SOB50 Shades Of Clay

I didn't choose it, it chose me.
'All happy ultras are alike; each unhappy ultra is unhappy in its own way.'
Dr Sevende Sandia, obscure Mexican mystic
Normally this story begins as One Man’s Challenge—the original plan of a 50-mile ShoppingKart Odyssey; and was thwarted when the cart did not leave the Gelson’s lot. And therein lies the story of redemption, and how the sport of ultrarunning was spared irreparable harm as a result. Read on. Or skip ahead to the fart jokes and trail porn further down.
Scenic Chavez Peaks on a sunnier day.

 PREQUEL to The Morning Skinny

The Sean O’Brien 50 was my first 50-mile race since 1999, where I DNF’d at Leona Divide. On a wild notion I signed up for it, the course was the same one I’d first starting trail running on in 1990. Course begins and ends at Malibu Creek State Park—a 14mi stem with a 22mile loop through Zuma Cyn, then back to the barn. The 100k, 50k, and marathon were run with wave starts on variations of the overall course. Everybody got their money’s worth.

I’d soon find out what was right, and what was left. I’ll break your heart right now and tell you that I didn’t make the slow-clap walk to the podium. You’ll adjust.

Two Strange Days.

Prior to the race, I carbo-loaded like the Olden Gods did in the last century—with a 3-day build of Carbo-Pro mixed in mango nectar, cranberry juice [64oz ea, w equivalent water], and finally Gatorade [32oz ea, w equivalent water]. It left me wobbly, jittery and brain-fuzzed. It did not give me speed, psychic abilities, or make me into the Dalai Lama. It gave me enough calories that the first 30 miles were going to be relatively pleasant.


Cutoffs were serious. Race management didn’t want stragglers and jerkoffs out on remote sections of the course. Miss the cutoffs and you were dropped down to the next race [50k or Marathon]. That’s not what I came for, the numbers were tight, and all my training runs were slower than the cutoffs. Holy fucking shit.
  • 13mi:    0930 / Kanan Dume 1 / arr 0900
  • 22mi:    1200 / Bonsall / arr 1100
  • 37mi:    1600 / Kanan Dume 2 / arr 1500
  • 44mi:    1800 / Corral Cyn 2 / arr 1705
When I hit Kanan Dume 1 at 0900, I popped a stiffie! Things were starting to look doable. Up and over to Bonsall, I was running an hour ahead. The long, grinding section out of Bonsall up and over, then down into remote Zuma Cyn. And this section is hard. Then up and back to Kanan, then the long inbound hump n bump back to the finish. I knew this course forwards and backwards. 


Nobody. The misting started early afternoon, and the soon the clay began to metamorphose into various types of congeal. By 37, trails were slick, and I’m certain that many found themselves under-dressed for the occasion.


At Kanan Dume 2, the aid station that had been, to paraphrase Mickey Avalon, pretty damned skippy were now hungry like a hippie. It was down to basics like potatoes and solids, all the spendy gels had been hoovered up by the 26.2 and 50k set.

Of course my bib number [069] attracted some passing attention. One example— from an equally aulde and wizened trail veteran who’m I’ll call “Dave Emmons”

“Nice number, Lar…”
“Thanks Dave. I didn’t choose it, it chose me”
“And why’s that?”
“Because I’m a dedicated vajitarian…and as we all know, its the only religion that puts 2 smiles on my face…”
Of course he knew the script exactly, but motion ceased on the punch line, the rain was forgotten, and everybody had a laugh.


The next section brought the worst of the mud. In one stretch there was no drainage, and a face-plant was narrowly averted. Consolation prize—a double fistful of mud in each hand, which after gripping bushes and vines to escape, was removed on every other sodden bush that wasn’t poison oak. But since I’d seen this on on a muddy wet training run 3 weeks earlier, it was no big deal. I didn’t melt away.


By 44/Corral Cyn 2 it was drizzling and foggy on top. My gaiters had popped their velcro by this point, so dirt was coming in the shoes. To stop now would be totally useless, just kept on. Fog was thick and patchy, so our small mid-pack peleton made tracks back down the Backbone Trail where we’d started with high hopes of finishing that morning. Made the creek crossing, back through Tapia Park, up and over the notch into Malibu Creek SP. By this time we could hear the noise and fury of the finish.

“Lets run this fucker in for the last 100 yards and look like heroes.” 

So we did. 13:25 thru the pylons.


Kept walking right thru the finish area, and back up to the camp site. Took the coldest shower ever to get the mud, grit, slime and salt off. Why so cold? Token-dispensor for the shower was out of order. All you got was cold. Which was bracing. Fell into the tent after eating Greek yogurt, dill pickles and Triple Ginger Cookies. Slept reasonably well, all things considered. And when the misty-gray dawn appeared, began to move slowly again.

Things I Forgot About

  • The neuroma in the left foot that decided to wake up after 10yrs dormancy 6 miles in. Flare, as in HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS HURTS flare. 
  • The left calf muscle that I'd torn 3 yrs ago flaring up somewhere around 36-40 miles. They both calmed down and I didn't wind up in the shit. 
  • Forgetting to deliver on the fart jokes. 

Musical trivia:

Tunes that took up extended residence in my head that day.
"Century's End" by Donald Fagen
"Man Of The World" by Mary Coughlan
"My Dick" by Mickey Avalon

Hotel Bibler when it was sunny & bright the day before.
Hallucinatory imagery from the race, when it was still young and beautiful.


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