Mugged by the Bandit 50K (Race Report)

Bandit 50K Race Report – February 16, 2014 

I decided a couple of days ago to run the Bandit 50K once again. It’s about 35 minutes away in Simi Valley, California. Last year it beat me up, ran over me, then spit on me finishing in 6:32:28. So this year I wanted to beat that. I was relatively fresh going in but aware that the temperatures could once again top 80.

The Bandit 50K is one of the toughest 50K’s in the U.S. and the toughest I’ve done to date. It climbs nearly 1,750 feet from mile 1.5 to 4.5. The total elevation gain for the race is around 6,500 feet with the same amount of descent for about 13k in total elevation change. The course is totally in the open without cover and really heats up the last 20 miles.

I ran and hiked pretty well for those first 4-5 miles up the first big climb before falling and hitting my left knee hard on the stone floor. It took a bit of time for it to feel mostly normal again. Naturally my fall happened while I was talking to a fellow a runner.

After the first aid station, you begin a steep descent that takes you all the way to the mile 9 aid station. It’s technical and a fast down hill. I kept misstepping here and there and turning my ankles and feet along the way yet nothing major.

For the next 2 miles you face another solid climb. Around this time the temperature started to become noticeable. I came into the race on the low side of being hydrated and the distance between the aid stations (more so just my lack of not having a big enough handheld/or two) quickly led to my dehydration.

The stretch from mile 11 to 15 is mostly down hill with a couple of smaller hills (relatively speaking to this race) before reaching the turnaround aid station at mile 15. I tried to down as much water as I could at this aid station along with some calories. I think those calories ended up being a Gu, an orange and a Rice Krispie Treat. I could tell by now I was dehydrated which impacts the body in numerous ways. I knew with the way my body was feeling that the climb out of 15, back up to mile 19, and down to 20 would be challenging and tough. Mentally I was also already thinking on the gradual climb from 20 to 24.5 and the massive climb from there to 27.5.

It took a lot of grit and grind, but I made it back to mile 20 and the aid station that was there. I was very dehydrated at this point, yet tried to smile and put on a good face while downing 7 cups of water, pouring one over my head, and downing a Gu and Hammer gel.

I knew the stretch from 20 to 27 was going to be brutal and steep especially the last 2-3 miles of it. About 1 mile into this segment I had to pee. I knew what to expect but it was still shocking to see my pee the color of Mello-Yello but as if someone had removed the water from Mello-Yello. Oh well, at least it was pee. My body was aching but the march continued, tattered, rattled and with an occasional 25-50 step jog. Yes, I counted!

Miles 20 to about 26.5 without an aid station during the toughest and hottest stretch of the race is very challenging (especially carrying just a 20 ounce handheld). I tried to pace myself with my fluids, but my body said drink now. So my handheld was empty and I still had about 2 miles to the aid station with about 1,000 feet of climb over those two miles.

Well that’s a steep climb and with my body aching and my head throbbing I had to sit down a couple of times on jagged half rocks to keep from passing out. I knew that I wasn’t going to quit, and I was hoping I wouldn’t get pulled. So I quickly realized that my hopes of finishing better than last year where over and to just finish the race. I kept hiking as fast as my body allowed and ran when I could even if it was for short spurts that might have been discouraging to others if it had been them. However, I found hope that with each pained and dehydrated step that I was a step closer to finishing this beast of a race. Then I could stop, lay down, and tell myself I’d never do this again…well at least not this race…maybe.

To speed up this race report so it doesn’t become as arduous and painful as the Bandit was for me (too late you say?) I’ll fast forward to when I hit that last main aid station. There I downed a couple cups of water, poured another one on my hair (it almost even soaked through it), and continued on knowing that the last 3.5 miles would have a lot of downhill but that it would be technical and tough on the feet and ankles.

I was cautious yet still running where I felt in control and moving forward at a good rate yet when I’d slow down due to technical dangers. I completely rolled over each ankle during this time. I knew that sub 6-hours was likely gone, but I kept pressing on.

With 2 miles left to go you drop about 700 feet within the span of a mile. It’s intense and technical! I was smart and remembered my #1 goal for every race, “To be alive at the end of the day!”

I was keeping an eye on my watch and knew I’d likely be around 6:02. With about 0.5 mile to go I realized that I could perhaps kill myself finishing and MAYBE break 6 hours. Death is not worth a finish in the mid 30’s overall at a race that most humans have never heard about. So I decided to run and finish as best as I could while feeling semi-comfortable (since comfortable left once the race started).

Around the last bend I knew I’d be 600 and change. I crossed the finish line in 6:00:40 and was never so glad to finish a race. I didn’t care about my time or much else at that moment. I went to my truck and laid in the bed of it for about 20 minutes.

As disastrous as the day felt to me I was very pleased with my finishing time. It was 32 minutes faster than the year before. I felt like I was battling for my life out there the last 15 miles and just tried to be smart but relentless to push through the discomfort and finish.

The Bandit 50K is a really good race. It’s very tough with 6500+ feet climb, the heat, sun, concrete like-technical trail, and distance in between aid stations. The RD’s do a great job hosting this race. It’s affordable (less than $100), nice medal and shirt, and everyone associated with the race is very pleasant. It has a very small town feel to it even though it’s in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Southern California.

I swore many times during this race that this was it and I’d never do the Bandit again, but i have this sneaky feeling that I’ve perhaps lied to myself once again.

-joshua holmes (RIF #1)
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- who has written 1044 posts on Run It Fast®.

Joshua Holmes has completed 150 marathons/ultramarathons while running 100+ miles 31 including races such as the Badwater 135, Western States 100, The Last Annual Vol State 500K (3x). His favorite races to date are the Vol State 500K, Badwater 135, Catalina Eco Marathon, Chimera 100, Across The Years, Savage Gulf Trail Marathon, Strolling Jim 40 Miler, Tunnel Hill 100, RUTS, EC100 and the Flying Monkey Marathon in his home state of Tennessee. Follow @bayou Google+

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