Racing Bulldog 25K
Racing in the Californian mountains for 25K
August 25 was a day I had been waiting for, for a while. Although I didn’t make any commitment to officially sign up for the Bulldog 25K trail race until a couple of weeks out I knew I wanted to take on the challenge.
25K was a distance I was comfortable running on the dirt trails that would take me up some high mountains, especially for me who enjoys the flat roads when it comes to running.
I always set reasonably high expectations for myself when it comes to running races. I want to get a PR most races or place within the top 10 female finishers.
I have had some pretty rough training days leading up to this race in relation to my diabetes management. Most runs have been cut short or involved a few miles of walking with low blood sugar levels and my usual energy gels and bars not being enough to bring me back into a safe range to continue running.
This was frustrating both physically and mentally. It really challenged me to acknowledge that diabetes can really throw me off course at times when I thought I had it all under control.
Running wise I managed to get two training runs on the Bulldog course prior to race day. One with Alex as my running tour guide and the 2nd being a really enjoyable group run.
Both times I took it easy on the uphill and was able to have some legs to push it on the downhill.
I wasn’t sure how I would go in the race with the other female runners. The fast times on the course where just over 2 hours, which realistically I wouldn’t get close too.
As it came closer to race day my husband Alex, who is training for a 100K race in October signed up for the 50K as a “long training run”, so he wasn’t spending his morning waiting for me at the finish line.
I was excited for him, knowing that he would aim for a distance PR even though he said he said would take it easy.
Inside I was thinking it would have been nice for him to see me finish my first trail race but him running and enjoying the mountains made me happier.
Race day I woke up after a pretty good night’s sleep. My BGLs had been relatively stable and I woke up with a good number.
I wasn’t starting until 8am so I had plenty of time with my 5am wake up call to make any minor insulin or food adjustments before I got to the start line.
This was the first race I was going to start with no breakfast. Most of my marathons I would wake up ridiculously early to have breakfast and the mix of adrenaline, nerves and race day excitement would send my sugar levels sky high, making it very challenging to have any stability at the start of the race.
Alex started the 50K with some fast men (and women) at 7am. I knew he would go out fast but he can go way deeper into the pain cave than I have ever been so was excited to see how fast he could push it.
I started at 8am and Alex’s brother Paul was there to cheer us on and waited with me for the hour leading up to my start.
I was watching my blood sugar levels like a hawk every 5 mins and they were comfortably sitting between 140-160 mg/dL (7-8mmol/L) the whole time prior to the race.
At the start line I had 3 bites of a PB&J sandwich 10 mins before we would run.
In my hydration pack I had 6 gels and two bars.
My intention was to consume 3-4 gels ideally throughout the course of the run. I wanted to consume a gel within the first 30-40mins to give myself some energy and calories.
This didn’t quite go to plan.
8am we were off with the race director Nancy’s countdown from 10.
I went out with the lead pack which was about 10 men and 4 women. I was trying to slow down my heart race with the excitement and nerves while keeping a fast 7:30ish pace for the first mile.
I managed to stay with the lead group for the first 3 miles. My BGLs shot up as soon as I started running.
My basal rate was very low – 10% of my usual dose so I had very little insulin in my system. Perhaps too little.
I watched my BGLs on my CGM sensor with my phone in the back of my hydration pack.
As soon as we got to the start of the Bulldog mountain climb which was about 3 miles long, I couldn’t keep up with the fast kids.
My weakness is climbing. I feel like I don’t have the strength to maintain a strong pace uphill without my heart rate skyrocketing and my legs burning through all of my energy reserves.
I ended up hiking most of those 3 miles with small bursts of easy pace jogging.
The hardest part of that climb was the number of people who overtook me. I was having a hard time physically but mentally it was worse.
About 30 people would have overtaken me on that climb.
I wasn’t so concerned with the men, they weren’t my competition, but each time a woman overtook me I tried to be positive and always said something as they ran by “you go girl”… but inside I thought that this race was over for me.
I tried to focus on the positive and encouraged myself just to enjoy being out on the trails and participating in this race. It was perfectly cool weather and all the runners were so friendly and warm.
When we got to the top of the Bulldog climb I knew my legs had to move quickly to get a few positions back and get me back into a positive head space.
It was less than a mile down to the aid station at 7.5 miles.
I had enough water in my pack to take me to the finish line so I didn’t need to refill.
I grabbed one cup of water, 2 slices of orange and asked the volunteer to dumb a cup full of ice down my sports bra.
Then I was off.
At this stage my sugar levels had reached their highest at 280ish (15.5 mmol/L).
I started to give small increments of insulin knowing that I was half way through the race. 0.3 here followed by 0.2 a couple of miles later than a more aggressive 0.5 30mins after that.
I had switched off my temp basal at the top of the mountain knowing that I needed my basal back running to normal, getting some insulin back into my body.
The next 3 miles was rolling hills. I would overtake a few people on the downhill and then some of them would catch back up to me on the uphill. The ascents weren’t as nearly as steep as before so I was able to run most of these.
I saw Paul at about mile 10… he had run in the opposite direction to take some photos of Alex and I as we came down the course.
He snapped some photos of me than chased after me for a little while.
As we got to the large downhill fire road I knew this was my time to try and make up for any time I had lost on the uphill.
I let my legs go and managed to sustain a 7:15 mile pace for this section. Not my fastest but I felt good.
I had my 2nd and last gel of the race here. I knew there were about 4 miles to go and I needed the extra energy boost. Even if it was only mental.
The next section was downhill single trail which was rocky and more technical. This is the part of the race I was looking forward to most.
It got me excited. I knew this was my strength and I really enjoyed pushing my speed as I jumped in between rocks.
Here was where I passed 3 women. This gave me so much confidence. I felt good, strong and able to push to the finish line.
The river crossing was just before the final aid station. I ran right through it. Not concerned that I had completely drenched my shoes and socks in the water. At the aid station, I poured some water over my head and grabbed another slice of orange and kept moving.
There was one last final climb which I knew I had to push if I had any chance of making the top 5 women.
I ran most of the way.
My BGLs were coming down at a nice steady pace now, so I was happy with where they were.
Coming into the last mile I saw a girl ahead of me running at a reasonably steady pace. I knew I had to pass her then. She had overtaken me right at the beginning of the race at the start of the ascent.
I pushed. I looked at my watch and it said 6:40 min per mile. Ouch. This was going to hurt.
As I came to the final turn I asked the volunteer how far to the end.
1km (0.62 miles).
This was going to hurt.
I didn’t want to look back so I kept pushing.
As I came into the finish line there was such relief on my face.
I wasn’t sure of where I finished but I knew I had made back significant effort on the 2nd half of the race that I felt I lost in the first half.
I was exhausted as I crossed the finish line in 2hrs34mins. I was also super happy that the race had turned from negative to positive.
As we waited for Alex to finish his race, we knew he took the first lap pretty fast but had no idea in 2hrs12mins.
He was flying.
I got my plaque for third female in my age group 30-39. I initially thought I had come in 4thplace female overall, then the official race results were released and I had finished 6thplace female overall.
I was happy with this. Top ten female finisher for my first Californian race and 3rd in my age group.
As Paul and I sat, hydrated and put our feet up waiting for Alex. We saw in the near distance a man running with a green hat and blue hydration pack. It was Alex.
He came into the finish in 5hrs1min for 50km.
He had pushed himself to a 25 min PR for the distance.
I was incredibly proud of his efforts, speed and strength.
We had both come away winners from the Bulldog 25K & 50K.
And thank you to Paul for the photos, the cheers and patiently waiting for us.
Overall, I was extremely happy with my diabetes management. I know that next time I can be less aggressive with my insulin dose reduction and hopefully I can fuel with more calories during the race.
Next up for me, I return to the road for my favorite marathon – NY.