Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Calico Trail Run 50k

Perfect synchronization: my watch, the alarm and the phone all went off together; 5:00am. I had however already been up for 15 minutes in my super swanko deluxe freeze-to-death-with- the-heater-off or give-yourself-a-migraine-with-the- heater-on-$50 a night Rodeway Inn. The TV somewhat drowned out the noise of the heater, I could only get decent reception on MTV. After some fiddling I got the microwave to work and cooked up two portions of instant oatmeal to accompany my Naked Protein drink.

I showered etc and donned my race apparel, then added a layer, then another and then dug out my beanie and gloves; it was cold! I loaded my gear into my car, dropped my room key at the drop box; there was no sign of any life and subsequently no sign of any coffee or the free buffet breakfast, given that the counter had about 18 inches of room, I didn’t think I had missed anything, I got in my car and turned the engine on, the ice alarm immediately went off: 31f! Well, I thought the mercury is only going to go one way. I stopped off at a gas station and grabbed some coffee, unfortunately they had not brewed any fresh so I resorted to the instant frothy tasteless pseudo cappuccino; still caffeine is caffeine.

The drive was short and eventless along the 15 and I pulled off the freeway following the snake of headlights across the desert as we headed into the foothills, the sun was casting an orange glow across the horizon as it struggled into the sky. The temperature 29f so much for mercury rising. The race started from Calico Ghost Town, a western silver mining town that has been preserved and is now a local tourist attraction.

I parked my car and walked up the steps to the sign in area, I had already picked up my number the previous night so I had only to drop off my drop bag containing some “just in case “supplies; shoes, socks, some baggies of Perpetuem and a jar of ibuprofen; “Ranger Candy” as they call it. The drop bags would be available at the halfway point; mile 17. I wandered back to the car and did a quick change into what I was actually going to race in; a short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, beanie and gloves; I had packed away my tights in anticipation of things warming up and had a running hat. I was wearing my UD Wasp pack with water, two gel tubes with the equivalent of 8 gels plus 2 extra caffeine gels; I had two baggies of dry Perpetuem powder for refills and the usual “stuff”: Chapstick, Compeed, BandAid, Steriwipes and a few Riccola to combat the high desert air. I was also carrying two UD handhelds with Perpetuem. I was, as they say, loaded for bear!

I made my way back to the start area and found an empty spot to lie down and run through my stretching routine: hips, quads, hams and calves, there was a one minute call and I stood on the start line. The gun went off, literally; to keep with the western theme they used a double barreled shotgun aimed at the sky, and we were on our way.

The first two miles followed the road out of the town. After a quarter mile I realized that I had forgotten to turn my iPod so I spent the next few minutes fumbling with gloves and bottles in an attempt to get it on my arm and turned on finally having resorting to a walk to sort things out. With earbuds in we continued along the road on a nice downhill incline and along the main road after which we turned onto the trail. The trail was nice and wide but we were forced into running in the grooves cut by off roaders as everything in between was sand that was 2-3” deep. At this point the trail turned uphill into a gentle climb, this was to be an ongoing theme. Everyone was in good spirits and there were many conversations going on around me. I concentrated on keeping a steady pace and not doing anything stupid like misplacing my foot and rolling my ankle. The first hour passed quite uneventfully other than it started to warm up and I was able to stash my gloves and switch hats, the trail was rolling with a continuing uphill, I had in my mind a target pace of a minimum of 6mph, I settled into a nice comfortable pace with the first six mile splits 8:34, 9:57, 10:04, 10:13, 10:36, 10:52. I was on target, covering 6.18 miles. We passed the first aid station; I did not stop taking the opportunity to make up some time. After ninety minutes I was feeling the warmth of the morning sun and took the opportunity to stop and strip off the long sleeved shirt stashing it in my pack. Shortly after we came across a short out and back that that we were directed into, there was some confusion as we were expecting a spilt where the 30 and 50k runners parting company and after some clarification we headed up the out; uphill and back: downhill. After two hours I had dropped below my target time, but only just, having covered a total of 11.64 miles; the next six splits were: 10:52, 10:22, 11:00, 10:49, 9:53 and 11:05. We had a little reprieve from the climbing with a two mile 10:13 and 9:25 descent into the next aid station, here I stopped for a couple of boiled and salted potato slices, some Fig Newtons and a quick cool down with some cold water. Once again heading off in a general uphill direction toward the halfway point.

For the last few miles I had noticed a hot spot on one of my toes and the dim warning of "blister alarm" was starting to ring. The uphill slowly became steeper and rockier, and lots of this section was walked, despite this I was playing cat and mouse with three or four other runners as we climbed the 1300’ feet over the next 6 miles to the third aid station, the last two miles of which were brutal. I had been taking a gel every 45 minutes, an e-cap every hour and had consumed a bottle and a half of Perpetuem but my stomach was starting to feel empty, never a good sign, I knew that I needed to get some food inside me, added to which my toe was starting to sing a nice little tune. I resigned and promised myself that I would look at it at the next aid station as well as fueling up. I was starting to get confused at this point as we had been told the aid station was at mile 17 and my Garmin, which is usually spot on, was already reading 19 miles, my caloric burn by this time was over 2000; I was well into the red. I rounded a bend and was nearly blown over by the wind, a little further on around another corner I could see runners heading off at a 45 degree angle to me so I knew that station number 3 was close. The wind was blowing a gale as I trudged into the aid station and plonked myself down to inspect my foot, as I had suspected I had developed a blister on my toe that was now approaching the size of a penny, I shrugged off my pack and wrapped my toe snuggly in Compeed, once wrapped it would be fine for the remaining miles. I emptied a baggy of powder into one bottle and filled it up with water and topped off my other bottle, the empty baggy I filled with Fig Newtons and M&Ms and put them in my camera pouch which was mounted onto my front harness; the camera makes it too heavy but it’s a great stash pouch. I tucked into more boiled potatoes and salted chips as well as M&Ms and washed it all down with a cup of warm flat full sugar full caffeine coke! I did a quick 360 worth of video, snapped a few pictures, picked up my handhelds and headed out up the last section of climbing.

The high point on the course was just over 4000’ above sea level and was around 19.6 miles, after which it was downhill nearly all the way. First however I had to negotiate the rockslide; here everyone ground to a halt and treaded carefully to find the safest path down without (1) causing a rockslide or (2) becoming a rockslide. Here is some video. After some time we, as I had caught up some runners and had been caught up myself exited onto the flat, we were at just over mile 20, two thirds of the way round, my last six mile splits 13:54, 12:37, 13:47, 14:28, 14:18, 15:20, you can really see the walk down on that last one. Here there was a semi aid station but it was really only there to pick up anyone who had had a tumble and there was one runner being bandaged up, she later finished. From here we had a reasonable fire road trail for the next three miles and despite the terrain my legs had actually recovered pretty well, I opened up the throttle in an attempt to make up some time, I overtook a couple more runners and covered the three miles in 7:59, 8:30 and 9:24. At this station I restocked my “baggy stash”, topped of the tank with some, oh so sweet, coke and headed out on the next uphill section. Once again walking a percentage of it until reaching the flat top and pushing through and over. At mile 23 the path took a sharp uphill turn, more walking, and spent the next three miles taking you over the pass back into the start/finish valley, here the wind was whistling through, it never failed to amaze me that at no time did I have a tail wind!

From here it appeared to be downhill to the finish, well kinda! My spilts for this section 12:39, 13:19, 16:35, 11:57, 11:58 and 13:10. After running through the a wide gully some of which was nothing more than a rock strewn dry river bed, you exited out and took a sharp right up an exposed and well worn trail to the final aid station, which carried a big sign saying three miles to go. From here I continued up further and then proceeded along what can only be described as a roller coaster; short, tight up and downs, no more than 30 or so feet, great fun on quad bikes not so great on you own quads.

Finally after some time and some miles these flattened out and there was another small out and back after which you were back onto the road into town. Running back through the parking lot, under the watchful eye of some tourists, I wondered would I have to negotiate the stairs up to “Main Street”, little did I know that there was one more hill, and after plodding, yes by then I was in full plod mode, I picked up the pace and enjoyed the applause as I ran down to the finish line. My final splits; 12:47, 11:46 and 11:46.

Overall it was a great race and well organized, the route took you through some breathtaking scenery and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking to visit some of the desert that you wouldn't see.

The numbers:
I finished in 6:34:26, a new PB by just under 20 minutes, but over my initial target time of 6 hours.

My Garmin tells me the following:
  • Distance 32.19 miles
  • Pace: 11:31
  • Elevation gain 4836’
  • Elevation distribution: 48% ascent, 32% decent, 20 flat
Here's the Motion Based data:

And the best of the photos which as usual are out of order.

Post race pondering:

Good things:
  • Finishing; always nice
  • A new PB, even nicer
  • My recovery, the next day I was up and about, achy sure, but very mobile
Bad things:
  • Nearly bonking at the halfway point, with hindsight I had under eaten at breakfast and this came back to haunt me
  • The blister; despite trialing successfully my Injinji socks I did not wear them as I had not been able to get the Spencos I needed to fill out my shoes
Things that I need to work on:
  • Power walking hills, my pace drops off considerably during these sections and I need to keep it up to avoid loosing too much time
  • More hill work in general…deep joy!
  • My Asics are shot now and I need to either get a new pair or start looking at some heavier duty shoes, they took a real beating this weekend
  • Running the technical terrain, I was overtaken, because I had slowed, during these sections and I need to have more confidence to run through them
It's thirteen weeks to Leona Divide and I received, last week, confirmation of my entry, watch this space!


  1. WHooooaaaaaaa dude!! The vid was amazing. Beautiful terrain yet really scary LOL (scary for me at least). Holy Mother and the wind too. YIKES! Wow, you did an awesome job!! CONGRATS!!!

  2. Great job on the finish! Congrats!

  3. Totally awesome :-) Seems like a nice beautiful even place to run, but 34 miles? Yikes!!! LOL! Great race report!!

  4. hey-

    congratulations! i ran the calico 50k sunday too...some brutal hills! brutal, but beautiful : ) way to go though- i hope you don't mind that i linked to your report from my blog for now- let me know if you'd rather me take it down. ill get my own race report up there asap, but you write so well that i thought i'd go ahead and share- congrats again, and take good care of your quads this week...

  5. Fantastic race report! Your photos and video are breathtaking--I love that you can document your races that way. I'm continually in awe of you ultra folks.

  6. Wow dude. That's some freaky-awesome scenery to be running in. I can't even imagine doing a 50K run with that much elevation gain. Amazing.

    Congrats on pushing through!

  7. Dude. This is BAD-ASS.


    I love the pic with the sign and congratulations on your monster PB!

  8. Awesome post SLB+ congratulations on the PR. What kind of Asics were you running in? What's interesting to note is the Garmin said one distance but the Nike+ was higher even though you went a few miles without it being on. I guess your stride is a little longer on the hills. All in all great work. Looking forward to the next post

  9. Great Race Report and great job on the finish.
    Regarding the breakfast thing, have you followed the recommendations of Hammer Nutrition? They say to eat your last meal 3 hours before a race.
    I am curious since I have yet to try this approach.
    The pictures are amazing. I will have to put this race on my wish list.

  10. Great job!!! Hey I see you're running Leona divide 50m. I will be there too. After hiking 33 miles of that course when I was on the PCT last year I thought I need to come back and run the 50 miler.

  11. Congrats! I'm the green shirt with an orange hat in one of your pics :) It was a fun day!

    Leona Divide looks awesome...

  12. Great blog..tougher shoe..try Montrail Hardrock..saved me at the 2008 Zane Grey 50k. size up 1/2 - 1


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