Having run the Bulldog 25K (and previously 30K) race in Malibu Creek State Park half a dozen times, I must be a glutton for pain coming back for a 7th time on August 22nd.
The course is one of the most challenging around town, with over 4,000 feet of elevation climb over 15 1/2 miles, including cresting the 2,528 Bulldog peak and dealing with the relentless downhills after reaching the top.
Having not raced particularly much this past year, I hadn't given much thought to doing Bulldog again this year, until I bit the bullet and registered on July 31st. That's not a lot of time to prepare for a tough 25K, but I was pleased to be running fairly injury free for several months and had run (as much as you can run) up Boney Mountain a couple times. I also ran the Bulldog course a couple time slowly, just to gauge the distance.
Ultimately what prompted me to sign up was that I looked at the course records for the race at trailrunevents.com/bd and noticed that the age group record for my elderly 50 to 54 age group category seemed a bit light at 2:05 and change. I could beat that and get my name forever emblazoned on the Internet, I thought. I ran a 2:02 at age 49, so I figured I could get close.
For months however, my latest ailment is a right knee that has been problematic mostly the first few miles of the morning run. Could be a meniscal tear or something, but it has been on and off for many months. Sure enough, it got worse. Pretty much the day after I signed up for Bulldog, parting ways with $100.
As it got worse, I finally started wearing a patella knee support strap under the knee, which helped me continue running as I decided to see if it would go away on its own, like most ailments do. I noticed it seemed to get worse when I was riding bikes with my kids. Old age can really suck sometimes!
So in any case, the weekend before Bulldog, I go on a road trip to San Diego with my youngest, to see both the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park on back to back days. It was fun indeed, but my knee pain was escalating, so I couldn't run at all.
My 9 year old wanted to work out in the hotel gym. I was overseeing him for a bit, then he wanted to jog on the treadmill (which was a complete surprise to me because he has never shown an interest in gyms or treadmills). So I decide, knee brace on, to try the elliptical machine as an alternative to running.
ROOKIE MISTAKE! Only problem is, I'm not a rookie! I'm a veteran! But veterans make mistakes too. At least in my case.
I could have ellipticaled (or whatever you call it when you use that machine) for 10 minutes or so, but NOOoooo, I decide to go for FIVE MILES on that machine. Stooopid move.
I got off the machine and my legs felt numb, like I was walking on air. But not in a good way. I was going pretty hard on the machine too.
Sure enough. next day, my left ass cheek was sore. Quite sore. Like ran a marathon yesterday sore. And it stayed sore the entire week. Just the left side, not the right, I think because I was overcompensating for my bum right knee.
A little Advil and Aleve gave some temporary relief, but the entire week I felt that soreness and knew that I made a mistake that can't be undone.
The soreness was not as bad on race day, but it was also tight. I was hoping for a miracle and that it would suddenly "open up" for the race. Not that I was running badly or anything. I ran well, But the stiffness in the upper hamstring area impeded my stride, it seemed mostly on the (rare) flat sections of the course and the downhill. Not to mention, I was wearing my right knee brace, but my downhill was slightly impacted by my right knee problem.
So in any case, I gave it my best shot and finished in a respectable 2:06:25, goof for 12th place overall. I was not far off my race goal, so I'm happy about the performance overall.
The first place woman, 30 year old Caitlin Jacobsen, blew past me mid-way into the freefall descent portion of the race, where you drop roughly 1,500 feet over about 2 1/2 miles. It is brutal as always. I could not keep up with her, but I kept her in my sites, finishing 34 seconds behind her. She ran quite a strong race.
So I looked at the course records again as I typed this and notice that the 5 year age groups have been changed to 10 year age groups. The 10 year record is 2:02:40, a formidable time on that course run by 56 year old Ron Paquette last year. He ran another awesome time this year at age 57 - a 2:03:29 - good for 8th overall. Kudos to him!
So, next year, next race, whenever it is, I'll be putting a Post-It on my running shoes that says "Don't Do Something Stupid!"