Friday afternoon, I got the okay from
my wife the boss to attend the February 6th; 18 Mile Old West Trails Free, Fun, ‘Preview’ Run. This was the 3rd in a series of training runs for the OLD WEST TRAILS 50K ULTRA & 30K FUN RUN in Anza Borrego Desert that will take place on March 19, 2016.
If you read my blog entry ‘Old West Trails 16 mile Free, Fun, “Preview” Run’ then you would know that I ran with an injured back and did terrible on the run. With my back at about 95% and the bosses blessing I headed back up to Julian, CA. to the Stagecoach Trails Horse Camp & RV Resort where the runners would all meet and the starting line for the 18 or 12 mile run depending on which distance you wanted.
I was up at 4:30AM, after getting ready and having my Shredded Wheat with Almond Milk, I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed out the door for the 82miles / 133 kilometer drive. About half-way into my drive I hit snow; I only mention this because of for all of my friends in winter-lands, I want you to know that I am thinking of you. Yes snow my friends all 1/2” deep of it, oh the horror!
I arrived at 7:10AM it was a crisp 32F/ 0C. Normally I would just keep the windows and doors closed in my car and wait for real California weather to appear but I didn’t think it would before the run start time so I gathered my water belt and left the inviting warmth of my car, braving the chill. [Side note if you ask SIRI to convert 32 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius she will give you a really interesting response]
Met with Larry Pustinger the race director, volunteers and the runners at the start location. This would be a different route than the last run; Larry told me that it was the second half of the 50K trail so having run the first half on January 30, I will have seen the whole 50K route once this half was complete.
The run started 7:39AM and went out the same way on to the jeep trail as the first run except that rather than turn left we tuned right at mile 1.3 or 1.4 on to the horse trail; on this trail you weaved around mostly brush and Cholla Cactus. Cholla Cactus is one of those plants that works well as a perimeter defense as it has barbs like fishhooks that seems to take great joy in walking themselves deeper and deeper into your flesh if you are lucky enough to run into one. Allot of people call them jumping cactus because it’s as if they jump out and grab on to you as you pass them. So as you can guess, I paid attention to where I was going on this part of the run. At this point in the run I was pretty much running alone; I would only see other runners as they passed when I stopped to take pictures.
At about 1.75 miles you hit the ‘wash’ which is a seasonal dry stream bed and for the next at least .3 miles you run in the sand, mostly soft sand, so it’s like running at the beach.
When you exit the ‘wash’ you are back on the access road which you think might be nice but it to is sand and where it is packed sand you find your happy place. For the first 3.1 miles it’s all uphill, and I’ll tell you it wears on you so by the time you get to summit of that first hill you are so glad to finely be running down hill.
At mile 3.7 you drop down into Little Blair Valley which is a dry or moist in this case lake bed; the valley has a beauty all its own, it’s barren, but still has a sort of enchanting openness to it.
We traversed the outside edge of the lake, still on a sand access road, at the end started up another short hill around the base of a mountain. It was at this point I was lost in my own thoughts and was not paying much attention to where I was running. When I snapped out of it I wasn’t sure if I got off track or not I couldn’t see any runners in front or behind me and so like an Indian I started looking for tracks. After about a quarter mile I finely found a white “gypsum” mark which indicated I was on the right path; I sighed a breath of relief.
The road continued as sand and when it was not, the road was like running on a wash board. This was torture on the feet and legs, I was glad my back was better because it was going to be an issue this is the place I would have. I was told the road was this way because people drove to fast down these roads and bounced this made the tires of the vehicle cup out the road. This would be the road conditions all the way to the aid station. At mile 6 or 7 I hit another down grade which continued all the way to the aid station and turn around point at mile 9.1.
At the aid station, Larry was there with this truck and a smile waiting for the runners. Two runners were still at the truck when I got there, I had passed four heading back on the way in. The aid station was the location where you could make the choice of running up over the ‘saddle’ which was the short cut back to the starting point making your run 12 miles or return back to the way you came to make the 18 miles run. After drinking some water and topping off my water bottle I headed back choosing to do 18 miles.
This time though I ran with a wonderful lady name Mary Lou. We ran the whole return together chatting along the way and taking in the beauty of this mountainous desert. Mile 12 I could feel a blister coming in on the arch of my right foot. I was not using my Saucony Xodus 4.0 trail shoes because on the last run I noticed that my feet swelled too much and my toes were hitting the front of the shoe, so I wore my Brooks Ravenna’s for this run and it was not really a good choice. Just after the dry lake bed we started up the hill that I was so happy to have run down earlier. This hill seemed like this was going to go on forever! At the summit I felt the happiness I found when I came to it going the opposite direction.
At mile 15.1 we found Larry with four horse back riders chatting, he had crossed the short cut after the last runner had checked in at mile 9. This is when I discovered that I was running with Larry’s wife. This was also the point where we had to re-enter the ‘wash’ running back though the was harder then when we came in not so much because our legs or my legs I should, Mary Lou seemed just fine, were tired but because the horse riders had ridden up the wash and the sand was tuned up and there were a loads of hoof holes that you couldn’t help but have to run on. I also pick up a bit of Cholla Cactus on my sock so I had to stop and carefully work it out, I was luckily that it didn’t have time to work its way into my skin.
Out of the wash, onto the road, across the highway and the though last 120 yards into the finish line. I finished at 17.41 miles in 3:16:40 minutes at an average pace of 11:18/mile.
Mile 1: 09:55 — Mile 10: 11:24
Mile 2: 11:21 — Mile 11: 12:02
Mile 3: 12:30 — Mile 12: 12:24
Mile 4: 09:56 — Mile 13: 11:17
Mile 5: 10:25 — Mile 14: 11:36
Mile 6: 10:59 — Mile 15: 12:17
Mile 7: 09:44 — Mile 16: 11:30
Mile 8: 10:12 — Mile 17: 11:04
Mile 9: 10:39 — Mile 17.58: 12:27
Much better then the last run; I’m happy with this. Trail running is so much different then road running.
20 runners turned out for this event and a number of them showed of for the after social at the Stage Coach General Store which also houses a cafe where you can get hot food.
It was great to run and hang-out with everyone again and I’m sort of sad that there won’t be other runs for a long while. Great people and great times. Thank you Larry all those who help to put these Free, Fun, ‘Preview’ Runs together.
If you are looking for a great trail run I can without a doubt recommend the OLD WEST TRAILS 50K ULTRA & 30K FUN RUN Anza Borrego Desert on March 19, 2016. Come-on out!. Do the run and grab a Famous Apple Pie in Historic Julian, CA after the race!