Kelly and I had originally planned to take the winter off from running and focus on skiing but after reaching our limit of cold weather and feeling like were getting out of shape we decided to add a winter ultra. Historically, we have done the Moab Red Hot 50K or the Austin marathon on President's Day Weekend but after having done both numerous times we decided it was time for a change and Southern California was just the ticket. So we decided to fly out to Burbank and run the Bandit 50K in Semi Valley.
Arriving on Saturday we played tourist at Universal Studios (I recommend the skip the line pass) and then made our way to the Hampton in Thousand Oaks for the night.
The start was about 26 miles from our hotel yet we had plenty of time to get some Starbucks and check in. The race started just after 7:00 am with several shorter distances starting later. The race has 6,453 ft of climbing on 7 hills through mostly exposed mountainous/desert terrain.
At the start, as seen in the picture below, the temperature was warm enough to avoid wearing any additional cover and that was the only shade for the day.
The next few pictures show the steep first climb up out of the valley. It began with a series of switchbacks until it crossed under the highway and then it was very steep crawl for the next 1.5 miles to the aid-station.
Following the aid-station, the course was on a steep jeep road for a few miles which still included climbing. Even on this section, it was still steep enough that most racers were power walking.
At this point in the race, I was feeling really good with plenty of energy and it was still not hot. My goal in the race was to treat it as a hard training run and force myself to turn off my competitive switch. Since December 5, I had been only running between 15 - 30 miles a week with several weeks off - this race was a needed experience.
A fun thing I did in this part of the race was work on my uphill running technique. I focused on taking rapid turnover half steps (3/4 of a shoe length) while pumping my arms. By doing this, I was able to pass many of the power walkers and avoided getting anaerobic.
(Smog from the city below)
The next two pictures are near the top of the first climb. The panoramic is looking to the north and the other is looking to the west. After these pictures, the race got on a fast moving single-track section that descended about four miles into the only paved section through a neighborhood. It was the only time in the event that I felt I was racing because I got a group of about 5 runners on my tail and none of them wanted to pass so I maintained an 8:40 mile pace all the way down.
Below is the section that went into the neighborhood for about one mile and I did pull out my Zillow app to see that the houses were priced in the $800 -900's. Just after the neighborhood was the 10 mile aid-station and the course was back to the trails.
I got to the aid-station around 10:00 am and the heat was already getting me. It was the warmest I have been since October. The section leaving the aid-station had a 600 ft and a 300 ft climb both steep and very exposed.
After the two climbs, I made it to the halfway aid-station and reloaded my fluids, cooled down with a cold wet sponge, and put on some sunblock. The next few miles I went back over the same two climbs back to the neighborhood aid-station at mile 20. At that point, one of the volunteers said it was in the upper 80's but it felt like 100 degrees.
(False summit one)
(Looking back at the canyon I came up)
(Looking at false summit two)
(Below is mile 25 looking across the valley at false summit 3 and the 26 mile aid-station)
When I reached the 26 mile aid-station, I cooled off with a cold wet rag and was informed that I still had another 1.5 miles of climbing before the final descent. At least it was not steep and it was a little cooler verses the earlier canyon.
(This is the same view as the smog photo for earlier)
The last few miles was familiar territory with a very steep descent back down into the valley and then 3/4 mile flat run to the finish area. In the end, I finished in the mid pack with a time of 6:59:38 and Kelly came in an hour later with a time of 7:55:20
(Below is 80 year old Patricia Devita finishing the 30K - Awesome!)
In conclusion, we enjoyed our winter break and training race. It was very well marked and supported and I would especially recommend this race for someone training for Badwater.
Following the race, Kelly and I drove north to Santa Barbara for the night and of course made our way to few local breweries.
(Soaking the legs in the ocean)