Category Archives: 21K

Big Baz 21K – 2016

February 20, 2016

Some unscheduled chaos has taken place in the last couple of weeks.  I was returning home from helping my Avalon buddy, Wilma, “prune” her mother’s orange tree, and decided to refill the car.  Less than one mile from my house, I was rear-ended into the car in front of me, which caused hood and front damage, but not much else.  The car wasn’t making any noises and I drove it home (after exchanging information with the other drivers) without incident.

The insurance company said that it would probably be a total loss, due to the fact that the car was 17 years old.  So, I had to accede to their wishes and have them tow the car away for an inspection (this includes completely emptying the car of everything).  To make matters worse, they wouldn’t pay for a rental car until they had talked with the other person’s insurance company (the one that hit me).  Apparently, if you get into an accident and do not answer the phone when the opposing insurance company calls, no claims can be filed. (Five months later, this was never resolved.)

I am totally without a car until the inspection is done, and even so, I am probably without a car until I get another car.  I am not willing to pay for a rental for 2-3 weeks!

So, I have been walking and running everywhere. On the plus side, I am getting a lot of exercise, but on the flip side, I am tired all the time and grocery shopping sucks!

I had been interested in running the Big Baz 21K again this year, but I would need some assistance, as I did not feel I could cover the 40 mile distance TO the race, run the race, and then go 40 miles home.  (Yes, I run ultras.  No, I am not insane.)

I found out on Wednesday night at AREC that Art was planning on running and that we could carpool there.

It almost ended up being like last year, where I planned to carpool with Eric Villalobos and Tiffany, only Eric went (he drove), and only I ran… because when we got to the start, apparently, when I handed Art the disclaimer form, he decided that he would run after all.

This is special as it is RD Baz Hawley’s last Winter Trail Run Series event as RD. (There is the Shadow of the Giants later this year.)  Baz is a funny, foul-mouthed guy and I have only met him a few times, but he does put on a good series of events and has done so for many years (but apparently once you are 75, it just gets to be too much).

I participated in this event last year and when I finished, the awards were being presented as I came in.  I’m hoping to be faster, but also, hoping to not injure myself leading up to Way Too Cool in a few weeks.

The first miles are on the paved road leading out of the Blue Jay Campground area.  Baz likes to shortcut up to a point on the road where he can cheer on the runners as they go by.  I notice that he is high-fiving a number of the competitors, so, of course, I go in for a VERY high-five, putting my hand so high that Baz cannot reach it.  Later, some volunteers say that was a highlight of their day, a good laugh.

Once out of the campground, it’s a combination of paved road and fire road uphill to the first aid station at Mile 3.4.  I am about 3 minutes faster than last year.

Now there is 2.4 miles of shaded, but really technical downhill to the base of W. Horsethief.  Lots of people pass me as I am reticent about going full bore and falling.

Last year, at W. Horsethief, I did manage to pass a number of runners (honestly, all of us are walking this) on the uphill, just because I am a bit better on uphills than the average runner (maybe not as good as elite ultra-runners).  My added benefit this year is that I am very familiar with the course, having trained on it all last summer for Twin Peaks 50.  Today I cover the 2 miles (with around 2000′ gain) in 42 minutes and do pass a number of people again.

Next we have 2.7 miles on the Main Divide, eventually connecting back to the original aid station at the top of the first hill.  Last year, I came through here in 2:54, and today I am 15 minutes faster (around a minute per mile faster).  Pretty good for taking it easy.

The last section is mostly a backward repeat of the original outbound course, down the fire road, along the paved road for a bit, but instead of repeating through the campground, there is a trail turn-off that shaves about a mile of the total distance and makes the finish a little more interesting.

As I finish, I get the same round of applause from folks awaiting the awards ceremony… better than DURING the awards ceremony.  I end up beating my time from last year by nearly 20 minutes (3:08:09 (’16) 3:28 (’15) ).

I guess I am ready for Way Too Cool and I am (relatively) injury-free.




Big Baz 21K – 2015

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.