2013 Red Rock 50 Miler

2012 Red Rock 50 Mile Endurance Run

Santa Barbara, CA
1st Overall 9:56:04
Nov 25, 2012
52 Miles, 13,200 ft of ascent

Strava file

Race Website


Red Rock 50


A month prior to the Red Rock 50 mile endurance run, I completed my first 50 miler at the Dick Collins 50. My goal time was 8 hours and I ended up getting a disappointing 8hr 3 mins. The course was fairly flat and most of my training had been in the Angeles Forest on steep technical trails. The night I finished that race, I knew I needed to put my climbing legs to use. So laying in bed, sore from running I searched for the hardest 50 miler I could find. This was Luis Escobar’s masochistic Red Rock 50. Here are some excerpts from the race description on ultrasignup: “This run is extremely difficult and is best suited for the expert trail runner or experienced ultra marathon runner”….” This is not a fancy event, it is a genuine, old fashion ultra run. It is a low key, hard ass, 50 mile endurance run.” It is said to have 15,875 ft of climbing and the same of descending. I was very intimidated; I know I am not an expert trail runner. But I knew that I wanted something that was brutally hard to prepare myself for Angeles Crest 100 in 2013. So I signed up for my second 50 miler, 4 hours after finishing my first.


During Dick Collins 50, I really screwed up my knees from bombing the descents as hard as I could. I was trying to make up time because I wasn’t going very fast in the flat sections. So the month between races, I knew that my priority was to get my knees better. If my fitness suffered, I knew that it would be ok because I had a good base that wouldn’t wean too quickly. I got a few sessions of ART, Active Release Technique, on my knees and did a little mileage here and there. It seemed to be working. So two weeks prior to Red Rock, I did a test run of 28 miles in the Santa Monica Mountains to see if my knees could handle it. If they were screaming in pain, I wouldn’t do that race, but there was very little pain. I decided to do the race, and in the following two weeks, I did some short tune up runs.


Race day came and I was feeling great. Considering, at Dick Collins, I did around 8 hours for 50 miles with 8000ft, I projected another 2 hours for another 8000ft. This meant, I was going for 10 hours. When I told my goal time to a couple people before the race, I could tell the doubt in their tone. Then I began doubting that 10 hours was realistic. I had no idea what to expect with the climbs or how technical the trail was. I had never run in these mountains. So my goal time floated away and I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I put a headlamp in my pack in case I didn’t finish before dark.


I live by my Garmin 310xt and heart rate monitor. I determine my pace by using my heart rate zones. My zone 2 is 154-166 bpm and that is what I wanted to run most of the race in. I knew if I did that in the beginning, then the last 15 miles, I could push into zone 3 or more.


My caloric intake is very strategized. I train with certain foods and drinks exactly how I will race. I am very picky and carry mostly everything I eat and drink. I use a camelback pack with Nuun tablets in the water. I make sure to drink 24-32 oz per hour depending on the heat. I eat 300kcal per hour including Clif Shot Blocks, Vega Gel, Vega Endurance bars, and Honeystinger waffles. During my first couple years of racing, I didn’t eat and drink enough and I would feel lethargic later into the race. I dropped half of my food in a drop bag so that I didn’t need to carry it the first 25 miles. At aid stations, I just put more water in and added a nuun tablet. Also, above 80 degrees, I start to take salt stick tablets to balance my electrolytes.


When the gun went off, everyone seemed to be going so slow, I quickly moved into second. After a few minutes, my HR was way higher than I wanted it to be. At mile 2, I was in the front pack of 4, but I dropped off the pack and decided to stick to my plan of starting easy. I was picturing the elevation profile in my head and knew that we had a huge climb at mile 27. I figured the race would start after that climb with the few remaining people that had any legs left. After a few miles, I was in 11th place but I was still at a decent pace and my HR was in zone 2.


I was jumping between 7th and 11th place for several miles because it was a large pack that was exchanging places. This was a rolling section that had some really tight single track mixed with a little road through a campground. As soon as the first big climb hit, at mile 17, I was able to pass people, keeping a steady uphill, hiking pace. I was barely running because it would be a waste of energy. When I started descending, I passed 4th place and was in third. I was in the 7 minute mile range for the downhill, making sure that I wasn’t pounding my legs like I did at Dick Collins. It was very rocky and I was jumping boulder to boulder, feeling like I was slalom skiing. But I came to a section that I couldn’t find the trail. Thinking I lost it, I turned around and started back uphill for a turn that I possibly missed. Two runners came downhill and I followed them to where the trail continued. It turned out that I wasn’t lost, I just couldn’t find the continuing trail behind a bush. We were now a pack of three. After a few minutes of running together, we ended up doing a loop back to where I met them. Soon we realized that we look a left instead of right and continued on. Aaron Flynn and I had a steady downhill pace to the turnaround. At the turnaround, I had about a minute on him going into the aid station. Leaving the aid, he had a minute on me. Filling a camelback takes much longer than a bottle.


It was now mile 26 and time to head up hill. This is what I had saved my energy for and this is what I was waiting for. First and second had about 15 minutes on me. Aaron was in third and I could see him. I set a goal to catch Aaron half way up the climb, then to stick with him during the climb. My HR went way up into the 170s as I tried to close the gap. After several minutes I was alongside Aaron. We chatted for a while uphill pushing each other to close the gap to second place. It was pretty hard to get up that hill but training on Mt Wilson trail was very similar. Aaron and I have done Mt Wilson a bunch of times and are used to 600ft+ per mile. Mile 30 had 833ft of ascent and it took us around 20 minutes! Some of the boulders were so big that it was a full body action to get on top of it. Despite the agony of propelling my body uphill, I was having a blast. This giant climb was the reason I signed up for this race. After a few miles of climbing, I decided to get ahead of Aaron. When I reached the summit aid station, the second place guy was sitting in the chair. It was at this aid station, that I discovered that when you’ve been eating sugar products all day, a potato with salt tastes amazing. The aid station volunteer told me I looked much better than the first and second place guy. He also said he thought it was 10 minutes to first place. I had 18 miles to close a 10 minute gap!


At this point of the race (mile 32), it was mostly downhill. The hard climbs were done with. I was wishing for more uphill because I knew I had better odds closing the gap with an uphill than flat or downhill. My strategy changed to force myself harder than zone 2 so that I could at least see the first place guy. Then I would stay behind for a while, and towards the end, if I had anything left, try to take the lead. Coming into the last aid station, I saw him leave. I filled up my pack as fast as I could while telling the volunteers that I would come back and kiss them if I got first. I took off “sprinting” downhill at a 6:30 pace, sprinted past the first place guy, and kept going until he was out of sight. As soon as I passed him, I started talking to myself that I couldn’t believe I was in first.


At this point, around mile 42, I slowed down and tried to keep a decent pace but not exerting myself too much so that I didn’t blow up. The remaining 9 miles was the worst part of the race. It’s fairly flat, which is really hard for me to pace myself. The uphills and downhill’s usually help to determine the pace that I can go. When I run flats, I always start out too fast then dwindle down. Plus, hills change up the cadence, which makes it more comfortable because you are constantly changing how your foot strikes. Running on flat ground is so repetitive and difficult for me to keep running. It would be so easy to just walk but I knew that I couldn’t if I wanted to keep first. Coming out of the woods to see the finish was amazing. I knew that I had my first win and had a huge smile from ear to ear.


The blissful feeling plummeted when I realized that I might need to take a shot of whiskey. Luis said that the clock doesn’t stop until you drink a shot of whiskey. I wasn’t sure if he was kidding or not. But when I got to the finish and sat down, I found out he was serious. My time was still running until I took a shot. I haven’t done a shot in years and wasn’t sure if it would be instantly projected out of my body. I downed the shot and sat for a couple minutes talking to people about how amazing the race was. After 5 minutes of downing the whiskey, it decided to come back up. Luckily, I made it outside before the pinkish liquid made it out of my mouth. There is nothing like basking in the glory of your first win while you are vomiting on all fours. But that’s normal, right?

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