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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Big Baz San Juan 50k–Finisher : )

I could certainly write a book about this race.  But I’ll try to keep it brief (ha!)  First off, I’m so dang happy that I finished.  This is one tough, tough, course.

SAN JUAN 50K - BIG BAZ 3-5-2011, Elevation - Distance

satellite san juan 50k 3-5-2011

My main goals were to stay uninjured and to finish.  I kept my pace a little slower than the past Big Baz races.  And I followed my husband’s advice which was “don’t think” because that’s when I lose the mental battle.  And I followed runner Chris Diaz’s advice:  think of this race as two different races – run the first one (the hilly out and back down to the highway 19.5 miles) and don’t even think about the second race until I’m there!

Baz’s Race Instructions


That first ten miles were wonderful – cool and shady.  I crossed several streams rock hopping to keep my feet dry.  Then finally toward the bottom, I had to walk through nearly knee deep COLD water, which meant that I had to walk through it again on the way back – which in turn also meant that I didn’t care anymore about wet feet and stomped through most streams if I had to spend too much time finding a route.

The frontrunner passed me on my mile 7.   The second place passed me at 7.3 miles.  They were SIX miles ahead of me.  A little later, Michelle Barton (an amazing runner, IN MY AGE CATEGORY) passed me on this out-and-back portion at mile 7.83.  She yelled out to me, “You’re a rockstar.”  All those front runners were amazingly supportive.  One of the things I love about trail runners – they are not snobs.

I took plenty of pictures in those first ten miles.  I was trying to remain cool, that is calm – I didn’t want to lose my head.  No negativity.  No I can’t’s

Amazing Beauty During the First Ten Miles (which happens to be the 2nd ten miles also)






Sadly one runner broke his wrist on that first ten miles.  And as far as I know, 4 runners dropped out on that segment.   I reached that first full aid station at ten miles (there was a “water only” at mile 5) feeling very strong.  About 8 other runners mingled about.  Almost every one was bloody or cut up in some way.  I felt lucky for catching myself on a few trips.

A few of us were gently scolded for not drinking enough water.  When one of the aid workers pulled out my reservoir, she said, “You’ve hardly drinken enough water!!”  Most of us said we didn’t need a refill, but Steve Harvey (from Old Goat Trail Races) said that none of us were taking off without full bladders.  And so I topped off, put some potato chips in my pocket, grabbed an orange slice and a quarter peanut-butter & jelly sandwich and took off. All my layers by now were off and packed in my bag.

Rick, Me And Lori at Ten Mile Mark


Miles ten through twenty were tough, mostly a climb out of the long ten mile mainly downhill I had just run.  I ran completely by myself.  I didn’t hear or see any of the runners that I left back at the aid station.  Trail races are like that.  A runner can actually be 30 seconds behind you, and you never see them. 

Eventually I saw a man up ahead.  The sun was scorching by now.  He was making his way, but seemed to be struggling some.  He was in sight several times for a while.  Though I wasn’t trying to pass him, because I wasn’t racing anyone (I only wanted to finish), I did gain on him.  And then . . . AND THEN I tripped on a rock as I ran.  I caught myself from falling, but my momentum ran me straight off the trail down a steep incline (almost a cliff!).  In a split second I knew that I had to change my direction or I was going to tumble (not in a fun way) down the mountain.  I am still amazed how many things go through my mind in a single moment.  Somehow, while falling down that mountain, I changed my direction and slammed myself into the face of the slope.  My right knee hit first, then my body cramped up.  With my body cramping, I began slowly sliding down the mountainside, through thickets with tiny thorns scraping along my arms. 

I was in utter disbelief and yelled out “Oh my God.  Oh my God.”  I don’t know why I said that.  Remember this all happed in a matter of probably 1 or 2 seconds.  Well, my yelling alerted the runner ahead of me.  He ran down and lifted me up and back onto the trail.  Bill was his name.  Definitely my hero of this race.  I had tiny hair like thorns covering my arms.  But I was okay.  Bill on the other hand had terrible bloody scrapes on his right arm and leg from his own accident some time earlier.  I thanked him profusely and told everyone I met about Bill and what he did for me, even in his pain.  

I continued on to the “water only” aid at mile 15, poured ice cold water over my arms.  I also gulped up some, but didn’t refill.  I didn’t refill, because my pack still felt pretty heavy.  I figured I had enough water to make it to mile 20. 

For the next 5 miles, I stopped twice to “ice” my torn up knee in the ice-cold streams.  I didn’t see Bill anymore.  But I did see another runner.  He passed me by out of no where.  I wish I would have got his name (I would be seeing him a lot the remainder of the race).  He was extremely friendly and helpful, offering Tylenol, calories, water.  I told him that I was good, then not 30 minutes later, I was OUT OF WATER.  The extra weight from my shirt, gloves and hat had fooled me into thinking that I had more water than I thought.  Mind you, this was the hottest day in months!.  I had 3 miles remaining to the next aid, and I needed water badly.  I tried to bring my energy level down some.  Last thing I wanted was heat exhaustion.  Those last 3 miles moved by extremely slow, as I practically stared at the garmim to see “how many miles before I get water.”

Before the next station, I passed my car and I took the time to throw all my layers in.  And guess what I saw???  A half a bottle of water!!!  Heaven.  I grabbed it, and guzzling it down made it on into the 19.5 mile aid station.  I met up with several other runners.  I later found that all those runners dropped.  Michelle Barton was snapping photos.  She was already finished with the race! 

I filled my pack with water and my water bottle as well, and took off for the “next race”.  The long climb up San Juan Trail was pretty difficult, especially with 8 or so other runners running down it to finish up the race.  I had another twelve miles or so to run!  Every single one of those runners were supportive with thumbs up or “way to go.” 

Trabuco Trail was extremely rocky for many miles.  I focused hard on not falling.  There were 2 other runners that I would continue to see for the last ten miles – a younger woman (Felicia) and that extremely supportive guy that I didn’t get his name!!

I fell off the log as I walked it to cross Trabuco stream, but wasn’t hurt.  And even though Horsethief was a matter of feet away, I refused to think about it.  As expected, Horsethief was pure hell.  It was hot and I took it slowly.  But I knew what lay ahead, and that helped.  Just put one foot in front of the other, I told myself.  When I caught up with Felicia, I felt badly for her, being that this was her first time of the trail.  She was where I was 2 weeks ago.  When she asked how much longer I felt sad telling her.  I looked at my watch and said, “about twenty-five minutes.”  She didn’t have a hat (just a visor) and couldn’t cool down.  Having suffered from heat exhaustion myself, I told her that she HAD to cool down.  She didn’t have anything to cover her head.  I suggested she pour some water on her head and find some shade and stay there until she cooled down.  Turned out there was a piece of shade right there.  She took my advice and I took off getting her name so I could tell the next aid to expect her.  She told me to tell them that she’s alright and that she wants to finish (And she did finish!).

A Rocky Trabuco Trail


Breathtaking Views Behind Me Going Up Horsethief


Anyway, when I reached the Main Divide, I met up with the helpful guy.  I refilled on water and we both took off with a mere six miles to go.  We pretty much ran in together, together meaning – I was in front, he was in front, back and forth, until he finally whizzed by me, gaining quite a bit of distance crossing the finish line probably a good 15 minutes before me (not sure, just guessing). 

I crossed the finish line exhilarated!  I was almost in disbelief – I had finished a 50k trail race!!  Awesome.  This is definitely a before/after point in my life. 

88 runners registered for the San Juan 50k.  86 started, 69 finished. 

Thanks to all – those on the trails and those on the blogs.  Couldn’t have done this without you and . . .

Can’t do this without a video Smile

: )


  1. Lauren - that was the awesomest video ever! Baz puts on such good races, but I'd have some choice words for him putting Horsethief at mile 23!

    Way to finish. You *are* awesome!

    BTW - most of the water in the streams in the Santa Ana Mts is safe to drink in a pinch. The water in Trabuco has a mineral taste to it, but it it better than no water at all.

  2. Way to go, Lauren! Finishing a race like that is a HUGE accomplishment. I'm so happy for you!

  3. Great job Lauren. Loved reading that. I could only imagine how hard horse thief was at mile 23 on a warm day.

  4. Whoohooo with a huge congrats on your race!!! I loved your recap and I'm so glad your race went well. Congrats!!!

  5. Saw your video on Big Baz's site. Had to visit yours and say it was fantasic! Good job on the run! And I dig the video! Who was the music by?

    Hope to see you out on the trails again!

  6. Thanks Glenn! It took me an awfully long time to finish, but I finished. I really appreciate the compliments. Yes, Horsethief at mile 23 was brutal. I also heard before that the water was safe to drink in a pinch. I'm glad to hear that from you too.

  7. Thanks Tom -- you taught me almost everything I know. I hope that's a compliment : ) I didn't know however before I started, that I happened to pick the hardest dang 50k in at least So. Calif.

  8. Thanks AJH. I really appreciate the compliment. I really don't feel that amazing. But I do realize that even to hike that course would be a major feat. Thanks again.

  9. Thanks to you also Jeremy. Yes, Horse Thief was a b**** on a warm day at mile 23. Oddly, so very oddly, I have this craving to search out Horse Thief again and again until I can do it comfortably. I think it's much more difficult than Holy Jim.

  10. Thanks Whitney -- I really appreciate your comments. I never dreamt that at 46 I'd ever even attempt such a thing!

  11. Fj40Cruzer -- thanks for stopping by. The music in the 50k video is by Silversun Pickups. Great band. If you get a chance, look them up on youtube. They are unlike none other that I can think of.

    I can't tell by your user name who you are. I'm assuming we met on the trail or at least at the finish line or start line. Please tell : )

  12. I hear you on the craving. My friend Tony refers to Holy Jim as "a grind" and Horse Thief as one of the steeper climbs he has ever done. I want to go up holy jim again before Nov, but it is still hard to get back there on the Trabuco side. If you every get a group to go up there to do Baz's half marathon route shot me an email (jeremy@howes.cc). Its not the best idea to go up there by yourself.

  13. Great job, Lauren. Truly inspirational.

  14. Thanks 2themtns. I wish I could do it a little faster. But I am still happy nonetheless for such an awesome experience.

  15. Jeremy, I was actually thinking about posting a run in my running group that follows the 21k route -- San Juan Trail/Trabuco/Horsethief/Main Divide/San Juan Trail. I'll let you know when I do. I'm too afraid to go up there alone : )

  16. Awesome awesome awesome!!!

    What a great race report, thrills, spills and spoils!

    The first 50 is so special but now it's onto the second!

  17. Thanks Stuart. It was great fun. The second . . . well, I've been meaning to talk to you about that. Just kidding. Goals for the rest of the year, some fun races, strengthen, lose the extra pounds and blow my Saddleback Marathon time away -- yup I'm going back! You going to be there?

  18. Now don't tempt me!

    How about Calico 50k next year?

  19. I'll see how Saddleback goes, then I just MAY try Calico 50k. Either way, I will be at Calico (30 or 50, gotta run it : )

  20. The last 20 is all downhill...I promise!