I’ve done my share of tough trail runs that turn into hikes at some point and I have done some cool backpacking trips that I wonder just how fast I could have moved if I wasn’t under such a heavy load. With all that said, the Vivian Creek Trail to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio is TOUGH.
I went into this thinking I can run 7 miles up Mt Baldy in under 2 hours without it being my top effort. I should be able to run / hike San Gorgonio at least at 3 miles per hour pace Making this a 6 hour trip. Once again mother nature bitch slapped me. The first mile took 21 minutes, without stopping, and that includes starting from the trailhead, so it all wasn’t straight up.
Once you cross the riverbed, it goes straight up. One of the toughest miles I have gone up. It took us 21 minutes and my calves were on fire. I knew then the day might be a little longer than I originally planned. With one or two minute stops to shoot some video the miles were averaging 22 minutes. When we reached the two hour mark we were at mile 5.2 and the day would get slower from there.
The altitude hit me around 9,500 feet of elevation. My heart rate would not lower and could hear my pulse. I figured it was better to slow down and play it safe. I live close to sea level. I was up there without any acclimation. By 10,000 feet the trail was getting steeper again and the next mile was difficult. In fact, Norma, a lady I met on the mountain, said it was the steepest part of the trail. I think the first mile is steeper but you are moving at 11,000 feet of elevation and the air is thinner. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and it was good enough to pass people.
The last 500 feet of elevation gain felt easier. Maybe I was getting used to the altitude but the trail did flatten a little. I tried to jog but my heart rate raced up again so I walked quickly to the summit.
It was a perfect day. The summit is know to be cold and windy. From what I read, people stay 10 – 15 minutes then head back down. When we got there and over the next 45 minutes 33 people ending up partying on the summit at 11,503 feet. One local said it was the most people she had ever seen up there at one time. We ate, took pictures with the San Gorgonio sign, walked around and enjoyed the view for almost an hour. Feeling refreshed we started to head back down.
Four hours up so we figured 3 hours down. We ran the runable sections. It quickly became a quad pounding experience. We felt bad because we would pass people take a break, they would catch us then we would pass them again, requiring them to move over and let us pass them again. After 2 miles down we limited out breaks and ran the next 5 miles.
We passed these two quick hikers then a mile later they were in front of us again. They had done this hike a few times and knew “legal shortcuts”. That one probably saved them a half mile. We followed them down the next one. It was probably the old trail and it did save us a little time but it was steep, no running.
With 2 miles to go our 3 hour guess was going to be fairly accurate. We were moving right around a 17 minute mile pace until we hit 1.5 to go. About here is where the trail gets extremely steep with loose rocks and a cliff on one side of the trail. This was the toughest mile for me because my toes were jamming into the front of my shoes, my legs felt like mile 26 of a marathon and the riverbed looked way down there. We moved as fast as we safely could. We could almost taste the beer that would be waiting for us at a Mexican restaurant down the road in Forest Falls.
We made it down in 3 hours and 6 minutes. Overall a fantastic day. It was great to do it some good friends, Paul and Henry. I was doing it as a training hike for my trip to Mt Whitney later the year. We had a beer and got home hours later than I expected but it was totally worth it,
Here are some take-aways: Always be prepared. The hike is a full 18 miles round trip with over 5,000 feet of climbing. Add at least 2 hours to what you think your fastest time would be. Climbing mountains is always harder than I think. I took 132 ounces of liquid and drank close to 100. I bought three layers of shirts and used two of them. Remember, it was perfect day. I used lots of sunscreen. I wish I had more “real” food like sandwiches and fruit. I came back with some trail trash but overall the trail was clean, thank you hikers. Mt Whitney here I come.
My Garmin data is below. I must have bumped the stop button on the way down so basically I only have the climb but that’s what matters. It has the elevation 400 feet lower than what it says on its own map. Go figure. Moving time just over 3 hours up, check “View Details” in the lower right corner of the Garmin data box below. I feel pretty good about that.
Train Focused, Steve Mackel – In Training for Mt Whitney
I love all the Xterra races. I love to be out on a trail, in the mountains, by a lake, near a beach, in a desert, wherever they go. Just get me off road. I get recharged by nature. Plus, I love the athletes that participate in these races. They seem a little more hardcore but super friendly. The fields are smaller because I think many people are afraid tripping, spraining a ankle, running up and down big hills or just the unknown that road races don’t give you. In fact, I have been reading recent reviews of road races and Many people complain that some are too hilly and could the race director please do something about it. Not every race needs to be on a flat, fast course so you can get a personal record, (PR). Trail race are a great challenge.
The Snow Valley XTerra trail races take place in the San Bernadino Mountains. You start at an elevation of around 6,500 feet and it peaks out over 7,000 feet. There is a little altitude adjustment you have to deal with or maybe it’s just the 2.5 mile climb right out of the gate. Either way my heart rate was extremely high the entire race. I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor for this race because I knew it would be sliding out of place and I didn’t want the hassle.
The course is two 6 mile loops, with a 1k loop to start. It goes up for 2 miles. Most of this section is on a switchback, single track trail to get you to the first aid station and onto the fire road. The next 2 miles are rolling but not too steep. Then comes the downhill but they throw in a quarter mile uphill section just to torture you.
The race is very well organized. It started on time. I think you must carry water or sports drink on you in this race. The first aid station is over 2 tough miles from the start and on a warm, sunny day, I would have been bummed if I wasn’t wearing a Fuel Belt. The rest of the aid stations seemed well placed.
The medal is great. It is large, colorful and looks classy.
After the race the start the awards ceremony and you get a free lunch consisting of a burger, chips and drink (beer is extra) if you are a participant. Spectators can buy food.
You can drive up there on the morning of the race with on-site registration. The drive is about 1.75 hours from LA and OC. We choose to spend the night camping at the Snow Valley ski resort. it was fun to camp with many other racers but Snow Valley keeps a bunch of flood lights on which infringed on my stargazing.
The bottom line is that this is a well run, difficult race at altitude. They vibe is your typical low maintenance trail runner vibe. Everyone seemed friendly and cool. There are some hardcore athletes but very welcoming of all levels of racers. I would definitely participate in this race again.
My Garmin race data is below. Click “View Data” on the bottom right of the Garmin frame
Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Trail Runner
With races becoming so popular, some selling out in hours, you have to plan in advance.
First on the the list is climbing Mt Whitney in September. The next couple of months are focused on training for this hike. I’ve never been to Whitney before. I don’t know what 14,000+ is going to feel like so the training includes: Snow Valley Half Marathon, 16 mile hike to the top of San Gorgoino and Run to the Top of Mt Baldy race.
Second and Third are Marine Corps Marathon and ING New York City Marathon. My goal for these two races are back to back weekend sub 4-hour races. I have never done that before. It should be a good test because I think, depending on the conditions, NYC is a more difficult course. That means I have to go in strong enough that I can cruise to a 3:55 at MCM. And, 3:55 has never been a cruise for me for but very doable. Then have a good race in NYC
Topanga Turkey Trot – Thanksgiving Day, its a tradition and a beautiful trail race that sells out.
Santa Barbara Red Rock Trail Marathon – No goals, just happy to be doing another trail race.
Maybe throw an Olympic or sprint distance triathlon in there somewhere.
2014 The Big Goal – My first 100k?
I am looking at 100k races. I want to run in a beautiful place that I have never been before. That is why I am looking at the Bryce Canyon 100k. The 2014 date hasn’t been announced but last year it was in late May. Utah is stunning country and I have never been to Bryce Canyon. 100k is a long time on your feet. We’ll see.
There will be lots of races and training building up to that in early 2014 like the Boney Mt Trail Half, a must do race, Surf City and LA Marathon, but the focus will be getting ready for 100k, with a lot less support than I had at the American River 50 Miler.
How’s the rest of your year looking? Do you have any big goals that you need to start planning for now? The bottom line is that there are so many great races and goals to need to start planning now.
Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Head Coach Sole Runners Full and Half Marathon Training Programs
I'll let the video do the talking but I love this race. In fact, I think it may be the premier trail half marathon in Southern California. Located in Newbury Park, these trails offer challenging climbs, steep decents and beautiful views. It has some technical parts but most of the trail is straight forward.
It starts out in the base of the parking lots with bathrooms. Once you get running you go about a 1/2 mile until you hit “Concrete Hill” which is straight down for 3/4 of a mile. From there it is a single track until mile 5. At the water station you open up onto a fire road down to the ranch. It flattens out here. There are porta-potties and an aid station.
After taking gel head up toward Boney Mt. The next 4 miles are straight up at a gain of about 500 feet per mile. At mile 10 you reach the top and you hit a fast down hill section. At mile 11.5 there is one more real hill with an aid station at the top. Then it's back home.
The trails are on National Park Service land and the race is managed by Generic Events. This race, as with most the Xterra races brings out strong runners and people who love the trails. This was my second year running this race, plus I did the preview training run two-weeks before. I can't recommend this race enough but be warned, It Is Tough.
Put this race on your schedule for 2014. Below are my Garmin stats. When reviewing my stats, please remember I ran the New Year's Night Half Marathon the night before so I kinda fell apart around mile 9.
Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Founder MarathonTraining.TV
Join the Newbury Park Sole Runners and So Cal Coyotes to Preview the Boney Mt Trail Half Marathon Course
The Sole Runners always come out in force to support the Xterra Trail Races. This weekend in conjunction with the So Cal Coyotes were are going out to Newbury Park for the official run/preview the Boney Mt. Trail Half Marathon course. As you can see by the map and elevation chart, this is a difficult and rewarding course. It has views of the Channel Islands, beautiful single tracks and unique fire roads.
This Saturday, December 22, is your opportunity to run the course before the race. If you can’t make it race day, come Saturday you can still run these beautiful trails with a group.
It is a tough course and takes most people between 2.5 hours to 3.5 hours. The Sole Runners will also offer a shorter option around 10 miles.
We will meet a 8 AM at the Rancho Sierra Vista/ Satwiwa Park Gates, which open at 8.The run starts at 8:30 AM
Main entrance – cross street is Via Goleta and Potrero Road, Newbury Park, CA, 91320
Take the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) to Lynn Road exit. South on Lynn Road. 5.25 miles to Via Goleta. Park Entrance on the left.
For more information email Coach Steve at: Steve@MarathonTraining.TV
Use this link for a larger version of this map: http://www.trailrace.com/maps/boney_map.pdf
Here’s my video from last years race
Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Head Coach Sole Runners Full and Half Marathon Training Programs
A great race under any circumstance. They offer a 5k, 10k and 15k all which are difficult. This is classic trail running with the 15k featuring the 3 mile Garapito trail. The Garapito trail is a single track that winds under branches, tight turns, up and down hills.
This is also great training for marathons, half marathons and ultras. The course is well supported. These races are on Thanksgiving Day morning, allowing you to Earn Your Bird. The people who attend this race are always very cool and the field is very competitive.
After the race they serve a light breakfast with eggs, tortillas, fruit and rolls. This is a must do race especially if you live in So Cal.
Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Certified ChiRunning® Instructor
Generic Events’ Xterra Series is in full swing now. The Topanga Turkey Trot the the second race in the series. I ran the 15k. They offered a 5k and a 10k too.
This Thanksgiving Day provided perfect weather for running. This race starts straight uphill for almost 2 miles before you hit the rolling single track. This is real single track. There are some technical spots. You have to beware of low branches and roots. Once on the single track it is almost impossible to pass other runners. I used it as a slight recovery section because at mile 5 the trail opens onto a fire road and the race is on. What do you you have left for the final 4 miles of up and down hills? You’ll find out.
The last mile is a screaming downhill. I didn’t get any finish line footage because I was running way too fast and in a neck and neck race with some other runner. My overall time was 1:26:35, 66th OA (overall) and and 6th in my AG (age group). Not bad considering I was filming this race but the competition was tough.
This is a must do race for trail runners and a great way to burn calories before you eat your T-Day dinner. Put it on your 2012 calendar and don’t forget to sign up early because it sells out.
Race Focused, Steve Mackel Certified ChiRunning® Instructor
Steve, Christy and Bruce Finished on the Podium in the 2007 Run for the Hungry
As I write this I am not feeling a fast race in me for this Thanksgiving’s Topanga Turkey Trot 15k, but sometimes I run fastest when I am not “feeling it.” I feel like hanging out and running with friends, enjoying the trails and getting in touch with nature. We’ll see what happens tomorrow but no matter what I’ll be out there early Earning My Bird.
Run for the Hungry is a great race. You bring some canned food for a food bank, pay a small entry fee, run a up Foothill Blvd., turnaround and run back. This 5k makes
you feel good and get ready for the big meal. If you run in a Local Turkey Trot, please send me a picture and race report. I’d like to hear about all the local So Cal Turkey Trots.
Running on Thanksgiving is a true way to Earn Your Bird.
*I have to give props to Coach Steve Ilg for starting the Earn Your Bird tradition. Years ago he had his own Earn Your Bird triathlon which consisted of meditation, yoga and running. Trust me this was hard and that’s how I earned my bird for the first time. Now I carry on the Earn Your Bird tradition in some way.
Join this time tested tradition and Earn Your Bird!
Eat Focused, Steve Mackel – Certified ChiRunning Instructor
I talk a lot about cross-training but not enough about getting back to nature. Our camping trip to Havasupai, the Havasupai Falls and west end of the Grand Canyon was as expected, spectacular both cross-training and getting back to nature.
This video will give you a good idea of what you are in for. I show the hike, the campgrounds and fun things to do. Below are a few extra tips for your Havasuapi experience.
Our destination was the beautiful waterfalls and turquiose waters Havasupai offers. The trail is difficult in the summer heat but did offer shady spots so we weren’t exposed the entire hike. The hike back up to your car is even harder after days of exploring. Please make sure to stay well hydrated and wear sunscreen.
The hike to the campground is 10 miles. Between pictures, lunch, a long stop at the village and moving slow in general, it took us about 6 hours to get to the campgrounds.
Once in the Havasupai Falls area we probably walked 10 miles a day exploring. I used the Addizero Trail XT shoes for the hike then water shoes for the rest of my exploring. You are getting wet all the time. water shoes allow you to scramble around the rocks, whether you are in the river or hiking around it.
The entire Havasupai area was changed by a flash flood in 2008. This was my first time visiting this area so I can only imagine the pristine grotto the campground used to be. In August of 2011, you can still see the ravaging effects of the flash flood. Dead or dying older trees, new falls, loss of the old ones, changes in the river and streams, are all part of the Havasupai rebirth experience.
Highlights are general exploring. Mooney Falls at the end of the campground is awesome and as I show in the video. The hike to the bottom of Havasupai’s Mooney Falls is worth the trip all by itself. As a warning, the hike down and up can be scary for many but as long as you take your time it is safe.
Playing in the water is funtastic. Scramble around in the river. The rocks look slippery but actually provide decent footing considering you are in water.
I didn’t need a sleeping bag but I wished I had brought a tent instead of a REI Bug Hut. July and August are monsoon season and it rained on me two of the three nights. The last night was thunder, lighting and hard rain for a couple of hours. I had to crowd into a friend’s tent.
The easiest way to do The Havasupai trip is to let the mules bring your heavy gear down and you hike with a daypack. Check for the per bag charge and weight limitations but this allows you some extra luxuries.
I have read some on-line reviews of the Supai Village that I didn’t think were completely fair. You have to realize where you are, the farthest city from an actual road in the United States. The village and animals are not pristine, in fact parts are dirty but it is a difficult way of life and the hikers are probably a dirty demanding bunch too.
The only bummer is the lack of respect many campers have for their surroundings by leaving trash on the trail and in the campground. Some trash must fall out when the mules carry it up to the top and flash floods push trash in to weird place but campers, please remember where you are and treat it with respect.
We made the hike back our training day. Moving quickly, stopping in the village for a quick snack, limiting stops on the trail and I even ran the last, steepest mile I made it from campground to car in 3 hours and 46 minutes. It was hot and I was sweaty but buying a couple of ice cold waters to pour over me and a Otter Pop made it worthwhile.
I will be back because Havasupai it provides some very unique potential camping, hiking and fun experience that you will be hard pressed to find any other place in the world. Be respectful and don’t forget to get an icee at the General Store in Havasupai Village.
Steve Mackel, Sole Runners Marathon and Half Marathon Training Programs Head Coach
Another tough part of the course. It is straight down on the right. photo by Ivan Buzik
For those you that don’t know, this is my favorite race in So Cal. It is what I call a “Baby Race”. A “Baby Race” is a race that is super tough, puts you in pain, so you wonder why you even decided to participate in it in the first place. But, an hour, a day, a week or a month later, you have forgotten the pain, can only remember the view from the top and are ready to schedule it on next years race calendar.
I skipped it last year because of the Station Fire and had forgotten just how steep some of those section are. This is a tough race, considered one of the toughest in all the states.
It was business time. I needed a test to check my inner strength and this is that annual test. This time, I never questioned myself out on the course. I ran my race, which is to stay consistent for the first four miles, no walking, take a gel at the ski lodge and run every part that is not super steep, quickly walk/hike up the steep stuff and keep a positive attitude. I succeeded.
When the race started many people ran past me. This happens every year and I know many of them will break down. I just have to stick to my race plan. But this year was different. Fewer people were breaking down I was and getting passed by some strong athletes. I think with the popularity of the Ultra scene, and the book “Born to Run” more people are up for this type of challenge and training harder.
I didn’t get discouraged, I had set a goal of 1 hour and 32 minutes to get to the top. If I could do it, it would be my second fastest time ever. I have done this race at least 6 times. It was a personal battle against Baldy’s unrelenting single track, technical climbs and altitude.
In the last four miles you get surrounded by athletes of similar ability. This is where I wanted to gain some ground, hoping my course knowledge and recent training was going to let me be stronger and know when to attack. Well, not much attacking happened, so my next thought was not to get passed and with 2 miles to go and I didn’t.
The last half mile is a climb, straight up. This year the group took a steeper but more direct route and I wasn’t thinking as much as following. At one point I passed this man, and the five steps I took to pass him took more energy out of me than I could imagine so I just got back on pace and settled back in for the last 400 meters.
Finally, I saw the finish line and heard the race official yell out 1:32:25. I did it, It wasn’t my prettiest race, but my second fastest time up that hill and 55th overall.
The plaque proves it. Dave made it to the Top for the first time
I walked up to the 10,064 ft, elevation plaque and once again was on the top of So Cal. I took in the 360 degree view, then kept walking as my body was adjusting to the altitude and cooling down.
Sole Runners long time Mentor Vern does it again and PRs
I spent the next hour and half welcoming runners to the Top and talking to new and old friends. I was proud to see Sole Runner mentor Vern PR by 1 minute. I greeted runners Kevin, Dave, Kris and Carolyn cross the finish line for the first time. They had listened to me talk about Baldy for months and now knew what it was like to join this elite club.
Carolyn and Kris emailed me last week and asked if they would be able to make it to the Top, they did!
It was time to go back down, the 4 mile walk to the ski lift, that they don’t tell you about in the brochure. Roberto grabbed an empty water jug and I grabbed a trash bag. The first mile down took 27 minutes. The trail going back to the ski lodge was like the 405 at rush hour. Over an hour later we were at the bar lifting a pint in celebration of another great Labor Day at the Top.
Roberto and I get the annual picture at the Top
Look for the video soon,
Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Co-founder SoCalRunning.com