23 Miles & Me: My Drowned Out SOB50k

This is what a deluged SOB50k looks like when you're pulled. Of course if you were faster you missed out on this.

A massive winter storm front rolled in on the rescheduled Sean O'Brien 50, and hit it squarely in the face. In the Pacific Northwest that's an average day, but here in SoCal its a shocker. The race was torched out of its original Malibu locale by the Woolsey Fire. Now it got drenched in its Verdugo Mountains relocation. It couldn't catch a break this year.

The original field of 250 was 93 DNS—for many runners driving from outlying areas probably bagged it on justified fears of highway closures. 

I was looking for a sub cutoff 50k finish, but didn't get it. The race was called shortly after noon as local mudslides and washouts prompted the Verdugo Mtn park authorities to call the race, the end. Those of us out there when it was called were credited with a 30k finish.

Wet-Look Fashion Victims

At the starting line from my jaundiced perspective, there were lots of dubious gear choices. For many, not nearly enough rain gear or warm stuff, and a lot of fair-weather bravado. Twenty miles later the ones left looked pretty scoured. I saw one guy at the 14/23 Mi aid station get a garbage bag from the harried volunteers, so he could make a Kitchen Tall Vest. He handed them his sodden windbreaker, another ultra-orphan.
Pro-tip: Don't do this.

My wet weather running Recovered Memories suggested I gear up. I opted for a fully waterproof Ultimate Direction running suit over knit running pants, an ancient high-neck Patagonia long-sleeve, with a Houdini windbreaker before the jacket went on. Head was covered by a beanie. Feet were in Patagonia wool socks.

I was concerned about getting too hot. Foolish me. Fifty Fahrenheit with 40mph winds on top took care of that. You'll never be dry. All you want is warm, and wet is a given. The running pants and Houdini made micro pockets of dead air space, slowing heat convection. Only too late I remembered I used to run with a polypro vest as well. 

And now, weather

The rain was episodic at first, gaining as the day wore on. The blowing mist and fog concealed the fact that we were wet-humping more vert than the original race, and on a mountain island between Glendale and Montrose CA. Around noon the rain really started coming down. Rivers opened up on the fire-roads, with muddy waterfalls off the top. Pieces of hillsides started shearing, as this range is geologically fractured and a mere pause in time. 

This is where the story ends

I'd made my dramatic exit from the Mile 19 Aid, where the doughty volunteers were practically hanging on the popups to keep them from turning into kites. Up a shit ton of climbing, and nursing the wan hope that after Mi 23 I could hump-trot my way to the finish. Everything was wet, but I wasn't hypothermic. I had plenty of Quality Executive Time out there, and solved most of my problems while dodging mud and torrents. The rain machine-gunned me cheerfully as I made my way down to 14/23. Whence I got the news that the race was called.

Oh damn, now I'm not gonna get that extra 2,000' of vert.

I joined a growing quorum under the quaking popup. Some were in early hypothermia, including one guy from Massachusetts. I'm guessing since there wasn't snow on the ground.it wasn't officially cold for him. Surprise! Hypothermia does its best work between 60 and 30ºF, precisely because people think "its not that cold."

Back at the finish line, it was a steady downpour as I peeled out of sodden race gear. Each layer steamed, and I froze accordingly. Using the time-honored surfer-change, I managed to get dry pants on without mooning anybody, as befits PETA protocols. Meanwhile the engine was running and heater was turned up to 11. After which I, Java Man, went in search of coffee. And found it in a crowded joint where all the beautiful people were warm & dry, while I was fighting for calories inches from the door that wouldn't close. 
My raincoat absorbs all cell-transmissions and EMF.


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