Calico 50k Race Report

[Update Fri Jan 21 10:11am: Wanted to link a few other race reports with great stories and photos! Don’t Try This At Home at Runner’s World | Bourbon Feet (fast dude who wears the Air Jesus sandals!) | Kylie at TriFuel.com | Trail Bum ]

 

In my continued attempt to not gain an unsightly amount of winter weight and lose all of my fitness I signed up for another ultra-run, the Calico Ghost Town 50k. The race is a benefit for Discovery Trails, whose focus is education about the Mojave desert. Their tag-line is Learning From Adventure, which I can get behind!

Speaking of adventure, I’m sure some people drive to a race, race it and then go home. Seems too simple. And boring, really. We make it a huge adventure: camping, stopping at places of interest on the way, eating at great places and generally using the race as an excuse to get away and do rad stuff. First on the list: stopping at a vegetarian restaurant. One World Cafe is in the burbs of the San Gabriel Valley, the part of the ‘Los Angeles Area’ that is the sprawl associated with my city. When I go on a long bike ride I head north, south or west, rarely east into Sprawlville. But when we’re driving out that way, it’s a treat to hit up one of the Supreme Master vegan restaurants.  And yes, they have a Supreme Burrito, but I stuck with the Pan-Asian stuff. I can’t get enough of these spots lately.

Calico ghost town is located half-way between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, in the Mojave desert.  It’s just too far to drive morning of without getting up stupid early. Last weekend Mike and I drove down to South Orange County to ride a PCH Randonneurs 200k that started at 630am. Needless to say, him and I did not start at 630am. At least it made us hustle to get to the first control before it closed. But then luckily we could take the remaining 110 miles at the Swarm! ‘Can Stop Will Stop’ chill pace. Riding in South Orange County is very beautiful, but the only photo I have is of this crazy cockpit:

Back to the run! We rolled up to Calico in time to check in for the race and scope the town. I’ve been to a few and I appreciate the throwback to olden times. We learned that Calico was bought and preserved by Walter Knott, the founder of Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park, who was a far-right wingnut that had racist policies at his amusement park. It has long since been sold to San Bernardino County, but we couldn’t help but notice that the Welcome sign was in English, French, German and Japanese, but not Spanish and that there was no brothel!

The goodie bag was provided by an outlet mall which may have something to do with the pose I’m striking.

Checked in for the race and content with seeing most of the town we headed down to the campground to set up camp and make dinner. As I’ve said before, I love when you can camp at a race start! So Max, Donovan and I got a fire going and whipped up some pancakes and beans in honor of Burro Schmidt, whose tunnel we visited the last time we drove out to an ultra-run.  I was nervous about making pancakes on a camp stove! The first time I ever camped in my life was at an Earth First! forest defense thing in Pennsylvania and I was blown away that you could camp and still eat pancakes. Still, I had never done it. The photo below is proof that it can happen!

Even though we were in bed at a reasonable hour, that 6am alarm felt too early. We sprung up and got water going for coffee, took down on our camp and drank said coffee in time to swing by the bathrooms (to avoid a Have To Poop scenario like my first ultra) and run to the start with a whopping 4 minutes before the gun. Nice. Max had hurt his ankle the day before so he decided not to run. I’ve never run with Donovan before but we decided to stick together as we both had sub-6hr times in mind. Ends up I avoided the dreaded Have To Poop scenario, but he did not! Two times ducking into the desert for him would be the difference in our times. Now I had looked at the course photos from the website, but I was not expecting the course to be so beautiful. It was magnificent! We ran through red canyons, down washes, over tight, rolling hills, through two tiny tunnels (!!); much of it with unbelievable views of or from the desert mountains. There was a technical section that took me ten minutes to slowly climb down using my arms on rocks for balance. SO fun. Not sure I can go back to road running….

At mile 22 I decided I was going to run every hill that was left. Felt good to push. Since I train on hills a lot just because of where I live, that came easy, but I’d struggle to keep people I had passed from catching me on the down hills or flats. Still, my descents definitely improved from the Ridgecrest run last month. So I’m rolling along, feeling good, running everything and I get to the last aid station. Now one note about this race is that it is supported by the locals. The folks at the aid stations are not runners. They were SUPER FUN. They loved it. Constant jokes (‘We got some meth in the back if you need a boost!’). So at the last aid, I say, ‘3.1 miles, right?’ Nope, 4.5 miles. Oops. I’m tired, it’s getting hot. I have no idea what time it is. Whatever. I run past some dudes in 4×4 trucks playing on some hills. They say hello. Then I see the campground! Sweet. The course went through it, which is now two out of two times that has happened. Should we make it a ritual to sleep on the course?

A few more ups and downs and then I’m in town and I see Max! He jogs along for awhile and then splits off to meet me at the finish. I pushed on the last hill to pass the triathlete I’d been back and forth with. Holding him off on the descent I cross the line at 5 hours and 47 minutes. Stoked (ended up 31st out of 121).  Donovan crosses 5 minutes later and we head into the saloon for our post-race meal. The young lady working was kind enough to give us french fries instead of pizza….

On the way home we stopped at Viva La Vegan, an all vegan grocery store in the Inland Empire that has a grip of frozen pizzas (good for National Vegan Pizza Day):

But I bought some chocolate hazelnut butter and we finished the drive back to LA for some pizza from a pizza shop.  This race is part of the So Cal Ultra Running Series, which I signed up for, just for fun. I was already to tell you about the next crazy run I’m signed up for, the Twin Peaks 50-miler, but I just found out that it’s postponed until October! Wtf? Look at this elevation profile:

I’ve been gearing up for this and using it for the fear I need to train properly and now it’s not happening! Bummer. It was scheduled for February 12th, what should I do instead?

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