Bandit 50K (2013) - Race Report

Last week end was held the 2013 Bandit Ultra Run 50K in Simi Valley. This race went into my radar few days after I finished the TNFC 50K while I was looking for a good race to start off 2013. The Bandit 50K profile shows more elevation compared to the TNFC 50K, and consists of 2 long major climbs with 4 smaller climbs in between.

bandit 50K profile
The Bandit 50K profile

My preparation for the race has not been optimal. Early January, my back was blocked due to a vertebral displacement (T7). Hopefully, after I went to a Doctor of Osteopathy, the slightly out-of-place vertebrae was back into line and I was able to get back into running. The next two weeks, wanting to make up for lost time, I pushed myself a bit harder than usual. This may have weakened my immune system, as I got hit by the flu the first week of February after I went to Philadelphia to attend a conference. I still managed to log some (slow-paced) miles while recovering, which helped me to keep my morale high with the race approaching.

The day before the Bandit 50K, I went to rent a car (yes I know it doesn’t make sense to have been in LA for 2 years and to not have a car yet ;) ), eager to have a good time on the trails the day after. I woke up early and drove out to Simi Valley. A lot of runners were already there, and they were all looking very strong.

The race started and I managed to stay at the back of the lead group for the “warming loop” in Corriganville Park. Trey Barnes (the defending champion) and Chris Price (the race record holder) were setting the pace. I was not feeling very strong, but I was not feeling very weak either.

We reached the first climb and after we passed the tunnel under the 118, Chris Price and James Walsh started to pull ahead, with Kenneth Ringled trying to stay in contact with them. Halfway to the top I was surprised to find myself in 4th place and I wondered if I wasn’t going too fast considering what we will have to run for the rest of the race. I hold back a little bit and I rapidly got passed by Keith Yanov and then Chris Zurbuch who both looked very easy in the uphill.

bandit 50K guillaume calmettes
Halfway to the top of the first climb.
Photo Luis Escobar

At the top of the climb I was a couple of hundreds feet behind Chris Z and Keith, but the 3 leaders were already out of sight. We attacked the descent and hit the first major aid station (Hawaiian theme!), but I didn’t stop by as I had still plenty of water and 3 gels in my pocket. Right after the aid station we entered the Chumash trail, a long, snaking single-track descent, with great scenic views over the Simi Valley mountains. I loved every second of it and I had a lot of fun running it.

bandit 50K single track
Having fun on a top-notch single track.
Photo Erica Gratton

Approaching the end of the descent, I got passed by Matthew Ardine. He was really fast in the downhill but seemed to be less comfortable in the uphill as we constantly traded spots back and forth for the next few miles, me passing him on the climbs and him passing me in the descents.

We ran into the next aid station which was in a residential neighborhood and I re-filled up my one handheld with water. The volunteers asked me how I was feeling, and I told them I was feeling good and I was having a great time. Right after the aid station however, I missed the right turn at the bottom of the “Hot-Dog hill” (well maybe I was not feeling so good finally, lol), but hopefully I was called back almost instantly by the volunteers who prevented me to be off course for more than just a couple hundreds feet (thank you guys!!).

bandit 50K Hot Dog Hill
The “Hot Dog Hill”
and the right turn entrance I almost missed

After some more hills during which I took care of my nutrition/hydration, I approached the 15 mile half-course turnaround and I cheered Chris Price who was already coming back at me. He had a small 1-2 min lead on James Walsh and they both were looking very strong. Chris Z was now in third place as he had passed both Keith and Kenneth. Kenneth was actually still at the turnaround aid station when I arrived, 2:03 into the race. I quickly re-filled my one handled, ate my last gel and thanked the volunteers before heading back into the trail. I ran into Josh Spector, Trey Barnes and Margaret (leading woman), on their way to the turnaround, and I cheered them on as well as all the following other runners coming back at me. It was great to see all those runners having a great time on the trail.

In the next uphill, I caught a brief glimpse of Keith, and I calculated that I was just 3 min behind so I convinced myself to run harder. My efforts didn’t pay off as I still didn’t catch him back when I hit the residential neighborhood aid station (mile 20) for the second time of the day. I quickly filled up my one handled with electrolyte, and left the aid station with the idea of pursuing my effort to close the gap. In my hurry, I completely forgot to eat anything at the aid station and I didn’t have any gels left.

The day was starting to get hot, and I attacked the last 5 miles climb of the day. It was far from being a steep climb, but I didn’t have the energy to run it at the pace I wanted to, so I settled down into a slow-pace run. I was feeling really weak and my body was begging for calories. I finally reached the top of the climb, thinking that I will be able to ate some food while enjoying the killer view on the surrounding mountains that this spot was offering. Unfortunately the aid station at the top had water only (Damnit!) but a volunteer told me that next aid station with food was just a couple miles ahead. It was in fact the Hawaiian aid station I passed by at the beginning of the day. Once there, I drank a lot of coke, ate two potatoes and some salty pretzel, hoping to recover some of my energy.

bandit 50K aid station
The aid station at the top of the last big climb.
No Food, but killer view on the surrounding mountains!
Photo Luis Escobar

I felt a little better, I thanked the awesome Hawaiian volunteers and started the last descent back to Corriganville Park. The descent was very rocky and technical, and I got passed by Mike McMonagle in this section, just 1.5 mile to the finish, and I was seeing Matthew also gaining on me. Once at the bottom, I felt I had my energy back and I bombed on the last flat half mile to finish in 6th place in 4:40 (2nd in Age Group), 30 min behind Chris Price who set an amazing new course record.

bandit 50K win by Chris Price
Congratulations to Chris Price for his amazing race and CR!
Photo Billy Yang

After the finish, it was nice to introduced myself to and talked to all the local trail guys (Chris, James, Trey, Billy, Josh), they all are amazing individuals.

I stayed a bit to cheer on the runners finishing their race and then thanked everyone before leaving as I needed to return the rental car and go back finishing some work at the lab. This was really a really great Sunday! Organizers have put on a great event, and for sure I will be back next year !

Some note learned during the race:

  • messing up with nutrition in the second half of the race is not what you want to do

  • I need to integrate specific hill training sessions in my training and work on my downhill technique

My next race is the LA Marathon. This will force me to do more speed workouts, and to run at higher paces. Hopefully this will be beneficial for my future trail running races.