That’s exactly how much faster I ran the Santa Monica 50K yesterday, which worked out to be just more than an hour difference from the previous year!Â Why the wide variation, I still can’t figure out for sure, but part/most of it was due to the perfect weather we were blessed with — cool temperatures and overcast skies, unlike the 80-90 degree scorcher we faced last November.
Lucy and I left Sierra Madre at about 6:15, thinking that should get us there before the bulk of the runners arrived, but when we got there, there were already about a dozen cars waiting to get in to the lot.Â She was nervous, but excited at the same time, since it was her first trail race.Â I was a bit nervous too — nervous because I wanted Lucy’s first experience to be a good one, since I was somewhat responsible for her making the transition from road to dirt.
Just before 8:30, Wendell went over the directions, and I was glad to find out that they were changing the order of loops from last time to avoid congestion on the single track going up Ray Miller — the 18K participants would do a lap around the lot to hopefully spread people out, then take off up Ray Miller.Â The 30/50K runners would do the La Jolla loop first — the same way we head out on the first and last day of C4P.Â Not sure how the 18K folks ended up, but it worked out well for us at least.Â I was with a group of around a half-dozen in the front, starting our first of 5 long climbs up towards Mugu Peak, topping out at just about 1000′ in about 3.5 miles.Â Rob was just ahead of us, and I noticed as we neared Chumash, that he had missed the left turn and went over the peak, rather than around it — luckily the trail ends up back on course on the other side.
I was in a group of 4 then, including Juliet who I met that day, as we went through La Jolla Valley.Â At the fireroad before the junction, I went ahead of the group to complete the first 12K back to the start/finish area.Â Right as I got to the aid station, a runner caught up who wasn’t with our initial group — it was Alex, one of Marc and Tanya’s friends, who was doing the 30k, but started a few minutes late.Â The rest of the pack arrived as we were leaving to head up Ray Miller — 1.25 hours for the first 12K loop.
On the way up, Jessica was on her way down to the finish, looking really strong.Â A bit farther up, we greeted another female runner, who stopped and asked me if I was in the latest Runner’s World.Â It’s been a while since I was mistaken for Dean Karnazes — must’ve been my rippling muscles and Greek god-like statuesque frame.Â Ha!
Alex and I, plus a third runner made it up to the top of Ray Miller in about 30 minutes — one of us commented that we probably wouldn’t be able to do that again the second time around.Â I agreed. Now it was a fast drop down Fireline to Sycamore Cyn, the second aid station at the 21K mark.Â I ran with Alex most of the way, and got there around 10:45 — just over 2 hours into the race.Â Juliet caught me there, then on the way up Overlook, she passed me — she looked very strong, and was also the first female for either 30/50K.
I made it to the Ray Miller junction about half an hour later, then at almost exactly 10:30, I arrived back at the start/finish, completing the first 30K in 3 hours.Â Now it was time to do the La Jolla loop again, which was where I had the most trouble during last year’s race.Â I was running alone most of the way up to the peak, then a runner passed me just as we got to the valley.Â I wasn’t sure if I could catch him, since he put some distance between us before we got to the junction.Â I didn’t see him until just before we got to the aid station, arriving together, completing that loop in just over 1.5 hours — 42K done, and still well under 5 hours into the race.
I had over an hour to break 6 and finish the last 9K — up Ray Miller and back, which on fresh legs would take about an hour, so wasn’t sure how possible that goal was, but knew that breaking my previous time was in the bag.Â Before setting off, I saw Lucy at the finish — she got through her race in about 4:15.Â I said goodbye, filled up one bottle, and took off, still feeling pretty strong.
Shortly after, I saw the two lead 50K runners come through a couple minutes apart — I’m guessing they probably finished between 4:45 and 5 hours.Â I got to the top in about 40 minutes, and as I was heading down, I went by a group of 4 runners who were only a few minutes behind me — they all looked real strong, and I was concerned they’d catch me on the way down.Â My goal at that point was to make sure that I held my position, since I didn’t want anyone to pass me only a couple miles from the finish, so I pushed hard, occasionally looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was gaining ground.Â I never eased up, and made the return in under 20 minutes, finishing the race in 5:37, 1 hour and 3 minutes faster than last year.
The runner who was behind me came up and congratulated me, saying that he was trying hard to catch up, but never even saw me after we passed each other on the way up.Â Lucy and my new friend Sunisa were waiting at the finish and gave me my finisher’s coaster, then I said goodbye to Rob and Juliet, who both were already done.Â Then I realized I never saw Juliet on the last section, and later found out that she took the wrong route, but got credit for finishing 50K and the women’s title anyway.Â I also asked about Kim’s status, and saw that she only did 30K — hope nothing went wrong.Â Patty Bryant, who I ran the Dos Luna 100K with a couple weeks ago finished up as we were leaving.
Wendell and Sarah put on a great event — I’ll be looking forward to the Fall version later this year.
Next up…Leona Divide — my first time running this event, and only my second trail 50 miler.