I've talked about the Bulldog 25K/50K Trail Runs a number of times in this blog. But in summary, it is a challenging loop/double-loop course run entirely within Malibu Creek State Park in Calabasas, with each loop having a total elevation climb of nearly 4,000 feet, including the climb up 2,528 foot Bulldog Mountain.
Since coming back from my post eye-surgery 5 1/2 week hiatus 5 months ago, my training got off to a rusty start and has been steady, but not memorable. I did get in several 10 mile runs as well as a slow 2 hour run that I counted for 14 miles back on July 28th. I also ran up Boney Mountain very slowly on July 6th. But nothing intense that would fully prepare for the hammering that took place this past Saturday on the Bulldog 25K course.
So cutting to the chase, I ran the 25K race on Saturday without incident in a reasonable 2 hours, 6 minutes, good for 2nd Male Master overall, 1 minute away from the first place master.
I gave it my best shot. My fitness level is back to I'd say about 75% of where it used to be. I still don't have the speed I used to have, so I gave up a lot of ground in the early going of this race. And my timing was a bit off so I had to make an unscheduled pit stop on behalf of my bladder. But hey, we were running in the wilderness so no big deal :>
The uphills of Bulldog are brutal, just brutal. Relentless. You start thinking, about halfway up: "Why am I here? I could be sleeping right now. What did I do to deserve this? Are we there yet? How much further?" as you start the long, steady, climb up the mountain. For the most part, the surfaces are ok, but there are some sections at the top where you're running downhill on the rock face of the mountain.
With age and experience comes the wisdom to conserve your energy running uphill on a course like this because, having run the race now 5 or 6 times....once your mojo is gone, you're toast. And I saw this happen to someone on Saturday. The guy with the knee high black socks.
There was a guy that looked like he was 10 years my junior that reminded me of me last year. I passed him at some point, maybe the 6 or 7 mile mark, on an uphill. He was walking. Looked like maybe he blew a gasket...like I did last year. Then came a downhill and he just hammered it past me. I thought, if the rest of the course is downhill, he's got me. But I knew there was plenty of uphill to go.
Sure enough, the next uphill he walked as I slowly but steadily dug in. Nothing fast, nothing fancy. Just shortened the stride, kept the pace even and kept the forward progression up the hill. Then he blew by me again on the downhill. This happened 4 or 5 times until finally he didn't appear at the the next downhill. It was actually kind of fun for me and it kept my mind off the soreness in my calves and quads. But I was now alone....for a bit.
And then the most extreme of the downhills came. You think downhills are easy, but this one is like dropping from a plane. I'm sitting here Monday night at the computer and my shins are still sore from the pounding. Yet another young buck flew by me on this section of the race to my surprise. I was able to keep him in my sights for awhile, while grimacing through the steepest of the downhills, but ultimately he got away.
Bulldog doesn't end when you hit the bottom. There are some more tricky, hilly, twists and turns until you hit the flats...then there's about a mile of running until the finish...of the 25K (the 50Kers of course run another lap).
I was in pain at the end, but a good pain. Yet again, the Bulldog 25K chewed me up and spit me out, leaving me itching to train harder next year and drop below 2 hours.
By the way, the support along this course is fantastic. They go out of their way to take care of you, both 25K and 50K. They required us to carry at least 20 oz of fluids during this year's race after the extreme heat of last year's Bulldog. They refilled my bottle with icy cold water. I was quite impressed!