Check Your Watch!

He's still on his game.
I was entered in the Sean O’Brien 50-miler, but a cold hard eye on my sad probable splits suggested I do something else that day. My likely seventeen hour ETA meant a DNF hook at the final Piuma Creek crossing, a mere 2 miles from the finish. Last month’s SOB50k had several post-DFLs moseying in from here with no urgency, which meant penalty dollars to the race for going over their time limit from the Park Service.

Yes, thats a buzz kill. For them. For you its a reminder to make your training count, and not be a dick. More on that in a bit.

Why We Serve

In that light I decided to volunteer to work at the 13/36mi aid station with Amy Berkin-Chavez and her crew. It beats game-shows and day-drinking.

The fast and the furious came in and went out, they’re pretty much OK. Things got interesting when the early mid-packers arrive, and its a swirl to get them fueled up and gone. 

Then you start seeing the late DFLs, who are probably going to get pulled at Mile 22, the lowest elevation of the Zuma Canyon loop, where things only get harder from there on in. You send them out and move on to the next.

Even though there are no crews allowed at this race, some people and groups seemingly didn’t get the memo. There are access issues involved for the race, as the trailheads are popular for the rest of the LA Metroplex. 

The Race is caught between a rock and a hard place here: telling crews and spectators not to show up, or have a meteor strike in the form of a random interloper with combustible grievances for whatever reason. Don’t laugh, its already happened.

We were lucky that day on that count. 

There are also posers who look like they’re with the race, but aren’t, and gold brick while others are tending runners with bloody noses, banged knees, whatever. Nothing's gonna harsh their buzz. 

Then there’s a lull. This gives the aid station a chance to regroup and prepare for the next wave. 

Where Shit Gets Real

Now the returning front runners start coming. First are the 100k set, and about an hour later the 50mi set. The straggling and hurting 100k laggards will get the auto drop down to the 50-mile race, about 45min or so before the final 50mi cut off at this point. After that everyone’s pulled, period. 

Some are depressed, others are relieved that this shit show is over. There's reception on the Kanan-Dume Road, phones come out and people are making their Plan Bs.

There’s a final cutoff at the 50mile/100k junction for both races, as the 100k’s do a goat-fuck out & back down the Bulldog Road to that turnaround. Lucky them.

Always time for comedy

Meanwhile here at 36 miles, things are getting interesting, as follows:

Young Dude: “this is my first ultra”
“What’s the furthest you’ve run?”
(Dude looks at watch) “36 miles...”

Here’s another. 
Had the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas run ultras he might’ve not gone quietly into the DNF Night either, like this guy:
“My reservoir ruptured immediately after Mile 22”
“So you’re another old man with bladder problems?”
“I wasn’t going to say that because I knew you’d be that smart ass…”
He finished in good form.


John Vanderpot, with his spicy blend of sarcasm and realism.

Big Mouth

Working the fluids was a crash course in finding out what doesn’t work in gear. Again, bladder packs were half full, meaning the runner wasn’t sucking down enough. Plus it requires 3 hands to fill them. I’ve never understood that either. 

The little tiny-mouth Salomon floppy bottles are not well thought out either. Pushing them back into the vests was a date-night buzz kill. Work with me here.

The Necessary Fine Print

It was a relatively mild day out in the Santa Monicas—which are known for high exposure and zero cover. It could’ve been much worse. I’ve trained out there in the summer, and its ruthless. Many of the runners had little dinky 5k hand-held bottles. Not good. 

Ultras wouldn’t happen without volunteers. They’ve blown off their weekend to be there. Those who volunteer at 200s have donated their week. So if you’re chasing a PR or whatever and are rude to volunteers, I recommend being a volunteer to see what its like. 

Races are training bullshit detectors, and hard cutoffs are there to keep worse shit from happening. 

In the midst of all this, I looked up to see a motorcyclist/LA Sheriff’s Dept cycle cop near-collision out on the highway. Then the motorcycle whipped a U-turn and raced north on Kanan, with the LASD and a CHP black & white in hot pursuit.
As OzzyMan would say “…he’s going strite to Destination Fucked.”

I’m glad I wasn’t that knucklehead.  

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