Saturday, August 28, 2004

Back in the L.A. Sun – Bulldog 30k, August, 2004

For race #11 in the Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series (, I returned to Malibu Creek State Park, the same location as the Malibu Creek Challenge ( , see this page for hotel and travel info) just a few months ago. One would think it would be the exact same race, but since the Bulldog Run ( is put on by Nancy Shura and Ultraladies, it had a very different vibe to it. These ladies are fun, kicked back, and DEADLY FAST. Nancy also puts on the Valley Crest Half Marathon earlier in the summer, and many runners were saying it was epic.

The Bulldog had two options, a 30k and 50k. The crowd seemed more like an “ultra” crowd, and you could tell by the more relaxed pre-race conversation and the abundance of Camelbaks, gators, and head to toe SPF 50 gear. These folks were ready to make a day of it! There were about half as many racers in the 30k as the Malibu Creek Challenge Half Marathon, and a few familiar faces. Weather was similar, and the view was one of a kind – gorgeous fog on the right, smog on the left. ;oP The 50k folks had already left in the wee hours of the morning on an out-and-back course, so as we did a modified one-loop course (it was the Malibu Creek Challenge Course, with a couple of miles of hills added to the beginning, an extra mile trail loop about half way through, and some extra creek hopping at the end), we would see them coming and going.

Within a mile of the start, three of us pulled off the front with Dale Reicheneder (who placed at the Malibu Creek Challenge as well) and Alan Goldstein setting a furious pace off the front. Once those two hit the hills, they were gone for good. Jesse Haynes (of OLN “Everest Challenge” fame) passed me as we hit the Bulldog Trail, still able to hold a conversation as the incline steepened. We started running into a few of the 50k folks, and some of them told us how the trail had been sabotaged (even going as far as remarking the chalk) and had forced the front pack to go an extra couple of miles before turning around. That’s bad news on a 13 mile run…can’t imagine what that means on a 50k. Still, they all took it in stride and smiled their way through the pack again.

I had seen the Malibu sunrise over the clouds before, but it was so breathtaking I had to look again as we crossed the highest peak. But this time I looked a little too long and stepped right off the trail, falling down the side of the hill. As I got my bearings, some of the 50k runners helped me up and pointed out that I was bleeding from my head, shoulder, and hip. One of them said “but no broken bones, so catch your breath and get back on the trail” (the ease with which this rolled off his tongue made me wonder what kind of hell these ultra folks put themselves through on a regular basis). He was right though – it was four miles to the next aid station, and sitting on a trail bleeding from my melon wasn’t going to get me any closer. So I brushed myself off and found a comfortable pace.

Within a mile, I had caught the two who helped me up and he said “you’re running pretty fast, are you okay?”. I said I felt comfortable….but in fact I couldn’t feel much at all, as the adrenaline was still fresh in my bloodstream. I looked at my watch, but couldn’t do the math to figure out my pace. As I worked down the hill, the leaders of the 50k were on their way back up. It looked like a race in slow motion – they were just a few hundred feet apart, but going slightly faster than a “fast walk” pace. But clearly they knew their limits. Jorge Pacheco (last year’s winner) was leading, with a few guys within a 1000 yards of him, and JulieAnne White was working her way through the top 5 (I told you these ultraladies were fast). JulieAnne ended up getting 2nd overall behind Jorge ( I cruised down the hill, but not fast enough to outrun Alan Zarembo who went flying by me. I ended up placing 5th (, running the last 8 miles at a sub-7 pace! Apparently I should crack my skull more often.

The volunteers at the first aid tent were more than happy to patch me up, and sent me on my way with some ibuprofen. Christi, now a pro at being a spectator/coach/paramedic, hosed me down to stay cool. As the results were read off I realized I got 5th overall, but 4th in my age group. As I said before, you gotta bring your A game to beat folks like Dale (who got 1st), Alan (2nd), and Jesse (3rd). Karen Kelly came in a few minutes after me, looking strong right to the end.

Nancy Shura apologized profusely for the sabotaged trail, and as she explained what lengths they went to in order to prevent it, I realized that this is a recurring problem. It’s such a shame that people who go that far out of their way – this would have had to have occurred around 3am. But in the end, nobody was angry and everyone had fun. As Nancy proved, success can be as much about getting the right group of people in the first place.

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