Bandit Trail 50K Ultra

I decided on whim (4 days before the race!) to sign up for the Bandit Trail Run, an Ultra that is held annually in Simi Valley, CA. Since I never take the easy road, I decided to sign up for the 50K, the hardest option of the day. On the website, it states that the trail course is “brutal.” Through experience, I can say that might be an under-statement. Note that this was my first attempt at an Ultra (I decided it would be good preparation for the Lone Ranger 100), and the furthest I had ever run was 27 miles along the flat Santa Monica coast last weekend.

It set in the night before that I may not make in through the 31 miles of 5000 feet elevation gain. I barely slept the night before. When my alarm went off at 5am, I told myself to just get out there and take it one step at a time. After all, this was new territory for me, and I was way out of my comfort zone of 10K-marathon distance.

Simi Valley is really beautiful. The mountains in this part of CA don’t offer any real tree coverage, leaving a runner with great views the entire time but also no shade from the sun. The terrain was sometimes rocky and other times dusty. My Mizuno sneaks will never look the same.

What became apparent to me within the first two miles was just how terribly hard the next few hours of my life were going to be. If you’ve ever hiked some serious mountains, picture 31 miles of that constant up and down on an intense grade. There were miles where I could run, and there were miles where I could barely put one leg in front of the other and clocked a 20 minute mile pace.

I learned so much about myself, and just how different trail races are compared to road races. While I may feel completely in my element on a short road race, I felt like a fish out of water on that trail. A beaten and haggard fish. Muscles I didn’t realize I had began to hurt. While I actually felt pretty great through mile 19, the second uphill portion of a loop almost did me in. Thankfully I was never close to being disqualified. Trail races often have cut-off times for different check points, which was a new experience for me.

Perhaps what kept me sane was my race buddy, a fellow runner named Bob. We ended up running about 18 miles of the race – and walking the hard inclines together. Having another human being near me, who was experiencing the same agony I was feeling, somehow kept me focused.

I never cared where in the race I was compared to anyone else. My single focus was on myself. I didn’t want to injure myself, or to burn out too fast. Trust me, when you are slowly trudging up a mountain and every muscle seems pained, you don’t give a rat’s ass where you are in the standings! Therefore, I was very much surprised that my 5 hour 41 minute 47 second finish was enough to claim the 6th spot over women, 23rd overall. Somehow, when I realized it was less than half a mile to the finish, and I was finally on flat ground again, I opened up my stride and pace and “sprinted” as much as I could to the finish. Though my body had nothing left, I felt great leaving it all on the course. Somehow a strong finish makes even the slowest or toughest race feel like a success.

Two days since the race, my body is still sore. My quads are extremely pained, especially when going down stairs. Though I am feeling pain, I don’t feel injured at all, which makes me happy. Though I am thankful for the experience, I don’t think I am going to focus my training and running on Ultras. While I am less than 5 months away from the Lone Ranger 100-Miler, I don’t see myself being bit by the Ultra Bug the way I have been by other race distances.


~ by Elizabeth on February 21, 2012.

One Response to “Bandit Trail 50K Ultra”

  1. Wow. I stumbled on you through Facebook’s page for the Broad Street Run (which I did last year). the pic of you from the Philly marathon is a perfect runner’s photo! Then I read this. You are amazing!

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