathon and 50 miler. Love of free it feels losing the vest !! But the aid station nit showing up makes the handhelds a little less effective

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