Big Bear, Catalina, and Tahoe 50K

As we were running up to Gray's Peak in Big Bear, Jess was telling me about this comedian who was saying the best way to ruin a moment, is to acknowledge how awesome it is (here's the clip from Pete Holmes if you are interested). I had to keep that in mind for the past week, and I'm tempted to say that the entire week was McDonald's (which would make sense if you watched that clip).

The week started with the trip to Big Bear for an overnighter as training for the JMT, but really it was just another reason to get out to the mountains. We planned a route up to Gray's Peak, then connecting to Hanna Flat campground, then hitting the PCT where we would camp for the night before heading to the Cougar Crest trail, then looping back to town.

The run went great, a little hot, and a little shorter than we anticipated, but that just meant more quality time to sunbathe in camp. In the continuing saga of my water troubles, I set my pack on top of the bite-valve for my bladder, so when I picked up my suddenly much lighter pack, I realized that the liter of water was slowly soaking through the pine needles and into the dirt. Luckily, I had another bottle, and Jess shared some of his water, so no major problems.

That evening, I found a nice rock overlooking a deep valley filled with burnt trees and new growth and watched an amazing sunset.


My room with a view

Gray's Peak Trail

The day after I returned from Big Bear, I left for a camping trip with my son to Two Harbors on Catalina Island. It was a great overnight trip with a tent overlooking the Pacific, a couple great hikes, kayaking through the harbors, spotting wildlife, swimming in the ocean, s'mores and roasted hot dogs, and hours of searching for the perfect skipping rocks and throwing them side-armed, on the calm, glassy Pacific as the sun set over the hills behind us.

We returned on the ferry and I sat and watched over my dirt-covered, ocean-washed, nappy-headed son with this huge crooked-tooth smile that takes up half his face, as he leaned into the wind and the spray from the boat.


When I got home that night, I packed my bags for Tahoe went to bed early to catch the next day's 6 AM flight to Reno. I met up with Beth, Chad, Treasure, Kara, Joy, James, Brian and Cameron at a humble cabin on the lake. Seriously, this place was beautiful. I judge how nice a place is by how hard it is to work the shower. I'll just say that this place was so nice that I couldn't figure out the shower until the second night, so I had to settle for a bath.

I signed up for the 50K with two main goals: run with my friends, and get some solid altitude training in. So, when the gun went off I quickly got sucked up into a pack and started racing. Looking over my shoulder, I couldn't see Cameron, Treasure or Chad, and after a couple miles, I stopped and waited at a beautiful meadow. I don't remember doing this in a race before, and under different circumstances, I don't think I ever would, but this sense of calm came over me and I knew I was making the right decision to hold back. The rest of the run was amazing, the course, the conversations with friends and other racers, the sweeping views of the was all just perfect. I was really proud of Treasure who had a really fast finish to take 8th, Brian who ran a perfectly-paced race on very little training and finished 7th in the 100 miler, Chad who pushed through some nutrition issues to finish the 50K, and Cameron who worked through some low points to finish strong in his first 50 miler. Beth, Joy, and Kara were amazing support to all of us, and it was just a great race experience. I don't generally like to do the same race twice, but I can say for certain that I'll be back in Tahoe.

Race morning

Finishing with Treasure

I only added this one because it is rare that I look this manly

Our humble cabin
The best part of the week, though, was waking up yesterday morning to long hugs and the sweet smell of my kids' morning breath. It's nice to be back in paradise.

2nd Annual San Elijo Hills Trail Marathon -- Race Report

Over the weekend I organized (and I use that term loosely) the 2nd Annual San Elijo Hills Trail Marathon. This is a run that a group of running friends and I dreamed up on one of our morning runs along the trails that surround our community. We linked up a bunch of local trails to make a 26 mile loop that is mostly trail with a couple miles of road.

There is no sign-up form for this run. I sent out an invitation to a few people, and the word spread and more and more people wanted to join. I warned everyone about the difficulty of the course (there is nearly 5,500 feet of gain in the 26 miles, including the warm-up hike to the start), the lack of aid, and the lack of a capable and responsible race director to complain to. I did promise a very difficult day on the trails, and I guess that appeals to a lot of the people that I know.

For me, the run was a two-day event focused on some very specific training for the John Muir Trail run in August. I ran and marked the first half of the course Friday morning with Nir and Melissa, and I marked the second half Friday evening with Cameron.

Finishing up on day one.

Proper nutrition is important

Saturday morning, I met with the around 30 people who started the run (22 planned on doing the whole thing), and we made the hike up to Double Peak for the 5:30 AM start. The weather, which had been hot the previous weeks, cooled off a little on Saturday and we had a warm, humid, and overcast day.

I didn't want people to rely on aid stations, because I think it's important for people to be self-sufficient for a run like this. However, we had some amazing people come and help support all the runners. Sanam, Joy, Scott, my mom, Ric, and Lynne really helped feed and hydrate the runners at the five aid stations on the course. The aid stations were stocked with fresh fruit (the organic oranges were awesome), rice balls, candy, boiled potatoes and chips.

Aid Station 2

One of the best parts of the day was running to the top of Paint Mountain and retrieving a quote from the notebook that my daughter put together for the run. She compiled about 30 motivational quotes in a notebook, and at the top of one of the more difficult climbs, runners ripped a quote out of the notebook and kept it with them for the rest of the day. Mine was a quote from Kathleen Harris and it read "Don't fear moving slowly forward, fear standing still." It was a perfect mantra for the day as I slowly, but steadily finished the run. The other highlight was finishing, having my daughter place the handmade medal/necklace around my neck and hanging out with friends and family at the finish on top of Double Peak.

Every finisher received a handmade necklace

My quote, sweat-stained and crumpled, as it should be.

I think we had about 20 people finish this year from the super-fast Ben Hian and Chris Sigel to a couple of people who made it their first marathon. Everyone finished with smiles, but the best finishing moment had to be Christine, who, as she crossed the make-shift paper towel finish line, yelled out "fooq you, Dax," in her French accent.

Post-run pizza and beers.

This run is one of my favorite runs I do every year, and I am so lucky to be surrounded with such a great group of people who help make this run happen. I already have plans to make it harder next year along with a new tag-line. Want to know what it is? You'll have to come suffer with us.

There is a little more info on the course in last year's report. Here's an awesome video that Treasure put together from last year's race. I found the pre-race course description hilarious:

Ratings and Recommendations