Ultimate Direction Hydration Pack and the Bulldog 25k Trail Race!

December 14, 2018   /   byrunningwhilevegan  / Categories :  Race Recap, Review, Running

2018 was a pretty busy summer for me, race-wise. For the first time in about 10 years, I had weekends off and I signed up for EVERYTHING. The opportunity to be able to race like that was a precious time not lost on me; now that Mike and I have moved to Huntington Beach, I’m on the job hunt, (weekends will most likely be worked) and my bank account is now at $7. With the choices I had made, I had to bypass entering any lotteries of the Majors; financially it has been a no-go. Don’t cry for me though, I had a blast, and I got to race all over California and Vegas! One of the races I signed up for over the summer, was the Bulldog 25k. It’s known as one of the more challenging trail races, and I was a nervous wreck. But an excited nervous wreck! One of my goals for 2018 was to let go of the need to PR, and cover as much terrian as possible. That I did! So Bulldog wasn’t about breaking records, it was about the experience. (That being said, I’m ready for some big PRs in 2019.)

Bulldog 25k finisher! 

How does a super amateur trail runner come to the decision to run a course like Bulldog on a whim? I’d like to say a lot of guts, optimism and sheer determination, but in all honesty it was my competitive streak shining through. The competitors? Senior citizens. You see, after I ran Valley Crest Half Marathon, Mike and I took a seat next to a couple ladies, probably in their 60s. They won in their age group and were a lot of fun to talk to. They ran all the trail races, including Bulldog. We told them about all the Rock’n Roll races we’d been running, including San Diego the weekend before, and they told us they never ran road races, which I’m coming to find is the general attitude of trail runners (I’m into it). I was super intimidated by the idea of Bulldog, but they told me how much they loved it, how they weren’t breaking any records year after year, but the views were spectacular. And so the wheels started turning. I had two months to make up my mind. Heat training for a SoCal race in the Santa Monica mountains in August would be necessary, I’d have to hit the trails (Claremont Loop) and do some more hill training as well, but I could be a runner that completed Bulldog. One month later, and three days after my 37th birthday, I signed up. 

Here we go! 

Once everything was set and race day was looming ahead, Mike and I went to Mike’s favorite store, REI, to check out some hydration bags. The plan was to just try some on, so we’d have a better idea of what style I was looking for, how they fit, and then we could browse online deals. I had my eye on a Jenny Jurek vest, as I had quickly glimpsed over them at the San Francisco Marathon expo. I was looking to buy one online (I think they were sold out of stores), and was hesitant about the price tag without trying one on. The issue I have with sizing is that I’m very curvy and depending on the brand, can fit anywhere from a size small to an extra large. I’m not a huge fan of online shopping because of this (I would probably benefit from a tape measure). For roughly $100, I just didn’t want to risk getting the wrong size, especially with the race so close. 

All nerves at the start! 

I ran the Valley Crest Half with Mike’s hydration pack by Nathan Sports, which I highly recommend. It’s a great brand, and I ran my first marathon wearing one of their waist belts (Mike found a couple his and hers belts at Ross!). While I could have kept using his, being the prima donna I am, I wanted my own! Browsing in REI, I nonchantantly tried on an Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0 and that was that. It was love. I didn’t want to take it off, I was done for. The price tag hurt a little, I’m not going to lie (retail $129.00), but it was an investment for future races and training. Wishlist for 2019 — completing a triathlon and an ultra marathon. 

I found love in an REI. 

I bought a size large, and it suits me. I have broad shoulders and am quite busty, even when I squish my chest down with sports bras! I love it. I love the pockets, the water bottle holders in front, and I put a hydration pouch in the backpack part. I generally don’t like to wear much when I run, even compression socks can overheat me, so I did have some reservations about wearing a backpack while running. It was honestly not a problem, I don’t remember ever being bothered running with it. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I need for trail runs, so my bag was totally overpacked. Still didn’t bother me. I also like wearing it for shorter runs, especially if I want to run some errands during (anyone else do that? Hey, if I’m out already!). Sometimes I use it in lieu of a gym bag, and even a purse when I go to the store. What can I say? I’m in love! It’s also perfect when I take my dog Zooey for runs with me. For longer runs I need to bring water for both of us, and I have a portable bowl for her. Plus I need her poop bags. And snacks, because who doesn’t like snacks on a run, even doggos? So yeah, it doubles as a doggie diaper bag as well. 

You run by the old MASH set

As for Bulldog, it went pretty well! It is a race that seems full of uphills and no downhills, but I hear that can be a common feeling in these trail races! I read a lot of reviews and recaps, so I had an idea of what to expect. It would’ve helped me to join some of the training runs on the route, but I didn’t. The hardest part for me was one of the steep downhills — once you reach the top, you began the descent on rock, and I was scared. I let a lot of runners pass me while I scaled down. The other challenge for me was getting across a small stream. You have to hop over some rocks to get across and all my road running made me ill-equipped. Another runner came to the stream as I was trying to get across and I told him, laughing, that I was scared. He jovially responded back that the worst that would happen is that I’d get a little wet. That definitely helped put things in perspective and I made it across. The weather was perfect and overcast, and just started warming up to what would’ve been an uncomfortable degree when I hit the finish line. All my time on the Stairmaster at the gym helped me for the miles long ascent around mile three.

An overcast morning made for a beautiful run! The picture on the bottom right is the summit. Going down made coming up seem easy, I was not ready! 

A 25k is roughly 15.53 miles and I finished in 3:46. My Garmin didn’t track all the miles, which is another factor I read about for that race, on those trails — the GPS watches lose signal. What a feeling it was making it through the finish line! Of course right afterward (and until just recently, five months later) I was thinking it’d be a one and done race, but I’d consider running it again, as long as I trained to get a much faster time, or if Mike wanted to run it together. I think he’d love the race, the trail and the views are just spectacular; they make up for the steep ascents that never end! If I could get myself into shape for it, I’d like to go back and do the 50k, but right now, thinking about two loops of that course makes me shudder a little! There are so many other races to explore, we’ll see what the future holds! 

A huge thank you to the race directors, Ultra Trail Ladies and all the volunteers of Bulldog! 

If you are interested in running Bulldog, or already signed up, I highly recommend lodging at the Good Nite Inn in Calabasas! They know us there, it’s our favorite place to stay when we have races in the area. Wish that got you (or us) a discount, but you’ll just have to trust me it’s worth the full price!

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