Monday, January 17, 2011

Calico Ghost Town Trail Run - 01.16.11

Calico Ghost Town Trail Run

2011 Results HERE.
2011 Photos HERE.
Race Website HERE.
My Race Via Garmin HERE.
Trail Map HERE.

Location: Historic Calico Ghost Town and Calico Mountains

Race Date: Sunday, January 16, 2011

Start Time: 7:00 am

Course: 50K and 30K mostly dirt roads and trails – Very Runnable

30k Course Summary: 19.17 miles long with 2,092 feet of elevation gain and 2,090 feet of elevation loss. Minimum elevation was 1,984 feet and maximum elevation was 3,236 feet.

Two years ago, my oldest son Christopher ran this race in preparation for the his first marathon (He ran the Surf City Marathon in 3:16). I was suppose to walk the 50km but got hurt before the race so I entered him in the 30km and he ran 2:52. At the time, I thought that was a pretty good time but now that I have done the course, I am amazed how fast he did this course at such a young age (16).

Running 9:15 miles on this course is really good especially since he has never been good running downhill even on pavement. Throw in the hills, sand and all the rocks and I think he would have been a great trail runner if he had decided to continue running them after such a great debut performance.

This race was to be my second official trail run (I do not count Toad's but it is a trail run in my opinion.) and was going to be very different than my first in the Santa Monica mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This race ran through the desert and the rocky canyons that overlook the oceans of sand.

My day started at 3am when I woke up to get ready for the race. The day before I had my traditional pre-race meal of pesto pasta from Josephs and try to go to sleep early. Diana came by before 4am for our drive to the race. Unfortunately, it was foggy in Bakersfield but this lifted as we head up Hwy 58.

The drive went by fairly quickly with a pit stop to get gas at the station that I believe was featured in the movie the Hangover. It was cold outside but the forecast for the race was 70 and sunny. After we got gas, we were in Barstow before we knew it. Soon we got to the off ramp for Calico and got lucky that Jack in the Box had just opened so we could get a quick bite before the race.

When we got to the Calico Ghost Town, it was still dark but quite a few runners were already there. Now this part of the race day is the hardest I think. You have been in the car for hours and then you have to climb up the side of a pretty big hill on some steep uneven stairs. By the time up get to the top, you start second guessing your fitness.

Sadly the only bad part of this event is right at the start. The packet pickup was a disaster in that they have it a very small room and we had to fill out a bunch of forms. The release was three pages long and you had to initial it about 8 times plus we had to sign a model release form. Lastly they seemed to have run out of shirts. In general it was controlled chaos and I was very glad to get out of there.

We went back to truck to gear up for the race and by the time we climbed that awful staircase the race was about to start. At the start I saw some familiar faces from the Santa Monica race and a couple recognized me as we. We also saw several running with the super minimalist sandals that became famous/infamous in the Born to Run book. The Tarahumara Indians wear them but I don't know about people who grew up with real shoes trying to run so far in them.

Then at 7am the race began and we went downhill through the Ghost Town to the main road. The first couple miles of the race were on pavement and this was the fastest part of the course. Diana and I were cruising alone at about 11 minute miles till we went off road and on to the sandy jeep trail.
  • Mile 1 at 11:16 07 pace, 0 ft up and 200 ft down.
  • Mile 2 at 11:42, 14 up and 100 down.
The jeep trail ran parallel to the mountain range for awhile and then turned and head towards the mountains. So for the next 8 miles or so, the jeep trail was a gradual uphill till we got to the rocky section.
  • Mile 3 at 13:37, 120 up and 0 down.
  • Mile 4 at 13:53, 101 up and zero down.
  • Mile 5 at 13:53, 158 up and 8 down.
  • Mile 6 at 14:11, 167 up and 23 down.
  • Mile 7 at 14:33, 139 up and 32 down
  • Mile 8 at 14:13, 92 up and 0 down
  • Mile 9 at 15:55, 156 up and 0 down
  • Mile 10 at 15:21, 186 up and 0 down
Besides the uphill, the sand also slowed one down. For the most part I ran a minute or two and then walked for a minute. At times, walking was faster then running plus I wanted to save myself for when we enter the mountain section of the course. After mile ten, we finally started to go downhill through the rock outcroppings and my pace quickened.
  • Mile 11 at 12:55. 78 up and 108 down
  • Mile 12 at 14:14, 38 up and 205 down
  • Mile 13 at 15:43, 153 up and 121 down
As you can see, my mile splits for 12 and 13 are a bit slow but that factors in the time spent at the aid stations. I have often read that aid stations can real hurt your time and now I know why. Trail runs have nice ones! All kinds of snacks at the 7 mile and 12 mile aid stations plus they had my favorite sports drink!

Dr. Pepper! Now some might say yuck but I like it during long runs for the sugar and the caffeine. When I did my 50 miler at the Relay for Life, it and water were all I drank. Besides back in the 70s Olympic marathon champion Frank Shorter drank Coke (defizzed) during his races. Since I only drink diet the rest of the time, it is nice to have a real one during a long race.

Just as I approached the fork in the trail for either the 50k or the 30k, I caught up to four or five runners and we ran down the canyon together. Here the canyon was wide enough to drive through and the bottom continued to be a sandy jeep trail. But before I lost my fellow runners to the 50k it became rocky and we started to go upstream. From the way the rocks were strewn all over, you would not want to be here during a flash flood.

After the 5okers went their way I was alone for the most part and the course went up a really big hill where I saw a number of runners walking slowly up it. Of course after this big hill was a nice fire road that was good to run on.
  • Mile 14 at 19:37, up 321 and down 59
  • Mile 15 at 13:48, up 0 and down 296
The downhill continued for a couple miles but the footing became treacherous. Gone was the nice sandy jeep trail and in it's place were rocks. The canyon walls were maybe a hundred foot tall in spots and the middle looked like what happened if a wild river suddenly stopped. There were rocks every where and they were very smooth too. One had to pick a line and hope it was a safe.

On the way down this canyon I was being chased by a lady who got within 100 yards of me at times. Towards the end of the canyon I noticed she had fallen back. After the race she said she had strained her knee on the endless rocks and backed off her pace. I am glad she slowed down so I did not have a witness to my car wreck.

I was almost down with the rocks when I went around a turn and decided to run on the dirt berm instead of through the rocks. I stepped on the berm with my left leg and next thing I knew I was sliding to the ground. The dirt looked solid but it was not and I slide hard into the bottom of the dry riverbed.

My camera went one way and my glasses and hat went the other way. I got to my feet as quickly as I could because I always find if you lay there your injuries end up worse. For some reason if you keep moving instead of having a pity party you do not hurt as much later. You do not let your body swell up etc.

Another reason I did not get as hurt as I could of was because of the boot camp training I have been doing with Building Better Bodies over the past year. Before doing boot camp, I would have fallen like a 90 year old man and gotten hurt like one. Now I am a lot stronger and have more agility. Instead of falling like a sack of bones, I fell fairly athletically.

Of course my left arm below the scraped up pretty bad and was bleeding. Ironically I had arm warmers on and had just pulled them down a few miles earlier. My left leg in the calf region was bleeding more and I was a bit concerned so I washed it of with water from my camelbak and saw that it looked like I had a number of good scraps there as well. But I could run and so I was off again.
  • Mile 16 at 16:57, up 0 and down 350
  • Mile 17 at 15:02, up 19 and down 289
After the canyon they had us run through a couple of short tunnels and then the hills began again. Now we were in these weird dunes that were going up hill to the point where i was walking again. When I got to the top of them I saw we had another hill to crest before we turned right around and went downhill to the Calico Ghost Town Parking lot. As I was going up I finally saw other runners (Ihad not seen anyone for awhile) and Inoted that I saw a couple of 50kers.

So I knew that they were back on my course and I made sure I had my camera ready. After I had fallen I checked it and it seemed to work and I took photos of the tunnels and the dunes, But now I could get some action shots. Plus I still had a race on my hands because that lady was not that far behind me.

What was cool in this race was that as the 50kers caught me, I got out of their way and took some shots of them. Plus I found out that I could actually follow them for a little bit. The guys passing me averaged 9 minute miles and on this uphill I was able to run with them for a brief time. This is something I could never do in the last miles of a road race and I felt like the fans who run along with the cyclists at the Tour De France.

Needless to say, this lifted not only my spirits but my pace as well. After going down to the parking lot I knew I had a climb ahead. The parking lot was uphill and then they made us take a very steep service road to the very top of the town. Then we finished by running down a very steep hill that ran right through the Calico Ghost Town.

I was running by tourists who I am not certain knew what was going on. It made for a fun ending uo averaging 14:30 miles for the course that was a little longer than a 30k (19.2 miles). At the finish I felt great and sort of wished I had entered the 50k but maybe next year,
  • Mile 18 at 15:47, up 165 and down 114
  • Mile 19 at 13:24, up 188 and down 113