Santa Monica Mountains. Picture – Gary Valle
When I think of Los Angeles, I normally don’t think of mountains. I think of way too many people for my taste, too many roads to navigate and crazy drivers to dodge. It’s definitely a chaotic city. But once you move past that and take in a glimpse of the Santa Monica Mountains and are greeted by La La Land’s hospitality, the weekend was a total blast!
As I sit in Ashland writing this, it sure feels good to be back home. I’ve spent the prior 10 days traveling and it’s nice to sleep in my own bed. I made a trip back to Wisconsin the weekend prior to Ray Miller for my Grandma’s funeral. She was a wonderful woman that is the epitome of selflessness. I spent much time with her growing up and am blessed to have a grandma who has been there for me for the almost 30 years of my life. As a kid I can’t count how many times I ran around her house, playing games and getting into trouble. During high school I had a 6 mile running loop to her house where I was greeted every time with cheers from blocks away to sprint it in and a smorgasbord of food to fuel me up for the trip home. Everyone processes these feeling differently. It was nice to be back home, spending time with family and celebrating that my grandma’s pain with cancer was complete. She’s in a far better place now and showering her love down from above. I was really looking forward to running 50 miles and processing through the emotions that stir when you lose someone you love.
After some wild plane-delaying weather I made it back to Ashland, packed my running gear and was back on a plane the next day to a much warmer spot, Los Angeles. I was joined by a huge Ashland crew and my family. Our host for the weekend was non other than the wonderful Shannon Farar-Griefer. Her backyard farm allowed Tristan to see horses for the first time and also pet some new born goats.
With the sun still hiding behind the mountains, we blindly flew off into the Santa Monica foothills. What a fun way to start a race – we couldn’t see and we couldn’t go fast as the plethora of oddly shaped rocks interrupted any smooth movement for the first few miles. Our patience was than splendidly rewarded as the sunrise rose and the florescent orange, red and pink sky exploded with color over the Pacific Ocean. I wanted to stop and enjoy, but just slowed the pace to take in the morning views. I was so happy to be where I was, breathing in fresh air, surrounded with nature and sharing the experience with so many like-minded people.
Dylan and I separated from the others after a few uphill miles with Hal just a few turns back and settled into a nice groove for the early miles. We spent the first 10+ miles of the race catching up and chatting about our excitement for so many great opportunities this coming year. We both plan on partaking in all the hoopla of Western States and UTMB and I’m pretty confident I’ll be sharing many of those miles with Dbo as I did at Ray Miller. Dylan is a gifted runner and just a super chill guy to run with. I forgot we were racing until we hit Danielson aid Station (mile 19) and started a 3000ft climb on the beautiful backbone trail.
Photo – Jayme Burtis
On a side note, earlier on in the race we were making our way down a trail and I caught a big pointy cactus in the leg – ouch. Just running Bandera a few weeks prior with sharp serrated cacti around every turn, I was use to taking cactus in the leg, but this time it penetrated straight into my quad. It made me flinch backwards and limp for a second as blood oozed down my leg. I put some dirt on it and got back into my rhythm and dealt with the ache. But now even after a week of recovery, everything feels great except the bruised area where the cacti attacked, and so it goes.
So far the race had been pretty low key with maybe too much chatting (by me), but I wanted to make sure this race was chill and just a good workout to get me fired up for the rest of the season. We got into the groove of the climb and I jumped ahead a little bit. With 3000ft of climbing I thought the trail would lead us up at a good grade, but with many switch backs there was nothing very steep which meant no walk breaks for the whole day. I always appreciate when the grade goes up 20% so I can pow-hike for a bit and transition to the use of other muscles. I thought I put a little gap on Dylan, but after I started going down again, along came the lengthy runner flying past me. I decided to roll with it and embrace some pain as we crashed down the trail always within site of each other.
Every now and then we would switch positions for the lead, I would go ahead on the climbs and he would lead on the downs. The day was heating up compared to the 30’s and 40’s (F) we’ve been experiencing in Ashland and much much warmer than the single digit weather I experienced back in Wisconsin. It was always comfortable with the overcast clouds and trees that graciously offered shade. This eased my dehydration as I only used one bottle on a few 9 and 11 mile breaks between aid.
Photo – Jayme Burtis
Between Yerba Buena aid (mile 34) and Serrano Canyon aid (mile 45) I lost my steam. I was tired and the mid day heat and miles were leaving me dehydrated and worked. I was really enjoying the run, but I knew my lead wasn’t going to last long. After some descent we entered a flat meadow. I turned around and there Dbo was. Poop. I just sort of watched him whisk by and away he went. I tried to throw down a little surge, but he’s fast!
A few minutes after he passed me I came upon a man laying on the ground groaning. I wanted to chase Dbo, but had to make sure he was all right. I asked if he needed help and he immediately replied to help him stretch his cramping legs. Poor guy was in a lot of pain and his legs as stiff as a board. I helped him stretch for a minute, told him to take some salt and then I was back at it. Dbo already gaped me good and even with the pit stop i wasn’t going to catch him . I love this sport. It’s fun to run hard and go for the victory, but in the end we all just love to go for a good run, push our minds and bodies to new highs and celebrate the day together afterwards. It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last, running an ultra can be a struggle, but it’s worth every leg pounding moment.
Reaching the last aid, I finally filled up on some water, which I was lacking for a while and went back to work. The crew there said he was just a few minutes up, but I did not have much desire to chase after him. Come on its February…ok, I’m just a slacker and there’s no way i was going to catch that speedy guy. This left me with a 1000ft grunt up and then 3 miles of buff single track to arrive at the finish. I pushed the climb and could see Dbo up a head. He was running really strong, so I came to terms with a 2nd place finish and enjoyed the last few miles.
Photo – Jayme Burtis
I was rewarded at the top of the climb with a beautiful lady finishing her race as well. My wife was running the 50k and I was hoping to run into her at some point. I stopped to talk with her and suggested I run it in with her. She thought about it for a second and then yelled at me to get my ass moving and go after Dbo. I rolled my eyes and said fine as I maneuvered my way down the last few miles taking in the last views of the ocean from above. I had a very enjoyable day, running hard, thinking of my grandma and remembering her love and the light she is. I can only keep living life, each moment to the utmost.
What a great race, in a warm scenic location. Keira and Jesse put on an amazing race, which was an excellent way to get me ready for a hard year of racing. It was so much fun to share the day with family and friends and stay around for many hours after to watch more people finish their day and continue the celebration with good food, drinks and smiles. Cheers 😉
Equipment and food used.
- Ran in my The North Face Better Than Naked Shorts and tee.
- Wore the new Injinji 2.0 ultra lightweight socks. So happy to be on Team Injinji for 2013. My toes have never been more cozy and they’re the only socks i wear day or night. During the race i had a rock in my shoes, having all my digits to play with, my toes played Futbol with the rock for miles 🙂 Love these socks so much!!!
- Highgear XT7-Alti-GPS watch
- Ultimate Direction Handheld
Food– Always Organic
- Eggs and turkey bacon (don’t normally eat turkey bacon, but it was in the house) with yams and kale for lunch
- Chicken, Sweet potatoes with coconut oil and asparagus for dinner
- A couple scoops of Justin’s Hazelnut butter.
- 6- Cliff vanilla goo’s and a few drinks of coke and a couple Saltsticks every hour.
- After the race I had leftovers from the prior night, some vino and later had amazing beef and shrimp tacos at Shannon’s! Thanks so much!
Herbal supplements by Natura Health