I’m really not a complainer, I’m not. Years of organized discipline have engrained a sense of “just dig and don’t complain” mentality and its proven to be pretty effective over years of marriage and children but I have to say..”Mommy, Mommy this old goats eating my lunch!”
The thought crossed my mind many times on Saturday. Why?, well it was on this day that a brilliantly charismatic old trail runner named Steve Harvey decided to entice us adventure seeking ultra runners into running what’s called the Old Goats 50 Miler Trail run, like a cruel pied piper of sorts. Now, I can’t really say it took a lot to get us to sign up; in fact many of us are local enough to know exactly what we were in for……and we did it anyway. Hey look at that electrical socket!, I think I’ll put this paper clip in it!
I’m not gonna get into MY issues at this race (that would be boring and might make you cry, rather, I’m going to just take us through it).
The general setting for the morning of the race finds you weaving through early morning mountain roads, stretching your eyes open around every turn as if that would make you see better in the dark on Ortega Hwy. Then it happens, suddenly the turn off is upon you!, “Old Goats Trail Run” the letter are in RED which should warn you…but you turn off anyway. After a few more narrow turns you find yourself at Blue Jay campground and park your vehicle on the side of the road behind some other crazy person (which is unusually comforting) and begin your final preparations in the light of your car.
By the time you walk down to collect your bib you’ve said about 5 hellos and good mornings; the great thing is that most of the people you met on your way were friends and familiar faces! Everyone’s collected by the start line and main tents, smiling faces, people bundled up, I can see my breath but the sky looks amazing and I know it’s gonna be a beautiful day.
Pam Everett is here; smiling as always, Michelle Barton and Keith Swiatkowski, Angela Shartel, Carey Edge, Anne and Steve…I could go on and on, this is a favorite local race put on by RD Steve Harvey and it attracts pretty much everyone that I know….and if you haven’t met them…you should, they’re all great people.
As we huddle around the start line, saying our final hello’s we hear the count down and before we know it the crowd has begun to spread out past the start line. Amazing the differences are between my recent LA Marathon run and this, no shuffling, no start line frustration….it “begins YOU and ends YOU” here on the trail. This race will work its way along the San Juan Trail and is one of the most beautiful runs in the area, bouncing along the single path trails, working your way around boulders and trees, up over ridges and down into valleys to boulder over streams and draws; its just an amazing run.
After awhile you hit the first Aid station; alive with activity; your met with encouragement and the smiling faces of even more friends, Keira Henninger (The amazing LD50 RD) and Pam Everett again!, they are serving candy and goodies today…yum yum, I fill my bottles and continue on my way around the Candy Store loop to begin my climb back up San Juan. Scott Mills goes by, steady and strong, very nice; but can’t focus on him, gotta work within myself so I drive on. At this point I begin to cross paths with many other friends due to the nature of the course; at this point we are all fairly fresh and excited……at this point.
I’m happy, been running downhill for some good fun mileage but now it’s time to pay the piper, this continuous uphill can catch you off guard if you’ve burnt your quads coming down and for me…I love technical down hills so I’ve been burning them! By the time I reach Blue Jay I’ve been Chick’d (it’s not really a word- even in the Urban dictionary but its humbling none the less). Actually these women are amazing, Carey, Angela, Michelle…I’m not ashamed, I know these women and yes….you’d get Chick’d too. “Just Smile and Wave Boys, Just Smile and Wave”.
Feeling sore now, Unusually sore (thanks paved marathons) but I’m happy to see Steve and the gang at the Blue Jay Aid Station. “Now aren’t you glad you paid for this?”, Steve said. Dang!, cant cancel my check..I paid cash. With a laugh and cry combination I continue along towards the Main Divide and Trabuco Aid Station, the ground cruches beneath my Cascadias as I work my way up the steep grades towards Trabuco Trail, the sun is out strong today but I’m greeted with a cool wind that at points seems to push me along. Soon I am at the top and with a “Larry!” am greeted by the wonderful Molly Kassouf and suddenly I’ve just forgotten about the last 35 min of grueling hill. She and Eric Koster’s are awesome here and their attitude makes me feel so much better; Molly presents the menu and specials of the day…and what a selection they have!
I sit down to work with my calf that’s been causing problems and it’s here that I notice that I have a ride-along (tick) smack dab on my knee-cap!, what a weird place for a stupid tick.. I mean.. I have softer, more hidden spots than that….but…with Molly’s help he’s gone and I’m on my way(thanks Molly).
The run down Trabuco is relaxing, although its downhill, there are many rocks here and your feet need to adjust to the pounding of this trail, it’s still beautiful and I’m grateful to be able to run and enjoy it. I run along the tree lines, across exposed shale trails, under fallen logs and around shady brooks you see it all here until you are greeted by the Holy Jim Aid Station and its amazing volunteers! A potatoe and salt, a little vasaline, some water and I’m gone again……up, up, up Holy Jim.
Holy@#@$!, or Holy Jim is another beautiful trail through our local mountains as it weaves its way up towards Santiago Peak/Bear Springs. I stop by one of the stream crossings to fill my hat with cold stream water, lifting it up.. I place it directly on my head as the water pours down..Holy @#$@ that felt good. The recent rains have created a wonderfully green hillside, flowers greet the trail lining it with purples, whites, reds and pinks. I decide to run every other switchback in an effort to cut time and generally I stick to it, for awhile at least, then it’s back to hiking the remainder. Its about here that If I were talking about just me during this run…I’d tell you it didn’t look good, but… induldge me as I continue.
Lorraine Gersitz powers by and offers some encouragement, speaking of encouragement, she is another amazing runner; an inspiration. As I made my way to Bear Springs I hear laughing, loud laughing coming from the top of the rise. Bear Springs Aid Station greets me with a smack in the face!, Bill Ramsey a Grand Canyon R2R2R partner, LT the 100 mile superhero and BAAZ! Ha ha what a collection of volunteers to get the motivation meter back up… I tried to explain my problems but they didn’t care, they kicked me out and sent my sorry ____ up the hill toward Santiago Peak!, actually this is a great place to have this collection of professionals, experienced and beyond knowledgeable, I felt in good hands here.
The journey to the top of Santiago Peak is one I’ve done many times now, it’s a test and not to be taken lightly, on the top somewhere is a journal for all those that have made the journey and here we are racing to the top; it’s a compliment to all of us and to some a journey not just to the top but one of self discovery.
I see my friend David Cristof heading down the peak, his stride looks strong and his attitude is always resolute, he encourages me as we pass, driving me on. After a brief stop and a suggestion for lay down cots at the Peak Aid Station I begin my decent and return to Blue Jay, on my way down , I see Jean Ho defiantly working her way up the peak, smiling we wish each other the best and continue on…. What a wonderful day, I’ve made it to the top of the world and will take each journey with me for the rest of my life.
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