“I need you all to swear a blood oath,” he said. “So put up your right hands and repeat after me.”
Eric looked over at me and said “what’s this all about?”
“You’ve got to make the oath right here before we cross over to the other side,” Caballo insisted. “Back there is the way out. This is the way in. If you’re in you’ve got to swear it.”
We shrugged, dropped out packs, and lifted our hands.
“If I get hurt, lost, or die,” Caballo began.
“If I get hurt, lost, or die,” we chanted.
“It’s my own damn fault.”
“It’s my own damn fault.”
The segment above is one of the best and most telling parts of the book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Chrisopher McDougall. I highly recommend this book to everyone; runners and non-runners. This book changed my outlook on running and made me realize how important running is to me and how it really has benefitted my life. This is a tale of legend, camaraderie and a test of the human spirit. Chris ventures into the Copper Canyons of Mexico to run with the Tarahumara tribe also known as ‘the running people’. These people are known to run extremely long distances as a time. Some even can run up to 400 miles without stopping. Since this race is based on the book, some of the Tarahumaras come up and run in the races. SO COOL. Read the book and you’ll be able to share my awe.
Last weekend, a group of about 15 of us from the Fleet Feet Sports Burbank crew packed up the cars and shipped out to Los Olivos, CA for the Born To Run Ultramarathon Races. A weekend of trail running, beer drinking and other shenanigans awaited us. This race has distances ranging from 10 miles to 200 miles. To give you some perspective, the 200 mile race starts Thursday night and the cut off time is Sunday at Noon. That’s how long each runner had to cover 200 miles. They are literally running for 3 or 4 days. Unfathomable. Most of us going signed up for 10 miles but a few of the more seasoned runners decided to take on the 30 miles and one brave soul did 60 miles. Overall, everyone did a phenomenal job. Whether it was 10 miles or 60 miles, we all ran really well. But more on that later.
Los Olivos, CA is slightly Northeast of Santa Barbara. The weather was looking a little iffy so we all prepared to camp out in the cold and rain. Luckily, the weather turned out to be in our favor. Cold mornings, sunny afternoons and clear skies greeted us as we pulled into the campsite. Our car was a little late to the party BUT we just made it in time for the beer mile. This is a tradition at Born To Run where each runner who participates has to drink 4 cans of beer within a mile run. One of my favorite parts about this entire experience was the shotgun Luis (race director) used to start all of the races. It was like the ultimate race gun. It was loud. It was huge. It was perfect. The gun went off and the beer cans cracked open and the chugging began. Three guys in our group decided to participate and my goodness was it entertaining. Watching experienced trail runners chug beers and try to run a lap and then chug some more while listening to Mariachi music is unlike anything I’ve ever watched.
After the beer mile debauchery, it was time for a good pre-race dinner. Delicious grilled chicken, brown rice and sweet potatoes filled our bellies (thanks to Chris and Jenny) as we drank more beer and hung out at our campsite (see below).
It wasn’t long until the sun started to set and the temperature started to drop. I was really glad I threw in an extra jacket and a pair of sweat pants at the last minute. Layers were SUPER important throughout this entire weekend. That night, the race had a folky-rock band playing for some of the night and some of us wanted to go check it out for a bit and we actually found that dancing kept us all alot warmer. And so we danced.
Luis (race director) cut off the music right around 10pm Friday night because alot of us had to be ready to run at the gun at 6am the next morning. It was COLD this night so I pretty much slept in my 2 pairs of pants and my jackets underneath the sleeping bag. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night was so cold. After a somewhat rough night’s sleep the shot gun was echoing throughout the ranch promptly at 4:30am followed by (yet again) VERY loud Mariachi music. There was no way anyone could have slept through any of that. All of us basically sucked it up, got out of our tents and started making the instant coffee and get prepped for the race. For me, the pre-race jitters/excitement was enough to get me going and I knew once I was done with these 10 miles, I could take a nap. We all walked up to the race start yawning and getting warmed up when 6am closed in and Luis had us all take the Born to Run oath (see above) and gave us really great directions on how the course was mapped out. He whipped out the shotgun, shot three times and we were all off onto the trail. Keep in mind that Saturday’s 6am start was the 60 mile, 30 mile and 10 mile races. I love trail races for this reason. It didn’t matter what race I was attached to. I was out there running and everyone was so supportive of that.
I knew ahead of time that I was going to take this one easy. The course was really manageable but because my sleep from the night before was poor, I didn’t want to burn out so bad and not be able to enjoy the rest of the trip. Plus, this race had a strict *thrown your Garmin in the bushes and just run* policy that I really didn’t care about my time. Enjoying the course and the company of all the other runners was my goal.
Miles 1-3: It took me a minute to really wake up and realize that I had 10 miles ahead of me. After the first mile, we turned a corner and the sunrise was the perfect slap in the face. It was amazing. Beautiful rolling hills were beginning to grab the morning light and it was that feeling of a brand new day. It was time to get serious. I focused on keeping my pace steady yet easy through these miles to really make sure I got warmed up.
Miles 4-6: Still feeling the sleepiness, the reluctance to pick up the pace was still there. I didn’t know what was ahead of me as far as terrain and like I said before, didn’t want to burn out too quickly. There was a HUGE hot air balloon getting ready to launch around mile 5 so that was a nice change of scenery. It was time for a Gu break when mile 6 came around and I knew I was more than half way there.
Miles 6-10: Running anything longer than 7 or 8 miles is still long for me. I don’t regularly run more than 5 miles more than once a week so getting into the mentality to do 10 miles took a little time. Once I got to the aid station around mile 7, it was time to press on. This aid station was fun because at point, we had joined with the 30 milers and the race staff was cooking full on breakfast. I heard the bacon was a hit but didn’t try any during the race. I stuck to what my body was used to, chugged some water and headed up the hill that was mile 8.
After that hill, I was so ready to be done. 2 more miles, 2 more miles, 2 more miles… and then I saw Rocky and it was like this whole new wave of energy came over me. Some people really thing that seeing familiar faces gives and energy boost and I am a HUGE supporter of that fact. Seeing any familiar face (especially Rocky) towards the end of a race is that extra shock I like to have to get to the finish line. I’m not sure I would have finished as quickly were it not for Rocky running and chatting with me during the last 2 miles.
The finish! I saw the many flags above the finish line and could finally hear some voices and music playing. I was almost done! Kicking it into high gear, I motored to the finish, grabbed my amulet and took a deep breath. I had just run 10 miles out on a trail. WHOA. And it was fun too!
Now that all the 10 mile racers had finished, it was time for a celebratory breakfast burrito and a nap.
After my first nap of the day, it was time to cheer on Steve, Chris and Jaime who would be coming by our campsite to check in before they headed out for more miles. It was great to see them working so hard and I was personally so inspired. Chris and Steve clocked in around 5 hours and new everyone was rooting for Jaime to finish his 60 miles.
In between all of this, the race festivities had picked up again with a wrestling match, a scavenger hunt and even a talent show. By any means, there was no shortage of entertainment. 6pm rolled around the Jaime was due to finish at any minute. Some of our group ran out to try and find him and run him in for the last half mile just to give him that extra boost. Keep in mind, he had been running for 12 HOURS. Let that sink in.
We had ALL finished! Like I said before, we all ran really well and met or exceeded expectations and now it was time to celebrate……even thought most of us were extremely tired. BUT WE PRESSED ON! We were out on a beautiful ranch, had no cell service and we with great friends. There was no reason for us NOT to have fun. Saturday night consisted of pulled chicken sliders, more beer, a 9-piece bluegrass band, giant hula hoops, a rock cover band and did I mention there were glowsticks thanks to Sparky?
It was an evening to remember. Not to sound really sappy, but I vividly remember (a probably always will) a moment when we were dancing to a cover of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ where I was completely content with everything. I was so happy to be dancing out in the middle of nowhere after a successful trail race with some amazing friends to classic music and nothing else really mattered. That moment will stick with me for ever and from this point on, I will strive to have more moments like that. I anticipated being a little sad on Sunday morning when we all had to pack everything up and head back home but that feeling wasn’t there. The feeling of inspiration and excitement for the next race was more prominent.
“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other…but to be WITH each other.” – Christopher McDougall (Born to Run)
And that sums it all up. I came out of this weekend exhausted but rejuvenated. A 30k race doesn’t seem all that far off in the distance. After all… we are all born to run.