Old West Trails 16 mile Free, Fun, “Preview” Run

“You can never loose if you never quit”
– Me to the sweeper at mile 15

I learned some very important lessons, insights and gained enormous respect, even more then I had before, for the trail runner. You can be the greatest distance road runner in the world but until you transition to trail you have not tested your limits.

I was the last in, even the sweeper passed me in the last 20 yards of the 16 mile training run. No excuses, I totally under estimated what I was getting myself into; and this was considered by these extremely impressive trail runners an “easy course,” of course I was also told this was the hardest part of the 30K run scheduled for March 20.

But, let me rewind a little……

Back in September of 2015 I ran my very first trail run called the ‘Trail Hog’; it was a Half Marathon I ran just so I could get into a decent corral at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, it was my qualifying run of sorts. I did that trail run in 13.5 miles , 2:36.20 minutes an average pace of 11:34/mile.

I thought this was a pretty good time but more importantly, I thought, WOW this trail running is really cool!, I was hooked. But my focus of trail running was narrowed by perception. I perceived that trail running would be pretty much the same by the picture built in my head from that single run.

Fast forward. January 11, 2016 I’m at my peak as far as running is concerned; I’ve just completed the 48.6 mile Dopey Challenge and am feeling under accomplished for a number of reasons but mostly because I don’t feel I was challenged enough. This has narrowed my perception of what I’m capable of. The combination of my narrow view of trail running and my narrow view of my abilities would finely combine and bring me crashing down to reality on January 30 at the “Free, Fun, ‘Preview’ Run” for OLD WEST TRAILS 50K ULTRA & 30K FUN RUN coming up on March 19, 2016.

My buddy Greg made the suggestion that I should do the Old West Trails 30K with him. I had originally thought it was on March 30th so I had thought that perhaps I could do the SEAL Sprint Triathlon March 20th and then jump into the Old West Trails 30 or 50K. But some how I got the training date of January 30 mixed up with the March run dates and mistakenly thought the run was on March 30 when in fact it is on March 20, the same day as my already paid for SEAL Sprint Triathlon.

The original intent of running the “Free, Fun, ‘Preview’ Run” was to discover if I was capable of running the 50K, which I wanted to run as it would eclipse the distance of my marathon and provide me closure for feeling under accomplish or if I felt the time between the Triathlon and the run was not enough recovery, to see if I could handle the 30K. I was not even concerned about the preview run; the words easy, no problem ever haunt you?

Besides, its was another weekend to get out with the family; since the preview run started and ended at the Stagecoach Trails Horse Camp & RV Resort we could rent one of the cool looking Camp Wagon Cabins and then after the run and “Dutch Treat” social we could head to Lake Henshaw to do some fishing before heading back home.

Everything was going great until Friday packing our van for the trip. As I was loading the van I twisted just right and I got a twinge of pain in my lower back. I suppose a normal person might have decided right there the run was off. But as my wife will attest, I’m stubborn and will not change my mind once I have committed to something. So I had her place a Tiger Balm pad on lower back and on went my back brace and off we went on the 2 hour dive to Stagecoach Trails Horse Camp & RV Resort. We arrived around 9:00PM and got settled in.

I guess drinking that large coffee on the way up was a bad idea, I was awake most of the night, trying to sleep. My iPhone’s alarm launched a 6:30AM and I was stiff, so I loosened up as best I could without aggravating my back. I got dressed in my running cloths and cleaned up and made my way the run starting area and met up with the race director Larry Pustinger, volunteer staff, and the other runners.

I’ve got to say that Larry Pustinger, the volunteers, and runners are some of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure to spend time with and I look forward in being with them again. I’m hoping I can make (back permitting) it to the February 6th “Free, Fun, ‘Preview’ Run”

The run got off at 7:34AM it was an out and back run through various terrain sand, packed sand, dirt, rock, and rocky paths. With a climb of 1833 ft. The weather was great! It was pretty much in the 60’s though-out the entire run.


Starting Point of the Run

On the 8 mile trek out I was amazed running though the desert how beautiful it was; so beautiful I wouldn’t be able to describe it. My back seemed to be holding out okay and seemed to be working itself out, we missed a turn at about the1.4mile mark and ending up having to back track adding about a ¼ mile to our run, once back at the missed turn, we transitioned from the jeep road to a trail wide enough for a single runner. We wound around brush, cactus and Desert Agave. I’ve been to the Anza Borrego Desert before, but not in the outback like this so I had never seen some of what I was seeing.


Jeep Road across the highway from the starting line.


The trail we transition to from the Jeep Road

For most of this first part the incline we were running up was hardly noticeable. We came to our first hill at about mile 4.2 and then drop down again slightly and came to the first mountain at mile 5.5 and where Greg and I parted ways; my pace was slowing dropping from the low 10’s to low 11 minute miles – my legs were not prepared for what they were experiencing.


I was NOT prepared for the beauty of the canyon we ran down after passing the highest point of elevation on the race. I lost myself in its beauty; the rock formations, textures and colors were mesmerizing, had I not been running I could have spent hours walking slowing taking in everything.

The canyon eventually opened to a fire road of mixed sand and packed sand at the end we had reached the aid station and turn around point. I stopped for few minutes and talk and fill my water bottle. This was a mistake I should have grabbed water and continued; I found myself cooling off and could start to feel pain in my lower back. I excused myself and started the trek back; Greg caught up to me not long after I left and we mostly walk/ran back up the canyon the wind had kicked in at this point and we battled it as much as the incline. As I ran my back got worse.

Mile 10 or 11 I’m really not sure the sweeper caught up to us and I told Greg to go on ahead, my pace had dropped to 16 then to 17 minutes per mile. Every time I hit soft sand I would have to walk as my back would send a of pain though my body. I pushed as much as I could. My back was causing me to run funny and I couldn’t find a ‘sweet’ spot or pace at so I bounced between 16, 14, 11’s and 12’s.

The sweeper, Matt, was my hero! He kept me thinking positive and talked about running so I could keep my mind off the pain. He kept telling me I was doing great and I liked hearing it even though I know that was far from the truth, he even offered to pull a thorn or weed of some sort out of my sock when I winced from the pain when bent down to try, I smiled but couldn’t let him do it; like the pain I just ran with it.

I made it back last, but I made it; iSmoothRun put me at 16.51 miles in 3:38:46 minutes with an average pace of 12:33mintes

Mile 1: 10:19 — Mile 9: 10:47
Mile 2: 11:00 — Mile 10: 16:39
Mile 3: 10:11 — Mile 11: 17:47
Mile 4: 10:08 — Mile 12: 16:36
Mile 5: 11:10 — Mile 13: 14:33
Mile 6: 12:33 — Mile 14: 11:47
Mile 7: 10:12 — Mile 15: 12:07
Mile 8: 09:14 — Mile 16: 12:17
– Mile 16.76: 12:31

So what did I think; I loved every minute of it and sitting here nursing my back (vicodin helps) I can tell you that it was worth every bit of the pain. I told my wife that there is another preview run on Feb 6 and she said “Don’t even think about it!” I argued that my back should be good by then and she gave me that look.

I don’t know what it is about this trail running, It’s like a force dragging me in… I’m excited for the next run and now wish I had never signed up for the Triathlon so I could have run the Old West Trails – 30K – not 50K I’ll need much more training before I’ll attempt the 50K.

Check out the OLD WEST TRAILS 50K ULTRA & 30K FUN RUN Facebook Group great people, doing great things, and having fun and if you ever want a really nice place with really nice people to stay it then check out Stagecoach Trails Horse Camp & RV Resort you can’t go wrong staying there!

Here are some more pictures from the run


Look back down one of the hills we came up


Trail first 4 miles


Enter a caption



Coming down from the first hill

OldWestTrailJan26Desert Agave


Desert Agave grow in a strange circular pattern.



Dropping in to the canyon


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10 Responses to Old West Trails 16 mile Free, Fun, “Preview” Run

  1. So... says:

    Such a pretty run!

  2. Gareth says:

    Great post and photos! Looks like an amazing place ot run and well done!

  3. Such a beautiful place!

    Sounds like you might have taken the hook. Trail running really does take it to a whole new level of enjoyment (in my opinion anyway). Hope to see you get out on the trails a bit more now!

    In the meantime, hope your back feels better.

  4. Your pics make me want to head out to the desert!

  5. pauldburton says:

    Looks fun. Hope the back heals quickly.

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