If there was a day to be nervous about, it was this one. Golden Ultra, Day 2, The Sweat. Considering I had spent the summer getting ready for a flat marathon, this was going to be a change of scenery. The plan was to stick with @RunEMZ as much as I could and take one KM at a time. The goal was simply to finish for the both of us
Read day 1 recap: Golden Ultra, Day 1, All The Way Up
Day 2: “The Sweat”
Distance: 55K (34.2 mi)
Elevation: 2500m gain (8200 ft.), 2500m loss (8200 ft.)
3-weeks prior to the Golden Ultra weekend I spent most of my time getting ready for the up and down motion on the trails. With Mt. Diablo close, I made my way to the summit (3700 ft up, then down) several times. Although the race would be different, getting used to climbing up then running down was going to be great practice.
Here We Go
I debated on whether or not to bring a second layer. I had initially planned to go out in my short sleeve shirt, with some gloves. I typically run warm, so I figured that should be sufficient. I brought a long-sleeved shirt with me in the car and decided at the last minute to throw it on. If worse came to worse, I could always tie it around my waist, or ditch it at an aid station (spoiler: it never came off and worked perfectly).
At The Top of a Mountain
Similar to the previous day, I was constantly amazed at the heights we were reaching and the spanning views of what we were experiencing. There were moments when we were running right next to the edge of a cliff and the views down (and out) were simply breathtaking. Sadly, I didn’t take out the camera very often because of the EPIC milage we had in front of us. But I did convince EMZ to get “kinda” close to the edge to look down. By close, I mean like 5 feet away from the edge. #noheightsforEMZ
It was Bound to Happen
With any ultra experience (IMHO), there are going to be some “down” times. You are out there for hours, you are tired, you are covering HUGE distances and you can’t be “happy-go-lucky” all the time. Again, my personal thoughts. For me, this happened to be as we were approaching what we thought was the top. It seemed like we had reached the highest point of the mountain. You look up, you look out, and you just don’t see anything. You can’t imagine there is anything else that is higher. In looking at my watch, we were around 18-ish miles so it would make sense that the “down” part of the loop should be happening soon. But nope, we would turn a corner and see more UP out of nowhere. We would peak, then look out and see some MORE up. I think we reached the “peak” 3-4 times and it was just crushing to see more climb.
These were hard miles. Closer to the top, it wasn’t switch backs on trails, it was climbing over boulders and rocks. There was a lot of “you gotta be kidding me” moments between me and EMZ. Want to know how difficult these climbs were?
Mile 18: 35 mins
Mile 19: 42 mins
Mile 20: 36 mins
Mile 21: 28 mins
Those were some seriously challenging miles.
The Final 8K
It’s pretty safe to say that given what we ran the day before and what we were facing during this race, EMZ and I were keeping it together pretty good. We were both still feeling mentally strong and with the peaks behind us, we just knew we had to make it back. I accidentally got stuck in looking at my watch around mile 28. A terrible place to be in. It’s like looking at your watch at Mile 18. You are tired, you are close, but you still have 8 more miles to go. UGH. The miles take forever and here I was, looking at my watch with thinking “we can’t only be at mile 30.”
Over the last 8K, I fell in behind EMZ and she led the way. I was struggling with what I thought were some blisters on the bottom of my feet and every step was tough. If EMZ hadn’t been leading, my pace would have extremely slowed, but with only 6-ish miles to go, it was the mentality of “finish the race.” In looking at the splits, you wouldn’t notice that I was struggling because we stayed consistent the entire way. Surprisingly, I had no blisters on my feet. Maybe they were just hot spots, but I was imagining (and I told EMZ) that the entire right foot was one giant blister. It felt like I was running on water bubbles — sorry for the explanation. But I was amazed and astonished when my foot was absolutely perfect and fine post-race.
Total Distance: 34.8 mi.
Total Steps: 80,919
Total Time: 10:16:27*
Total Elevation: 7,833 ft
*official finishing time
My apologies in advance for trying to explain a 10+ hour experience in a single blog post. I’m just not that gifted of a writer, but I’ll do my best to summarize it here. This race easily breaks down into three sections:
Part 1: The Climb
We felt pretty good. The views were amazing, the mountain was extremely cooperative with weather and terrain. There were some extremely runnable sections and some definite walk-able sections. I would say this was probably the first 17 miles. Splits ranged from 12-minute runable sections, to 20 minute walkable sections.
Part 2: The Summit, again, and again.
This is where we struggled, mentally, not too much physically. I think we were just so tired of climbing. We were climbing up boulders, rocks, ridges. The views were absolutely breathtaking. We were surrounded by clouds, running along the ridges of mountains. Views that can only be explained by better story tellers. Honestly, these moments are the ones I will look back on fondly, forgetting how tough they actually were. Miles 18-22
Part 3: It’s time to finish.
This is the descent part of the race. EMZ and I felt much better, she got to see the family, and it definitely gave her some energy, plus we were no longer running “up.” Although these miles seemed to have taken forever, they were the most consistent of the day. Ranging from 13-16 min. miles, there was no significant dip/rise in pace over the final 12 miles. Amazing. To be that consistent after a tough climb doesn’t even make any sense.
Overall? This was the hardest, race I have ever done. That includes the several 50-mile races I have done. I think part of it was the difficulty of the climbs towards the top. What we thought would be a single summit, ended up being several, and the feeling of “ahhh, this is the top” just wore us down after experiencing it several times.
In hindsight, this will likely be one of the days that I will remember and hold in high reverence. The difficult climbs, the views, the consistency of the last 12-miles that makes no sense, the chatty miles with EMZ, the silent miles with EMZ, the boulders, the leaves, the mud, the trail, all the things. This course had all of it… and we have one more day to go.
What has been your experience in running an ultra (or up a mountain)?