Way Too Cool on March 5th was my first ultra marathon. For those non-running friends of mine, an ultra is a race with a distance greater than a marathon. A marathon is always 26.2 miles. Way Too Cool is 31 miles and run on the trails of Cool, CA. It is a tough course with 4850 feet of climbing. The weather was also quite a challenge. In fact, they had the worse weather this year then in the last 20 years. It is usually sunny and very nice weather for this race, which is great for the racers, voluteers and spectators. This year, it was cold, rainy and very windy. The heavy rains we have had made for very muddy trails. Trail Mix gave me a yellow fall risk bracelet to wear for the race. My reputation precedes me yet again.
Thankfully, I was just using this race as training for AR50. My goal was to cruise and take mental notes regarding my pacing, fueling and hydration. The first wave started at 8:00, but I was in the second wave which started at 8:10. The first eight miles was on the Olmsted Loop. We started at the Cool Fire Station and came back into it and our first aid station. I wanted to go out slow on this loop and try to get my pacing down. Since it was mostly single track, I didn’t find that to be a problem. I also found myself constantly slipping and sliding on the trails that it made me work extra hard to stay upright. No wonder my core was a bit sore the following day. We went through several creek crossings and a couple of them were pretty high. The water came halfway up my thigh on one of them. I know I’m short, so of course it’s all relative. However, the farther into the race I was, the better the creek crossings felt, whether the cold water was just on my feet or came up my calves. I started out wearing a light wind proof jacket, but ditched it after a few miles along with my arm warmers. Since I was going to be wet the whole day, I might as well embrace it.
It pretty much rained the whole time. Sometimes it was torrential, other times just a light mist. We were protected at times from the wind when we had the mountain on one side of us and the shelter of the trees on the other. But when we encountered the head wind, it was challenging. I brought some small gnocchi sprinkled in salt to eat, but had a problem getting them down. I didn’t have this problem during my regular training runs, so I don’t know why I was having a tough time eating it now. I ditched it for my GU since I knew I could easily get that down. I also brought some payday bars, which I love, but had a hard time getting those down during the latter miles. I was finding that I needed fuel that I didn’t have to chew and went down easy. My strategy at this point was to just run from aid station to aid station and check out the buffet they had set up. I saw a lot of friends working the various aid stations too, which gave me such a mental lift.
I drank some coke at the 2nd aid station, which tasted really great at the time. However, I started having stomach issues about a mile later. Miles 15 through 17 were tough on me. I thought I was going to throw up and I couldn’t get anything down without feeling nauseated. My running friend Dana had some Tums on her and I took a couple of them. They finally settled my stomach enough to be able to fuel again. I also did not have this issue on any of my training runs when I drank coke. The two things that I did enjoy a lot at the aid stations were the chicken soup and the rice krispy treats. Both were easy to eat and went down great. I was happy to see one or both of them at the last three aid stations.
Shortly after leaving the aid station at mile 21, I stepped wrong on a rock and rolled my left ankle pretty badly. I was in excruciating pain which brought tears to my eyes. I was contemplating limping back to the aid station and calling it a day. But, I am too stubborn for that and decided to wait it out for several minutes for the pain to subside so I can get going again. It finally let up and I walked it out a bit until I felt I could run on it again. Maybe it was the Ibuprofen I took or the fact that I knew I only had ten miles left that propelled me forward. I just knew that I had to finish this race. I also knew Goat Hill was coming up, so about a mile before it I took some fuel and a salt tab to prepare for the monster climb. I actually managed to climb it better than in my training runs. I think part of it was hearing the aid station at the top of the hill and knowing I would get to take a break and hopefully get some more soup. At this point, I only had about a 10K left to go.
The last part of the race was run on pure adreneline. I knew I was almost done, so I tried to push it when I felt I could, but definitely walked it on all the hills. Once I crossed Hwy 49 I knew I only had 3 miles left to go. I grabbed a rice krispy treat at the final aid station there and said hi to some more friends that were working it before heading out to tackle the final hills on my way back to the Cool Fire Station. Once we got up the final hill, we had to run through exposed meadows to get back to the firestation. Unfortunately, we had a head wind the whole way until we turned right to start heading into the finish. It was extremely wet and muddy through this section and lots of people were slipping and falling. In fact, I heard the winner fell coming into the finish line, so I don’t feel so bad about sliding all over the place. However, this mud pit was lined by barbed wire, so if you did start to fall, you don’t want to grab the fencing unless you are partial to tetanous shots. I finished in 7 hours and 17 minutes and was so happy to cross the finish line. My friend Dana and I waited for some of our other friends to cross before heading to the car to get out of our muddy shoes and into some dry clothes and a jacket. Unfortunately, the wind made the day really cold so we didn’t hang around too long afterwards. I was mostly looking forward to a hot shower and being horizontal. I did not fall, but I did roll my ankle which counts for 1/2 a point. Score Trails: 6.5 Runner: 6.
What did I learn from Way Too Cool to take with me to AR50:
1. Do not drink soda at the aid stations.
2. Only fuel with food that I can get down easily without a lot of chewing.
3. Carry Tums.
4. I ran out of water in my hydration pack at about mile 25, so know when to refill.
5. Do not wear a bright pink shirt on race day or I will look like an Oompa Loompa in the race photos.
6. I am stronger than I think I am.