SLO Ultra @ Wild Cherry Canyon Race Recap
On Saturday I ran my tenth half marathon! This year was the first inaugural SLO Ultra @ Wild Cherry Canyon race event and it included four distances – 50 mile ultra, marathon, half marathon, and 5 miles – and I definitely want to put this race on my calendar again next year! As an added bonus, the event is partnered with and benefits The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County. It was one of the toughest courses I’ve ever run, but I had an absolutely amazing time out on the course. Even better, my mom was running too!
The half marathon had an 8:30 start time and I was thankful that (for once) we didn’t need to get up at the crack of dawn for a race. I woke up at 6:45 beating our 7:00 alarm and enjoyed the view from our balcony for a bit before getting ready and eating my tried and true pre-race meal of oatmeal with a banana. Our rental condo was only about a mile away, so we left about 30 min. before the start time to park and ride the shuttle about 3/4 of a mile to the start. Since the race is on private land everyone had to have signed waivers upon entering the property. The morning brought perfect running weather with oceanfront fog and temperatures in the low sixties.
The guys gave us some last few words of encouragement, grabbed our jackets, and snapped one last picture before the race announcers came on to tell us the last few course details before it was time to go.
As you all know if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, I was pretty unprepared for this race. I had only run five times during the entire month of August and hadn’t run over 5 miles until a week earlier, so my race plan was to 1) not die, 2) finish, 3) enjoy myself, and 4) not injure myself before the Yosemite Half Marathon next month. Trail runs are actually just about the best thing when you’re undertrained because even though they’ll kick your butt, there’s no judgment for walking. Actually, about a quarter mile into the race, there was no choice but to walk! The course bottlenecked at the beginning of the first of many uphills (the half marathon was the most popular distance with over 500 runners) and there was an elevation gain of over 400 ft. in the first mile alone.
Perfect time to snap a selfie with my mama!
Not long after I started to get antsy with walking, so I wished my mom good luck and starting running along the far left edge of the trail.
Mile 1 – 14:49, OOF this was going to be one of those races!
Mile 2 – 10:25, first small loop with some views of the San Luis Bay.
Mile 3 – 12:25.
Mile 4 – 10:15, included the first of 3 times I needed to take off my left shoe to get out a rock. Also, the end of the second small loop and start of the last long loop.
Mile 5 – 14:24.
Mile 6 – 12:58, I grabbed a quarter of a PB&J from the aid station. The aid stations were packed with great snacks and tons of cheerful volunteers.
Mile 7 – 17:15, oh man this mile was straight up hill with over 500 feet of elevation gain. The man next to me said his friend had told him the second half of the course was easier. We both gave a whoop of excitement when we saw the first sign of some downhill.
Mile 8 – 9:17, this mile included some amazing downhill single track in the shade. Only bummer was this is when rock #2 showed up in my shoe and I had to stop to get it out.
Mile 9 – 12:30, took my first electrolyte pill.
Mile 10 – 11:32, rolling hills continue. Stopped at the aid station to refill my Gatorade bottle with some Fluid. I always run half marathons with one of the bottles in my belt filled with water and the other with watered-down Gatorade.
Mile 11 – 12:25, after miles and miles of just my calves and achilles aching suddenly I was getting those shooting pains and twinges in my quads. Time for electrolyte pill #2.
Mile 12 – 10:52, almost made it, but, alas, here’s rock #3. It was pretty difficult bending over/keeping my balance to take off my shoe at this point – must have been entertaining to watch! This was the end of the long loop and the fourth and final time going past the central aid station.
Mile 13 – 7:44, the final mile was all down hill – my quads were burning! I call this the mile of controlled falling, I don’t think running even describes what my jolty cadence was doing at this point.
Last 0.2 – 1:31 (7:35/mi pace), passed 2 people in the finish chute, yeehaw! Big thanks to the spectator that made eye contact and yelled, “You got this 1186” for making that happen!
Official time was 2:38:15 and my Garmin measured 3,364 feet of elevation gain – holy moly! The race website had originally said 1,000 ft…then 1,500…then 2,200…I guess they didn’t want to scare us off early!
The wooden medals were awesome…
Then it was time to get back to the finish chute to cheer my mom in! She finished in 3:09:09.
Then it was time for beer (805), BBQ, and bluegrass. The BBQ line was ridiculously long, but thankfully the vegetarian line was about one-tenth of the size. This was probably the least organized portion of the event, but it’s there first year and I’m sure they’ll figure it out for the next one. Thankfully, there was live music to keep everyone in good spirits.
Overall, it was a great race experience and even though I’m still sore and walking like a bow-legged cowboy, the runner in me can’t wait to do it again!
Have you ever done a trail race? This is my third trail half marathon.