NC Lower Trailhead Training Run

At Saturday’s training run we had as many runners as some ultra races. We had a great time checking out the Noble Canyon trail.

Over 30 runners came out to the training run (photo by Wade Blomgren).

Over 30 runners came out to the training run (photo by Wade Blomgren).

Uphill running

Runners leaving the highest point on the course as they approach Penny Pines.

Runners leaving the highest point on the course as they approach Penny Pines.

Runners "camel-up" the Penny Pines water spout at the top of Noble Canyon.

Runners “camel-up” at the Penny Pines water spout at the top of Noble Canyon.

Technical section of the lower Noble Canyon trail

Technical section of the lower Noble Canyon trail

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Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Run is Found

Pinyon Wash, startline.

Pinyon Wash, start-line.

Drive east along Highway 78 past the old California mining town of Julian until you find a place called Pinyon Wash (call-box number 78-810 at elevation 1,100 ft); which is on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere in the Anza Borrego State Park. Step out of your car, grab a water bottle, and set out on foot. Run along the dirt roads, through desert washes, and the open desert floor for several miles. When the trail runs out keep moving through the desert without trail. When you come upon the dry waterfalls do what any reasonable nomad would do – climb up and over them.  Continue heading west until you bump into the base of the Laguna Mountain range.

Oriflamme Canyon climb.

Oriflamme Canyon climb.

Make the 3,000 foot ascent into the mountains via the steep canyons known as Oriflamme and Chariot. Once on top weave through the single-track runnable trails across grassy fields and panoramic view of the remaining 16 miles of your adventure.

Exiting Pedro Fages Aid Station.

Exiting Pedro Fages Aid Station.

Look for the tallest peak in the area (Cuyamaca Peak at 6,512 ft) and of course head directly for it and climb it. On your way there pass the dormant Stonewall Goldmine and enjoy the canopy and smells of the tall pine trees. If the sky is clear you will see the Pacific Ocean from the peak.

View from Cuyamaca peak

View from Cuyamaca peak

Finally turn your attention to Cuyamaca Lake which is within your view below. Head downhill over rocky technical trail and dirt roads. Aim for the west shore of the lake where some food, friends, and a chair awaits you.

Do all of this in under 14 hours wearing a bib and with the support of aid stations and you will have completed the Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Run.

Lost Boys 50 Paso Picacho Aid Station

Lost Boys 50 Paso Picacho Aid Station

The LB50 was first run in 1991 and had four finishers (Mike Suter, Tom Waddell, Bud Willis, and Wes Barrett). The rare race has been loved ever since and has been run 8 times in the last 24 years.

As two-time winner and course record holder Ben Hian put it: “I am so excited this race is coming back. There is something primitive about running from the desert to the mountains.”

Registration for the April 25, 2015 running of the Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Run opens on November 1, 2014 at 8PM. The course will be well marked with orange surveyors ribbon, especially the desert stretch. We at Cliffs and Meadows LLC are thrilled to again “Find the Lost Boys”.

See you on the trails.

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Tips for running your first Noble Canyon 50k Ultramarathon

20 runners at one of the 2014 training runs.

20 runners at one of the 2014 training runs.

On a recent training run Ben Arp, going for his first ultramarathon at this year’s Noble Canyon 50k, asked me if I had any advice for him to be successful. Another runner, going for their first ultra as well, said they were “terrified” at the distance.

What I shared with Ben that day could help you if you are going for your first NC50k, especially if you have questions about how to prepare to run your fist ultramarathon. If you don’t plan to win the thing but want to finish within the qualifying time and enjoy your day these tips may be for you.

Tip 1.) TWENTY MILES:  Be sure you go 20 miles on some if not several of your training runs. Build up your miles slowly to reach that distance; adding a few more miles each week.

  • When the race is three months away make sure you go on at least two training runs that are 20 miles that month.
  • When you are two months away from the “big dance” make sure you go on three to four training runs that hit 20 miles.
  • When the race is four weeks away start your taper, there is no need to hit 20 miles that close to the race. Your “longer” runs could be 13-17 miles during those weeks.

Here is the big key: do not worry about how long it takes you. These runs are about time on your feet not quickness. It could take you all day and that is fine, just make sure you complete the 20 mile distance. Most of these special training runs should be in the mountains. You may want to recruit a family member or friend to meet you at various trailheads and crew you.

Tip 2.) HEAT ACCLIMATION: The Noble Canyon 50k has historically been a hot race. It is reasonable to plan for triple digit temperatures on race day. Some years are hotter or cooler than others, so use the Boy Scout motto and “be prepared.” About five weeks before race day consciously spend time in the sun and heat. Wear a hat and sunblock and stay hydrated of course. Consider starting your run later in the morning so you will be in the heat of the day for more hours. On your lunch break eat outside and not in the shade. While driving leave that A/C off and roll down your windows (your fellow passengers may have something to say about this one though!).

During this time, when you’re hot and uncomfortable say to yourself “think of it as training.”  Come race day your body will be more prepared for the hot temperatures. If you can get in a 20 mile run in the middle of a hot day at Mission Trails or better yet on the actual race course you are doing proper training for the Noble Canyon 50k.

Much of the course is exposed with few trees. Plan for a hot race day.

Much of the course is exposed with few trees. Plan for a hot race day.

Tip 3.) LEARN THE COURSE: Do your homework and know as much as you can about the course. The Noble Canyon 50k course is always marked well using orange surveyors ribbon but runners who did not pay attention and who didn’t study the course have gotten off route.

At the very least, print the maps and read the course description so you know in general what the course will do. For example, if you are running it in 2014 you should know that the course will be a lolly-pop shaped course with the start/finish line at the bottom of the handle and the route will do a counter-clockwise loop at the top.  The loop portion starts after the Big Tree aid station which means you will be making left turns around the loop until you connect again to the main Noble Canyon trail where you will turn right and retrace your steps to the finish. Make note of the approximate miles of each of the key turns so on race day you will generally know if you are looking for a right turn or left turn.

Ideally you should try to run all of the course with someone that knows where to go. Come out to the training runs that the Race Director organizes. Use the forum to reach out to other runners who can meet up with you. Knowing the course will help reduce your stress on race day.

Noble Canyon trail near Big Tree Aid Station

Noble Canyon trail near Big Tree Aid Station

If you get in 20 mile training runs, heat acclimate, and learn the course you can have confidence that you are properly prepared to finish the Noble Canyon 50k ultramarathon. You may not win it but you will kiss the rat and will be successful at your first ultra. Over the years you will incorporate new ideas to make your time faster.

See you on the trails.

Tracy Johnston completes her first ultramarathon at the Noble Canyon 50k - 2013

Tracy Johnston completes her first ultramarathon at the Noble Canyon 50k – 2013

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Noble Canyon 50k – the beginnings

NC50k_PineMtn_IndianCreekTrail

 

Years ago veteran runners from the group known as the San Diego Bad Rats would train throughout San Diego County trails. A particular 10 mile stretch in the Laguna Mountains became a favorite of these runners. Tough-yet-runnable uphill offering great views, packed with technical downhill and a few stream crossings, all single track, with a water spout (typically on) at the top. This trail, known as Noble Canyon, offered many years of preparation and success for some of the best runners in the sport of the day.

For years these Bad Rats bantered about how great it would be to stage a race on this epic trail. In 2007 with the help of several Bad Rats and other dedicated ultrarunners Scott Mills made this dream a reality staging the first Noble Canyon 50k. Brian Gonzales took over as race director in 2011. To this day the Rats and other volunteers who love this sport are the ones who man the aid stations which has helped produce the highest finishing rates I have seen in ultramarathons (97% in 2013, 89% in 2012, 95% in 2011).

The race course has been tweaked over the years but the Noble Canyon stretch has remained the prominent part of the race each year. I personally think the 2014 course is the best course yet. Featuring all of Noble Canyon, the most spectacular stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, plus the Indian Creek Trail.  The 2014 race filled to capacity with a week, but if you would like to be part of this year’s race and volunteer, we would love to hear from you.

See you on the trails. briang@cliffsandmeadows.com

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