I am little late in writing this report but here goes…
Details; Distance: 35 miles. Elevation gain: 11,066’ Elevation Loss: 11,037’
The Santa Barbara Nine Trail 35 Mile Run is located about an hour’s drive North from home so Becca and I opted to stay at home and have an early start of leaving the house around 4am to get there in time for the 5am check in and 6am start. We managed that and were even able to stop of at a gas station to avail ourselves of the facilities, coffee will do that to you!
Check in was uneventful and low key, in the end there were 56 runners who started and 8 who didn’t, it’s not a big race for a reason. After taking “roll call” we were ready. There was some discussion about where to actually start and with a general consensus of “here’s good” we all took a vow not to do anything stupid. With that it was time to turn on my head-torch and we were off.
Before I get into the race report a word on logistics.
- I had divided the race up in my mind and in the planning into four quarters. The route was strictly an out and back and so the quarters were the Aid Station at Gibraltar Rock, the turn-around at Romero Canyon and finally the return back through Gibraltar Rock on the way to the start. The geography and route lent itself to this and each quarter was going to be around 8 miles.
- To that end I had created ZipLoc bags which were a full replen of everything that I needed every 8 miles and with Becca driving between the locations I could just empty my pockets and grab and a bag and go.
- Each bag contained; 2 Quick Crusts, 2 Banana bread portions, 2 PowerBar or HappyTot smoothies, 4 serving of Skratch Lemon and Lime, roughly 980 calories. Each 8 mile section would take 2.5 – 3 hours so roughly 300 calories per hour of more or less real food.
- I wore my Ultimate Direction Wasp Pack full of ice/water and carried a UD Fastdraw Handheld that I would top up with water from my pack and add the Skratch too, this keeps my pack bladder clean. I also carried some Chapstick, Bodyglide, ibruprofen, SCaps AND Ricola lozengers…oh and some TP, ‘cos well you know I like my socks!
- I was wearing Saucony Inferno shorts and matching Tshirt; the shorts are short and I like that. On my feet I wore Saucony Peregrine 5 shoes. On my head my Headsweats Loudmouth Trucker cap and a pair of Oakley sunnies and my head-torch was a Peztl RXP.
- I also had my trusty Garmin 910xt and was wearing Becca’s 920xt which was Live Tracking my race during the day. I also had my Garmin Vivofit
Ok now on with show!
The first couple of miles along the Jesusita Trail roll along following and crossing a creek, you then start climbing up to Inspiration Point. It was dark for most of the climb and so people were being fairly easy at least where I was…at the back. It was an easy pace, run where you can and fast-walk the rest. I just tucked myself in and followed the feet in front of me. This is a section that I had run twice before so it was very familiar I got to the top, about 3.5 miles, in 55 minutes. This was definitely faster than previously. Unlike before there was no stopping to admire the view. It was straight down the other side following Tunnel Trail. This was pretty uneventful is easily runnable. I was bowling along nicely without any issues.
I followed Ann for the first 8 miles…she’s a total badass and training for UTMB!
At the bottom of Tunnel Trail you pick up a short connector which winds its way up. Finally you join “Rattlesnake”, named for its shape that takes you around the Rattlesnake Canyon Park and you climb out of the canyon onto Gibraltar Road. It was a pretty steep climb but there was three of us in a small group chatting when we could and that made the time and miles go by. From here you run down the road for a mile and then drop into Cold Springs Trail. Becca met me on the road and we ran down. At the car and Aid Station I was about 8.5 miles in and was feeling great. We had started in the dark and it had been cold. A lot of the running so far was in the shade and it was perfect. I got to the car in 2:24, about 5 minutes ahead of my best case schedule and 35 ahead of my worst. I filled up again, emptied the crap out of my shoes and was off.
The next 2 miles was straight down and I dropped 1000’ into the bottom of the canyon. There I crossed a stream and started the long series of ups and downs that made up the middle half.
At the top of Cold Spring Trail…runable rocks!
I knew from running it the week prior that this was going to be hard, while the climbs weren’t long, they were steep, and the well named section called The Wall averages only 16% but some parts of it were at 40%. This 17ish mile section accumulates over 6000’ of gain. The temperature was warming up but it was nothing major at this point. Around mile 14 I saw the race leader who was at that point 8 miles ahead of me…yeah 8 miles! Finally I rolled into the second Aid Station and the turnaround.
Coming in Romero Canyon Trailhead and happy to be there! Photo credit Michelle Evans
Becca was there all smiley…she was having a blast! Again I filled my pack up with Ice and grabed my lunch bag. I was 17.5 miles in and had 4:50 on the clock. So far so good.
Halfway refill and we’re off again!
I had no illusions of negative splits, the sun was getting higher as was the mercury. The climbing out of the canyons was hot and hard. Some folks say the day topped off in the early 90s! I wound my way back and was very happy to see Becca and her new friend Nancy pop out of nowhere carrying ice. I refilled as best I could I headed back to Gibraltar Road. I was playing cat and mouse with a few other runners but as always with ultras the runners are spread out so thin that you can go for hours without seeing anyone!
The Ice Maidens…this way or that?!?
I climbed the 1000’ out of the canyon, much of this was in the shade so the temperature was manageable. My plan of carrying water and then refilling my bottle was working really well and there was never any moment when I was out or even low on water. The solid food was working well although the Quick Crusts I found to be a bit dry. The bread pudding was very moist and was very easy to swallow.
At the Aid Station I plonked myself down in the shade and was handed an Otter Pop…yummy! Then an ice cold towel…even better! I cooled down and Becca filled up my pack and bottle. There were a couple of other runners who were suffering.
Hot and hilly, Otter pop and cold towel for the win!!
They left before me but I would catch a couple of them up during the last 8 miles. Becca walked most of the way with me along the road to the next trail section and here I dropped back down into the canyon. The penultimate climb out truly sucked. Hands on knees in the baking sun sucked. One guy about 100 yards in front and one behind me were struggling just as much. It felt like it went on forever, in reality it was six tenths of a mile and lasted 35 minutes!
At the top I was treated to a mile and a half of rocks to scramble down…more suckage! Finally at the bottom I caught a small group of runners who were all pretty much flat out, issues varied from overheating, a twisted ankle and the ever popular drank too much water too soon and threw up. I filled up a bottle said thanks and bye and was outta there…a great opportunity to claim back a few places! Tunnel Trail seemed like a paved road and only took 20 minutes to power walk out of. From there it was the 3.5 mile meander down to the start.
Last little hill and we’re done!
In the last mile I swore someone was on my tail and so I picked up the pace as best I could determined not to be passed with less than a mile to go. Becca ran out from the finish and then followed me back for the last quarter mile and finally I emerged onto the road and was done. 11:12.
A little spacey but otherwise ok!
So much went well with this race, my fueling and nutrition were spot on, I was never close to bonking and the Skratch worked a treat. The heat was a factor and a race this early in the year after a reasonably mild winter was going to take its toll. The hills were hard and the race website states that this runs like a tough 50 miler which is a very true way to look at it. I had added plenty of hill training in the first three months of this year, I passed 50,000’ of gain late in March, but the extended climbs that the Front Range of Santa Barbara provide are just not repeated where I live. This reinforces my mantra to “train the terrain”!
Despite a few lows, which is to be expected, there was never any consideration of DNFing. As with most races of this distance and duration it’s about moving forward. Sitting down on the side of the trail does you no good, nobody is coming to get you!
Despite the low keyness of this event it’s well organized and a firm favorite of many local runners. Everyone is super friendly and all in all the day is a total blast…put some hill-work in and you can have a blast too!
Finally a huge thank you to Becca for sherpaing all day…it’s fun but exhausting! She’s my rock and a rock star!
Leona Divide 50m in three weeks!