RDs Run the Noble Canyon 50k Course

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Founding Race Director Scott Mills (R) and current Race Director Brian Gonzales (L).

This past weekend the founding Race Director Scott Mills and myself, the current Race Director Brian Gonzales, ran the entire 2017 Noble Canyon 50k course – the whole enchilada! It was a special day for me and something we have talked about doing together for many years.

In order to avoid as much heat of the day as possible we kicked off the run with an “alpine” start; our feet hit the trail at 5:30 a.m., about an hour before sunrise! Twilight was just starting to hint, plus the first mile of the course is on asphalt so no headlights were needed. We started from the new grassy field at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center and headed out the main entrance. Soon the sun came out and rose up above the mountainside. We enjoyed the classic climb up the main Noble Canyon trail.

 

 

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First sun-rays of the day, a couple hours into the run.

We navigated the technical trail and passed the Big Tree aid station, completing the fun Noble trails up to Penny Pines. After crossing Sunrise Highway we turned right on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We were treated to the most spectacular views of the Anza-Borrego Desert, which somehow never disappoint.  This single-track trail skirts along the edge of a big drop-off with great views of the desert and includes the last big climb of the first half of the course.

 

 

We passed through the Rat Hole aid station, crossed back over Sunrise Highway and set out through the Mount Laguna trail network; which includes more single-track, tall pine trees, and a cruise around the edge of Big Laguna lake.

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Scott Mills along the edge of Big Laguna Lake

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Scott Mills and Brian Gonzales along the Laguna trail network.

The run down Noble Canyon was so much fun! Sweeping single-track for the first few miles under the canopy of more trees, then we hit all the very technical, rocky, and exposed sections – including the “stairway to hell.” It was starting to warm up. We came across other runners and all of us shared some time on the trails together. I did take a small tumble on one of the rocky sections; I walked it off then continued the gallop down the mountain.

We reached Pine Creek Road and I retrieved the ice water I had previously stashed. The cold ice was fantastic!  By mile 28 Scotty was true-to-form as an endless energy machine and kept up the steady pace. I was starting to feel the miles and the warmth of the day so I told Scotty to go ahead and wait for me at the Bible Camp. He cruised up Big Sandy and finished strong and chilled for me on a rocking chair in the shade.

The final climb of the Noble Canyon 50k course has many names: Big Sandy, Sandy Knoll, The Sierra, The last twist of the knife, The Sandy Devil, The Gauntlet… you get the idea. This climb is like a right-of-passage for San Diego ultrarunners. Ask anybody about their Noble Canyon experience and they’ll likely include this climb in their story.  And though I have heard all the stories and have run that exact section countless times, as the RD I have not run Big Sandy on 29 mile legs in the heat of the day, until now.  All I can say to those who have not experienced it yet: it does live up to its name(s).

 

After cresting the final climb I trotted down the final scenic trails to the lower trail-head, then finished the last mile along the asphalt and was happy to enter the Bible Camp and the Finish area!

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Finishing exactly where we started roughly 7 hours earlier.

31 miles with a great friend and trail-running mentor. It was a day to remember and be grateful for. I love this year’s course. It’s tough, beautiful, and worth all the effort. Good luck to everyone running the Noble Canyon 50k this year, you’re in for a real treat. We know.

And thanks Scotty!

See you on the trails. – Brian Gonzales, Noble Canyon 50k RD

 

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How to Change Map Zoom Level – Garmin 920XT

How to change the map zoom level for the Gamin Forerunner 920XT, answered!

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I’ve been running with the Garmin 920XT for a couple years and have been very happy with it. My only complaint is that the map is always stuck on a 0.3 mile scale! Which makes the map virtually useless for my training runs or especially my 50k or 50 mile runs.

Gamin’s owner manual is not helpful:

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Online forums are filled with frustrated users and people that won’t purchase the device because of the problem.

Well here is how you adjust the zoom level:

  • Open your map screen.
  • Hold down the button in the bottom left corner (the one with the three dots) for a few seconds until the menu comes up.
  • Select the “Zoom” menu item
  • Use the up/down arrows to change the map zoom level, press “enter” to save the change.

Hope this helps! See you on the trails.

Cliffs and Meadows LLC

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Lost Boys Scout-out adventure

How did BJ end up rolling down the rock-strewn mountain? Let’s find out.

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The Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Run course is already among the toughest in the region. A point-to-point trail foot race, starting at about 1,000 foot elevation in the Anza-Borrego desert topping off at Cuyamaca Peak at 6,512 feet and ending at Lake Cuyamaca. The course has about 9,000 feet of cumulative climbing. lostboyselevation_chart

Believe it or not, we have been looking for ways to make the race even tougher! We have a few thoughts in the Cuyamacas including adding in Stonewall peak among other potential options. Included in that brainstorm is an alternate first five miles.  Currently runners skirt around the foot of Sunset Mountain, trending uphill on the dirt road in Pinyon Wash.

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Pinyon Wash: The traditional start of the Lost Boys 50.

In studying the maps we’re considering an alternate start, one that will add more varied topography and of course more climb! We decided to scout-out the shoulder of Sunset Mountain, and this past weekend BJ and I (Brian the RD) looked into the following potential start option:

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We headed up Quartz Vein Wash and were immediately impressed at the interesting twists and turns of the route and the cool looking hillside. It’s reminiscent of the wash after the Boulders aid station, yet with it’s own unique feel.

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Brian and BJ at the start of Quartz Vein Wash, exploring an alternate start to the LB50.

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Quartz Vein Wash, we thought was pretty cool!

After weaving uphill and through some pretty cool stretches of Quarts Vein Wash we came to an impassible tall dry waterfall. We paused and stared at the obstacle for a bit and realized we could not send the runners up this thing. BJ was the first one to speak and asked something like, “so that’s it then…right… it’s not going to work?…”

‘There’s got to be a way around this, let’s see if we can find it’ I thought to myself, then vocalized the same. So we were on to true exploration.

We backtracked a short distance and started up a side-shoot wash. It was fairly passable at first, then the rocks became more loose and the grade became more steep. We pressed on eventually scrambling on all fours with loose rocks tumbling beneath every step.  About half way up we surveyed the climb and BJ helped me conclude we couldn’t send runners up this thing. But since we were already there, we decided it wasn’t too insurmountable for us. So, we pressed on to the top, checked the view and returned down to the main Quarts Vein Wash.

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BJ on the first side-shoot wash we explored.

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Brian on the first side-shoot we explored.

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This first side-shoot wash didn’t work so we headed back down.

We backtracked further and I saw a small slit along the side wall of the main wash. I said, “This doesn’t look like much, but let’s check it out.” I expected this small wash to end a few feet later. To my surprise the narrow wash continued after every twist and turn. This side-shoot wash turned out to be a sweet narrow slot canyon. Very ascendable and super fun! Halfway up I said “there is no course like this… in California.” After we passed through the narrow slots we climbed up a short scree field to a crest of the mountain side. It was a rugged climb, a bit of loose rock, but I thought potentially passable. Did we find the new alternate Lost Boys 50 start? Humm.

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BJ headed up the cool Quarts Vein slot canyon.

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RB Brian, hopeful that we had found a slot canyon that could work.

Once on top, I hoped we had found it but technically knew the approach wasn’t really safe. I delayed asking BJ his opinion because I wanted to relish in the hope. I turned to BJ and asked, “what do you think?”Correctly he replied, “Sorry Gonz, it’s not going to work this way.”

Shoot! I knew he was right. Well at least we had fun and we had conquered this climb and enjoyed the exploration.

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BJ conquered the mountain, just moments before the mountain conquered him!

I headed down the scree field first. When I reached the entrance to the slot canyon I turned around and decided to snap one more quick photo of BJ. Just then, I heard BJ holler out and saw him start to tumble down the rock-strewn mountainside!  He had reached forward, securing his hand and full body weight on a rock that quickly gave way and sent him flipping forward!

The flipping stopped and BJ stood up and looked at his hand. Both he and I saw that his ring finger had popped out and was dangling at a 90-degree angle. I thought his finger would continue tumbling down without him at any minute. Gross! Instinctively BJ grabbed his finger and thrust it back into its socket – snap! He let out a few war cries throughout the ordeal, and later said he knew right what to do because he’s seen how they do it in the NBA and he knew he wanted to get his finger back in the socket before the adrenaline wore out. Men, men, men, men, manly, men, men…

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BJ’s full weight on the rock that gave way.

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We paused for a minute to assess the damage. He had rock-educed cuts on both hands and a huge raspberry up his leg. His finger was stiff but not bad, and his pride was hurt for sure. Otherwise BJ was in tip-top shape, so we started the slow cautious descent into the narrow slot.

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We finally made it back to flat ground into the main wash. We then ran the fun return to our car via the newly found desert wash with new stories but no new LB50 route.

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Ok ok, BJ, you’re right. That alternate side-shoot route is too dangerous to send runners up.

And the text conversation between my wife Mary and BJ the next day:

“Hey BJ, Glad you’re ok! Next time you can just tell Gonzo “no” about the potential race trail, you don’t have to dramatically throw yourself down the mountain :)”

BJ’s response “He doesn’t listen. Needs visual aids.”

The 2017 Lost Boys 50 course will be exactly the same as the 2016 course, no change this year.

See you on the trails.
Brian Gonzales, Lost Boys 50 RD

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Noble Training and SURF Picnic Aug 6, 2016

Join us as we run an out-and-back along the main the Noble Canyon trail followed by a SURF picnic on Saturday August 6th!

This run will start at the lower Noble Canyon Trailhead and will include all of the Noble Canyon trail.

When: Saturday August 6, 2016 launch at 7AM. No need to RSVP.

Picnic: All are welcome to join us for the SURF sponsored picnic after the run (approximately 11AM-2PM) at the trailhead.

Where: Meet at the Lower Noble Canyon Trailhead parking lot. A US Forest adventure pass is required and can be obtained at the gas station in Pine Valley.

Total Miles: Approximately 22 total for this run; since it is an out-and-back you can turn around at any point and therefore run any distance you feel comfortable with. You could also add the loop at the top if you want to add the miles.

Water: We will drop water at Pine Creek Road. Plus water should be on at Penny Pines (so water at miles 3, 11, and 19). If we get news that the water is not on at Penny Pines, we will try to drop water at Big Tree. Note the potential long stretches between water so be sure to carry enough!!

See the maps page of Noble Canyon website for the course map, elevation, and miles. The race start/finish is at the Pine Valley Conference Center but this training run will start at the Noble Canyon Trailhead.

Description of this run: Head out on the main Noble Canyon Trail, after about 2 miles turn left and cross the creek bed, after about 0.7 miles turn right onto the “cutoff trail” and continue to the Pine Creek Road (dirt parking lot, water will be dropped here). Leave the parking lot by turning right, then after about ¼ mile turn left to connect again with the main Noble Canyon trail. Stay on the Noble Canyon trail (follow the marked signs) all the way up to Sunrise Highway (Penny Pines) then turn around and retrace your steps. Note that on race day, at Penny Pines you will cross Sunrise Highway and turn left onto the Pacific Crest Trail.

You are responsible for your own safety.  We will not be keeping track of where runners are on the trails and we encourage you to run in pairs.

See you on the trails.
Brian Gonzales
briang@cliffsandmeadows.com

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NC via Pioneer Mail – training run July 9, 2016

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We will be running the upper loop of the Noble Canyon 50k course followed by a SURF picnic!

  • When: Saturday July 9, 2016 starting at 7:00 AM. No need to RSVP for the run.
  • Where: Meet at Pioneer Mail parking lot. US Forest adventure pass is required.
  • Total Miles:  11.5 total for the loop, some may want to also head down Noble Canyon or add in Garnet Peak or other detours along the way.
  • Then hang out with us after the run. The SURF running club is sponsoring a social gathering, food, tales, and fun! The picnic will be at Pioneer Mail from 11AM-2PM.
  • Water: Water should be on at Penny Pines (mile 9.5) then you should leave water in your car if you plan to add the extra miles at the end.

See the Noble Canyon 50k website for the course map, elevation, and miles. Note that we will start this training run right in the middle of the course. We will run in the same direction as the race (counter-clockwise).

Run Directions: From Pioneer Mail Carefully cross Sunrise highway then turn right onto Pine Mountain trail, after a short bit you will cross a dirt road (stay on trail) until you come to the Champagne Pass Junction. Turn left onto Indian Creek Trail. After a couple miles you will “T” into the Noble Canyon trail. Turn LEFT onto Noble Canyon trail (note that on race day at this junction you will turn right to return back to the start/finish area). Stay on the Noble Canyon trail all the way up to Sunrise Highway (Penny Pines). Carefully cross the highway and turn left onto the Pacific Crest Trail. After 4 miles you will come to Pioneer Mail, do a short ½ mile out then ½ mile back on the PCT returning to Pioneer Mail.

You are responsible for your own safety.  We will not be keeping track of where runners are on the trails and we encourage you to run in pairs.

Let us know if you have any questions: briang@cliffsandmeadows.com

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Can You Find the Lost Boys?

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The first eighteen miles of the Lost Boys 50 course were conquered by a small band of five lost boys this weekend. This stretch of the course has plenty of climbs and is quite tough.

Brian the RD with the help of Larry drove the runners to Pinyon Wash in the middle of the Anza-Borrego Desert State park Saturday morning and sent them on their way.

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Moments into the run, headed up Pinyon Wash.

After five miles of sandy steady uphill, runners scramble up the boulders and wind through the narrow canyon until they reach the mouth of the canyon and the open desert floor.

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Boulders Aid Station, 5 miles into the race. Runners scramble for about 0.10 mile up and over these boulders.

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After the Boulders Aid Station, the course weaves along the base of this narrow canyon.

The open desert stretch is exciting and memorable, there is no trail, just an unfamiliar network of desert washes – you can truly imagine yourself as a “lost boy” here. Once you learn where your target is, on the other side of the desert floor,  your instincts easily kick in and you are pulled toward the distant split in the fence.

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“Lost Girls” Mary Lou and Melanie exiting the mouth of the canyon and entering the open desert stretch.

Can you find the lost boys?

In the next series of photos can pick out the band of Lost Boys BJ, Joe and Gabe- Yes they are in every one of the next photos:

 

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Just getting started, easy to find here.

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See ’em?

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Here’s a hint from the previous photo

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Lost Boys Gabe, BJ, and Joe

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Do you see them?

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I hope they know where they’re going. Can you find our boys?

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Hint from the last photo.

After the open desert stretch the five runners ascended a series of dry waterfalls (this is a highlight of the race for many). Then continued to climb and then descend Pinyon Mountain. About a mile after transitioning onto the California Riding and Hiking trail the runners crossed over the historic Foot and Walker Pass then crossed over the expanse of the dry lake bed.

Can you again find our lost boys?

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Our runners are on the dirt road approaching the historic Foot and Walker Pass.

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Here they are clearly descending the back side of Foot and Walker Pass. (clearly?)

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Hint from the previous photo.

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Another memorable stretch, crossing the dry lake bed with Blaire Valley aid station coming into view. Do you see our boys?

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Hint from the previous photo.

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Our Lost Boys from this week: Gabe, BJ, Joe, Melanie, and Mary Lou!

 

 

 

 

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Lost Boys desert run February 27, 2016

Come check out the lower desert section of the Lost Boys 50 Mile course. All are welcome to participate, even if you are not planning to run the LB50.

    • WHEN: Saturday February 27, 2015. 7:00AM
    • WHERE: We will meet at the “Blaire Valley Aid Station” along the S2 highway at Green highway mile marker 24.
      From there we will carpool to the start line of the LB50 at Pinyon Wash
      (which is at white highway mile marker 81 along Highway 78).Here is a map of the trail-head meeting place:

 

 

  • DISTANCE/RUN DESCRIPTION: From Pinyon Wash we will run the first 18 miles of the course ending back at our cars at the Blaire Valley Aid Station. The open desert stretch will be marked with ribbon but the dirt roads/trails will likely not be marked.
  • Print or save to your phone the turn-by-turn directions on the maps page.
  • Also the Drive Directions page describes how to get to the Blaire Valley Aid Station.
  • Water will be dropped at the Pinyon Mountain Valley Aid Station location (12 miles into the run)
  • RSVP: Yes, since we are carpooling an RSVP is required Click here.

Hope to see you there!

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