Capiz shell and dried grass botanical
Image by vns2009 via Flickr

This Sunday in Mammoth, CA, I ran my very first trail run.  I’m afraid to even blog about it, because it’s that magical date you went on, and you don’t want to talk about it, because you might ruin every minute you keep re-living.  Like Cinderella, you want the sparkle to stay perfect in your memory…

Disclaimer:  I was taking pictures and tweeting without my glasses, which is sad in another kind of way…that I can use my iPhone with that much accuracy, and not be able to see…  However, I digress.  What I want to say is that some of the pics (okay one) I wouldn’t have uploaded…had I seen my, uh, Mammoth Rocks.  Oh well, I have breasts.  Deal with it. 

Ned’s Mammoth Rock Race: Sunday, September 5… I only signed up to do this race, because I was scheduled for a boat load of miles, but my family tends to want me around for our annual family trip, so with broken toe and bouts of vertigo, I decided to sign up…because that would at least get me out of the condo.

I arrive in Mammoth around 7:30 for a 9am race with trepidation in my heart, and the first thing I notice, is these trail people.  They’re not like us.  Not an iPod in sight.  Not a care in the world…and everyone seems…80 years old.  I go and meet the race director, who is amazing and sweet and kind, and welcomes me to my first trail race.  It was pretty cool.   I thought…wow, sparkly starting line …COOL!  It was the only thing that resembled a road race the rest of the day.

The race director tells us we are walking across Old Mammoth Road.  To the start line.  Over there, and this is really the Finish Line.  So we start our trot across the road to what I can only describe as mostly desolate.  She reads the story of Ned, a 6 year old who died of leukemia in 1947…when leukemia was definitely a death sentence for anyone.  Ned’s brother was born a year later, and although it’s not a TNT event, they certainly are linked up to it, which is cool, since I ran Nike last year, and was a TNT runner.

Yes, this is me, at the back of the pack.  The race starts.

Mile 1:  Okay, I am panting, and I haven’t moved a half mile yet.  Maybe it was the 7600 feet elevation, or the lack of training, or perhaps it was d) all of the above.  I kept repeating the mantra I heard on Twitter.  “Just have fun” RIIIIIGHT….that first mile was sand.  Like running on sand in the ocean.  In your tennis shoes.  By the time I hit Mile 1, my calves were all awake and screaming…like, “Hey thanks for using us today”.

Mile 2:  Up.  That’s all I have to say.  Straight up.  And, I’m watching people walk, and I have Grandpas passing me, and look!  Here comes a horse!  And rocks and dirt and up up up.  There’s a little shade here and there, but it only serves to remind me that we are just going up.  I think it took me 25 minutes to do the second mile.  Then the blood started pounding in my ears, and I thought, I have no choice.  I have to keep going.  Like, if I die right here, it might be next Spring before anyone finds me.  I see a guy walking, and I know I will catch up to him.  Not bloody likely.

Mile 3:  All of a sudden I remember this man saying to me in the beginning:  “It’s a beautiful trail, very technical, and so much sightseeing.  But, don’t look down, no matter what you do.”  So, I remember his advice, but I’m temporarily lulled by the trees.  They sounded like they were clapping.  It was so windy, there was a cacophony of beautiful music.  I twisted my ankle on a rock.  Three times.  Big rocks, little rocks, and I thought “I can’t believe the race director didn’t move these on the course”.  And I kept looking three steps ahead, so I wouldn’t accidentally trip.  Mind you, we are still going up.  I looked down.  Stupid move.  I think I kept moving so as to just get away from the ledge, which was a rocky steep decline…and if you fell, there was nothing there to hang on to.  Except jutting rocks.  More rocks.  At one point as we came to Mile Marker 3, you could look down and see the whole town of Mammoth.  I was running/walking with a 26 year old (yeah!), and she took this picture of me at the top.  Here’s another picture.  In the right corner, you can see a red shirt.  That’s the trail.  And it was starting to level out.  Up Up Up, teasing down, flat, up up up…

Mile 4-5-6:  It seems as though Mother Nature really loved me now.  Because that descent?  It was 2 miles long.  And the 26 year old I ran with was behind me a half mile at the end, but hey I never caught the Grandpa…but the descent was long and glorious.  The wind at my back.  Shade.  However, my feet were confused, because we were now on Old Mammoth Road.  No more rocks, twigs, shady paths.  No dirt.  Just road.  And I finally got it.  Why trail runners like trails.  Because it’s not a road.  My feet had been busy for the last hour jumping up and around.   Yeah, you read that right.  An hour to get up 3 miles, and a half hour to get down.  I was slightly bored at this point!  If you can believe that!

My overall impression:  It’s a lot like pregnancy.  You have this thing you must deal with.  While you’re dealing with it, it’s the most horrid thing ever.  Then you have your baby, and you forget the vomiting, the nausea, the weight gain, and you just look into the eyes of the most beautiful baby ever.  Yes.  Here is my baby.  The medal made of rock.  And yeah, the picture you’ve been waiting for.  I’ve got breasts.  And just like having a baby, you don’t care who sees your privates…cuz you’ve got your baby!!!

I was 88 out of 93, and I was 4/4 in my age group.  But, I cannot WAIT to do trail running again.  There is nothing like it.   I am not a fast runner.  I’m out of shape because when I stop running I don’t stop eating.  So I gotta drop some weight this week.

However.  Mammoth Rock gave me back the mojo I didn’t even know I was missing.  (PS-Andrew Kastor, husband of Deena Kastor won first place.  Runners, such cool people.)

I’m thrilled to get on with it.  Did 7 miles this morning, and next stop:  Nike Women’s Half Marathon & Marine Corps Marathon in October.

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9 thoughts on “Trail Virgin No More~Mammoth Rock Race Report

  1. OK, you got me wanting to do it. It looks GORGEOUS! I read an Runner’s World blurb one time that you can rent a home owned by Deena Castor and that she has trails mapped out for renters…how fun would that be???

  2. Well done, glad you made it past the difficult climb and twisting ankles–and that you had a 2M downhill to help out.

  3. Nicely done. I’m eyeing a trail race for my future. Though, I don’t think I’ll find one with the same kind of scenery. Cheers!

  4. Thanks for the description and pictures! Good job, hope you’re doing it this year, too! 🙂

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