Race Day – Ray Miller 50K Recap

I signed up for this race last spring. It seemed to be so far into the future then, and I am always surprised when race day dawns. Where did all the time go? A book that I read for an intro to trail running was, “Relentless Forward Progress.” In addition to being a primer for ultra races, the title serves as a metaphor for the passage of time. So how’d the day go?

Sunrise on race day. I will never tire of this view.

Not surprisingly I didn’t sleep well Friday night. The plan was to get up at 4:00am. I tossed and turned from 11:00pm on… and at 2:45am, I decided that I’d get up at 3:00. Thankfully I actually went to sleep after that decision and was awakened by my alarm at 4:00. I had already put my kit together so the first half hour upon waking was to relax with a cup of coffee and eat a banana muffin made with Kodiak Cakes protein flour. Megan arrived at around 4:30. Time to get moving!

The first part of getting dressed is to roll Sports Shield everywhere! This is the best stuff for preventing chafing. Then sunscreen. I use ThinkSport. It goes on very thick and thus lasts a long time. After leaving home I realized that I forgot to put sunscreen on my face. Thankfully I wore a hat. Both products worked well…but I did chaff badly where my bra hooks. I even used my portable sheet of Sports Shield when I felt it happening, but I think it’s time to retire the bra I wore on race day as the hook is what moved and was digging into my back.. Taking that post race shower sure hurt when the water hit my back.

Megan and I looking nice and fresh before the race

We left home at 5:00am and arrived at La Jolla Canyon at 5:20. Nice to live that close! After getting our bibs we went back to the car to stay warm. I was admiring the stars while commenting sadly, “we were supposed to have clouds today.”

At about 6:10 we used the porta potties, did a little muscle warmup and went to the starting line. The race started at 6:34 (I think).

img_0004First Segment, Ray Miller Trail
The race starts with the first major climb and the plan here was to walk/run at an easy pace. It was easy to accomplish because there were so many of us on the trail. With that we ascended a bit faster than we had in our training runs. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down…it was going to be a long day. We made it to the Hell Hill aid station feeling pretty good. I didn’t need anything so I just turned left and headed to the first loop.img_0005La Jolla Valley Loop
The first mile of this segment was my fasted for two reasons: it was downhill, and there were so many people coming up behind us that there was a psychological need to push ahead of those coming up behind. At about 5.5 miles Megan (my daughter) fell…her first ever trail running fall. She was back up almost as fast as she went down…adrenaline at work!

We made sure not to start at the beginning of the pack, but we still had faster people behind us. I made sure to allow those coming up behind me to pass. Once though a guy came up behind me yelling, “on your left,” the problem was I had nowhere to go and almost fell off the trail trying to accommodate him. That was a bit scary.

The second major climb was towards Mugu Peak. This was a hard climb that I had already planned to walk. I realized that lots of people can walk uphill faster than I can. Once we hit the top I had a very nice run back down and through the La Jolla Valley, back to the Hell Hill aid station. This time I ate two pieces of watermelon…but they were warm and didn’t taste good. I took two pieces of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my next food break and then headed to the next loop, Guadalasco Trail. Megan and I had separated and I was expecting her to catch me at any time.

img_0006-e1512426501253.jpgGuadalasco Loop
The loop started with the third (and easiest) climb of the race. A few people passed me who’d passed me previously, they must have stopped at the aid station for a longer time. I encountered a few bicyclists on this trail…I had encountered them in training too, but had been hoping they wouldn’t be on the trail today…on this section they weren’t a problem and one guy was shouting encouragement at everyone. The descent on this trail is a hard one for me. The trail is rocky and uneven and I am very tentative. Megan passed me on the descent. I made it down to the bottom unscathed…and ran with another woman for awhile. She was from San Diego and running her second 50K. The fire road at the bottom of Guadalasco (Wood Canyon Fireroad) was a welcome site and I enjoyed this little respite while I mentally prepared for Hell Hill.

Hell Hill was a hard walk…once again people were easily passing me while walking. I even did it a bit faster than in training. Impressively one woman ran up this hill! How’d she do that? Getting to the top meant that we were now a bit over halfway done. Yeah! This time I refilled my water and even had some water dumped on my back. Megan walked up slower than I did so when she arrived at the aid station, I told here I was taking off, knowing that she would catch me on a downhill.

img_0007Backbone Trail to Danielson Ranch Interlude
This little section took us to the last loop. Going down the Backbone Trail was the most frustrating because of bicyclists. One guy was going so fast that, thankfully, another runner behind me yelled, “bike” so I could scamper out of his way. She then told me that he whistled to warn her…whistle? Megan later said he whistled as he came up her too. Then later on the trail, three men came flying down on bikes. Thankfully I saw them on a switchback before they got to me. The trail was narrow and I had to climb up the side to avoid being hit. Megan saw me here and yelled, “Mom, are you ok?” I responded, “Yes, just frustrated.” One of these three guys was repairing a flat tire down at the bottom. All the drops in pace while going downhill were the pauses needed for the bikes.

The Sycamore Canyon Fireroad then took us to Danielson Ranch. This was a very gradual climb and I ran an easy 12:00-12:30 pace, enjoying the respite from the single track trails and mentally preparing myself for what was to come. I was approaching 20 miles and very happy with my performance thus far. I was also looking forward to seeing my friend Brenda at the Danielson Ranch aid station. After getting a hug, some more water, and two more pieces of peanut butter and jelly sandwich I was off… and thankful that bicycles were not permitted on these trails.

img_0008Boney Mountain – Serrano Canyon Loop
This is were I struggled the most. I guess this is also where such a struggle would be expected, and I did expect it. The climbs here were so hard. And by this stage of the race the runners were very spread out so for most if my time in this loop I was alone. If I hadn’t known the trail (and they marked it well) I would have suspected a wrong turn. But then people did occasionally pass me…walking faster than I can walk. I really need to get better at hill climbing! It was at this section that my thinking change from, “I’m doing pretty well” to “I hope I can finish.”

Once I made it to the top of the second peak, the downhill portion was glorious! It was long, it was not too steep (mostly) and the trail was nice and even. I’d have to say this was my favorite part of the race and I plan to go back and run this portion again soon! Towards the bottom of this segment we were alongside a dry creek. I’d remembered in the training run that we’d cross this creek numerous times. So I decided to count…for entertainment purposes! By the time I got to 16 crossings, I was no longer sure of the correct number…but at least 16 crossings. Thankfully it hadn’t rained and there was no water!

The last aid station was at the end of this segment. They asked me what I needed and thinking about what was to come I replied, “an elevator.” I took 4 peanut butter filled pretzels and kept going. My mouth was so dry that these were hard to chew and swallow… I had to keep adding water, just to eat. But by this point I’d already run farther than ever before. WooHoo!


Although I didn’t stop and rest here, the idea that I could helped me make it up that last hard climb


Fireline Trail and Back to the Beginning
Prior to the race Megan and I had run Fireline one time (actually true of much of the course). We remembered that it was a hard, hard climb. On the switchback portion at the bottom I was able to manage a few jogs and was hopeful for a good finish. But the more I climbed the harder it was. There is a picnic table at the top of this trail and I was thinking that I just needed to get to the picnic table where I could put my head down and rest. I also knew that if I were to do this, I’d probably not finish the race. Thankfully there were two men sitting at that picnic table when I arrived and they were so encouraging. They told me what I already knew – that I was almost done. But sometimes in life we need to hear this from others. And we need others to help us know that we can indeed find the strength to continue. With their encouragement I did the last little climb that was now on the Overlook Fireroad. It was uphill but not steep like the trail.

Trash that I pulled out of my pack the next day

On nutrition: When I run a road race (or train long distance on the roads) I usually aim to consume calories every 2 miles, as this is a common interval in races. While training for this race I was keeping the same intervals and getting VERY hungry. One day after 11 miles I ate an entire Superhero Muffin and then suffered a stomach ache from eating too much. My coach recommended that I plan to consume about 50 calories every 20 minutes. So I set a timer on my watch and did this. I ate Cliff Shot Block; Sport Beans; Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich; and peanut filled pretzels. This all worked until the last hour or so. By then my stomach hurt…and strangely felt hungry at the same time. I couldn’t eat anything more…and unfortunately water wasn’t feeling too good either. I drank water because I knew I needed it but my stomach felt awful.

Once I hit the Ray Miller Trail I knew the rest was downhill. I wasn’t sure if I could run it, but I decided to try…mostly because that was the fastest way to be done. I encountered a few hikers. One couple asked, “how long is this race?” They were impressed with my response. Other hikers knew about the race and every one of them was so incredibly encouraging to me as I encountered them. Most people are truly wonderful!

Awesome finish with Megan

On one of the bottom switchbacks, I heard Megan yell, “Mom!” She was finally catching up to me…and she did catch up when we had about a quarter mile to go. Here’s a little side note: she has a habit of passing me and beating me at the end of races. We laugh about it. As she caught me Saturday, I said,”you stinker, you’re gonna beat me again!” She replied, “I just want to finish with you.” We held hands as we crossed the finish line. I have a wonderful daughter!

Yes, I felt this bad…and yes, I’d do it again

At the Finish
I was completely spent and close to fainting. I was hungry but at the same time my stomach still hurt. I got some cold water and half a Subway sandwich…ate a few bites and it tasted awful. The taste was a problem with me rather than the sandwich. Matt (my son) then went and got me a bowl of chili. This was a bit better and I was able to eat a few bites. Between trying to eat, and drinking I was dropping my head down between my legs because I felt so faint. After eating I just put my head on the table (like I imagined doing at the top of Fireline). My husband was concerned, but I knew I’d eventually feel ok. Finally I recovered enough to go home!

The next day, I was still a bit tired, as expected. But surprisingly my legs were not fried like they are after a marathon. I can even walk normal… something not possible after a hard marathon. Hmmm.

IMG_4827Final Thoughts
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this race. I’d had a hard time training for it. I was seriously thinking of dropping out (or moving down to the 30K a couple weeks ago. But decided to go for it. My goal was to finish. A second goal was to finish within 8 hours. I met the first goal and came within two minutes on the second. I’ll take that!

Will I do another one? Probably…because I know that if I don’t overload myself like I did this year I could possibly do better. I’m not sure when I’ll try again.

Meanwhile I have a couple weeks to recover and then I get to start training for Boston…because my really big accomplishment this year was to qualify for that race!

For more on the training for Ray Miller
Concentration – Training on Trails
Ray Miller Training Run #2
Hell Hill – Ray Miller Training Run #3
O My! – Ray Miller Training Run #4
Road & Trail Running Not the Same. Duh! Ray Miller Training Run #5
Okay! Ray Miller Training Run #6
Last One – Ray Miller Training Run #7

Last One – Ray Miller Training Run #7

Family photo…Nick was commenting on our colorful clothes, we were certainly bright.

Black Friday…I almost never shop on Black Friday. In fact the only time I did was when my husband and I went to Santa Barbara for the day (to escape the malls) and discovered we were strolling by a bunch of stores that were empty of crowds.

Usually we just find something relaxing to do. This year, I did my final training run in preparation for the Ray Miller 50K that will be December 2nd.

Megan and I started at 7:00am with a goal of running 16 miles, and hitting Hell Hill one more time. My sister-in-law and nephew joined us for the very beginning, but they were hiking so we weren’t together too long.

This is a beautiful part of the trail…just before Hell Hill

This was a great run. My average pace per mile was 40 seconds faster than my previous training runs and I felt better than I’ve felt in a long time. When we were done, I felt like I could keep going. It is definitely a confidence booster!

The work is done and now I just have to do the race. My goal is to finish. A second goal is to finish in less than 8 hours, but I’ll be happy to finish.

One fun story. A little over two years ago, while I was training for my second marathon I encountered a man who was riding his bike. It was a beach cruiser kind of bike and he came alongside me while I was running up a small hill. I was on mile 6 of a 10 mile run. As he passed, he asked, “trying to muster up some self discipline?” I responded, “I have it!” But I was pissed! Obviously, as I still remember this rude encounter (funny how we remember these things). I had already lost a lot of weight, but still weighed more than I do now. Regardless of my weight or how I looked while running, that comment was rude and completely uncalled for.

You might be asking yourself, “what is fun about that story?” and “what does it have to do with a Ray Miller training run?”

After walking up Hell Hill and making my way back toward the original trailhead, I realized I was going to need another couple miles. So I passed the trail and ran down a fire trail for about a mile. Then I had to turn around and run back up the trail. By this time it was hot and it was a climb, but I was feeling great. Just as I was completing mile 13 a man on a bike passed me. He too commented as he passed, saying, “Wow, you are hard to catch up to! Good job.”

And that ends this series on training for Ray Miller. I will do a race recap.

Okay! Ray Miller Training Run #6

Another beautiful sunrise on PCH

After last week’s long run, I was pretty discouraged and worried about my 50k race that is approaching way to rapidly. I’ve given serious thought to dropping down to the 30k. But at the same time I hate giving up on a challenge. So, I’ve taken a wait and see how I’m feeling attitude.

I mentioned on my last update that I had my fuel system all wrong. But I was also still tired.

I went to my chiropractor twice last week as he’s treating me for the  lingering effects of a whiplash (got rear ended October 30th). I told him I was frustrated because it didn’t feel as if I was recovering from the marathon I ran October 22nd. He asked if such a slow recovery is normal for after a marathon. The answer was “no, it doesn’t usually take this long to recover.” He helped me to recognize that my body was affected by the accident. Mentally this reminder was helpful…so was the massage I got on Friday.

Before that massage I did a 12 mile run. For the first time in weeks it felt good. I hoped it would be a good sign for the next day’s trail run. Friday afternoon I scraped paint…this is its own form of endurance exercise….so Friday was certainly not restful.

Saturday, we started at 6:00am and ran 12 miles on the last section of the Ray Miller 50k. I was a bit nervous and so made sure to run easy pace. I’m happy to say all went well. The course was hard with steep climbs and steep descents and there were a few spots that cause me to fear encountering them on race day. But overall I felt well. No fatigue…no pain in my legs. The was and is good news.

Then today I ran an easy five The felt wonderful. Maybe I’m ready!

The lesson here is that we need to recover from more than running, so take care of yourself. I’ll do another 15 on the trail then the big day is December 2nd.


O My! – Ray Miller Training Run #4

Sunrise on PCH is always pretty

Today was interesting! My assignment was to run 14 miles on slightly tired legs (I ran 10 the day before). To become familiar with the course, we’ve been running various parts of what will be the Ray Miller 50k on December 2nd. I had thought we could run the final loop in a 15 mile run, but it turns out I was not reading the course description carefully.

So after 6.5 miles, Megan (my daughter) and I were figuring out where to go when she noticed my error. “If we do the full loop we’ll be running about 27 miles.” Oops. We made some adjustments and ended up running a middle portion and then the very end portion. Unfortunately our adjustments resulted in 16.3 miles…a bit longer than the 14 miles I was supposed to run.

Nice bright moon giving way to the early morning sun.

The morning was beautiful and the temperature was 59° at the start. As we climbed we felt pockets of cool air… then warm air…then cool again. I said, “eventually those pockets of cool air will disappear.” They did as soon as the sun came over the mountains. It was hot, even at 7:30am.

I’m thankfully becoming comfortable familiar with the beginning of the course. Once we made it to “Hell Hill,” the location of an aid station on race day, we had to figure out the next steps. The trail we were supposed to run down had a different name. We retraced our steps and concluded that this was the correct trail… and off we went. Down. Down. Down. My downhill running is pretty slow lately as I’m being extra careful to avoid falling again. I think as I regain confidence I’ll do pretty well on this part of the course.

Some early October flowers… a surprise in dry CA

When we got to the bottom, we were in Sycamore Canyon and it was refreshingly cold here. We ran to Danielson Ranch, took a photo of the map and then turned toward the ocean. With this turn we were no longer on the course. We were also running on a very easy, gradual downhill dirt fire road. I love dirt fire roads! We were even treated to some beautiful flowers!

We had this break until we arrived at what will be the last climb on 50k day… the Fireline Trail. 1.3 miles up. I hated this trail. It was narrow and overgrown and thus I was afraid of what I might encounter while trudging through the bushes. It was steep and once we left the canyon floor it was blazingly hot! I could feel the sun baking my back and was glad that I had caked on the sunscreen.

Know why there are no bikes here? Probably because they’d fall off the mountain!

When I reached the top Megan was chatting, and borrowing sunscreen, from a group of women. She told me that she ran out of water…so like a nice mom I gave her some of mine. Good thing we were getting close to the end. But! Getting to the top of the Wireline Trail did not mean we were done climbing, so we trudged up the Overlook Fire Road and eventually settled into an easy jog.

Once we hit Ray Miller…the last downhill, I offered Megan some more water and then told her I’d see her at the bottom. She flew down the trail. I easy jogged, not wanting to stumble and fall with my tired legs. When I had about a mile and a half to go I tried to clear my nose by inhaling…dumb idea. I know that you’re not supposed to do this, but I did it and immediately got dizzy. Great! After a pause my equilebrium corrected and I was fine.

I finished in 16.3 miles in 4:02:11 which was a nice slow average pace of 14:51.

Amazingly I felt pretty good the next day. That’s fitness! Next up is the Ventura Marathon in a couple weeks.



Hell Hill – Ray Miller Training Run #3

img_4670.jpgI’m running my first 50k December 2nd. The race is called Ray Miller because that is the first of the many trails we encounter. Today was my third run on the course.

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 7.53.30 PM
The loop is the second loop of the Ray Miller 50k

In looking at the course description, and in talking to past participants, I’d become familiar with the name, Hell Hill. But I hadn’t experienced it. I remember thinking about it like this, “all these hills are hard, so how hard can Hell Hill possibly be?”

One friend described it as a hill that requires using you hands, to help push your quads to ascend. This hill occurs about halfway into the race.

Today, my daughter (Megan) and I did a 14 mile run completing the middle of the three loops that make up the course. It was a beautiful day. The temperature was close to perfect. The sky was blue and we could see forever. This was a much easier run than the 12 miler I did in late August (Ray Miller Training Run #2). That day was hot!

To keep my easy efforts truly easy I’ve been running by heart rate and trying to keep it around 130 bpm on average… although how easy can it ever be running on hilly trails? I had no problem with this today, with an average of only 121. I was VERY slow today, with an average pace of 15:00 per mile.

Part of the slowness was a tentativeness in running on the trail, since last time I went hiking (Overdoing It) I did a face plant.

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 7.41.08 PMAnd then…we encountered Hell Hill. Oh my! My average pace in this little section was almost 25 minutes! At one point I envisioned just wanting to crawl up into a ball and resting! After every curve in the trail we saw more uphill.

Once we made it to the top of Hell Hill, we had about 4.5 miles to run. At first we both thought these last miles would be hell. I started running, jogging really, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my legs were good to go.

Those last 4 miles were nice!

Last, I concentrated on the trail and made sure not to let my mind wander as this seems to be when I trip and fall. After I hit 14 miles (and still needed to go .2 to get to the bottom), I was startled by a lizard that darted under my feet. I tripped. But I caught myself and stayed upright. Success!

The next Ray Miller will be in 2 weeks. Next week I’ll be running 20 on the roads, as my last long run before the Ventura Marathon on October 22nd.

Casting a long morning shadow. Camarillo, Oxnard, and the ocean are off in the distance.

Ray Miller Training Run #2


The view before we started to the trail. There’s a major fire in the hills east of Los Angeles and I’m pretty sure there’s some smoke with those clouds.

My husband (Scott) and I decided to do our long run today, 12 miles, on part of the Ray Miller Race (Dec 2) course. It’s probably more accurate to say that he’s a good sport and agreed to go with me. We left the house early to beat the heat, and started running at 7:02. It was 72°, which doesn’t sound too bad except that the humidity was 78%. It would just get hotter! I don’t know how hot as I didn’t check during our run.

Screen Shot 2017-09-02 at 2.13.00 PMMy goal was to run an easy effort. I’ve learned that the best way for me to do this is to run by heart rate. Based on my max, my easy effort target is from 130-140. On flat, paved runs I try to stay at or just below 130. With this goal, today’s run was a true run/walk as I walked whenever I got to or above 140. I ended up walking a lot.

So how’d it go? When we were done I told Scott, “that was fun and that sucked.” It was both. Sometimes life is about finding the enjoyment in the difficulty. That was certainly the case today.

Before we actually started running, we were attacked by a swarm of mosquitos. I’ve never experienced this here and will need to make sure I have some bug spray for next time. When I tried to do some leg swings, I was suddenly so covered with these bugs that I contemplated going home! But we carried on!

A smokey cloudy sunrise… still beautiful.

The first 5 miles were pretty nice. For mile 6 we were on a very overgrown trail…and I was nervous. When something big scampered under some brush, I jumped when I heard it and caused Scott to jump. It was probably a big lizard (there were many small lizards). I was  hoping we wouldn’t encounter a snake and told Scott, “I’m again rethinking my life choices.”

I seriously didn’t like this part of the trail.

Once I had signed up for the Ray Miller 50k, I realized that I would be training on the trails during the hottest time of the year. I’m afraid of things that slither and thus in all my years have never chosen to hike in the heat. This is not exactly rational…so not only am I now training for my first 50k, I’m also working to conquer this particular fear. Anyway, we made it to the turnaround with no mishaps.

Turning around though was hard. We were now going mostly uphill into the sun. It was hot! Thankfully I had enough water (in a backpack), but what I really needed was some water to pour over my head. Mile 7 wasn’t too bad, but mile 8 became a walk more than run as I slogged uphill. I was hot hot hot and even contemplated removing my backpack and dumping its water over my head (I did do this when I was done). Sometimes my heart rate was above 140 just walking. I have some serious work to do on these trails!

I took this picture one of the times I started to catch up. By the end he was WAY ahead of me.

Scott got so far ahead that he doubled back to make sure I was ok. He’s really good at this trail running! I’m trying to convince him to sign up for the 30k. Next year he’s going to try his first marathon…so this would be a great next step! And he’d totally rock it.

The good parts of the run: the gorgeous scenery; the friendly people met along the way; and the fact that as hard as this was I was able to get in some good training…and my average heart rate was 135. And I didn’t fall…that’s progress!

Here’s some data:

Screen Shot 2017-09-02 at 2.17.52 PM

Concentration – Training on Trails

Running in Malibu with my daughter. Can’t beat the view.

I crazily signed up for a 50k that will be on a local trail December 2nd.

While the race is more than three months away (and I have a marathon in October), I realize it will be here soon. Will I be ready? I am confident I will be able to do it, but I want to run it strongly, and I’m not ready for that.

Today, Megan and I ran our first run on the trail. We’ve hiked it many times but running it is completely different. Running up those hills was hard. Running down was obviously easier but I had to be very careful not to trip as I seem to be having issues staying on my feet.

To avoid falling (I did trip at the beginning) required great concentration… much more concentration than running on pavement. This was a good thing. I love the ability to think about life when running and I do much sermon preparation while running. But lately I’ve been fatigued with thinking. Not with sermon prep, but rather with thinking about the state of our world. It turns out that I today I couldn’t think about anything except the trail. The benefit of this was that my body was tired but my mind a spirit were rested. I love running!

We encountered this picnic table after 3 miles. The engraving says, “my home where I am free.” I think we need a picnic here someday.