San Marcos, CA (July 7, 2012)
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
The Inaugural San Elijo Hills Trail Marathon is the latest creation by Dax Ross and if you’re searching for this event on Active.com, you’re not going to find it. Not yet at least. Advertised as the “slowest marathon of your life” and making it apparent that “you will get lost,” I couldn’t say no to this adventure or to the rad t-shirt we were going to receive. I don’t know why, but I’m always stoked to get a new shirt. Girls and their clothes, we can’t get enough.
The pre-event course talk included aid station info, the breakdown of various twists, turns, ascents and descents, and course marker info pertaining to a single set of red balloons at mile 12. Go RIGHT at the red balloons, got it. Everything else….what? We were advised to carry our cell phones, but I knew reception was minimal in most areas therefore straying too far away would be a big no no. I knew what was in store for the day after looking at the elevation profile on the t-shirt and I am pleased to say that the intensity did not disappoint. (….go right at the red balloons, go right at the red balloons….)
I squatted behind a bush to do some quick business and then joined the group for the trek to the starting area above the clouds. With 17 humans and one canine kicking off the day (the dog would hammer out 5 miles), we set out with a casual pace descending below the clouds and onto the trails. What’s a trail race without someone biting it, right? Although I didn’t commit 100% to falling, I did have a nice trip and knee hyperextension around mile 2. (….go right at the red balloons, go right at the red balloons…)
At mile 5 we hit our first aid station and enjoyed the amazing preparations that went into this. Anything we could want was provided with plenty to go around. All volunteers at the aid stations were family members, friends or significant others of the runners. I dipped a rice ball in salt and began to walk on with Jess and Paul to keep the momentum going. It was time to climb our first peak and Jess and I chatted about how this is all we’d be doing for 18 hours when we (+Paul and Dax) tackled the upcoming Triple Crown. Downhilling is one of my strengths, therefore I always strive to grow stronger in ascending hills. By signing on to do events such as this, I get to tackle my weaknesses rather than avoid them. (….go right at the red balloons, go right at the red balloons…)
Running down into the wilderness, branches and plants begin to slap me in the face. Being short means being eye level with alot of hazardess stuff and unfortunately my shades suffer the consequences of that. The group became a little spread out as we spent the next few miles ascending and descending hills. Unfortunately, a few of us took a 1.5 mile detour off the course by following a sign that had been turned around. It appeared we’d be running an ultra that day instead. (….go right at the red balloons, go right at the red balloons…)
As we found our way back on course, we had to turn left at the red balloons instead. The one direction I remembered from the course talk was no longer valid. At mile 12 we were greeted by more amazing volunteers and aid station goods. After dodging packs of cyclists and cars on a road crossing, we dodged a few obstacles in a construction zone before our next peak. The sun made an appearance, the temperature began to rise and shade was minimal. My trail shoes dug into the top of my right foot and my foot felt like it was breaking. However, there was no use crying over it, it was just time to go shopping for new shoes! The aid station at mile 18 rolled around and continuing with the pattern, the support crews are amazing. (…no more red balloons, no more red balloons…)
We set out for more miles and I pulled over to drop a deuce (while watching out for rattlesnakes) and Patti kept me company in my endeavours. I kept it quick, but we lost sight of Dax and had an adventure of our own by missing a turn and taking a 3 mile detour. If only we had more red balloons. It did specifically say on the invite that “you will get lost” and I expected nothing less.
As my pack ran dry on fluids, we made it back on course and hit up our final aid station at mile 23 (+4.5 miles from all of my detours) where the cutest dog ever was waiting to play fetch. This immediately brightened my day as I threw a few sticks for him while using the annoying squeeky voice (with a slight speech impediment) I get when I see and/or talk to dogs. Eventually, I pulled myself away and Patti and I brought it in to the finish where my awesome t-shirt awaited me.
A huge thank you to Dax for arranging this Saturday sufferfest and to the other runners for just kicking ass in general. A special thank you to the volunteers at our aid stations for the support. Seriously, the best aid stations I’ve seen yet. I would love to do this again next year and actually stay on course!