We have wanted to do a 50k for a while now, and ideally we wanted to find a race we could use as a last long run before tapering for Mountains 2 Beach Marathon (held over Memorial Day Weekend). Sifting through the various race calendars online, we found the Labor of Love 50k held just outside of Las Vegas, a short drive away from home. In addition to fitting our time frame, Labor of Love is also sponsored by Hammer Nutrition, sponsors of yours truly. Now that we had a race lined up, it was just a matter of getting there!
On Friday, May 2nd we made the trek from Phoenix to Las Vegas via the Joshua Tree scenic drive, better known as Highway 93.
These two pictures represent the best the drive has to offer…
A few short hours later we arrived in fantastic Las Vegas ready to have some fun!
Unfortunately it was past 9 pm, which is way past our bedtime. So, we checked into our hotel (The Flamingo), grabbed a couple slices of pizza for dinner and went to bed. (No wild night at the blackjack tables for Kris…)
A couple hours later we were up, checked out and on our way to Lovell Canyon to check in for the Labor of Love 50k. This was to be my second 50k (my first was Pemberton 50k – Feb 2013) and Kris’ first. We received an entry for being Hammer Nutrition athletes and signed up a little over a month prior to the event … plenty of time to train for a 50k, right?!
The 50 miler, 50k and marathon runners were all starting at 7am – anyone running those races were allowed to park in the lot at the start/finish area. Participants in the 1/2 marathon, 10k & 5k would all be starting later and were sent to another lot a few miles down the main road where they hopped on a shuttle to the start.
Check-in / packet pick-up was very easy and we loved seeing all the Hammer Nutrition products – It makes a big difference having products you train with on course at an event!
As we were getting ready, the race organizers were finishing up set-up. This was the start/finish area. (Note the table full of small potted plants!)
They offered a few locations for drop bags depending on which distance we were running. Since the 50k was a true out-and-back course, we would be able to access our drop bag at the aid station we passed at mile 11 & 20. For miles 1-11 & 20-31 we had aid stations every 1.5 miles. For the 9 mile out-and-back in the middle we only had one aid station halfway through (at mile 15.5). I decided to wear my Nathan hydration pack for the entire 50k (to carry nutrition, phone, etc). Kris, however, dropped a bag with his handheld water bottle … that way he didn’t have to carry anything extra for the miles we had access to aid stations.
Once we had everything we needed and made sure we were slather’d, slik’d and covered in sunscreen. It was about time to start and there was almost no cloud cover…
Around 6:50 they called the 7am starters over for a group photo … so, we headed to the start. Kris was debuting his new customized Hammer Headsweats headband!
Before we knew it, the race had begun and Kris was quickly at the front of the pack!
Within the first mile, I could see Kris off in the distance with 2 other guys – the 3 of them took off and separated from the pack with a big lead right away. At that point I had a feeling this would be an awesome day for Kris.
I tried not to worry about anyone else’s pace and followed my Galloway plan – running 4 miles at a pace that felt comfortable then taking a 30 second walk break. It worked perfectly for the first 11 miles and I was able to maintain a quicker average pace than I thought I would. Those first 11 miles followed a paved road with a gradual uphill most of the way. As promised, we had aid stations every 1.5 miles and all of the volunteers were AMAZING!!!
Around mile 4.5 we had about a mile long downhill – it was a pretty steep downhill that was fun to fly down … but, while I was enjoying it at the time, I knew it would be a miserable climb come mile 25! Might as well take advantage of any free speed now since it would be much slower on the way up!
As I got around mile 9-10 I saw some of the marathon runners running my direction (they turned at mile 11 and headed back towards us for a couple miles before heading back to the mile 11 aid station). This was when I realized the two guys up front with Kris were both doing the marathon … which meant Kris should be the front runner for the 50k. It was also at this aid station a volunteer told me she thought I was the 3rd female in the 50k. This gave me a little adrenaline boost to get me to our turnaround where I could see how we were both doing.
Before I knew it we were hitting the aid station at mile 11. In my mind I had split the course up into 3 parts … first 11, middle 9, last 11. So, I was at the end of the first part and ready to head off-road on the Lovell Canyon Trail.
I knew these 9 miles on trail would be more challenging than the 11 on road … but, wasn’t quite ready for how steep the next 2 miles were! It wasn’t terribly technical, but was so steep in parts it was nearly impossible to run. I decided with 20 miles to go it wasn’t worth pushing myself too much and walked most of those 2 miles knowing I would be getting downhills to make up some of the time.
Around mile 13 I started the downhill portion towards the turn-around point. Over the next 2.5 miles I got back on track with my 4 min/30 sec run/walk intervals. At this point, my goal was to get as far as I could before I saw Kris on his way back. Around mile 13.5 I saw him headed my way, which meant he was around mile 17.5 – he was flying! As expected he was leading the pack, but what I didn’t expect was that I wouldn’t see the next runners for 2 more miles … he had a HUGE lead!
At mile 15.5 I hit our aid station and turn around point. This was such a great feeling and I knew most of the way back would be easier than the way here. I also knew I was in 4th place for the ladies – two of them were a little over 2 miles behind Kris (and almost 2 miles ahead of me), the third was right ahead of me at the turnaround. With over 15 miles to go, I knew it wasn’t the time to push the pace to stay with her.
Now I just needed to climb out of the canyon over the next 2.5 miles. I knew this would be mostly walking as most of it was pretty steep. I picked up the pace as much as I could whenever I could – knowing the sooner I chewed up the 2.5 miles, the sooner I could enjoy the long downhill to the finish!
What goes up, must come down… The views from the top of the hill were spectacular- you had no idea the Vegas strip was only 20 miles away!
The last 2 miles of the trail were quick and felt great (and it was fun passing a couple guys along the way!)
At mile 20 I was back on the road with a gradual downhill most of the way and aid stations every 1.5 miles … I could do this! The toughest part was it got LONELY! The 50k field was small and most of the marathoners were already headed back to the finish… after passing a couple guys on the trail, there was NO ONE around me! I was VERY grateful for the consistent aid stations and AMAZING volunteers … they really gave me something to look forward to and I always knew I could do another 1.5 miles! I also had a few friends sending me encouraging messages and one even called to shout some long distance cheers my way! This gave me the motivation to push on and make myself keep running.
Then I hit mile 25.5 and the steep uphill mile- my face says it all …
It was MISERABLE! I thought it would NEVER end! It didn’t help that once we left the trail portion of the course there was almost no shade on the road. (It was downhill though… I guess you can’t have it all!) I hit this portion of the run around noon and it was getting HOT! I was glad I grabbed a Chill Towel from the last aid station to wrap around my neck – it really helped keep my core temperature down.
Eventually I crested the hill, and when I did I knew I only had 4.5 miles to go!
Around this time I started hearing from Kris – he was done and kept sending texts saying “HURRY” … “AG award on the line!” … (and I think his favorite) “Go faster!”
At this point I thought I should have an AG award, regardless – at the turnaround there were 3 ladies ahead of me and I knew I hadn’t caught them so they would be the top 3 overall. I also knew there were at least 3 ladies behind me and I had a 2 mile lead at the turnaround. I had slowed and made several pit stops but on the mile climb I couldn’t see anyone in the distance. The only others I saw on course during these last few miles were from other distances … I should be good.
I was so excited to make it to mile 30 … just 1 to go … I took this picture and glanced behind to see a lady behind me taking the same picture … with a 50k bib on … I had lost my 2 mile lead and really was racing for 4th place. How did that happen?!?!
This was where I dug deep and ran it in as quick as I could. I didn’t take any of my walk breaks – just ran … scared about losing my position …
But, I held it together, finished 4th female – first in AG … and was SO happy to be done!!! Those last few miles were hot and I was spent!
Kris was waiting at the finish line – had been done for an hour and a half … winning the race by 36 minutes! Did I mention this was his FIRST 50k (or any sort of ultra-marathon for that matter) and only his second trail race (he won his first, too!).
After crossing the mat, I was given my medal…
… and my age group award (I’ve never won a plant before)!
We ate, relaxed and took a few photos…
We then hopped in the car to head back home. As we got in the car I put on my 110% recovery gear … I was incredibly impressed with how cold the ice packs still were – we took them out of the freezer, put them in their cooler bags Friday afternoon around 3pm and kept them in the car until the race ended around 1pm Saturday … and they were still mostly frozen! It felt SO GOOD!!!
We stopped for a buffet lunch at Green Valley Ranch and, sufficiently stuffed, headed back to Phoenix.
Race Course Profile – both of our Garmins measured about 3500ft of total elevation gain … yes, it was a little hilly!
From the time I woke up until the race started I nursed a bottle of HEED
About an hour before the race I took Endurance Amino & Anti-Fatigue Caps
15 min before the race I ate a raspberry Hammer Gel
Throughout the race I ate Perpetuem Solids and a homemade mix of peanut butter & chocolate Hammer Gels (I put them together in a flask)
I also took a couple Hammer gels at aid stations to get a variety of flavors
Every hour I took Endurance Amino, Anti-Fatigue Caps & Endurolytes
At mile 20 I took a couple extra Endurolytes from the aid station since it was getting warm
For the last 11 miles I drank HEED from each aid station and dumped a cup of water on my head (the Headsweats visor stayed nice and cool that way)
I took a chill towel from the aid station at mile 25 and kept it around my neck for the final 6 miles … it was a HUGE help in keeping me cool!
At miles 11 & 20 I topped of my hydration pack with water – by mile 30 I had drunk it all.
Calico Racing did a great job – very well organized and supported! I would definitely participate in one of their events again. Joyce the race director puts on a really good race and her army of volunteers are outstanding!
Even with the well supported course, I would take my hydration pack again – in the warm weather it was nice to have water anytime I wanted it!
If you’re interested in trying any of the Hammer products we use, head over to their website via this link to save 15% off your first order! You’ll see the discount in your cart at check-out.
And if you want to enjoy stylish Headsweats gear at a discount, use code EVERYSTEP25 to save 25% off you order… not a bad deal in exchange for making to the end of this race report!