We arrived to Calico Ghost Town with cold, 50 mph winds. They shut down the town because building pieces were blowing away. When we opened the car doors, things began flying out into the desert. That’s how we learned to only open one door at a time. Though the town was closed, I was able check in. After that we were quick to find the Bunk House keys and get the heck out of there to shelter.
A piece of the tin roof flapped in the wind all night. And I think I woke every hour to check my phone for the time. How much longer? How much longer? HOW MUCH LONGER? I didn’t feel nervous, because I know this run. And I felt ready. I did however worry about being late. I don’t like to be late to a race. In fact, my “rule of thumb” is arrive one hour early.
By morning, the winds had died down. With a 7AM start time, my husband, my middle son and my girlfriend’s son walked me the cold, cold, cold half mile to the start line. Besides layering clothing, I wore a leopard patterned scarf that I planned for my husband to take back to the cabin. When I ran past my husband down the streets of Calico however, I grabbed the scarf out of his hands because I was so dang cold. I really didn’t care if I was the only person running wearing a leopard patterned scarf.
And so we headed down a lonely asphalt road, away from the rising sun. My friend Tom Bychowski popped up behind me. We chatted for a bit, and he was off ahead of me on his way to to complete the 50k.
My goal was to make the first aid station in 1.5 hours. I didn’t think about the race as a whole. Instead, as usual, I broke it down into segments. Those first seven miles were on an incline, not terribly steep at all. BUT, we ran in sand. Dry, loose sand. That’s tough. Many runners passed me during those first seven miles. Most disheartening were the white bibs going by. 30k runners wore white bibs. 50k runners wore yellow. I usually aimed on passing the runner directly in front of me, no matter their bib color. And I succeeded at passing at least three women and a couple of men. Then I saw runners from the 2011 Saddleback Marathon. It’s always great seeing people you spent some time with during a long, hard race – they seem like old friends.
I ran on into that first aid station with an hour and a half time elapsed. I pocketed a handful of jelly beans, grabbed some potato chips and took off running toward the mountains without even realizing that two of the women I had passed were up a ways ahead of me already!
With the first segment complete, I aimed at making Station #2 within an hour. The terrain gradually grew harder as we made our way up into the mountains. Again it was a gradual climb, and I passed a few runners. Overall, I didn’t feel I was gaining much advantage.
And then the terrain changed even more, growing more technical, slanted and rocky. At this point I was able to quickly pass three runners within eye-sight. And then two more a bit after that. My confidence grew. I noticed tight shoulders on some of the runners (shoulders up near the ears) as they gingerly made their way across the rocky and at times steep terrain. These runners I think just weren’t used to the “technical” trail. But with my recent boulder hopping runs and mountain terrain, the race now was “right up my alley.”
I made Station #2 in a little longer than planned – 1 hour ten minutes total. So, at a little over 12 miles into this race I was at about 3 hours 10 minutes. And the best thing was when I came into that second station, about 8 runners were re-fueling. I grabbed another handful of jellybeans and guzzled a big swig of Dr. Pepper and took off before any of them.
Soon after Station #2, the terrain became even more difficult and I passed more runners. I jumped from rock to rock. I did not have to sit and slide, as had been my method in the past, and as I witnessed others this year. A natural high overcame me, and it seemed I grew stronger. But I was careful not to get “cocky”. That’s exactly when I’d do a face-plant. Instead, I fine-tuned my focus and hit those rocks like I owned them.
As I approached “Ernies 50/30k split” I had to stop and get a picture of us together. For three years I ran past him with a smile, but not as much of a word. This year I introduced myself and said, “Ernie, I presume?”
Knowing exactly where I was at all times gave me a great advantage in the mental battle. As I ran one of the steepest climbs in the race, I knew that I would get a nice long easy down hill stretch to Station #3 which was hidden by rocks. Runners their first time in this race wouldn’t know about this hidden station. And let me tell you, FOR ME, knowing it was there made me run even faster!
When I made Station #3, I took another swig of Dr. Pepper, thanked the workers and was off for the most technical terrain of the race. I had to “watch it” here. I had already tripped twice (but had not fallen), and I didn’t want to mess up my time now. It looked like I was going to make it to the finish well before 5 hours (my usual finish time), but I didn’t have time to spare for any kind of slowdown. There was not a runner in sight behind or ahead of me. I was happy that I had passed quite a few runners. And I wanted to keep it that way. So, I used my best focusing skills and really “hauled ***” through the most difficult 4 miles of this race. I’m surprised these pictures came out focused, as I didn’t even stop running when I snapped them:
Then out there in these beautiful canyons, I saw another runner. She was obviously a much faster runner than me. I hadn’t seen her the entire race. Thing was, she slowly and carefully made her way across the boulders and rocks. That’s when I knew it was time for another pass. I said “Good Morning,” but she looked and sounded like I have so many times through these canyons – like, “When will this end???”
I loved it though. With practice, I have learned to love it. Most runners have a great advantage over me on fire roads or asphalt. But put me in this stuff, and I pass a few. I was really having fun jumping from boulder to boulder, planning my steps out ten or so in advance.
And then I made it to the lovely pink canyons, where the terrain grows friendly, and locals say you can hear God whisper. At this point, I knew I was almost out of the canyons, which meant I was nearly Finish Line bound! I felt confident. I felt happy. I felt strong. I have never felt like this during this point in The Calico Trail Run.
My oldest & middle son and nephew were waiting at the top of the town and ran along side me through town. As I made my way across the finish line, my mother, father, sister, youngest brother, my girlfriend, her children and my husband and youngest son were cheering me on. I felt glorious! Dirty, stinky, salty glorious.
And as in every year that I’ve run this race, when the finish line worker went to tear off my bib tag, I shook her hand. Then I cracked up. I always think they’re trying to shake my hand when they go for the tag. She laughed too and thanked me for shaking her hand. LOL.
To my utter amazement, I actually placed 3rd in my division: Females age 40-49. And yes there were more than 3 in my division. I wasn’t even thinking about placing in my division when I started off. I just wanted to beat my previous times. And that I did (stats below).
2112, I placed 43 overall, out of 74 finishers (I believe 80 starters?) and as mentioned above (and probably for the rest of my life) 3rd in my division.
My 30k Calico Trail Run times:
Thanks for reading! What a happy way to begin the 2012 racing year.