After running at Born to Run last year, I was hooked on trail races and set my sights on a 50k. Jumping on Ultrasignup.com, I looked around for a local(ish) trail race in March of 2016 and that’s when I came across the Old West Trail 50k. After reading the Ultrasignup page, race website, and race recaps from previous years I decide that this sounded like a great race for my first 50k. Around this same time I was asked by Fleet Feet Sports Burbank, my local running club, to mentor an 18 week long LA Marathon training program. The schedule of the training program lined up nicely with my 50k preparation, and I would just have to train a few weeks more than the rest of the group. Luckily, the Old West 50k course is fairly flat so I didn’t have to make many adjustments to the road marathon training. It would end up being a 23 week training program, which I got though the OK aside from a few minor injuries.
Friday March 18th
We arrived at Stage coach Trails Horse camp & RV park around 7:00 P.M. and was greeted by the parks manager. We got checked in and went right to work on setting up our tent before we lost the remaining sun light. Our camp was set-up by 7:40 P.M. which gave us enough time to grab pre-race dinner at the camp lodge. As we entered the lodge, Larry the Race director was in the middle of tossing out Orange Mud water bottles and other freebies donated by sponsors of the race. There was no shortage of give-aways that night as well as great stuff in the runner goodie bags.
After the wife and I ate our plate of spaghetti I went over to get checked in. Race volunteers gave me my bib number and instructed me to check in again just before the race start tomorrow monring. Everyone we met from the Old West Trail Crew was super nice and eager to help in anyway they could! At this point Larry (the RD) took everyone through a course briefing, after which we headed back to our campsite to turn in for the night since the race started at 7 A.M. and I wanted to get up earlier to make sure everything was prepared.
Saturday March 19th
Around 3:00 A.M. my wife Kim woke up which in turn woke me up as well. We unzipped the tent window and looked up at the star filled sky. It was truly awesome – we hadn’t seen stars like that in a long time. I tried to go back to sleep but with temps in the low 40’s, nerves abuzz, and all that goes along with pre-race jitters it was impossible to fall back asleep. Finely 5:30 A.M. rolled around so I got up and got all my gear ready for the race, and made my way to the lodge to re-check in and to get warm. It was chilly that morning!
The lodge it was in full swing with runners eating breakfast, chatting, and Larry doing course briefings every 10 minutes or so.
As it got closer to 7:00 A.M. I headed outside get loose before the start. I also checked in one last time withAs I headed to the starting line, I checked in one final time with Kim to make sure she was good and told her if I’m not back by 2:00 P.M. then something most likely went wrong (foreshadowing?) In hindsight, I failed to tell her that she can get updates on my whereabouts on the course through the radio operators at the finish area. Lesson learned…
With final checks and perparations completed, I peeled off my long sleeve and made my way to the starting line.
As we watch the start clock tick down, RD Larry and the staff made some Final announcements and last attempts to call out runners who failed to check that morning. The start of this race was very casual with Larry just counting down from 7-1 and just saying go. It was fun to see how relaxed the start was and a great at 7:00 A.M.
Here is a video that Kim took of the start.
Red Loop Out:
The red loop almost 100% jeep road with loose sand and at some points it almost felt like you where running on the beach. As I was trying to monitor my pace at the begining I heard some guys behind me chatting and telling jokes. So I decide to chime in with a Joke of my own and like that we hit it off. I learned there Name where Wayne and Greg and they where both experienced ultra runners. They had a solid pace going so I decide to stay with them. As we pass out of the camp we come to the highway there are volunteers here make sure we get across the road safely. Once across the highway its back to the Jeep road. Which at this point isn’t to bad. We finally make it to the T junction where the Red Loop Splits to the left is the White Loop and to the right is the Blue Loop. We are meet by another volunteer that directs us onto the White Loop.
White Loop Out & Back
The White Loop is 90% single track and 10% Jeep road. Once we turned onto the White Loop I was like Yes this is what I signed up for! still hanging with Greg and Wayne at this point we have a great pace going and a lot of chatting which is really helping those miles fly by. I’m still looking at my watch try to keep my pace in check.
Here is a video of the start of the White Loop
around mile 3 we catch up to another female runner. (I never got her name. You can see her in the distance in the video above.) She had ran this race a few other times and was chatting it up with us. We tucked right behind her and let her know we did intend to pass her at this point. The 4 of us stay pretty close to one another until around mile 5 when we hit the first climb. Wayne and I pulled back and walked this up hill Greg and the girl kept motoring. Somewhere near the top I think we lost the girl. I didn’t see her for the rest of the race. As we made our way into Plum Canyon right around mile 6 I hit a rock and land hard on my right side.
Wayne was in front of me and Greg was behind. We stop briefly to make sure I wasn’t badly hurt. I said I was fine and quickly hopped up so as to get back to our pace! I told both Wayne and Greg I fell so they didn’t have to (its an on going runners joke). We made are way though Plum Canyon which was truly amazing.
Here is a video of us heading into Plum Canyon.
We kept chatting and telling cheesy jokes. At this point we came to a wide open jeep road. I knew we where only a few miles away from a full aid station at mile 8 which was also the turn around. I didn’t want Greg or Wayne to feel like they had to wait for me to clean up and what not. So I told them not to wait for me at the turn around. I also knew at the turn around we would be going back up the downhill we had been enjoying. We hit the aid station and are greeted by awesome volunteers eager to help us! I know I had some blood on me so I thanked them and told them I was ok. Greg and Wayne grabbed some snacks water and went back to it wishing me the best of luck! I reached into my pack to get my first-aid kit quickly cleaned my shoulder grab some snacks and water and started walking. Over the next 3 mile I covered 1000ft in gain. On this climb I was power walking and was able to catch backup to Wayne. I decided to stay near him for a bit. Once we arrived to the top just outside of Plum canyon I knew there was a good downhill so I opened it up a bit to enjoy this.
Here’s a video from that downhill
Once pass that downhill we where back to the relatively flat single track. the gain and heat where starting to take effect on me. So I ran walked most of this section Wayne caught up with me just around mile 13 near a water drop station. He saw that the heat was starting to get to me so suggested that I place Ice under my hat on top of my head. I tried that but got brain freeze almost instalny to the point of pain. So I had to ditch the ice and just stick behind Wayne for as long as I could. With only a mile left of the White Loop I had to peel off from Wayne and start walking some more. I finally made it out of the White Loop and was pumped because I knew my drop Bag laid just head at mile 15.6.
Here are the rest of the photos from the White Loop
Blue Loop Out and Back
Blue loop is 95% Jeep road and 5% single track. Once again passing the same volunteer who I had seen earlier in the day. The start of the Blue loop was very similar to that of the White Loop an awesome single track. A male and female running passed me and I stuck behind them until we hit the first jeep road. It was a little up hill so I just stuck back into my power walking. I walked all the way to the aid station and my drop bag. Once there I sat down and change shirt, hat, and socks. Reloaded my water pack and restocked on Cliff Banana Beets pouches. I hung out at the aid station for a bit seeking medical because I had forgot to apply sunblock and loading up on potatoes. Once I was ready to get back to it. I was feeling really great now and just with in a half mile of that aid station I started a climb again. Switching back to power walking I got over that hill and end up in the flattest parts of this course. (Once you get on the Blue Loop you are never more then 3.5 miles from an aid station) This part of the course I found the toughest for me. Because of how flat and the heat. You always hear about hitting a wall or that a runner finds them self in a dark place. Well for me the Blue Loop was that wall and the dark place all at the same time. I can’t express how hard this section of the course was for me. as I rolled up on the next water station mile 18.93. I decide to try something anything to pull myself out of my funk. So I drank electrolyte fizz followed by Coke and candy! Hoping the sugar and caffeine would give me a boast. I was able to run another half mile before was back to walking. I also notice blisters starting to form on the bottom of both feet. Somewhere near mile 20 this 66 year old man came strolling by me saying “You got to take advantage of those downhills” I thought this section was really flat but if you say so. I found his pace something I thought I could hang with I was able to stick with for about a mile before back into my hole I crawled. Finally I make it to mile 22 and the turn around point (on normal runs I get really happy about the turn around, but not here) Again I tried other things to pulled me out: pickles, Coke and more potatoes. I went back to it and still there in the middle of the desert 9 mile more of this… Let sum this up with everything was bad and wrong for me here. Nothing was working. Blisters, sunburned, and beat up from the fall in the middle of the desert.. Dark, Dark, Dark… Got pass the water drop and had somehow caught back up to the 66 year I had lost earlier. He saw I was in a bad place and decided to walk with me for a while. Along the way another runner liked our pace and decide to tag along. Both of them still had gas in there tanks and when they picked up the pace I stayed with them as long as I could then back to walking. We finally made it to the down hill just before the final aid station. I was really looking forward to this because I thought I could make up sometime, but at this point the blister on my feet hurt so bad I couldn’t run down these hills. So I totally lost sight of the 66 year old and the other runner that had help me thus far. (I never saw them again or had the chance to think them for there help.) Made to the aid station didn’t stay long less then 2.5 miles to go. Down the sandy jeep road and back to the single track. I finally made it out of the Blue Loop. There’s that Volunteer again this time pointing me back to the Red Loop.
Here are the photos I took out on the Blue loop
Red Loop Back
Again this is 100% jeep road really soft sand in parts. So I tried running it because I knew I missed my time marks by this point and with no way to get word to my wife I knew she was freaking out at this point. Running didn’t work it was just to soft and I was done. I cross the highway with a little jog but then right back to the quicksand. As I start to arrive back within the campsite I start looking toward my campsite for Kim. I see her and she see me I tear up because I know she was worried about me. I round the corner and see the Jubilation Line (Finish Line). I want to finish strong so mustard up what I can to run pass the line. My official Time was 7:09:53
Here’s the video of me crossing the Jubilation Line
I’m giving my medal and place my hand on my legs waiting for Kim to run over to me. She there in no time flat and checking with me to see what happened. I reassure her that I’m fine just had a real hard time out there. Wayne and Greg Spot us and come over to Congratulate me!! It was great seeing them again!
The post race food was amazing I ate potato soup, salad, jello, and nachos. My eyes where bigger then my stomach and I could finish all my food. There was a guy on the front pouch of the lodge play guitar. We loved the music it was really nice. Kim and I went back to our campsite and just chilled out for the rest of the evening.
Overall I had a wonderful time at the Old West Trail 50k and 30k Fun Run. The staff seem like a tight knit family and ton of heart and soul goes into this race. The Camping is amazing, the course is great (that’s right I said it “GREAT” even the Blue Loop), Pre-race & Post socials well planned out, and cost of the race is a good value. Desert running is differently different then I though and my goals where a little high, but really learned from the whole experience. I’m already planning my next 50K. If you are up for the challenge I would highly recommend you give this one a go!