Monday, February 21, 2011

Race Report-Montana de Oro 50K

I had a business trip in CA last week. I figured I'd take advantage of the situation and piggyback my first Ultra of the year on with the trip. As an extra bonus, I got to visit some old friends from MI while I was out there.

I flew into San Diego on February 11th, rented an SUV with the intention of playing beach bum and sleeping in the back all weekend before heading back to San Diego for my work conference.

The race was in Las Osos, about 300 miles north of San Diego. After a quick stop at In-N-Out, I started the drive north hoping to make some ground before finding a place to 'camp' for the night. At about 10pm I started to feel the energy waining. This is when I discovered that the state of CA charges an arm and a leg to camp in their parks. $35 for a campsite! $45 for one with a nice view. Not a mile from the park was a Motel 6 for $49/night. Easy choice... the extra cash for a shower and a bed was a no-brainer.

I headed to some beaches by Santa Barbara on Saturday and got in a nice easy 4M run to keep the legs moving. Filled my water bottle with some beer and brought my camera to keep my mindset in the right place. Like an idiot, I ran without socks, in my racing shoes. Nothing like running a 50K in wet shoes, with new blisters, and sand all over the place!

Lots of birds, shells, rocks, the ocean, and even some nude chicks sunbathing. Perfect scenery for a mountain man.
A bird hanging out, not really giving a shit

A bird-I'm an expert in Ornithology, if you can't tell

Beach by Santa Barbara

After the run I drove through some wine country to San Luis Obisbo to meet my friends Bill and Tamara (who was running the 25K). After a nice hike in the neighboring hills, we enjoyed a great dinner with some local wine and lots of pasta at Tamara's parents, before heading to bed. That's about the best pre-race day I've ever had.

The morning of the race I was in prime form. I was channeling my inner space cadet like you wouldn't believe. Forgot my water bottle at Tamara's, but was lucky enough to get a phone call in time to go back an get it. I should clarify, Tamara got a call in time. A call to me would have gone unanswered as I had also left my phone back at the house. I wouldn't figure this out until later though.

Montana De Oro Park is a beautiful state park along the ocean. The 50K course is 2 laps of a figure-8 course, with the start/finish/aid station positioned at the intersection point. Each 'loop' of the figure-8 contained a 1200-1400 foot climb. I think the total climb for the race was something like 6400 feet. The race starts with a nice flat 3 mile section though some bluffs along the ocean, followed by a steep climb, a steep drop, a steady climb and then a steady drop. Then you repeat it all again.

The weather was perfect. Maybe low 50's at the beginning.

I decided to try a new approach to this race. My goal was to go out somewhat hard for the first 1/4 of the race and establish myself as a contender. Then ease off for the middle 1/2 of the race, and then try to hammer it home during the last 1/4.

The start was rather chaotic, as the 8K, 12K, 25K and 50K races all started together. It was rather difficult to know who was racing what distance. I recognized Evan Hone (the eventual 50K winner) and decided to keep him in my sights. Within a 1/4 mile he was in 2nd place amongst all runners, and I found myself in 3rd. Once we hit the 1st big climb, I believe Evan jumped into 1st place. This is the way it remained the entire rest of the 1st lap.

Beginning of the first climb of the day (Photo: Luis Escobar)

Coming out of the woods after the 1st loop (Photo: Bill Theide)

The guy who was in 2nd ended up being a 25K runner, so I found my place in 2nd at the start of the 2nd lap. By this time it was heating up quite a bit. I was draining a 20oz water bottle every 7 miles, plus chugging liquids at the aid station and popping endurolytes like they were candy. I had sweat dripping off the brim of my cap. It's been a good 6 months since I've ran in such heat.

There was a guy that got within probably 50 yards of me at the beginning of the third climb and that gave me a bit of a jolt, but once the climbing started he seemed to run out of gas. On my way back down the mountain I could see that I'd opened a decent gap, so I chilled a bit. Unfortunately, by this time I had lost sight of Evan, and couldn't see anybody behind me. The whole "hammer it home the last 1/4 of the race' strategy seemed unnecessary, and to be honest too much work. It was hot, I was out of water, and there was nobody around, so I ran at a decent but relaxed pace for the remainder of the race. With about 2 miles to go, I caught my toe on a rock and almost ate shit, but was able to recover. In the moment of panic, I somehow managed to get a extremely painful cramp in my tricep. I can't explain it, but its a sign of how dehydrated I really was, and did I mention it hurt like hell.

Finishing strong...(Photo: Bill Theide)

I finished the race in 5:21, for 2nd overall. 20 minutes behind 1st, and 23 minutes ahead of 3rd.
I took a beating. I was sunburned all to hell, dehydrate, and I am pretty sure (as in I have a lot of objective proof) that I ran through a bunch of poison oak. But overall it was a great time and a great race with phenomenal scenery. I followed it up with some beer and fish tacos, before bidding a farewell to Bill and Tamara and heading back down the coast towards San Diego. Tamara took 2nd women in the 25K too! Congrats to her. We've renamed the Park Montana de Plata (Silver).

Stayed the night in another cheap motel. I found the energy to go on a 'fast hike' on Monday in the Topanga State Park outside of LA before hitting up In-N-Out again and finishing my drive to San Diego.
Topanga State Park-Pretty sure there's illegal pot growing going on somewhere down in that valley.
A Waterfall in Topanga State Park

Sunset in Topanga State Park

I think a Trek to CA in the dead of winter is going to be a standard thing for years to come. For now, I'm gonna switch gears and try to jam a road marathon training regime into 8 weeks in preparation for Boston. Bring on the boring bike paths!!!


  1. Your ornithological skills are amazing. I could have sworn those were turtles.

  2. Nice to briefly meet you at the race. That is a tough course for sure. I laughed when I read that your tricep cramped up. Mine did the same thing and I have never had that happen in a race before.

    That second loop was the worst experience of my life! Anyways give me a shout next time you head to SoCal.