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