Race Recap: Old West Trails 50K Ultramarathon

With a lot of big races coming up— and very few miles on my legs—I decided I needed to do something drastic to get me jumpstarted in the right direction again. So, a week before registration ended, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and run the inaugural Old West Trails 50K yesterday.

The race contains roughly 2,500 feet of elevation gain/loss
The race contains roughly 2,500 feet of elevation gain/loss

Luckily the race was only about 70 miles away, so we were able to get up at the reasonable time of 3:30 a.m. and head to the start, which was at the Stagecoach Trails RV Resort & Campground near Julian. When we pulled in, we noticed that a lot of people had camped out the night prior and were starting to crawl out of the tents and RVs to get ready for the day’s fun. We parked and I went into the mess hall to grab my packet and then started getting ready myself.

A beautiful start to the morning
A beautiful start to the morning

 At 7:00 a.m. all the 50K’ers took off into the desert for what was sure to be a hot, fun day!

And we’re off!
And we’re off!

 The first five miles of the course were relatively flat, with beautiful views of the Borrego Desert surrounding you on all sides. The runners seemed to “fall in line” and just enjoy the views on the singletrack trail before we started our descent into Plum Canyon.

View from the highest point of the course (2,700 feet).
View from the highest point of the course (2,700 feet).

After a quick descent through Plum Canyon we reached the first aid station. To my surprise they had a portable porta-potty (yes, you read that right – it was on a little trailer), which made me a very happy runner. C had gone off-roading in her Jeep (she’s getting really good at that) so seeing her was a huge boost to me mentally.

Knowing that I was using this race largely as a training run, I decided to fuel up, take it easy, and hike it out of Plum Canyon. Once out of the canyon, we followed the course back the way we came until it was time to hook with up the 30K course to finish out the run.

By this point in time it. was. getting. hot. The water drop at mile 13.1 offered an ice bucket with a cold sponge, which felt absolutely AMAZING. Shortly after this, the singletrack we’d been running on turned into a sand-based trail, which was a real treat. But before I knew it, I was coming into the aid station at mile 15, and not a second too soon. Both handhelds and my bladder were empty. The heat was really starting to make itself known now.

Coming into the aid station at mile 15
Coming into the aid station at mile 15

I wasn’t feeling too hot coming out of here so more walking was in my future – but there were no complaints coming from me. The scenery of Anza Borrego is absolutely beautiful.

Fireroad just outside the aid station at mile 15
Fireroad just outside the aid station at mile 15

 I doubled-down on my electrolyte consumption and continued plugging away until I hit the water drop at mile 19. While I started feeling better physically, my legs were starting to hurt (see: lack of training). I fueled up on some chips, cookies, HEED and pretzels and hit the road again.

From 19-22 were probably the longest miles of the day. The best way I can describe seeing the aid station at mile 22 was that it appeared as an oasis, but a really, REALLY far away one. Kind of like a hotel a few buildings down on the Las Vegas strip. Anyways, after running with a nice guy named Jim for a bit, we finally got there.

I immediately went for a potato with salt, chips and (more) cookies. C was here and was having a great time chatting and helping out other runners. I think she had as much fun as I did!

The oasis IS real! Coming into the aid station at mile 22
The oasis IS real! Coming into the aid station at mile 22

Once I left the aid station I took my time getting back, stopping to walk when I wanted needed to.  I cruised through the water drop at mile 25 and continued chipping away at the miles, because, sometimes, that’s all it’s about … chipping away. So that’s what I did.

Heading into the aid station at mile 28
Heading into the aid station at mile 28

Coming down into the aid station at mile 28, I was starting to feel rejuvenated. Now, if it was because there was an aid station in front of me, only 3 miles to go, or a downhill, I’m not exactly sure. But after a quick top off of my handhelds, and a shot of Mountain Dew, I was outta there!

The final few miles back were some of the most enjoyable of the day. I thought back on all of all the mental highs and lows that I had hit throughout the day – and believe me, there were a lot. That’s one of my favorite parts about running ultras; the mentality that they require to finish.

Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line of my third ultramarathon – something that, just a year ago, wasn’t even something I was considering.

Crossing the finish in 7:44
Crossing the finish in 7:44

Most importantly, finishing this race gave me the spark I needed to get back in the saddle and resume training for some big, big goals that I have set for myself yet this year. It also reminded me that sometimes a good, long run needs to happen for the soul, more than anything else.

Take care,

G

22 thoughts on “Race Recap: Old West Trails 50K Ultramarathon

    1. Thanks, Laura! The course was indeed beautiful. There’s something about running through the desert that really intrigues me. Hence why both of my 50K’s have been there! 🙂

      How’s your training coming along?! Hope all is well!

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  1. Nice job! It’s great that you can just decide to go run a 50k.
    Now, let me learn from you………..Would you change anything that you did on race day?

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    1. Thanks! Since this was kind of a spontaneous run, I’m not sure there is a ton I would change. The whole goal was just to get out there, have fun, and get some miles back on my legs. However, a few pointers I would have from my previous races would be to:

      1.) Fuel early (and often) with both water and food
      2.) Make sure you’re carrying some type of electrolyte product
      3.) Think of the race as running from “aid station to aid station”, rather than an all out 50K
      4.) (most important) ENJOY the journey!

      I can’t wait to hear how your race goes! 🙂

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      1. Good advice.
        I like pointer #3, I hadn’t thought of that. Breaking it down like that will definitely help with the mental part.
        Congrats, again!

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      2. I’m with you on point #3. Well all the points really. But I often described the 50K race I did last year as a series of 5k runs that ended with a buffet. Great job and great write up.

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  2. Congrats on a strong race under tough circumstances… you clearly have the ultra “grin and bear it” mindset. The lone ultra I’ve run locally since moving down from the Bay Area last year was the Harding Hustle 50K, and though temps reached 100F on race day, I definitely enjoyed and would recommend it.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, it’s always great to discover and learn from other SoCal runners who are exploring the L.A. and S.D. running scenes.

    Continued success, and look forward to following your adventures!

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    1. Thanks, Mike (Sorry, I missed this somehow!)

      I’ve heard of the Harding Hustle and may have to look into it for next year! I really, REALLY want to get u to the bay area and run at some point, too.

      What’s up next for you?! Maybe our paths will (hopefully) cross!

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    1. Hi there, and thank you! Your words mean a lot. I’ve got some more races coming up this year, as well. How about you – are you currently blogging? If so, shoot me the think, I’d love to follow!

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  3. Congrats on your race! I’m running this race in 3 weeks, my first ultra. Do you think gaiters would be a good idea for this race? Did you get a lot of sand in your shoes? Are you running this again? Thanks.

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! It’s a great first ultra. Larry (the RD) and his team did a great job! I personally would recommend gaitors, parts of the course are through pretty loose, semi-deep sand.

      If you don’t already have some, check out Dirty Girl Gaitors. That’s what I’ve used — and love. High quality, affordable, and get the job done.

      I won’t be out there this year (I’ll be running Monument Valley the same weekend).

      Good luck at Old West!

      Greg

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