Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Weekend with Friends Old and New: 100K at the Born to Run Marathons

Carrie, Kevin, and Julianne on the course

It was a weekend of firsts at the Born to Run Marathons.

For the event itself, it was the first year they would be held. 

Conceived by Race Director Luis Escobar, the Born to Run Marathons were created "for runners by runners" and consisted of 100 mile, 100K, 50K, and 10 mile running events. As the event website put it: "Join us for a weekend of camping and trail running on the beautiful East Creek Ranch in Los Olivos California." 

Like the description on the website, the event was understated, casual, and comfortable. One runner afterwards called it "authentic." It seemed an entirely appropriate description of the event.

Barefoot Ted talks while we sit in the sun
Raffle for Moeben Sleeves and Drymax socks... everyone got something

Barefoot Ken Bob talks barefoot running

RD Luis addressing the crowd... yeah, he's the one in the chicken suit

For runners like Kathy Higgins, it was a first 100 Miler. 

Not content to merely complete the distance, Kathy would end up smoking the course in 21:21, distinguishing herself for not only blasting through each aid station looking as fresh as if the gun had just gone off, but for leaving her numerous pacers literally in the dust 10-20 feet behind her.

Kathy had an incredible team of friends and family supporting her all night, and turned in a jaw-dropping performance (literally... each time she would blaze past we would be left looking at each other with our mouths open and eyes agog). Amazing. 

For Mauricio Puerto, it was a first 50K run entirely barefoot.

Having never run more than three miles barefoot before, Mauricio decided to run the 100K distance barefoot "mostly because it was something different and was an adventure." During his run Luis would allow him to drop down to 50K after finding some sections of the trail quite hard on the feet; Mauricio would run or walk every step of that 50K barefoot. 

We saw Mauricio several times on the course, and while his gait signaled to us clearly that he was having some discomfort, his words were always positive and his smile cheerful... he would exchange words with us as if there was nothing at all unusual going on, and then he'd move on down the trail.

For Christi Crovato, Scout Phillips, Kevin Stuart, Julianne Whitelaw, Michael Epler, Carrie Dent, and many others, it was a first 100K. 

Carrie, Kevin, Julianne, and Christi on their way to 100K

I was there with my good friend Christi to see if we could make her first 100K attempt a success. It was a success, but for far greater reasons than we had anticipated, for not only did Christi finish the run, but she enjoyed nearly every step of the journey and made new friends along the way.

While completing Christi's journey, we met others on a similar track... they were there for their first 10 mile, 50K, 100K, or 100 Mile run. Not everyone finished the run that they set out on, but we all learned a little something about each other and ourselves before the weekend was through.

Christi and Scott Kennedy, who was running in the 100 Mile
Scout finishing her first 100K

As for the ranch... man, was that a beautiful ranch.

East Creek Ranch

The owner of the ranch was one Mr. Chamberlin (his first name escapes me at this time). He had graciously allowed us to inhabit the land for the few days as we camped and ran, providing, of course, that we leave the land as we found it.

The ranch was beautiful, with sweeping, grassy fields and large gnarled trees that provided both interest and shade, both while we reclined on the grass in the days before the event...

Enjoying the sun and the breeze at East Creek Ranch

...and while we ran the 20 mile loop the next day.

Beautiful trees giving shade on the pink loop

Which now, of course, leads us to the course itself...

"This course is not easy."

It was a funny thing.

The night before the run as we sat chatting in the campground, we all felt surprisingly unconcerned about the run itself. In less than 12 hours we would be getting up to run 100K, a distance far longer than some of us had ever attempted... yet the atmosphere in the camp was one of contentment and happy anticipation.

Not that Luis hadn't tried to warn us, however.

Prior to the event, in fact, Luis had sent the following e-mail out with "need to know information" to all the runners (the bold formatting is my own):

It is not easy. The course is twenty miles separated into two ten mile loops that intersect in the center... 
Etc. etc. etc., you get the idea... then he finished with this:

The course is very runnable but it is not easy. 
I don't know about you, but I think he was trying to communicate that... well... aw heck, I'm just not sure.

Actually, I had a brief start upon first seeing his e-mail, then realized he was doing exactly the right thing by reminding us that while we had signed up for a "relaxed" event on a "flat" course with "gentle, rolling hills" - well, we would still have to run 62 miles. Or walk it. Or whatever.

In every race, I try to remember to respect the distance. Luis's reminder was a timely one: have fun, but respect the distance.

A good night's sleep, and then... we run 

The campfire and music were going until about 9PM at night, at which time Luis named all the runners who would be competing in the 100 Miler the next day into the loudspeaker, then bid us all goodnight. 

Camp site

We were woken at 4:45AM to the sound of Luis announcing "Wake up, it's time to get up!" before blasting some Merle Haggard over the speakers. We started giggling in our sleeping bags like kids as it dawned on us: we'd be running our 100K today!

Gathered at the start for coffee and instructions before the race

At the starting area, Luis went over the instructions one more time, which included such gems:
"First, you'll do the pink loop. It's NOT an exact loop. It's about 10 miles. There's one aid station. How far away is it? I don't know. About a bottle." 

"The pink loop is marked by pink ribbons. They'll be on your left hand side - keep them ON YOUR LEFT. Except for sometimes... when they'll be on your right. Other than that... KEEP THEM ON YOUR LEFT."

"We are not tracking your time and when you start and stop each loop - I don't care about your time. If you care about your time, keep track of it. This is ultrarunning. No-one cares how many seconds you came in on."
And, finally, my favorite:
"This is ultrarunning. In the next 24 hours, something bad WILL happen to you."
Swearing the oath... and the start

After Luis had finished, Caballo Blanco steped to the front and we all raised our hand and swore an oath:

"I understand that doing this run with Luis and Caballo might not be a good idea. If I get bitten by a rattlesnake, lost, injured, or die, it is my own fucking fault. Amen."

We all swore, clapped, and cheered, then stepped to the starting line... then with a shotgun blast from Mr. Chamberlin, we were off and running.

And now, pictures from the course

After that, we spent the day running, hiking, laughing, and talking.

The course consisted of one 10-mile "pink" loop that started and finished at the S/F area, then a 10-mile "yellow" loop that did the same thing, but over different ground. Luis called it a 20-mile figure 8, but all the runners seemed to think of it as 10-mile loops... it was easier to process in your head while you were out there.

I could go into more detail, but that's really all there is to it, so instead I'll share some pictures from the course... I took my camera with me on the 2nd yellow loop, having decided on the first time through that it was my favorite and knowing I'd like some more pictures to remember it by.

The majority of the terrain was grassy fields with rolling hills

More paths past cool trees

Scott and crossing the creek bed behind Christi

Single track with great views... favorite part of the course.

So... how was it?

The running itself was awesome. Christi and I completed our run in 13:13, or thereabouts. Our splits for each 20 miles were fairly even: 3:50, 4:10, 4:40, then we did the last 2 miles in 23 minutes.

The approach to the S/F area and Home Base... nearly there!

I cared about our splits because I wanted us to run an even race... no bombing through the first 20 miles because we felt good, or like we "should".

I also knew we would need to stay on top of our nutrition, so in this run we also kept our focus on fueling, and it went off without a hitch.

Overall... we done good.

After the event, Christi would ask me if we should have gone faster (I think it was mostly out of curiosity and that tickle in your mind that makes you wonder what else might have been achieved), but at the time (and after) we were happy to cover the distance... that was an appropriate goal.

It was her first 100K, for goodness sake. Finishing the run and enjoying ourselves was more than enough.

After the finish

When we finished, we got a magnet from Luis to put on the fridge (and I wish I'd taken a picture, because the words "refridgerator magnet" just don't do it justice, but that's ok).

On the magnet was the iconic shot from the cover of the book Born to Run. It's a gorgeous shot with intense colors, and it will be nice to see it everyday as a reminder of the run.

For the 1st place male and female finishers, a plaque was given - it was a beautiful metalic plaque mounted on wood that could be hung on the wall, again showing the image from the cover of Born to Run, the same image that is on the Event Website.

As for the finishers?
We hung around long enough to see several of those that we had been running with that day complete their run. As we stayed close to the campfire near the finish line, Julianne, Kevin, Ben Morgan, and Scout all crossed as they completed their 100K.

All were exhausted... all were very happy.

Julianne finishing her 100K

For the 100 Milers, we got to see Kathy Higgins blasting through at mile 70, in typical fashion with her pacer far behind... then, as we had all day when we saw her, we cheered her on and then looked at each other as she left, shaking our heads in amazement at her scorching performance.

As mentioned before, Kathy would finish her 100 Mile in 21:21, the first female. The first male was Guillermo Medina in 18:58. We saw Guillermo several times throughout the day also, always far, far ahead and looking peaceful and... well, fast.

There were many other successful finishers, and many other runs that did not get finished for one reason or another, but overall, it seemed that a good time was had by all.

In conclusion... finally...

Well, heck... it was just a really wonderful event.

Luis wanted to create an event "for runners, by runners"... I thought I knew what he meant before going to Born to Run, but now I know for sure what it means... and I know how it feels.

I'm already looking forward to next year.

Thanks again to the volunteers - Bill Kee, Jennifer Cline, Mara Klassen, Beverly Escobar, Kelly Griggs, and a bunch of other folks whom I cannot name but still need to thank - like the family at the bottom of the hill, who had the aid station and whose little kids filled up our water bottles as we stopped by. 

Thanks to Barefoot Ken Bob, Barefoot Ted, and Caballo Blanco for sharing their advice and experiences about barefoot running and running in general... and of course to Luis for putting the event together. It was, by all accounts, an exceptional event. 

Born to Run 2012, here we come!


  1. Thanks for helping me get there, you and Christi are rockstars. I forgot to tell you, I thought of a name for you both, or an acronym rather, while out on the course: BAM's. Y'all are a couple of Bad Ass Mom's. Look forward to seeing y'all out there next year, if not sooner.
    Thanks for everything, and a great report!

  2. We are Bad Ass Moms!! Ha ha, I love it! Hey... that makes you one, too :) By the way, thanks again for helping us figure out how to raise the gate... THAT would have been embarrassing.... ;)