Sean O’Brien 30K 2023 Race Report


This had been a new training block for me where I’ve been super dialed in on my nutrition, getting more sleep, and hitting the gym to do cardio and strength work on a consistent basis. Running, not so much.

I’ve still been dealing with vertigo symptoms but I think I figured out when it happens now. Basically, it is like an accelerated bonk. When I don’t eat right during and after working out, then it can hit me.

So that was my race plan – keep moving and eating as long as I felt good. 

I also came up with a nutrition plan where I would try to eat food that doesn’t do weird stuff like possibly spike my sugar or makes me not want to eat. I’ve been eating whole grain bread sandwiches with Nuttso nut butter spread and a banana. BelĂ©n gave me a baby food stacker and I used it to put segments of a sandwich in each container. I ate what I took and was able to re-load at the Corral Canyon aid station that had PB & J’s. 

The night before the race I was worried that I would blow up again like I did at Ray Miller. Ok, so I have been running but do a daily mile run/walk and short incline runs at the gym. Was I really ready to do 18 miles at one go? I crapped out at mile 16 at Ray Miller. 

Similar to Ray Miller, I said that I would take it one aid station at a time.

Race Day

I acknowledge that the race was at Malibu Creek State Park, traditional Chumash lands.

It was freezing in the morning and I had on a lot of layers as I picked up my bib and headed back to the car where I sat for a while with the heater on. I finally took off my thick Ginger Runner GR Crew beanie and put a buff over my head before putting on my bucket hat. I learned that trick from a friend, Annette. If it gets warm then I just wrap the buff around my wrist and my head will cool down.

I jumped in a few selfies with friends at the start line and I was off. The 30k race started along with the 50k and marathon racers. The 50 milers and 100k racers had left earlier in the freezing dark.

I took it super easy. I looked back when I got to the Angry Chihuahua and there were a few people behind me and a male racer even farther back. “Hey, maybe I won’t be DFL, today” I thought. Then a few minutes later I saw it was Gus who must have gotten a late start. A few hundred feet later he had passed me as he’s a fast runner.

By the time I got to the creek crossing there was a big line and people were going across rather slowly as the creek was raging after the previous rains. My friend Luisa was just in front of me and I was going to take a photo of her crossing but I needed to focus on my crossing as well.

The crossing was without incident, for me, and I kept chugging along. My plan was to take it easy all the way to Corral Canyon (mile 7ish). I ran with Luisa for a lot of the race. She got to Corral Canyon a bit before I did and I was through the aid station quickly and left with her. The miles went by pretty fast as we were chatting and the next thing I was back at Corral Canyon after doing the 10k out and back section.

Just before arriving at Corral, my friend Saeed was heading to Corral as well, taking a break from volunteering. He said that we were the last 30k runners but I remembered there was one more runner. “And there’s another guy who is just ahead of you,” he told me. 

Hmm, could I catch that fellow? It didn’t matter too much, but it did give me a reason to push the last miles to see if I could catch him.

At mile 12 I was starting to fade a bit. Luisa pulled ahead and I could see her way up ahead on a big climb. Just behind her was the other 30k male racer. I kept running the downhills and power hiking the climbs until we got to what I call the “thank tank”, which is the water tank just before the start of the big downhill section. I turned up the pace on my downhill running – my quads still had pep left in them.

Half a mile later I caught the male runner and kept zooming down the mountain. Now I was trying to see if I could catch Luisa on the downhills. I pushed and actually still had enough to run but I couldn’t catch her or even see her. I kept pushing and finally ran into her and another female 30k runner at the creek crossing.

The water seemed to be raging even more and on my first step I almost fell into the drink. The same thing happened to the woman just in front of me. I was able to cross OK then started heading back to the Angry Chihuahua. Luisa and the other runner started cranking and they dropped me. I had something left in the tank and apparently they had a bit more in their tanks.

I kept pushing and made decent time on the final climb and took off downhill. I couldn’t see Luisa anymore but I still had the other runner a few hundred feet in front of me. I found another gear and starting catching up to the runner and might have been able to catch her but that would have been in the final chute and didn’t want to be that guy. BTW, if it was a guy in my 30k race I would have raced it to the end.

Considering my super conservative approach, my time wasn’t that bad, compared to other 30k times. At 6 hours 24 minutes, this was my second fastest SOB 30k with the others at 6:29 and my overall 30k PR of 4:38.

It was awesome running with Luisa for so many miles and seeing so many friends out there. I’m glad I didn’t blow up out there and I am getting a better handle at dealing with this vertigo stuff. The volunteers and race director Keira Henninger were great and appreciate the featured race image above, taken by Braden Bell . I love these SOB races. I think I’ve only missed one or two SOBs since 2015, either racing or volunteering.

My next race on the books is the Leona Divide 30k in April. What’s on your race calendar?