Fort Ord 50K was my first 50K for 2014. I heard about it last year when they had the inaugural race, but I wasn’t quite ready to run a 50K then. Watching the weather closely, it looked like I lucked out again. Saturday fell right in the break between rainy days (much needed too!) with the highs in the 60’s. With a total advertised elevation gain/loss of ~5,300 ft (though my Garmin Forerunner 220 reported ~4,122ft gain), the course has rolling hills with the last 12 miles being almost all uphill. With my last 50K (Berkeley Trail Adventure 50K) over 4 months ago, I was clearly rusty running this distance which made this race quite the adventure.
Fort Ord 50K
With a few hours of fitful sleep, woke up early and drove the 1.5 hours to Salinas, bundled up in the 37°F morning. The sun came up with 5 minutes to go and I could immediately feel the warmth. Quickly stripped down to just a tshirt and shorts and started the race at 8:00am. It turned out to be a fantastic day. The Fort Ord 50K course quickly descends down into the valley changing from gravel to soft sandy single tracks that wind past manzanitas and moss covered oaks. In hindsight, I was going way too fast and was running it like a 30K, but it felt good at that time. I had the Garmin Forerunner 220 pinging me every 40 minutes for a Clif Shot Gel.
Ran past the Sandstone Ridge AS at mile 4.6 to head out into the lollipop. The sandy downhill was oh-so delicious with my open toed Luna Sandals, but was a slog on the way back out. There were three of us running together most of this stretch and I stopped a few times to take pictures of the gorgeous vistas. 5.6 miles later, I was back at the same aid station. Checked the water level, looked okay and headed out to the Skyline AS about 3.7 miles out. I don’t think I saw any of the other runners during this stretch. Made it to the AS in 2:05 and saw some familiar faces volunteering there. Apparently they remembered me as the sandal guy.
My plan was to get to the Creekside AS at mile 19.1 in 3 hours. I figured I could take it easy on the last 12 miles of uphills and still try and beat my Big Basin 50K PR of 5:30. Another fairly lonely 5.2 miles of rolling hills, but I was visibly slowing down despite the net downhill on this segment. Had to shake loose little rocks getting stuck in my Luna Sandals and this was something that’d bite me later. Tim Thompson caught up with me as I approached the AS in 3:15. He was running his first 50K and would go on to finish at 5:47. So here was the first screw up. I was so diligent and obsessed over hydration and food that I was ignoring the urgent need for a bio break. I also had a reminder to check on my chaffing, but completely forgot about it. Maybe next time I should write it down, ‘cos it’s harder to pay attention to details while on the run.
Treated myself with an Onigiri that I packed in my SJ Ultra Vest and started on the first of the two big climbs. For the first time noticed that I was getting blisters under the top buckle of the Luna Sandals. Tried to adjust a little bit, shook off any loose rocks that were hiding and kept pushing. I was mostly walking now with the relentless long hills stretching as far as I could see. Came up to a junction with no markers and stood there for a while not knowing which way to go. Tried to look up the turn-by-turn on my phone, but that wasn’t helpful with no signs around. Asked a couple of hikers if they’d seen runners and they said yes. So I proceeded further only to realize I had taken the wrong turn. I could see runners up near the summit and decided to climb straight up towards the summit. Found the orange markers again, but this shaved off 0.5 mile from the course distance The blisters were starting to hurt now and I picked my way down slowly. As soon as I left the gravel, took off my sandals and instantly felt better. I was even able to run the flats again and made it to the last AS at 25.2 miles holding my sandals.
Cleaned the blisters with water, slapped on a bandaid and headed out for the last stretch. There was a restroom here and I would’ve instantly felt better after. But nope, just didn’t occur to me that I could do this. I suffered through the next ~7 miles with the sloshing bloat. Ugh! Sandals were back again and climbed up the hill. Gorgeous vistas all around. By the time I summited the hill, the bandaid was coming off and the blisters were getting worse. Luckily the course headed down into the canyons on a soft, sandy single track. I was going barefoot now, holding on to my sandals and while I was definitely slower, I was enjoying this so much it brought back a smile to my face. Passed a few of the half marathoners and walked/ran the hills picking off the miles slowly but surely. Made up the last hill, caught up with a runner who supposedly had run the Western States 100 and crossed the finish line right around 6:03 placing 15th overall and 6th in my age group. Spent a fair bit of time afterwards looking through the elevation profile and wondering where I screwed up.
Four things I learned from this run:
- Don’t go out too fast early on (and don’t run a 50K like it’s a 30K)
- Respect bio breaks and take care of them as soon as possible
- Use athletic tape to get around top-of-the-foot blisters when running with Luna Sandals
- Go barefoot as when the trail allows it (best thing to really enjoy the trails)
Best part when I got home was the Red Lentil Curry With Swiss Chard that my wife and kids made for me, which is currently my favorite recovery food! Woke up next day with a sore IT band on my right leg, but calves, quads, ankles, etc. all in decent shape. Tired, but no injuries. Painful part will be the recovery run this week! Here’s my strava activity for this run. Did you run the Fort Ord 50K? What was your experience?