Race Recap: Shadow of the Giants 50k in California

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The 27th annual running of the Shadow of the Giants 50k was held on June 11, 2016 in Fish Camp, California.

We ran through forests of Giant Sequoias -the trails were beautiful, the weather was “magic”, and the race director was colorful!

Here is my race recap . . .

Shadow of the Giants 50k

One of the Giants of the Nelder Grove

One of the Giants of the Nelder Grove

The starting area was located at the Green Meadows Camp near Yosemite. There wasn’t a lot of info available about this race online. In fact the official race website hasn’t been updated since 2013. I did glean a little information from runners who’d run this race in the past and blogged about it.

They only sent out one pre-race email about 3 days before the race which made me a bit nervous not knowing what to expect. But I did email the race director about doing race morning bib pickup and got a prompt response.

Big Baz the Race Director
The race director is “Big Baz” Hawley an older fellow with a British accent, who gave out very quirky pre-race instructions, often shouting “shut the f*** up” if people got too loud. Apparently this is his final year of race directing and he will be retiring and handing the event over to his assistant.

A (Explicit) Word or Two from the Race Director

There was a race dinner the night before where you could pick up your bib or you could get your bib race morning. There was also dormitory style lodging available at the camp for a small fee. The number of runners was limited to 200. We stayed in a campground around 15 minutes from the starting area so it was a short trip up winding mountain roads to get to the Green Meadows Camp.

Race Morning
On race morning I stood in line to get my bib and shirt and signed a release waiver. It was a very simple bib with only race number on it and the distance hand written in. They offered a 20k distance as well and right before the race I met MTA listener Lesley who was running it. It seemed like many people had done this event before and had a lot of loyalty to the race. The 50k got started shortly after 7am with the 20k starting a few minutes later.

The Course:

IMG95201606119507135395499Weather and Elevation
The weather was perfect with temps around 50 degrees at the start and didn’t get above 70 degrees. It did rain a bit around mile 22 and that felt refreshing. The starting elevation was around 5,000 feet and with 3750 feet of climbs the highest point was 6,500 feet.

Course Markings
The course was marked with white arrows and ribbons, but there were some sections without many markings. Overall it was an easy course to follow evidenced by the fact that I didn’t get lost. The course went uphill until mile 2 before leveling off and then uphill from mile 4-9.

Water Crossing
There was a water crossing around mile 7 where it was impossible to stay dry unless you took your shoes and socks off. The water came up to mid-calf and my shoes were sloshing wet for around 2 miles but they dried nicely. I was happy with the performance of the Altra Olympus and Injinji socks. The course went uphill again from miles 14-16.

Then we came to the famous Nelder Grove with 3,000 year old Giant Sequoias trees. Mostly the course was on dirt/gravel roads with some single track. The course continued uphill from miles 23-27 and then downhill to the finish. The time limit for the 50k was 8 hours.

Aid Stations

There were 5 aid stations located every 4-7 miles apart plus an unofficial aid station put on by a running club. They recommended carrying some sort of hydration system and I used my Nathan Hydration pack filled with green tea to drink between aid stations.

Big Baz Hugging All the Women
The first aid station was manned by none other than the race director Baz who seemed to be hugging and kissing all the women and making semi-inappropriate remarks. I got a hug and he said something that can’t be repeated because this is a family friendly podcast.

The aid stations were stocked with water, sports drink, Coke, cookies, chips, M&M’s, pretzels, oranges, and bananas. However, the one manned by the running club had cold beer which was very welcome. When I expressed my excitement about the beer the guy said, “You’re my kind of woman. Too bad you’re married.”

I primarily used Generation UCAN before the race and carried two servings pre-mixed in an 8 oz bottle for my fueling. I also ate 1 UCAN snack bar and had a little bit of food from the aid stations. My energy levels felt nice and steady throughout.


My Experience

Thankful for my gaiters!

Thankful for my gaiters!

Enjoying the Miles
I enjoyed the small and laid back atmosphere and went into the race with very modest expectations (after learning my lesson at my last trail marathon). I decided to enjoy the beauty and respect the course which meant walking the steep uphill sections in the first mile.

The water crossing was a new experience for me and my shoes and gaiters ended up caked with dirt because of the dusty roads. But thankfully I only got one small blister despite my feet getting soaked. I’m glad that I’d applied Trail Toes ointment to my feet previous to the race.

Allowing Myself Plenty of Time
My cardiovascular system was definitely feeling the affects of the elevation so I just ran by perceived effort and didn’t really look at my watch much. I had told Trevor not to come back until around 7 hours. Overall I felt good although my upper hamstrings started hurting around mile 20.

I ran mostly alone but did leap frog several runners and ended up doing several miles with a lady named Vanessa who was doing her 2nd 50k. She had just Boston Qualified at Mountains2Beach Marathon two weeks previously and did a lot of pacing at marathons. One interesting thing was that there weren’t mile markers and at the aid stations there seemed to be confusion as to what mile we were at.

2 Miles Really?
My GPS lost signal a couple times so I wasn’t totally sure if it was accurate either. Then finally there was a sign on the road that said, “finish 2 miles” and we ran off into a single track. Strangely, the distance to the finish seemed to be less than a mile away.

Big Baz leading the cheer

Big Baz leading the cheer

Finish Line
There was a giant camp bell that they would ring when a runner approached the finish line and there was lots of applause for each finisher from the people hanging around the finish line. The race was not chip timed and my finish time was 6:24:28- a 2 min 50k PR. This was state number 37 and marathon/ultra number 46 for me. There weren’t any finisher’s medal, just prizes given for age group finishers. A logo cotton t-shirt was the only swag.

They did have an awards ceremony afterward and giveaways of random running items. The post race food included a variety of drinks, rice/veggie soup, rolls, and fruit. It was fine but not really anything special.

  • The first place male was Dean Dobberteen (40) in 3:48:11
  • The first place female was Sarah Ferguson (30) in 4:16:49
  • There were 123 total 50k finishers: 44 woman and 79 men

For more info on future editions of this race check out: http://www.sanjoaquinrunning.com/

My DIY medal

My DIY medal

The Next Two Days
There were camp bathrooms with showers so I was able to get cleaned up post-race before going back to our camper. My quads were so sore for 3 days post race—the kind where it hurts to sit down but otherwise I felt good.

Our family hiked up to the top of Vernal Falls in Yosemite two days post race and coming back downhill was agony with every step. I was so wishing for a bathtub where I could have taken an ice bath and done Epsom salt soaks. Fortunately by day four I was feeling back to normal.

Because I didn’t get a medal I decided to create a DIY medal to display on my medal hanger at home. I looked around for a while and found a thin agate slice that looked like a tree ring and put it on a leather cord.

Race headquarters at my most recent 50k in CA was at the Green Meadows Outdoor School.  Going back to school reminded Trevor of his love of breaking rules.

Race headquarters at my most recent 50k in CA was at the Green Meadows Outdoor School. Going back to school reminded Trevor of his love of breaking rules.

Race headquarters at the Green Meadows School

Race headquarters at the Green Meadows School

Straggling behind on the Mist Trail two days after my 50k

Straggling behind the boys on the Mist Trail two days after my 50k

Also Mentioned in This Episode

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Our Summer Travels; follow us on Instagram @marathonacademy

Thanks for being a fan of the MTA podcast!

I ran my first 50k yesterday. A 50k might even be more fun than a marathon. This one was a smaller event that was much more relaxing and I got 1st place in my age group.  Thanks for being a huge inspiration. Without your podcast I wouldn’t have even known what a 50k was. Afterwards I ran 6 more miles, to run my age in miles. Keep up the great podcasts! -Cari

2 Responses to Race Recap: Shadow of the Giants 50k in California

  1. Greg Jesensky June 27, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    Congratulations on your race Angie. That is a great picture of you crossing the stream.


    • Angie Spencer June 27, 2016 at 10:37 pm #

      Thanks Greg! It was such a beautiful course that it made getting my feet wet worth it 🙂

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