February 14, 2015
Decided to try another Big Baz event, as I did one of his last year and they are a nice (not too expensive) trail event series in the Cleveland National Forest (between Lake Elsinore and San Clemente).
I didn’t want to drive on my own, so I hedged my bets and did not sign up for the race until I could get confirmation from others that we could carpool. The plan was to meet Eric Villalobos and Tiffany Forster on 2nd Street (couldn’t you just pick me up from my house 2 miles away?). Since I didn’t want to leave my car in the area (also, parking sucks), I decided to walk down in the morning.
When I arrived, I saw Eric’s car there (Tiffany had said she was driving). He said that Tiffany had decided not to go and that he was still deciding whether he would actually run… but that he was going to go anyway and see how he felt (a long (60+ minute) drive for maybe not running!
We had to drive on a different route because the usual road to Blue Jay Campground was under construction. It wasn’t much further, but it was narrower, rockier and more nerve-wracking two-way traffic.
We arrived super-early (like a full-hour before the race) and milled around for a while. We were supposed to also see Art Acebedo and Kelly Motyka (but only Art showed up).
Right before the start, Baz gave his ‘usual’ talk about how the course was well-marked, but that you needed to pay attention, etc., ‘shut the “F” up, I’m explaining how you won’t get lost…’ They read some names of people who had registered but had yet to show up (including Kelly) and I heard the names of my friends Kim Gimenez and Beth Epstein. Even more so than me, these two don’t run a lot of races and for a 21K, it could be considered “slumming” for a great ultrarunner like Kim.
I would have some familiarity with the course as it was a portion of the Old Goats 50M I had attempted a few years ago (around 1/4 of that course with some sucky hills).
Just as we were about to start, Kim and Beth did show up. I ran a little bit with Kim (totally hanging back to walk/run with me) and it was nice to catch up. She, however, took off as soon as Beth caught up with us when the paved road turned to dirt and the grade amped up.
There is only one aid station on this course and you hit it twice. I grabbed some water and a pretzel and hurried on, having taken 48 minutes for the first 3 miles.
From here, I followed a rocky downhill (shaded!) course towards the base of West Horsethief, which I have only run down. I went at a modest pace, because I didn’t want to fall, and probably a good dozen people passed me on the downhill (if I wasn’t in last before, I might be in last now).
Once I got to the bottom, I traversed some dry rocky riverbed and then began the process of working my way up the switchbacks to the top of W. Horsethief. I tried to maintain a comfortable but brisk walking pace and began overtaking many of the same runners who were way ahead of me after passing me on the downhill. (Definitely not in last now!)
At the top of the hill, I found myself on the Great Divide and curving around (mostly downhill) back toward the aid station (now Mile 10). My total time was now 2:54 (or about 17 minutes/mile), so I didn’t really lose a lot of time… the downhill section (although slow, I made up a bit of time) and the steep uphill section cancelled each other out.
The last 3 miles were mostly a repeat of the same course we took outbound, except for the last half mile which was on a narrow, rocky single-track that popped up within 100 yards of the finish line. I arrived in 3:28, just after they had completed the awards ceremony.
Eric wasn’t too bored (having not run the race after all) and apparently the women’s and men’s races had been exciting (winners coming in around 1:40 and 2:00-something).
I grabbed some soda and we drove back, this time on the Lake Elsinore side, thinking it would be faster. Turns out the mileage is about the same, but nothing about driving on the 91 makes the drive any faster.
I would definitely be back for another Big Baz race… if it doesn’t conflict with one of my favorite races.