The day finally arrived, though I tried hard not to think about it, that we loaded up the big truck with our sons and two extra boys, and headed out for Calico Ghost Town. Ends up, the park overbooked The Bunk House which is where we usually stay, so that put a damper in everything from the start. We drove back about ten miles to Barstow and got two nice hotel rooms, one for all five boys, and one for myself and my husband. Good thing was, I got to sleep in a comfortable bed instead of those terrible bunk beds at The Bunk House. Bad thing was, there was no campfire, and my husband had to wake before sunrise to drive me back to Calico to start the race. About half way there, I realized that I had forgotten my bib in the hotel room. So, we made the trip back for that. I arrived to the startline at day break, all bundled up in 40F degree weather with thirty minutes to spare. I know, I know, that’s not very cold for most people. But for a Southern California gal, that’s dang cold.
I saw some old friends and some new friends at the start line, but mainly mingled solo. My arm was achy, and I pretty much didn’t feel like doing this thing at all. I thought that maybe I’d just walk the course, but that wasn’t really in the cards because walking would take all day. I coached myself with these thoughts: 1) Be sure to make a mid-foot strike because that’ll minimize the neuroma pain in my right foot, and 2) Kick out the back and no feet shuffling -- this was of utmost importance so as to not trip. I could not afford a fall.
I got off to a decent start, but that was stopped short by the slapping cap upon my back. I had velcroed my cap you see, onto my pack. And unfortunately, I just couldn’t stand that slap, slap, slap. But there was no way I could contort my arms enough to unhook it. So, I had to stop to unhook the cap. In the process, I tangled my earphones and my pack up so badly, it took several minutes to get it straight. Meanwhile, every runner passed me, and I wound up dead last for the first mile or two.
From the start I merely focused on putting one foot in front of the other, thinking about only the current section I was in. This 30k race has five distinct parts in my mind. First things first, I had to complete that first section which entailed approximately 7 miles to the first aid station. I ran the first mile or so on pavement with the sweep vehicle following so closely behind that I ran in its shadow. Very annoying. What if I needed to pee? I mean really! I decided though that I wasn’t going to be one of those runners who got snippy or complained to the volunteers. Instead, I used the tailgating as incentive to pass some runners. After the pavement, that first section is mostly running in sand. But that can be avoided some by running off trail a bit, which I did, and passed four runners by the time I made it to that first station. With the sweep off my back, I was more comfortable heading off into the second section.
Section two was about five miles, again of mostly sand, but some rocky technical areas as well, ending at the second aid station. I ran through sections where gunfire echoed through the canyons from target shooters. Relieved to finally be past the shooters, I managed to pass one other gal. Turns out that I knew her. And turns out that she passed me by about fifteen minutes later.
During section three the terrain became hilly and quite technical with lots of rocks and boulders. Though it seems much longer, this section is only about three miles. During this part, I came to Ernie’s 50k split where the 30k and the 50k runners take different routes. And then the climb grew and the number of rocks grew as well. The scenery was breathtaking, ending with big climb up onto a ridge overlooking a rainbow colored valley. I tripped a couple times during the downhill to finalize part three of the race, but made it safely to the aid station without a scratch.
From there, I entered the most beautiful, and the most difficult part of the race, measuring about 2.5 miles. Section four consisted of running through a rocky canyon of red and pink walls, littered with mine shaft openings. I snapped pictures as I ran, hoping to get some in focus. At times the terrain grew so technical that I needed to brace myself with the canyon wall. Other times I picked up speed. Having run through this canyon now 9 times, I could maneuver pretty well. My hope was to catch another runner through this canyon because I always do. And I was surprised as I approached the end of this section that I hadn’t. And then right at the mouth of the canyon, there he was, another runner, all for my catching.
I didn’t pass the other runner until I was about a quarter mile into the last section, which measures about 2.5 miles. This section is not terribly technical, and there are some beautiful parts that unfortunately have been trashed up by campers and such. There’s glass and trash strewn all over the place. There’s also some awesome quick tunnels to run through, and then a steep hill to climb to finally reach a ridge that overlooks Calico Ghost town. Finally! But the race was not over yet. There was some ridge running, and then finally running through the camp grounds, and parking lot, and last but not least, a service road named “Kill Bill Hill,” that was pure torture. My sons and their friends met me at the top of the hill and I trotted down Main Street on into the Finish, finishing this 30k with my garmin reading 19.43 miles complete. (And it only took me a good long 5 hours and 40 minutes! hehe )