Recap of the Bulldog 50K Ultra Trail Run in Malibu Creek State Park, Calabasas, California, USA (23 August 2008)
I registered to participate in this ultra trail run on the 2nd week of July after I arrived in Los Angeles, California to experience what it takes to run an ultramarathon, a running event which is longer than a marathon. My son paid $ 70.00 for the registration fee through his bank’s debit card and my application was accepted immediately.
I ran through the route of the race for two times except for the actual last 3 kilometers of the trail that connects the Corral Canyon/Backbone Trail to the Malibu Creek State Park, which is the Tapia Trail, instead, I had to run along the side of the Las Virgenes Road facing the incoming traffic.
In my first practice run in this route (25K-loop) with my son, my GF 305 registered a total ascent of 4,593.6 feet (1,392 meters) not including the last steep hill between Tapia Park and Malibu Creek State Park, and a total descent of 4,217.4 feet (1,278 meters). After running the whole distance of the Bulldog 50K Ultra Trail Run, I expect to run run twice the figures above as my total ascent & descent distances. The race started at an elevation of 600 feet (182 meters) and reached the highest peak of 2,528 feet (766 meters) at the end of Bulldog & Corral Canyon Trails. And I have to run through the peaks and the trails twice under the heat of the sun!
My alarm clock was set at 3:30 AM of Saturday as my son and daughter decided to accompany me to the assembly area and witness the start of the race. Immediately after I woke up, I did the “usual drill” for a marathoner/runner before he/she goes to the race–shave; take a quick shower; apply Body Glide to my nipples, inner thighs, upper arms; apply petroleum jelly to my whole feet; wear my running kit and TNF trail shoes; prepare my hydration belt and hand-held water jug; placed my GUs and energy bars in the pockets of my running shorts; put an extra set of running attire, running cap, sandals, extra socks, camera, sunglasses, ID, water, sports drinks and confirmation notice in a paper bag; and ate my breakfast.
At 4:30 AM, the three of us were out of the house. The weather was cold and the streets were still empty and we were on our way to the Malibu Creek State Park. We arrived at the place at 5:20 AM and it was still too dark because the park was filled with fogs. When we reached our designated parking area, there were at least 40 cars ahead of us even if we arrived early for the 6:30 AM start of the 50K race. The temperature was at 57 degrees Fahrenheit and I have to wear my sweater to keep myself warm. I immediately went to the starting area booth to get my race packet and finisher’s t-shirt and the race volunteers (mostly old women) were very helpful and accommodating. I had to go back to the car and made my brief stretching routine.
I had to arrive early at the Malibu Creek State Park to get my race packet at least 1 hour before the start of the race. The place was still too dark, foggy and cold and I had much time to prepare my things and do some stretching exercises. The white dots on the picture were the mists on my camera.
Near the place where I was stretching was a group of Japanese (mid-aged and older) of about ten runners doing their stretching activity and found out later that this is a group of ultra runners. I have observed that most of the ultra runners came from other cities in California and neighboring states. After stretching, I asked my son to pin my race number; made my last visit to the comfort room; wear my hydration belt; held my sunglasses; sipped my 1st GU; adjusted my watch ( I left my GF 305, instead, I was using a Timex watch) and checked the tightness of my trail shoes. And exactly 10 minutes before the sheduled start of the race, I was already at the starting area.
Fifteen minutes before the race, I was on my way to the Starting Line with the fogs covering the mountains of the Malibu Creek State Park. I was using my old lumbar Nathan Water Belt and a newly-bought Nathan Hand-held Water Jug which I used on my second practice run along this route.
The yellow colored race bibs were for the 50K runners. Most of the runners used camelbak-type water hydration system. The runners were loosely assembled in the starting area. I have the impression that the race organizer limits the number of runners for easier control and management. There were no running/timing chips in ultra races.
My son, John, was my official photographer and I told him to just wait for me at the Finish Line. I was wearing a Patagonia Trail Running Apparel with zippered pockets on my shorts where I kept my energy bars with a small pack on my belt where I kept my GUs. I was also wearing a “neck bandoo” and a “french legionnaire” style of running cap to protect my nape from the heat of the sun.
Nancy Shura-Dervin, the race organizer, had a 5-minute last briefing instructions to all the runners before the start of the race.
Note: In order to have a better appreciation of the Bulldog Trail (uphill portions of the route) and the Corral Canyon Trail/Backbone Trail, please read my previous post, “Know The Enemy” (Bulldog Trail) where I recap my first run along the 25K-loop, one week before my San Francisco Marathon. My next post on my second practice run along the same route, one week after my San Francisco Marathon, was entitled “You Made It…Good Job”. I did these two paractice runs later during the day where I encountered higher temperatures than the actual run on race day.
Another view of the 50K runners. I have the impression that the 50K runners reached to almost 200 starters.
My first step after hearing the voice command of Nancy Shuran-Dervin of “Ready, Set, Go!”
And we were off on the road and towards the trails/mountains after the voice command of Nancy, “Ready, Set, Go”!
The Race Organizer, a lady by the name of Nancy Shura-Dervin who is a veteran ultra runner and competitor in past Badwater Ultramarathon events, made some announcements before the start of the race. She said that the race is being sponsored by The North Face, instead of Montrail, and emphasized that the trails are full of markers—pink-colored arrow lines on the road/trail and yellow ribbons tied on the grasses and plants along the sides of the road/trail and she assured that the Aid Stations were already in their locations to help every runner with their needs. After hearing the last instructions from the Race Organizer at the entrance of the Parking Area, we were released with a simple command of “Ready, Set, Go!”
As I had planned for the race, I started slowly with my pace with lots of runners overtaking me in the 1st kilometer and just kept in my mind my main objective of finishing this race at all cost within the 9-hour time limit regulation, which means that I have to finish the race before 3:30 PM. When I was about to reach the portion where the trail is only good for one runner, nobody was around me and I just maintained my pace without being bothered by a sound of heavy breathing or sound of a thumping shoes of a runner on my back.
My Timex watch and my familiarity of the trail were my gauge on how far I was covering the distance in the race and the time would indicate me when to take my GUs and energy bars along the way. I made the following reminders for the race—take my GU every one hour to one hour & fifteen minutes; eat my energy bar every one hour & 30 minutes; and walk at least 3-5 minutes every one hour of running/jogging on the uphill portions of the route. I decided not to use my GF 305 because I predicted that the battery would be wasted after 5-6 hours which I experienced for the two occasions that I used it to run this route.
At the first uphill portion of the route before the 3-kilometer mark, most of the runners who overtook me were already walking briskly up to the top of the road and then continue running again once they reach the level portion. This had been my observation with most of the average ultra runners—brisk walk on the uphill portions, slowly resume jogging on the level portion, and run as fast as they could in the downhill portion! As compared to my tactics, I would continously jog on the uphill portions and overtake these brisk walkers but as soon as I am running downhill, they would overtake me and gain some distance ahead of me! And I said to myself, “wait, I am wasting my energy here, I have to be smart also like these runners and maybe adopt their style of running an ultra trail race”.
I passed and didn’t stop by the 1st Aid Station and kept on slowly jogging and I’ve observed that some runners were already stopping by the station for drinks and food. Maybe, these runners did not had their breakfast before the start of the race.
This is the start of the trail road towards the mountains which is about 200 meters away from the Starting Line. The Bulldog Mountain is at the background. (Note: This picture was taken during my 1st practice run)
This is the kind of road/trail towards the peak of the Bulldog Mountain with lots of rocks, loose soil and dusts. This part of the route is at least 2 kilometers from the Aid Station #1. (This picture was taken during my 1st run)
This part of the road is near the peak of the Bulldog Trail. This is where a lot of runners would walk until they reach the peak.
As soon as my watch indicated that I was running/slowly jogging for about an hour, I started to brisk walk on the uphill portion, at least one kilometer from the peak of the Bulldog Trail. It took me 2-3 minutes to walk just in time to take a sip of water. I would resume again with my running/slow jogging until I reached the peak which to my estimate is the 10-kilometer mark.
While slowly jogging between the Km 10 and Km 11 and before reaching the start of the downhill portion of the route towards the Corral Canyon Road, I was surprised to start feeling a pain on my left hamstring muscle! This was my first time to experience such pain from my hamstrings on my entire running life! What could be the reason why I was having such pain? I usually have early pains and cramps on my calves. Anyway, I just relaxed myself, focused my thoughts of finishing the race before the cut-off time and tried at all costs to stick to my pre-race strategy/plan. I have to bring out the “warrior-spirit” in me in the early part of the race and I still have 40 kilometers to go! “Think positively, soldier” had been my mantra for the next kilometers!
Once I reached the starting portion of the downhill towards the trailhead of the Corral Canyon, I increased my pacing and never stopping along the way until I reached Aid Station Number 2. The pain on my left hamstring never bothered me again and I suspect that the alternate way of jogging and walking had somehow altered my running style and my leg muscles were not used to it. I asked for Gatorade with ice filled with my hand-held water jug and my water jug on my belt was filled with ice-cold water in the said water station. The sun was already out of the sky and it was giving some heat as we started the race with a temperature of 66 degreed Fahrenheit and it was predicted that the temperature will be in the high 70s. However, I expected that the temperature will reach up to mid 90s during noontime.
This is part of the peak of the Bulldog Trail.
This is the start of beautiful and colored rock formations which stretches to about another one hundred meters ahead. This is the trail after coming from Aid Station #2/#5.
In two minutes, I was out of the aid station and I was on my way to the nice rock formations which was featured in the TV series “Star Trek”. After passing this part of the route, I knew that there was still a high peak/uphill road that I have to go through before going down to Tapia Trail. I just maintained my slow running or slow jogging, “shuffling” slowly on those uneven dusty and rocky roads until I reached the highest peak overlooking the Malibu Beach and the Pacific Ocean. And from there, everything was downhill. But the downhill road was very steep and this is where the traction of a trail shoes is badly needed to prevent a runner from sliding. Aside from the trail shoes, the quadriceps of my legs came into play to maintain and control my body balance and leg strides. I could feel that my feet were constantly rubbing my socks but I was very confident that I will never have any blisters because of the petroleum jelly that I applied on my feet and the Coolmax trail running socks I bought from the Eddie Bauer Store which were very comfortable and reliable in my past runs on these trails.
At the end of the Corral Canyon Trail, I was trailing two other runners, one female white and male Hispanic runners until we reached the Tapia Creek/Tapia Trail which was my first time to see it. The creek has water flowing in it and I was warned by Ben Gaetos to have a drop bag placed at the Aid Station after Tapia Creek where I could change to a dry shoes or socks. Since I don’t have any drop bags, my mind was already prepared for a wet trail shoes for the next 27 kilometers! As I approached the Tapia Creek, I saw that there were rocks on the creek and immediately looked for, at least, four protruding rocks from the water where I could step on to prevent my shoes from being wet. The creek’s width is about 6-7 meters and it was very easy crossing the said creek with the help of those stable rocks with my shoes very dry after crossing it. The runner on my back was not lucky, he chose the wrong rocks and his feet got wet.
As I approached the last Aid Station in the 25K-loop, which is to my estimate is the Km-23 mark, I prepared my water jugs to be refilled with Gatorade and water by the volunteers. This was what I liked in these Aid Stations, the volunteers would ask you what you need and they immediately reach out for you water jugs and they do the refilling and with ice in it while you have time to pick any food/drinks that you can eat/drink from the table–lots of pretzels, fresh orange fruits cut in bite pieces, M & M chocolates, cookies, beef jerky, GUs, energy bars, ice chests full of ice, and big thermos jugs filled with cold water & Gatorade. They have also sponges and cold water sprays..and somebody who would give you a massage to your cramping muscles! The one who gives the massage is a man! It took me at least 2-3 minutes in the said station and started to eat some oranges and I was back again on the road.
The 23rd kilometer stretch was a plain/flat road & trail which were part of the Tapia Park where a Water Distillation Plant is located. However, the Km 24 stretch was a winding trail road that goes all the way to the peak of a steep hill that separates Tapia Park and the Malibu Creek State Park and I slowly jogged along this trail. From this trail, everything was going down to the asphalted roads of the Malibu Creek State Park. When I reached that part where the ultra runners got separated from the 25K runners, I saw on my watch that my time for the 1st 25K loop was 3:08:10 hours!
What? 3:08 hours for the 1st loop? I was running too fast! Although the heat of the sun was too much to bear and my legs were tired and about to run again the uphill climb along the Bulldog Trail, I was happy and smiling that I have enough time as a “cushion/buffer” to reach the 1st/4th Aid Station which has a cut-off time at 11:30 AM (after 5 hours). If a runner doesn’t reach or pass before the said time in this Aid Station, the runner is considered as DNF. As I reached the 1st/4th Aid Station along the Bulldog Trail, I still have at least 2 hours as “buffer” time for the cut-off time. I had to stop at this Aid Station to fill up my water jugs with Gatorade and Water. Once I stopped at the Aid Station, the guys at the Station immediately applied a cold sponge on my head, nape and shoulders and another guy would spray cold water on my body. It was “heaven”, feeling such a relief and being refreshed from the cold water being damped/sprayed to my wet cap and shirt which were already wet from my sweat! I conclude that an ultra runner is always treated as a “king/queen” once he/she steps inside the Aid Station and I was really impressed.
From the said Aid Station I would briskly walked all the time up to the peak of the Bulldog Trail and started talking with the other runners who were also running and walking. Each of the runner would ask if they were feeling alright with the heat of the sun. Also, I would ask another runner if they need an energy bar when somebody see me eating mine. One white tall guy just sat on one of the big rocks along the side as I was about to approach the peak of the Bulldog Trail and asked him if he had any problem and he answered that he was simply tired! At the peak of the trail, I came upon another tall white guy who was wearing a tight/body-fit long-sleeved Under Armour shirt, tight compression pants of Under Armour, cap with the Under Armour logo, and with an Oakley sunglass and he was making some stretching moves on the side of the road. He was talking a guy with a Mountain Bike resting on the other side of the road. The well-dressed guy was looking for the lady who was giving some water to the runners as he badly neded a replenishment of water supply for his jug. I saw a water gallon (with a small amount of water in it) on top of a marker sign and I got it and brought it to the guy and helped him fill his water jug. I started a conversation with him as we started to go downhill from the peak. He told me that it was his first ultramarathon race and he had never ran a marathon race and only finished few 10K runs. I answered him that he is a “brave” man to undertake such feat and asked him to jog with me. He begged off and gave me the reason that he has to take some salt tablets first and walk downhill. I would never see the guy again.
This is the peak of the Bulldog Mountain where I saw a well-dressed (with Under Armour attire) runner stretching and looking for some water. This is the start of the downhill part of the route (as it curves towards the left) towards the trailhead of the Corral Canyon Road where Aid Station #2 is located.
It was a slow downhill running towards the trailhead of the Corral Canyon Trail until I reached the 2nd/5th Aid Station. I had my Gatorade & water jugs refilled and as I was about to leave the station, an old lady volunteer noticed that I was wearing a “bandana” tied around my neck and she advised me to soak my bandana for a few seconds inside the ice chest before leaving the station. Wow! How sweet of that old lady to give me such advise and I heeded her advise! Actually, I was using a “neck bandoo”which is advertised as a “cooling head/neck gear” and I saw being used by the Badwater Ultramarathoners. The ice-soaked bandoo gave me help and the much-needed comfort from the heat of the sun. In every Aid Station, I had to apply the suggested etiquette for ultramarathoners to always look at the eyes of the volunteers and say “Thank you very much” before leaving. As I left the station, I was again alone on the road with tiny body figures running ahead of me on those incoming upward trails seen at a distance.
Another view of the “Start Trek” location where it was almost noon time when I passed through this area on my second round.
I had to alternately walk and run until I reached the highest peak of the Corral Canyon Road and I was confident to reach the finish line in less than seven (7) hours as I was about 5 1/2 hours running along the trail when I started going downhill and still have at least 7-8 kilometers to go. But while I was on the steep downhill towards the end of Corral Canyon Road, my quadriceps started to have some pain and I could feel that they were becoming numbed which might bring me to be easily tripped with a small mistake on my footing on the ground. On the last few meters of the steep trail along the Corral Canyon and before Tapia Trail, I had to slowly walk and take extra careful of my steps.
And this is the highest peak of the Corral Canyon Trail and at the back of this mountain is the start of a downhill route towards Tapia Creek.
This is a view of the Malibu/Calabasas Mountains with the Pacific Ocean as the background as seen from the peak of the Corral Canyon Road. On the right side is a community/subdivision of big houses surrounded with big trees.
I was able to cross the Tapia Creek by choosing again the stable protruding rocks and reached the 3rd/6th Aid Station (last station). Upon entering the Aid Station, I saw at least five runners, most of them resting, eating, drinking, one of them was getting a sponge rub into his entire body and one was having a massage. An Asian volunteer guy got my water jugs and filled one with Gatorade and the other one with water as I was eating lots of orange bites and my energy bar. In 3 minutes, I was starting to run again. My Timex Watch registered a time of 6:42 hours as I left the last station and I thought I could run the last two kilometers before my watch registered 7 hours.
And then suddenly when I was about to start my uphill run on the last hill (Km 49 stretch) that separates Tapia Park and Malibu Creek Sate Park, my quadriceps became tight, painful and I could barely lift my legs in order to shuflle my way up to the hill. Also, I was starting to have stomach cramps and side stitches. Every lift of my legs would give me cramps and I decided to just have a leisurely walk all the way to the peak of the steep hill and I knew that at this point I hit my “wall” for the ultramarathon! There was no need to finish a sub-7 hours for this 50K race, I came here to finish my first ultramarathon race before the cut-off time of 9 hours and gain experience from it!
As I reached the peak of the hill, I drank the Ensure that I put inside the smaller jug on my hydration belt and it gave me my last strength to start running again for the last one kilometer towards the finish line! I finished the race with a time of 7:18 + hours with one hour and 42 minutes to spare before the cut-off time. After I passed the finish line, one of the lady volunteers placed my finisher’s medal on my neck and I got a big hug from my son, John. In a few seconds, Ben Gaetos aka “benwah”, a Filipino ultramarathoner living in Los Angeles, came to congratulate me and he was all praises for what I have accomplished. Thanks Ben for those “tips”, encouraging words and the following comment you posted!
My picture taken without my cap at least 50 meters from the finish line. I actually removed my cap on the last kilometer of the race where I heard a lot of cheers from the crowd–“Good Job…Looking Good..You made it!” Those cheers gave me more strength to finish the race with a smiling face!
The digital clock displayed 7:18:14 hours as I reached the Finish Line with my arms raised and I made it!
Yes, I finished my first Ultramarathon Race (50K) in a very hard and challenging trail run in the mountains of the Malibu Creek State Park in Calabasas, California at an age of 56 years old. What an experience!
The Bald Ultrarunner with the mountains of Malibu Creek State Park as the background where the ultra trail run passed through.
Being awarded this Bulldog 50K Ultramarathon Trail Run Finisher’s Medal is like as if I earned a Gold Medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games!
Finally, a pose with Ben Gaetos (on my right) and Nancy Shura-Dervin, the Race Organizer. Ben, thanks for the DVD of the Badwater Ultramarathon Race. I will forever treasure this and maybe, inspire me to be an accomplished ultramarathoner like you!
Note: To have a glance of my pictures along the route, visit http://www.byronwmoore.com, click Find Your Event Photo, click Bulldog 2008, click Bib # 300-399, and then go to picture #439 & #440.