This year has been less about marathons and more about trying new adventures. Do your first ultra trail run? Sure, why not. Run across the Grand Canyon? Sign me up! So when I got invited by Atom Buddy to run a crazy uphill race to the top of the highest peak in Southern California? Yeah! Let's do it!
It helped that AB offered to make it a
little mountain getaway weekend at his ski chalet. DW and I went up a
day ahead and escaped the heat of LA, and enjoyed an afternoon at a
little lake in the hills. We carbed up at a local Italian restaurant
that offered HUGE portions of delicious pasta, and then hit the sack
early for our 5AM wake up call.
On the hour+ drive to the start, we got a good look from the freeway at the mountain we would be conquering. ...Yikes...
AB showed me where we were headed...
and I had a WTF attitude about the whole thing.
knew there would be much hiking and no time goals. One way or the other
I would finish. Unless of course the thin air, heat, or steep hills got
to me. Or I fell to my death.
But of course, it WAS a
race, so I was going to try to make it as fast as I could. I hoped my
many runs with the mountain goats would serve me well. And figured it
was a good omen that a goat was on the logo at the starting line.
And I hoped AB and I would be able to run together for much of the race. We started out together.
first 1/4 mile was a steep downhill on the road. Cruising and braking
and getting into position. Then we turned off on to the fire road that
would take us up for the next 4 miles or so.
Meanwhile DW and JB were taking photos, and they rode the ski lift up to the midway point of the race.
From there it was a pretty good view, although not as good as the one we got from the top.
AB and I were still close, but had reached mile 2 and the first time I
had to walk. It was steep, virtually the whole way. I was alternating
running with walking, based on how hard I was breathing and the
steepness of the road. The road was very rocky too, although I saw one
guy in Vibrams, and then another completely barefoot! (Later I saw him
turn back after 5 miles - just too rocky he said)
some mad mountain goat lungs and I gradually watched him pull away from
me, with a sense of resignation. I could only go as fast as my lungs
would let me. I would go back and forth with a lot of the same folks
throughout the race, as we took turns walking and running. It was a nice
sense of camaraderie, and it still felt like racing since I was trying
to hold my own with my slogmates.
of got into a rhythm and kept plugging. Enjoyed the shade when we had
it. Jogged when the slope got a little lighter. Hiked with purpose when I
Eventually I could hear some cheering and knew
we were close to the top of the ski lift. That gave me a little boost of
adrenaline and I cruised through a short cheer zone.
was nice to see DW and JB, but then I had to keep plugging. And it just
got steeper. And the road became more of a trail, with more rocks. If I
looked up I could see where we still had to go.
Yeah, the top there.
Yes, thanks for pointing it out, dear.
were mostly out in the sun, now, sweating buckets and frankly getting
quite smelly. But there was plenty of water at the aid stations. It was
mostly hiking now, and my lower back was getting sore. Occasionally I
had to stop and stretch the back. Parts of the trail got very narrow,
and had huge drops right next to the trail. I saw two people turn back
because their fear of heights wouldn't let them continue. It was
breathtakingly beautiful, and a little scary! Especially this bit.
But the views on this clear day were incredible!
1 mile to go, we had a little stretch of downhill, and it was amazing
how quickly I felt good once I could breathe. We all ran like we just
got out of prison, although there were several trips and stumbles among
all the rocks.
But soon enough we got to the base of the last climb, and braced ourselves for one final push.
all the little ants going up that hill? Difficult? Yes, but crazy fun, I
tell you! The thin air at 10,000' didn't ever bother me. I just hiked
on up, and heard a lot of cheering at the top where it seemed like a big
party was going on. 200 or so fellow lunatics celebrating the conquest.
I ran the last 20 yards or so and had a big smile on my face. AB was
waiting for me after beating me by 5 minutes, and we enjoyed the party
for a while. Eating, drinking, enjoying the view. It felt great to stop -
to breathe normally - and to feel that sense of accomplishment. Much
like Hilary must have felt on Everest...
Here's the ugly data. 4,026' climb. Avg mile pace of 16:58.
we just had to run the three miles back down to the ski lift. But that
was so much more fun than coming up! Cruised along and enjoyed the view.
Soon enough we were back to civilization, to celebrate our
We had victory beers and enjoyed the view on a perfect day.
DW met a new friend during the long wait.
and then it was time to head home.