Bulldog 50K Ultra Run

This race recap will be the good, bad, and ugly of completing my first 50K. When I signed up I thought to myself, ‘how much more challenging can it be? It’s only 5 miles longer than a marathon.’ Little did I know that these 31 miles would be my most strenuous ever.

Let me begin by giving some background information on the Bulldog Trail. It is located at the Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. The run a single loop course in mountainous terrain, with 11.7 miles of fire roads and 4.0 miles of single-track trails. This loop also includes the 4-mile Bulldog Mountain climb to 2,528 ft. elevation. To complete the 50k, I had to complete the loop twice.

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With a 6:30 start time, clouds filled the sky line and a thick marine layer covered the trail.  While running my visor dripped with condensation from the humidity. I was wet, but felt cool to start this challenge. Yet this is the point that the mental game began. During the entire first loop of the race I felt like I was trying to stay one step ahead of the drop dead time. All 50K runners had to complete the first loop in 4 hours.  Those who missed the cut-off time were dropped down to the 25K and proceeded directly to the finish line. Keeping this in mind I focused on staying ahead of the clock.

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When I came to an aid station before completing my first loop, I didn’t think I had made the cut off time because my watch kept auto pausing and my mileage count was off. I asked my friend Alex who was manning the station how much further I had to go before drop dead.  I had 38 minutes to run 2.2 miles, but I had to face the angry chihuahua. The brutal challenge of the run is the elevation climb pf the bulldog trail. The angry chihuahua is the last elevation climb before you end the loop. I figured I conquered the big dog, I could finish the little dog within the time limit. Thankful to make it, I was able to complete the first loop in 3:50.

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As I began the second loop I knew could complete the race if I just kept moving. Mentally I felt I had beat the clock, now my challenge was the increasing heat of the day and the completing the climb again. Facing that strenuous elevation climb for a second time felt like a daunting task.  By this point my muscles were fatigued. These are the moments that you run with your heart. When I reached an aid station I was so grateful to check in. As I came up I was sprayed down with water and given an ice-cold towel around my neck. I could feel the water cooling my body instantly. I felt revitalized, at least for the moment.

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Each of the aid stations on the course was amazing. They were stocked with any need a runner may have. My needs fell into the category of Skittles, Gatorade, and ice-cold Coke. The Gatorade helped replenish lost electrolytes, the coke gave me the burst of energy, and the skittles gave me a power surge of sugar. The volunteers manning the stations were incredibly kind and caring. They cared my physical needs and gave me words of encouragement to keep going.

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So I am seriously not the most graceful person. With the uneven downhill terrain, I fell twice during the race. I was so worried twisted an ankle, but both times I was able to get up, dust myself off and keep going. Though I’m not going to lie, both falls hurt me mentally.  This race left my entire body sore. It’s a completely different run from a street race.

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As I came around the corner of the angry chihuahua for the second time, I was so grateful hear encouraging cheers from my husband and friends waiting for me. I stopped for a moment to kiss my husband and complained about the blisters forming on my feet. He told me, “you’re almost done, you’re so close to being an ultra runner!” I stopped my complaining and looked ahead to the finish line.

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My entire game plan for this run was to power walk up the incline, jog the flat and run down the hills. I met a 100 mile ultra runner who gave me this bit advice and honestly it worked for me. I completed the race in 8 hours and 24 minutes. I was runner 227 out of 238 to cross the finish line. 26 other runners dropped down from the 50K to the 25K. Not pretty, but I got it done.

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At the end I said never again. Well, never say never. Now that I have a better idea of the mental and physical requirement I want to challenge myself to try again. As the saying goes…. what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger

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