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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bedford to Bald Peak

February 16, I completed my 55th revolution around the sun. To commemorate the completion of that revolution, I decided to drive out to Corona for a hike up Bedford Road to the Main Divide. I have passed Bedford Road on many occasions while on The Main Divide, but I have never traveled any of it. This is what I can tell you about Bedford Road: It's an exposed climb with faraway views of Riverside County, Lake Matthews and the San Gabriel, San Bernadino and San Jacinto snow-capped mountains. It's also a lonely road with no other hikers or runners (at least on this day), but with plenty of motorcyclists. (I see more motorcyclists on Maple Springs Rd than Bedford however.)

I hung a left at The Main Divide and hiked on over to Bald Peak, a little-known peak in the Santa Ana Mountains. My intent was to measure the route all the way up to the peak. If that had not been my intent, I would have turned around at the base being that I wasn't really up for the scramble to the top. It is quite steep with lots of loose rocks. But I did it anyway, one step in front of the other, sliding back here and there. It was quite a struggle -- but a worthwhile struggle. 

I remained at Bald Peak for quite some time before heading down that treacherous slope back to The Main Divide. The views, the sounds of silence and peace and solitude were spectacular and a great birthday gift to myself. Of course, I was late heading back (which is always the case) and ended up running all of the 6.5 mile return trip back into Bedford Canyon. 

13.13 miles, 3,583' of elevation gain (my glutes felt that!)
Lake Matthews in the distance

Top of Bedford Road @ The Main Divide

Bald Peak

Heading Back

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Calico Trail Run 2020

Like clockwork, I came down with a cold a day or two before Calico (1/26/20). Honestly, I didn’t take very much care in eating healthy or getting good sleep in the weeks prior. My body did everything to fight the cold virus, which resulted in a group of cold sores erupting on my face. Lovely! It’s called self-sabotage. It’s my super power. 

We got the bunk house which sits on the outskirts of the campgrounds. We had had with us just two boys, two teenage boys (which translates to easy-peasy -- teenagers do everything for themselves!). We had a nice drive up the Cajon Pass, had dinner at Peggy Sue’s, and listened to my middle son play classical guitar by the campfire. I bedded early (about 9:00 pm or so). And it seemed that I didn’t sleep a single wink. I think that I I looked at my watch every hour and a half throughout the night. I wasn’t digging that and it actually worried me some as I tossed and turned, which probably didn’t help this whole cold virus that I was fighting. 

Evening Prior from Bunk House Porch

Oddly, I didn’t feel sleep deprived in the least bit and rose up from my bunk at 5:30 am. I got ready very deliberately, sun screening and getting the pack ready for its retirement party. (I packed/wore: Ibuprofen, salt pills, camera, phone, battery and charging cord, ipod, ear buds, band aids, athletic tape, antibiotic ointment, cheap reading glasses, sun glasses, hat, bandanna, lip balm, small tube of sunscreen, toilet paper, a pair of extra socks to change out my warm knee socks, propel electrolyte water in the bladder and two shirts that I wore -- a long sleeved cold weather shirt and a short sleeved Old Goat t-shirt, and a beanie and gloves),

I took off on foot for Calico Ghost Town about a ½ mile away as the sun was beginning to make its appearance. The weather was cold, but not freezing. The number of runners seemed smaller this year compared to previous years. I saw running friend Stephen de la Cruz but didn’t recognize others (though I would see 3 running friends during the race). I noticed that there were a lot of small groups of runners taking this in as a group event. I think that’s a wonderful idea for a race like this, especially if you haven’t run it and haven’t come up on the term “technical trail”.

Setting out from The Bunk House ~ 6:30am

Start/Finish Line Downtown Calico Ghost Town

Here We Go!

We took off running out of Calico Ghost Town at 7:00 am. I started at the back of the pack and stayed there, doing my usual counting of how many people I could pass. When a runner passed me, I subtracted that number from the number of runners I had already passed, giving me a net number. For a good two miles, I remained at about net 2. At about mile three that net number dropped to zero when two friends, Chris Diaz and Bill Hedgardt passed me. We continued to pass each other here and there and ran into the first aid station (7 miles) together. I didn’t stay more than a second at the station. My strategy was to do this run in a fasted state, so there was no reason for me to mingle about at aid stations. There were four runners at the location and as I ran off, I shouted to Chris, “Net Four!” He first looked at me perplexed and then it dawned on him and he shouted “Not for long!”

So, a little history on Chris. I recall meeting him way back in 2008 on Santiago Truck Trail while I was running with Tom Fangrow. I then saw him the following January during my first Calico Trail Race. He’s also one of the regular Old Goat Volunteers -- he and Bill always request the most remote aid stations and even camped down at Chiquito Falls one year manning that hike-in station for Chimera 100. Chris and I have raced in a lot of the same races. I have never beaten him. Once, I was so close and I got giddy about it a bit too early. It was the 2011 Saddleback Marathon. I passed Chris as he was sitting at the last aid station. Man, I was elated over the fact that I just might beat him to the finish line (Chris’s super power is downhill running, I might add -- he says that he “does stupid better than me”). Anyway, back at Saddleback 2011, I sprinted down The Main Divide, hopeful that I could gain enough lead to beat Chris to the finish line. I did not let up. Then, all of a sudden, with just a mile left on the course, Chris popped up beside me! “Dang it!” I exclaimed to which he responded, “Don’t worry Lauren, let’s run in this thing together.” Well, we ran most of it in together, but at the very last part, oh less than a tenth of a mile, Chris sprinted away and crossed the finish line before me.  

I remember that 2011 race as I shouted out “Net Four” on Sunday. And then I ran like hell knowing that I’d have to put a lot of distance between me and Chris -- otherwise he’d catch me on the downhill for sure! I did put a lot of distance between us, but not enough. He caught me and Bill did eventually as well. It took him 5 miles to catch me. But he did. I was net 11 when they caught me, dropping me back to net 9. So, I did the same thing at the next aid station. I stayed for about 1 second and took off running, leaving Chris and Bill, once again behind. 

Bill and Chris

Me (See those orange and blue shirts in the background? Bill and Chris!)

 Aid Station #2 (11.9 miles)

Me (See those orange and blue shirts in background? Bill and Chris!)

30/50k Split

In two hours I was able to cover 8 miles, and in three hours I was very close to 12 miles. But after that, my pace began to fall. The terrain is tough out there. It’s sand or rocks and boulders. There is very little flat, only uphill (mainly) and downhill. My strategy was to hike the hills (or march rather). As I have mentioned many times before, I recover quickly, so hiking those hills gave me some time to rest and I was pretty much recovered by the top of the hills. My other strategy as I have already mentioned was to do this race in a fasted state. That is how I trained. I am done filling myself with sugar at the aid stations (even natural sugar!). That strategy did me well in this race. I never once felt that I needed calories. I had my propel water for the electrolytes and took a few salt pills just to make sure. 

I continued to pass and get passed by Chris and Bill for the remainder of the race. So taken in by the beauty of the remaining exotic canyons, I stopped occasionally to snap some pictures (probably too many pictures!) I also found myself starting to stumble. I passed two female runners that I had not seen in a long time, and then another female runner passed me. I think I was still at about net ten during those final few miles. I hadn’t seen Chris in a while, but Bill and I continued to pass one another. I tripped on rocks several times, but never went down. And then nausea began to visit. At that point I downed two more salt pills and an ibuprofen and in no time the feeling that I would vomit subsided. 

At the end of the beautiful pink canyon with only about 2 miles remaining, I caught a glimpse of Chris’s orange shirt. I pushed hard, realizing I had to catch him before the last downhill into town. Bill passed me and caught up with Chris, but I struggled. Still, I closed the gap immensely. And during that final flat stretch across the longest parking lot in the world, I thought that I might catch Chris. (Bill by now had long passed Chris). My family watched from above and said that I looked very strong, they couldn’t believe how fast I was moving. They could tell that I was trying to pass the runner in front of me, and thought that I probably would. I knew deep down though that if Chris reached the top of the hill before me, that I would never be able to catch him on the downhill because he does “stupid better” than me. The trip up that service road behind the ghost town was painstaking! And in the end, I could not catch Chris, even though I flew down into the finish line. He beat me by 16 seconds. Sixteen. Seconds. 

Calico 2020 was fantastic. I loved every minute. It was a struggle but that struggle was wonderful -- it brought tears to my eyes again and again throughout the course. But I paid immensely for pushing myself with a cold. I was not able to go to work the next day but instead tried to get well by sleeping. I tried to return on Tuesday but went home sick. More than a week has passed since Calico, and I am ready to start running again. Calico 2021? We shall see. My middle boy wants to run it with me, so if he still wants to, I’ll be there for sure!