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Recap: Inaugural Las Vegas Backcountry 50km

Race: Las Vegas Backcountry 50km Trail
Date: December 5, 2015
Start Time: 7:00 AM
Location: Rainbow Gardens ACEC, Henderson, Nevada

I have not done these recaps in a while! I poured over my earlier posts and realised the last “legitimate” race report was back in 2011 when I then-PR’d the LA Marathon despite monsoon-like conditions. Anyway, onto my recap!

Abridged version/ tl;dr
I completed my first ultra marathon in 7 hours 11 minutes 24 seconds — way under my goal time of 8:59:59 — and ran it at a comfortable pace. I managed this by breaking up the race in 4 chunks, and it helped mentally as I remained positive 99.2% of the 31 miles. xD I don’t remember fading much and kept my mind off the miles by singing my fav Christmas songs and avoided looking at my watch (elapsed time) lol! I also maintained a strict nutrition intake by taking electrolytes at every mile, then alternated between an entire Clif Shot gel and Clif Energy Food pouch every 4 miles. The race course was relatively easy thanks to doing more technical training runs, and despite running the bare minimum of my 16-week Ultra Marathon training plan.

The soreness has gone and I already have a big race planned for 2016 (Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz), but am considering another ultra next year. 🙂


 

..and now the verbose version. ^_^

Training for my first 50km trail race
Since I have not been posting here (other than automagically post Instagram photos), I didn’t really log any of my training records. Sadly, I don’t have extensive notes or tidbits on anything I encountered or learned during training. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the time to post them. The most important thing I can recall, however, is feeling a bit of anxiety during and after my final training race that lead up to this one — it was Desert Dash‘s Trails of Glory (ToG), the 30km distance. I knew I had not been doing the prescribed training plan of running 4 times a week. I had not been doing the recommended back-to-back long runs either; or if I did, I might have only done it twice or three times within the (modified) 16-week ultra training plan. Then again, I was training for 2 more Olympic distance races at the same time, so I guess my long run on Saturday, then followed by a Sunday open water swim and bike ride contributed to my overall fitness. However, going into ToG, my longest run had been 20 trail miles and it was broken up into a 13.1mi leg, quick rest/chatting, then a 7mi (slow) leg. The first 8 miles of ToG went well, but after passing through the Mustang Aid station, whether I had inadequate nutrition or it got too hot (or both), I began to fade. It didn’t help that I approached an unfamiliar trail (Black Velvet) and ended up walking most of that area. Doubts began to fill my head, and I loudly wondered (I was by myself most of the time, so I could talk out loud lol) if I could do the 50km that was only 3 weeks away! I finally banished that lingering thought after my last long run (10 miles) the weekend before the race. It also helped that I ran those miles with my big sis Minel (the original ultra runner of the family), and my friend Delphine (who ran her longest trail distance that day! LOL).

polar_Dec52015Nutrition and hydration-wise, I was on top of it. Whilst training through the late summer (I signed up for this race back in August), I was on-point with my hydration and electrolyte requirements. Owing to previous marathon experiences, I began to carb-load on the Wednesday before the race. I did lack some sleep weeks leading up to the event, and only had about 5 hours of rest the night before.

The Race Plan
My race strategy didn’t come to me until the late afternoon before the run. Haha. Talk about last minute. It worked wonderfully! I decided that I would forget I was running 31 trail miles. Instead, I broke up the distance into bite-sized pieces:  4 x 8mi (i.e., quarters; yeah, the maths doesn’t work but please bear with me.) Within those 8-mile quarters, I broke it up into halves: so 2 x 4mi. At the end of each half, I would take my nutrition. After each mile, I would take a lick of my electrolyte salt. There were no course maps or elevation charts, so if I had to walk, the segment would be no longer than 30 seconds and if I need to walk longer, I’d break up the walk with at least a couple of minutes jogging (for the first 2 quarters of the race anyway).

Race Morning and the Start Line
I was slightly starved for sleep (see Polar Loop screen capture) but that didn’t damper my spirits. I did take my merry time getting ready in the morning because I had already prepared my breakfast the night before. My big sis (Annelle) was in town to pick up her furbabies (who I had been tending to for the past fortnight) and offered to drive me to the race site. This was a plan that I was most grateful for! Anyway after going through my morning race routine — morning constitution #TMI, breakfast, coffee, morning constitution again #TMI lol — we were off to the boondocks!

gopr0602The race site was at Rainbow Gardens Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). There was no packet pickup the day before, instead, I picked up my bib and race shirt that morning. Since my sis and I got there early, we were able to take a few selfies. It was a bit cold so the need to pee #TMI struck me and I realised that there were no porta-potties (yet). I considered going in the bushes, but they were sparse and I would have had to go up a hill for privacy lol. Luckily, the porta potties were finally delivered, set up at the start, and I was able to relieve myself. Yes, this was noteworthy (and sorry you had to read that). Hahaha.

Rebecca and IMy friend Rebecca arrived super early (her half marathon was later that morning) and was able to see me off. Seeing a familiar face is always a welcomed sight! Of course, a selfie was in order. 🙂

After a short pre-race talk where our Race Director gave us turn-by-turn descriptions of the course and a group photo* of the runners who were doing the marathon & 50k, we were off!

Group photo by MBradford Photography

Jean - in blue shirt - at the startMy (new) friend, Jean, arrived slightly late but caught up and I ran alongside him for about a quarter mile. He was going a bit too fast for my tastes and I didn’t want to slow him down — he had a time goal of under 6 hours! I wished him the best of luck and knew I’d see him later in the race (and I did) since the course had a number of out-and-backs.

 

 

First Quarter: Spring (Elevation gain: 383ft. Avg. pace: 11:53 min/mile)
About two miles into this first quarter, I decided to name them after the seasons and (naturally) ran them to the tune of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which I played in my head, sometimes humming the parts I knew. The first 5 miles were slight uphills, but it was so gradual that it didn’t bother me one bit. From mile 6 through 8, it was all downhill! I even clocked my fastest split of the day on mile 8 at 10:34 m/m! I passed through two aid stations but only stopped for one, picking up three (delicious) pieces of M&M peanuts.

First turnaroundI didn’t care that I was last (my goal was to finish before the course limit/cut-off time of 9 hours) but knowing that there were two or three people still running behind me gave me comfort lol. Although, I got a bit of a fright when I heard someone fast approaching and it didn’t sound like they were going to go around me. Thankfully, it was another runner and she ran alongside for a moment to ask about the mile markers/course. I briefly explained about the changing mile marker flag colors and assured her the turnaround for the 50k distance (first part) would be coming up and there would be several more out-and-backs. She was so fast and made a LOT of ground despite her late start (I thought she looked familiar, too).

Anyway, at the turn around point, I still felt great and yes, took a selfie by the sign. xD

Second Quarter: Summer (Elevation gain: 312ft. Avg. pace: 12:26 min/mile)
The first half of this quarter was uphill as we headed back the same way. I passed through the same two aid stations and briefly paused at one (by mile 10) to have about 4oz of Coke. It was funny because it took the volunteer a while to pour me a glass of warm Coke as he asked me what distance I was doing. In the meantime, there was another participant there — an older gentleman — who was doing the half-marathon and asked for something sweet — he needed sugar (I guess they ran out of M&M’s or he didn’t want any) and ended up having a glass of coke, too. There was a moment of impatience on my part, but it subsided after the old man cracked a joke that he was doing a 100km when he overheard me saying I was doing the 50k.

gopr0637It was also around this quarter that I took my running jacket off and just had my shirt on. I wasn’t overheating yet but was glad I shed it off before I began to feel too warm. The second half of this quarter was when I started singing my favorite contemporary Christmas songs, too.

Around mile 16, I spotted the race photographer and thought about doing a silly pose. I think I ended up with a half-arsed jump in the air… Not sure if he captured that*, but I thanked him for still being out there.

Third Quarter: Autumn (Elevation gain: 324ft. Avg. pace: 14:28 min/mile)
It was midway through mile 16 when I reached the right turn/U-turn that would take me to the next set of out-and-back trail dirt road. At that turn was an aid station that had (in my opinion) some not-so-cheery volunteers. I can’t place my finger on it, but I just expected a bit more smiles or a cheer rather than a seemingly cordial, “What do you need? We have Heed & Water.” I know I didn’t sound obnoxious when I kindly asked if they had Coke, and the lady firmly reiterated, “We have Heed.” She did help refill my hydration pack (the only time I refilled it for the whole race), I thanked her and left as soon as I could. I guess I was being too needy at that point, having been on my feet for about 3 hours and 22 minutes. I just found it odd since they also had some music playing, but neither were moved by the beat. LOL. Anyway, that was the only part of the race where after that encounter, I went into a thought process that was less than positive. It went on for nearly a quarter mile and I snapped myself out of it as I begun the next set of Christmas songs which I sung out loud.

gopr0644My pace had slowed considerably, but I accepted it and kept moving forward, albeit now walked more than 30 seconds at a time but still under a minute. This part of the course had a bit more deep gravel and I ran on wash-like terrain for about a mile and a half. When I got to the more worn dirt road, I saw the 50km and marathon leaders heading back! I cheered them, and in general, cheered others whom I had come across and was reciprocated with a “good job” or “great work.”

I got to another aid station at around mile 19.5 and this time, the volunteers were a bit more upbeat and greeted the runners that approached with applause and mini-cheers. I asked for some Coke (they had it!) and it was the best glass of ice-cold soda I’ve had all morning. xD The “fast lady” was there, too; and after telling her that I’ve seen her on the Desert Dash trail running group, we introduced ourselves. Her name’s Iris! I told her I’ve seen her run with Maia and Falana.

gopr0649After the aid station, there was a gradual but steady climb that went on for about 2.5 miles. My right butt cheek also started to act up — nothing that was too serious, but something that happened (I had forgotten and failed to address) at the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon 3 weeks prior to this race. Thankfully, I had my Kool ‘n’ Fit Sport spray (which I dubbed my “magic spray”) and applied some of its natural goodness to where I felt a slight pain. Since I already had the small spray bottle out, I applied it to my neck and shoulders, and for good measure, my quads and the sides of my knees.

gopr0652I got a bit of boost when I saw a runner in the distance walking up the hill. I passed him (felt good! lol) and thought I gained a lot of ground leading up to the turnaround point. I took a selfie at the sign and then saw him on the way back up. He kind of kept me company for the next 3 miles as we leapfrogged each other only to find his second wind at mile 23, and I didn’t see him again until the final turnaround.

At mile 24, I had my third (of 4) Clif savory pouch and took the time to consume it as I walked downhill. I guess it looked like I enjoyed it because one of the runners (going back uphill) commented if I had more “juice boxes” to share! xD

Fourth Quarter: Winter (Elevation gain: 305ft. Avg. pace: 15:10 min/mile)
gopr0656I knew I had slowed down further, but maintained my “keep moving forward” attitude and kept singing Christmas songs. I barely “ran” the downhill leading to mile 25.25 turnaround. It was that brief selfie stop that I realised I needed to pee #TMI. I half-debated whether I could hold it for another 6 miles or just go somewhere there since there’d be better coverage in this area. I’ll spare you another #TMI moment and just say I felt better afterwards. In hindsight, I was hydrated well enough to go, and I was still sweating.

Bullet casingsMy slowest split was after 26.2 miles. It was the final climb of the day, and at mile 27, the steepest of the course (233ft). I was at a casual walking pace and just took in the scenery. Of course, that was when I spotted some shell casings (shotgun, even!) and told my arse to just jog as much as I could uphill to get out of there. There had already been a couple in a sketchy full sized van (with Ontario plates) whom I saw twice before and after the mile 25 turnaround. I wasn’t about to stick around if the target shooters returned.

I reached the final (same) aid station with the cheery volunteers at mile 27.44 and had my last glass of soda (Dr. Pepper this time since it was the only “real” soda with sugar). Despite feeling more fatigue in my legs (the Kool ‘n’ Fit helped some more, but I was just getting tired), I felt rather giddy knowing I had less than 5 miles to go until the finish. I texted my sister, Annelle, that I was ahead of schedule and would be done in about 1.25 hours.

Runja!The wind picked up and I went into runja (running + ninja) mode for a short time. Despite the slight headwind, I ended running the final 4 miles in negative splits (well, it also helped they were downhill lol). Somewhere between mile 29 and 30, I gussied up: I wore my running jacket, fixed my ponytail, and rearranged my bib. Yes, I wanted to look good in case the finish line photog was still there. #vain I also started thinking about finish line poses. Haha. At least, that kept my mind preoccupied!

After that final turn and small incline back to the dirt lot, my pace quickened and went from 17:30 min/mile to 13:30 min/mile to the finish! Also, rather than pose, I decided to film myself crossing the finish line (that I Instagram‘d minutes later).

Epilogue
This was one of my more pleasant race experiences! The course was beginner-friendly: it had just the right amount of inclines, downhills and non-technical terrain. The aid stations were sufficient and spaced well. The weather was tolerable, albeit got a bit warm for me at some areas. I really think my nutrition made a HUGE difference with my general disposition at the critical points of the race, too. I may end up doing this next year (if my long course triathlon goes well), and am considering breaking 7 hours (barring any heatwaves in December. In Vegas.)

THANKS FOR READING (if you’re still here. lol)

Finisher!

But wait… there’s more.

Gear and Nutrition

Clothing
Moving Comfort Luna

Nike Poly/Wool blend top
lululemon Swiftly tech short sleeve
2XU compression tights
UNIQLO heattech tights

Injinji trail midweight socks

Shoes
Altra Superior 1.0 “Thrice” (mileage: 183.9mi)

Accessories
Paragon! trucker cap
Desert Dash buff
Oakley Straight Line 2.0 (prescription glasses)

Gear
Nathan Intensity hydration pack
Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential belt

Forerunner 910xt
Polar Loop
Road ID

iPhone 4s
GoPro Hero 3+

Nutrition
BASE Performance Electrolyte Salt
Clif Shot Gel (Chocolate Cherry, Razz)
Clif Organic Energy Food (Pizza Margherita, Sweet Potato with Sea Salt)

Aid Stations
3 pieces m&m Peanut
12oz Coke
3oz Coke Zero
8oz  Dr. Pepper

Photo by MBradford Photography

A hui hou!

3 Comments

  • Pingback: 2015 Race Recaps! | ex sententia RaDragon

  • 16 July, 2016 - 17:31 | Permalink

    Thanks for your race report. I will be running this 50k this year (2016). I was looking for more details about the race since they don’t give a race map of the course. This will be my first ultra. I enjoyed reading about your experience. Congratulations! 🙂

  • 17 August, 2016 - 18:32 | Permalink

    Thanks for the kind words and my apologies for this delayed reply! Yeah, there’s no course map on the website and Joyce (the RD) moved the race to October! Still, the course itself was easy as they were on dirt roads. The were some rollers but nothing to difficult as far as vert. It’s a perfect 50K for beginners, if I say so myself. 🙂

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