Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Siskiyou Out Back (SOB) 50 Miler | July 2014 | Ashland, OR

Gun Time - 9:19:32
Overall - 32/87
Shoes - Brooks Pure Grit 2

Spoiler alert: Yes, I finished
Towards the end of 2013 I decided that 2014 would be as good at time as any to run my first 50 miler. I’d just run Squamish 50k in the summer and knew that Squamish 50 miler would probably be a brutal introduction to that distance. When I ran SOB 50k in 2012 I remembered a much more runnable course and a great destination in Ashland, so readied myself to sign-up.

With this goal in mind I came into 2014 with the goal of getting much more weekly mileage in. From most of what I had read and overheard, the best preparation for ultra distances is to get in solid mileage at an easy (zone 1) pace and to try and train on race specific terrain as much as possible. (I also still had to train for BMO Vancouver Marathon in May, but knew that extra mileage would be beneficial towards that as well).

2014 Training
The SOB 50 miler course is near Ashland, OR, just north of the California border, in late July. (In fact, the out and back course briefly crosses into California before heading back.) I knew it was going to be a hot one, and fortunately Vancouver was getting amazing sunny weather to train in in the weeks leading up to the race. I made sure I was getting runs in during the midday heat and with a backpack on as well.

I managed to get to the race with no injuries and decent mileage. Unfortunately there was not a lot of race specific trail work. I only had two 50k races on Ultrasignup.com and my predicted finish time for SOB 50M was 10hrs 40min. I was hoping that with my extra training I could work towards a sub-10hrs.

We made a trip of it, stopping in Portland to visit Powell’s Books and stay in the fun Hawthorne area at the Clinton Street Guesthouse. We then headed down and stayed 20 minutes north of Ashland, in Medford, in a non-descript off-the-highway hotel, but it did have a pool. :)  
The race start was at 6am from the Mt Ashland Ski Area, which would be about an hour’s drive from Medford, and race packages were picked up on site starting at 5:15am.  
I started off easy, fell into a pack that was going nice and easy, even felt slow, which I knew would be a good thing later on. Surprisingly I remembered most of the early parts of the race from when I ran the 50k in 2012. I felt so much better this time around, being in much better shape and more experienced. The runner in front of me took a tumble at about 5k and said “Really? Already?”

Early climb, still smiling.
I probably should’ve wrote this report earlier as I’ve lost a lot of the little details but my approach for the entire race was that I was there to enjoy the experience and to finish. I ran what felt easy, hiking the longer, steeper hills and remembering to eat and hydrate often. It was my first race using the Ultimate Direction vest and it worked like a charm.
The trails are beautiful and well marked. I made sure to take in the views as much as possible without tripping over anything (a few trips but no bails on the entire course!). The halfway point is at Big Rock which I made it to in about 4 hours. The last bit of the climb to the top was one of the steepest on the course but the view from the top was amazing and there was also a nice cool breeze. I stopped and sat down for a few minutes, ate something and chatted with the course official. (No aid station up there). The way back down to the previous aid station was a reminder that the quads were taking a beating already and the back half was going to be more challenging. The 10k of descent was now the 10k climb back to Jackson Gap where I found myself by myself for a couple of hours not seeing anyone. (I was hiking hard and it was nice not being passed but it’s also nice to chat with someone when you can). Having the two bottles on me was great. Later in the race I was getting pretty tired of gels and made sure to fill one bottle with GU Brew and one with water at the aid stations. (Note: Another revelation on hot runs is ice in the cap).
The way back was as challenging as I expected it would be and the descents were tough, quads were shot but fortunately my knees were fine (my ITB seized on my 2012 SOB 50k race) and I wasn’t getting any blisters. It was only towards the end that my stomach was getting a little more fussy about the gels and fortunately I only had a brief encounter with nausea.

Surprisingly I was making better time than I expected. It was cool to see super-supportive Dianna and Joe at the Siskiyou Gap aid station, and I was still feeling reasonably coherent. They said I was well on track for sub-10hrs. I pushed through, with a few runners along the way looking strong making there way past me on the final 5k stretch. My GPS had died at about 8 hrs so I didn’t know exactly how far I was but fortunately a hiker en route told me “only about a mile to go” which was the necessary kick in the pants I needed to get me moving again. There’s a last little climb back up to the parking lot, which kind of pysches you out as there are two sections to the parking lot before you finally see the finish line.
I’ve never been so exhausted and sore in my life, but also exhilarated to have finished and in a far better time than I expected. Leah helped me limp around as I tried not to seize up. The afternoon was gorgeous and sunny and we chilled by the finish line cheering on the other finishers.

Overall a highly recommended race in great running community! It was tough but I plan to run the distance again one day soon.

Always a good day when Leah's there.

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