Highlights from the 2015 Sean O’Brien 50K

Sean O’Brien 50K is set in the rugged trails of Malibu Creek State Park, nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area. With ~6,400 ft of elevation gain/loss, I picked the Sean O’Brien 50K as a pre-cursor to the Miwok 100K that’s coming up in a few months. Keira Henninger put on an amazing race with distances of Marathon, 50K, 50M and 100K. Only in the sport of ultra running does one travel 400 miles to run another 31 and then travel 400 back again! Here’s my Strava activity from the run.

Sean O’Brien 50K

Instead of the usual play by play race report, I figured I’d just highlight some interesting moments. And since this was a travel run, there’s some great highlights of food! Agoura Hills is quite the vegan friendly place, turns out. I was so hungry after the run.

  • Rabbit Hole Cafe has the most amazing vegan food. You gotta try the Eggless Benediction Bowl.
  • Ran into Nate Dunn (50M), John Onate (50M) and Makiko Yamashita (Marathon) at the bib pickup in the host hotel. I’m grateful for John and Makiko’s company through the weekend and it was fun to hang out with them. I met them in Lake Sonoma 50M last year.
  • Great pre-race pasta dinner at the Grissini Ristorante Italiano with John, Makiko and a few other runners.
  • Got to the starting line early in time to see John and Nate disappear into the darkness. There was a 30% chance of rain, but I luckily only encountered a light drizzle before I finished. Huddled back in the car until 6:45am, listened to Keira tell us about the creek crossing at mile 2 (a big oh man sigh from a lot of people) we were off at 7am.
  • Everything was soooo lush and green with the sun hiding behind cloudy skies. My first creek crossing in the Merrell Trail Glove and up and over the Angry Chihuahua hill (more on this later).
  • Mile 3 & 4 were just up and up with a 1,800ft climb. All those training runs up PG&E were definitely helping. My rule this time was, if I walked (and I did) it was only 15 steps. I then had to run at least 10 more before walking again. Keep on moving, moving. I was definitely gaining on some of the folks, slowly but surely.
  • Top at the Corral Canyon, I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings. Rocky and Green everywhere. I was waiting for my Garmin to turn green in case there were Orcs around. 🙂 Very brief stop at the aid station (The Party’s Here) and was on my way again.
  • Next 5 miles were semi-shaded single tracks and just gorgeous. Rolling hills with perfect undulations. Just when you thought you had enough climbing there was a downhill waiting for the recovery.
  • Mountain View Weather
    Left this weather...
  • Given the weather, I ran the 50K with just 5 Clif Shot Gels, 3 Succeed S Caps, some potato chips and a PB&J sandwich at the last aid station.
  • Saw a few marathoners turn around at the Kanan Trailhead, but I had to keep going for another 2.5 for the 50K turnaround point. More rolling hills, but less views since we were in the canyons now.
  • Had a Timothy Olson sighting on the way back. Apparently he was there on a run date. Pro tip: If you see an elite on the trail you recognize, don’t get all excited and yell out there name. Sorry Tim. Anyways, when he got to the finish, he looked like he had just jogged around the block.
  • Almost thought I was lost after re-entering Backbone Trail until I recognized a hoodie hung on a tree that I spotted on the way up.
  • Perfect way to enter the last 10 or so miles with cloudy skies, cool breeze and a little warm drizzle.
  • Cursed the Angry Chihuahua hill when I saw my sub 6:00 almost slipping away. The hill definitely feels longer on the way back especially after having your quads thrashed on the steep downhill that you wished would stop at some point. The creek crossing on the way back though, felt so good that I thought I’ll just hang out for longer.
  • Sprinted the last half mile hoping to make the sub 6:00 and crossed the finish line in 5:59:52 and 6th in age group. Had to work for that one.
  • Hung out with John, Makiko and Japan’s 21yo ultra running phenom Ruy Ueda who after only 2 hours of sleep the night before finished 5th overall in the 100K. Amazing.

Did you run the Sean O’Brien 50K or any of the other distances? What was your experience?