Run The Peak

The final of my Extreme 3 Challenge. Lake Cuyamaca and Pinnacle Endurance’s ‘Run The Peak 50k. After back to back weekends of Xtreme Ironman distance triathlons I got to admit, I was a little excited to “only” have a 50k run to do….

The week leading up to the race I did zero training. I felt pretty trashed and listened enough to my body to realise training during the week was only going to tax any possible reserves I had for race day.

Come race morning, I felt good. Merissa (my wife) was by my side, a far cry from the previous events. I was also testing out new postural enhancement compression clothing from IntelliSkin. I was as ready to race as I could be.

The 6am start was a great sign of things to come. Zero race briefing, temperatures already rising 1, 2, 3 go. Straight up a 3.5k rocky, loose single track climb we went.  This is certainly no fire trail or combed MTB path. This is true rocky, loose, rambling footing.

“Conejos Trail resembled a landslide”

The most noticeable thing early was my heart rate didn’t want to calm down. A solid 10-15 beats higher than expected even slowing to a walk didn’t take much edge off the HR. The pace though did not feel hard. There was a nice 2k gentle down hill before the final 4K climb through to the high point of the day whose path along Conejos Trail resembled a landslide. Climbing it was already intimidating as I knew I’d have to descend the same path in another 30k…

The aid station here provided a fantastic photo opportunity and a chance to snag a banana or two. It was also a little out and back section so it was great to see other runners flying past a few minutes ahead. We then went into a magic 11k descent of a beautiful gradual incline through pine forests and what appeared to be wheat fields. A very exposed section of trail the views through the San Deigo Mountain ranges here were magic. Unfortunately a fellow runner took a hard tumble and was potentially rewarded with a broken rib. After we had checked him for any major injuries he decided to slowly walk his way through to the next aid station. I took a very minor stumble and well if a little blood on the knee was all I had it was a good day on my feet!

“A much needed perk up”

At the second aid station approx 21k in I was hot. I got a much needed perk up by Merissa surprising me, yet this next 8k loop proved very hard. I walked the first climb and I soon noticed I was even starting to walk the flats. Running was scarce. By now it was hot and I was hot. 

Finally hitting the end of this loop I reached the same aid station again. On a super hot day though they were out of ice, my hydration pack sprung a massive leak and even though I had Merissa’s spark of energy I declared “this is going to be a long walk to the finish.”

“Just warm, chewy, sticky mush”

That same, beautiful 11k descent was now a climb that I wasn’t sure I could even crawl up. Unable to run, at some stages swaying across the path. This is the closest I’ve ever been to heat stroke. I thought about walking back to the aid station to quit but it seemed to far. I contemplated falling asleep in the long grass or passing out on a rock, but I wasn’t sure if I’d get back up or be found…

This super exposed section of trail got hot- about 40 degrees and had zero wind. My water was warm. Trying to force in some calories I took a bite of a cliff bar, but it was like giving a dog a mouthful of peanut butter. Just warm, chewy, sticky mush. 

“Afraid of overheating again”

It was a massive effort to keep one foot going in front of the other. As other racers went past a few asked if I was ok, I didn’t have any words, I shrugged and mumbled “I don’t know.” Asked if I needed anything again I slurred “I don’t know.” I did think of the kangaroo and the emu, the only two animals in the world that can’t walk backwards, and as the only Ozzie battler on the race course I knew I had to finish this thing. With about 4K to go to the top I said to another passing competitor “let them know 88 is coming, but slowly.” I started to realise I’d make it but was afraid of overheating again. So, I decided only walking from here till the aid station.

I made that aid station at the top of the high point and the jubilation of knowing less than 10k to go kicked in. A chance for some coke and any other easy access sugar I was off. 

“4K from the end”

By now it was mostly down hill and although there was the notorious conjeos trail descent to go each step took me closer to the finish. Having such a tangible distance to the finish really helped. Additionally, I was starting to pick off a few of the competitors who’d flown past me on the climb. There was a bonus aid station complete with ice only 4K from the end. I was imagining not just finishing this 50k, but my entire journey. Alaskaman, Canadaman and Run the Peak over 3 consecutive weekends would be complete!!!

At the crest of the final climb I stopped to give another racer a swig from my hydration bladder as he’d gone dry. It was then time to trot on down hill!! Seeing Merissa’s smiling face and waving arms at the finish line was just awesome. It had been a long day for her and it was good to see her perched in the shade of the official’s tent as my day had taken a fair bit longer than expected….

A credit to John Martinez and his crew from Pinnacle Endurance. They put on a truly challenging event. Great supporters, volunteers, a tough course and furnace like conditions. This was certainly one way to run the peak!!!