One way to make sure I get in long training runs is to sign up for long trail races…
Well, to some 30K would be a short trail race, but you know what I mean. So, this morning I left the house at 3:30 for the drive to Calico Ghost Town east of Barstow. The drive took about 1:45 so I was there about 5:15… earlier than I needed to be. It was COLD… As I drove the car thermometer varied in the low 30s. I had a few layers on so it was not so bad walking up the steps and getting checked in…. I hung out in the car till about quarter till race time – 7 am. Whilst waiting it occurred to me that I had forgotten something… I race mostly road races, and you never need to carry water in a road race… but in trail races water stations are much farther in between… I forgot to bring any water bottle…
I headed up the steps to the race start, which was right in the middle of the old ghost town. I had a long sleeve shirt over a short sleeve, which I knew would be fine once I got going… but it was COLD….oh wait, I said that. They had the restaurant open and everyone was hanging out inside. I waited till the last moment..
Picture out the window of the countdown to the start….
Dave Weary and Molly Zorba were there at the start line with me. John Carey was in the back. Off we went.
The race starts downhill out of the ghost town and onto the road you would take to get there. It goes more than a mile southwest, makes a couple of right turns and then finally gets off of the pavement. I say, finally, because it is supposed to be a trail run. For the next 6 or 7 miles we ran on a 1 car wide sandy desert “road” gradually climbing…. the hill was not much but it was SANDY! At one point a guy passed me and I noted that he had a much shorter quicker cadence… I thought that would be smart… short quick strides would have less sand slippage… I matched his stride and eventually passed him… Thank you, whomever you were.
At mile 7 we had our first aid station. I stopped briefly and down three half cups of a sports drink. So far so good on the liquids… fortunately it was a COLD day.
Continuing on the dirt road, at one point it headed up a long straight incline and the sand was beach like…. except darker… black sand beach like… I experimented with running next to the road but there were so many rocks and bushes that dodging them was at least as much work as handling the sand…. and thanks to my short quick stride I was actually still catching people…. every once in a while – we were really spaced out by now.
Somewhere around mile 10 it got much steeper, but the footing was firmer so it was actually a little better. A couple of ups and a couple of downs brought us to the 2nd stop at mile 13 (I think.) Immediately after this station the trail headed up the crazy rocky (I could not imagine a jeep making it through) and steep technical section. I fell…. not bad, but I was dazed a bit, walked through the section and eventually got my stride back. There were a couple of more ups and downs in this section and on one of the ups I fell again… Then there was a half mile REALLY steep road. The footing was okay, but I was still a bit shaky, and there was no one behind me…. I walked it.
Finally we turned back in the direction that I knew was going to take us on a long downhill back towards Calico. The footing was decent and I started to enjoy the downhill. I remember an 8 something mile here… and then I started to feel my left calf start to cramp. I stopped and did a 1 second stretch and it went away. Later the right acted up the same way. With 5 miles to go, I would be fighting off muscle cramps the rest of the way.
I passed through another aid station and took some water. I also took a couple of salt chewables I had on me…. things seemed okay for now.
Then we started down into this slot canyon. There were sections that were really narrow and it was more like running down a staircase than a trail… and the staircase was either big boulders or loose rock. I had to walk several of the toughest sections. The toll of all that sand and now this section was really beating up my calves… I had to try not to relax the calf muscles and let my quads do most of the work….
When we finally got out of this section, onto a nice dirt road I felt some relief… There were a couple of natural arches off to the side, so of course they made us run through them. We took a hard right and ran straight up a short steep climb onto a little ridge. On one side you could see Calico and on the other the canyon we had just run down. Once on the ridge we ran a half mile uphill, before making an almost uturn to get to go down again.
This led us eventually through the campground. In the campground we got to the pavement. I remember thinking that the pavement would be better, but it wasn’t, I still had to make a couple of quick cramp stops. At the bottom of the camp it was up for about a half mile through the parking lots and up a really steep last section to get to the very top of town. Going up this last part I had to walk and my left adducter was cramping the whole way. At the top you get to turn and run down Calico’s main street to the finish…
In spite of the difficulty I still averaged under a 10 minute pace. I came in 7th place overall and 1st in my age group! They had a lady there who hand painted a bunch of stone plaques and you got to go in and choose the one you wanted for your age group award.
A while later Molly finished, she was the 2nd female finisher… She informed me that Dave had decided the day before to switch to 50k. We did not decide to wait another 3 hours for him to finish…