Race Report: 4 hours and 20 minutes of Joshua Tree
Where: Joshua Tree Glampground, Joshua Tree, CA
Terrain: Trail - Desert
Temperature: 84°F and windy (very windy!)
So, now that the sand has settled and the smoke has cleared… let me tell you all about an amazing race weekend!
It was the week following the Leona Divide 100K. I was browsing Ultrasignup.com, looking for my race results. On the site’s homepage, a list of upcoming local races were displayed. One caught my eye; 4 hours and 20 minutes of Joshua Tree trail race on Saturday April 20th. A timed trail race in Joshua Tree?!?! Perfect for a recovery run! I mean… I did just run 100 kms in the mountains! With a timed race, I could run as much or as little as I wanted. And… I’ve always wanted to see Joshua Tree! And the race description… well, “Welcome to the 4 hours and 20 minutes of Joshua Tree! A 1 mile loop course on a private 20 acres in beautiful Joshua Tree, California. This is a celebration of running and cannabis culture. Race starts at HIGH noon,” may have been a selling point! I forwarded the link to a few of my friends. Two were going to be out of town that weekend, but one… well… it was her birthday and she couldn’t think of a better way to spend her birthday! So I signed up… and the following weekend, I showed up!
My crew and I arrived early, so that we could set up a base camp. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about running for hours in the desert, it’s a need for shade. With a 1 mile loop course and a small seed of runners, I knew I’d be able to set up a canopy and picnicking area. I checked in, picked up my bib… hand-made by the race director’s 2 adorable little girls. The bibs were made with Tyvek and covered with colorful designs drawn on with magic markers. Everyone had the same bib number: 420! Timing chips were pinned on the back of the bibs, to track our loops.
Once we had our picnic area all set up, we had about an hour to kill. My pup made friends with the other pup at camp, and my crew and I sat down to relax for a bit. He cracked open an ice cold beer and I ate a sour gummy worm edible and cracked open an ice cold bottle of Propel Electrolyte water!
So side note: I’m a like to microdose when I go on long runs; trail runs lasting 3 hours or longer. I stick with Sativa, which I’ve nicknamed Pre-Workout bud. It gives you a bit of energy and helps with not wanting to sit on the sofa, unlike Indica, which I’ve nicknamed Netflix and Chill bud. Anyways, I’m off topic… so, I start off with 10mg an hour or so before I start my run. Then about every 90 minutes or so, I eat another 5mg. Just to keep a light airy feeling about me throughout the whole run. Another side note: For beginners, this works best on a closed and/or controlled course, usually short loops or short out and backs, with access to water and other facilities, etc. Oh, and this only works for runners 21 years or older!
So… back on topic. We then began to mingle with others around us; the RD/campground owner, other runners, crews, and volunteers. As noon began to near, we all rounded up at the start line for the pre-race announcements. We laughed at the runners who showed up just in the nick of time… wondering if the race was going to even start on time. All 15 runners showed up and the race began right on time!
My friend and I headed out side by side. The course started off nice and easy. It quickly became a single track desert trail, very little sand (good thing, because I HATE sand!), and lots of colorful eye-catching decor. “This is going to be a fun easy run!” I thought to myself. Which may have been a premature thought. Because about one-third of mile in… that single track turned into a fire road, that led to a wash basin, that was nothing but sand. Lots of sand. Lots and lots of sand. Have I mentioned that I hated sand? Yeah, I hate sand! The sand was deep. I could feel my shoes filling up with sand. I could feel the sand rubbing between my toes. And then… about 1/15th of a mile and a nice climb (ok, the only climb, and it was a switchback-esque climb) later... we were out of the sand. But it was still in my shoes… and in between my toes. About a half mile left before hitting our picnic area and the aid station. Could I live with the sand or should I dump it out? Do we need to refill our water bottles at the aid station?... after just one mile? Nah… we ran through the gate, waved at our fans and kept running!
After the second and third loops, all was good. But… more and more sand filled my shoes. By the fourth loop, I had to take a short break. I pulled over at my picnic, sat down and dumped out my shoes. Ooohhh…. And the blisters were beginning to form. I put my shoes back on, tied my laces, smoked a little bit of weed, then headed back out. I ran three more loops. The blisters were getting to be too much. I had to do something about them. I slapped on a few band-aids, ate half a sour gummy worm, and headed back out. Over the next three loops… I carefully tip-toed through the sandy section. The band-aids were not holding up. There’s nothing worse than running with blisters. I told my friend that I would have to sit out for a while and really take care of my feet. So after a total of ten miles (Yay! I met my goal for the day!), I sat down… she kept running. I took off my shoes and my socks. I ate a burrito. Then I ate a taco. Then I drank more Propel. Then I took a dry washcloth and cleaned off my feet, eliminated the blisters, and wrapped my toes with duct tape. I wrapped the tops and the sides of my shoes with duct tape as well. After about 50 mins or so, I was was ready to get back out on the course. My friend had come back around and picked me up. We had an hour and 5 minutes left.
Since I had already reached my goal for the day, the next miles were bonus. But my friend wanted to squeeze in 6 more miles; for a total of 20 miles. I told her I probably wasn’t going to be moving that fast, but that I would pace her as much as I could. (She had only gotten in 4 miles while I took my break, because she had taken a break to change out of her shoes and into her running sandals. The sand was starting to bother her toes as well. Oh… and she sat down to smoke a little bit of weed too.) We headed back out onto the course. I got a little nervous when we hit the sand pits again! But… the duct tape that I put on my shoes… it worked! It really worked! When we came up out of the sand pit, I stopped for a second and shook my feet. No sand build-up! This was fantastic! Loop 11 was a breeze. The next three loops went by just as smoothly. However, the duct tape was starting to fall off of my shoes. So sand was starting to find its way in during the 14th loop. When I came up to our picnic area at the end of the 14th loop, I decided to keep going. We had less than 12 minutes left, and I felt like being an overachiever! I wanted to complete one more mile before the clock struck 4:20PM. We began our last loop. Everything was fine until we hit that sand pit. The duct tape was falling off and I was afraid I’d trip on it… but we were super close to the cut off time! I quickly ripped the tape off and held on to it tight! Once we made it up the climb from the sand pit, I checked our time. We had less than six minutes left. I turned to my friend… and said, “Ok girl, let’s crush this last half a mile!” and we chased down the clock! We finished the last loops with seconds to spare! I finished with 15 miles and my friend finished with 19 miles!
Medals were only given to the first place male and female finishers. And surprisingly, there were actually people out there “racing” this event! First place male finished with 31 miles, and first place female finished with 22 miles! They won hand carved wooden medals and a premium pre-rolled joint. Goes to show, pot-heads can be a motivated bunch!
After the race and the awards ceremony, a small lot of us set up tents to camp out for the night. We gathered around for a BBQ picnic and we mingled some more. After sunset, we had a bonfire and a general good time! It was a perfect end to a perfect day!