Jan 17, 2011

Calico Ghost Town 50km Trail Race

Coming down with an injury after the last trail run put me in a 6 week zone of recovery, cross-training, and wondering when my next run would be.  After the first couple of successful weeks of running post-injury I began my search.  Before I make a commitment to any race I look for the uniqueness of the race and whether I've done it before. If I'm going to plunk down $50-70 per race on my student budget then it should be a unique and worthwhile experience.  So I happened upon this race in the Mojave desert starting/ending in a ghost town while running in the surrounding desert mountains. Uniqueness: check, new run: check. Megan would be running the 30km race there too.

I reserved a campground spot adjacent to the town to make a fun mini-trip out of it and save us the hassle of driving the 2.5 hours out there in the very early morning. Thanks to this bizarre weather, high 75/low 43 in the dead of winter, we slept under the stars.
Early Morning
The race started at 7am sharp with everyone gathering in the middle of Calico excited to get moving.  The first two miles had us on Ghost Town Rd before turning off onto the dune buggy trails which caught me off guard with its sandy and rock-filled track. I was constantly looking for ground that was semi-firm so that I wouldn't sink 2-3 inches with each push-off. You can imagine how much more difficult it is to accelerate and maintain speed compared to a stable base, especially on a slight but steady climb.  The first 17 miles of the race followed these types of trails and through very rocky unmaintained washes which felt like off-trail scrambles at times.  This didn't allow for the development of running rhythms but that's a part of what makes trail runs unique, fun, and challenging.  I ran with Matt from Flagstaff until the 11.5 mile aid station and from then on was pretty much alone until the finish.  When I arrived at the 17 mile aid station I expected to pick up my drop-off bag that I had left at the start, which contained my GU Gels and Body Glide. However, the volunteers at the aid station said they didn't receive anything of the like.  So the gels that I had planned on using to off-set some the inevitable aches and slow down as the run progressed were not going to be there.  So I stuffed half a banana in my mouth and then moved on.  Near mile 19 Pat Sweeney caught up to me while wearing Luna Sandals, courtesy of Barefoot Ted, who happened to be running in this race as well. For any of you who have read Born To Run you know who he is.  Pat won the Palos Verdes Marathon with the sandals and when we briefly chatted he mentioned he PR'd in a 10K recently with them, but was now dealing with a small stress fracture and some achilles tenderness.  We spoke after the race and he talked about how the main thing is dealing with the pebbles that get caught under your foot during trail  runs. That guy has tough feet.  My 8oz x-country shoes held up really well during the entire run but they ultimately offer nothing in terms of stability on rocky terrain and you feel every rock you step on. There isn't much traction to begin with as well so they wear down much quicker than other shoes. With that being said they will continue to be the shoe-of-choice on my trail runs.
The Last Half Mile
With a headwind and lack of carbohydrates I started to slow down, evident by 3-4 runners passing me in between 21-24.  I got a boost when I reached the 27 mile aid station and one of the volunteers pointed to Calico 4.3 miles away. The next several miles were on the short but steep rolling hills of the Calico Mountains with it's greenish dirt and very cool dirt tunnels that I ran through.  Finally, after running up a 1/4 mile steep hill I finished back where I started, but with a new PR in the 50K of 4:51.47, besting my previous one by 30 minutes. To be fair, the other run had more elevation gain. That placed me 11th overall and 2nd in my 18-29 age group.
Megan finished her second trail race ever 1st in the women's 30K, and 5th overall, in a time of 2:38 breaking the course record by 10 minutes. She received a comp into next year's 30K and we both received hand-painted saw blades for placing with out names, times, and place painted in.
All in all a very cool way to start the new year!

Hand painted saw blade awards

No comments:

Post a Comment

Denali Expedition Recap

Summit Ridge I won’t be writing about the day to day as that was succinctly put in the twelve “Denali Transmit” posts which you ...