2 weeks before the race, my friend Kista suggested I run Calico with her. I said yes.
It would be my first 50K, just as it was her first 5 years ago.
I loved it. It was, for me, the best 50K I could’ve picked for my first. Yes, the trail was brutal and gave me all the challenges I needed. I ran though, looked out over, and descended deep into, a desert that was awesome in its beauty. I am not going to have a single majestic view running a road marathon with 25,000 other people. There was hardly a moment without majesty out there in Calico. This was especially true in the very rough second half.
I’ve read detailed reports by runners like this guy who hated the course and was downright angry about it (although he’s warming up to it in hindsight). There’s also this woman who was afraid that boyscouts and other gun wielding types were going to shoot her. Yet another report is this, from one of Barefoot Ted’s sandal wearing crew. Yet another detailed report, from 3 years ago, is here. I used this report to scout the race.
I’m not very good at writing race reports. That doesn’t really matter, because the reports I’ve just listed above do a good job of describing the course. What fascinates me is that all of the above reports describe the course the way I remember it, but we all experienced the race in drastically different ways. Some of us hated it. Some of us loved it. Some of us were afraid of being shot.
Perhaps this is in part because we each have different agendas. Certainly it’s because we each have different expectations.
I’m not running for prize money. They’ve given all that stuff away by the time I get to the finish line. I’m not necessarily running for time, or to set a PR, (although I certainly don’t mind running faster than the last time). On the rare occasions that time has been a primary concern, the races have sucked. In the world of ultras it seems that every race is its own, and the only times worth comparing are those run on the same course. There’s a reason why the same two people have won Calico year after year. There might be faster runners, but not on this course. Sada Crawford and Robert Leonardo own this race.
I run to run. A 50K race through the Mohave is about the experience, and the experience is about what I see, and what I smell, and what I hear, what I feel… In order to have this experience, I need to be present. I’m always a bit startled when I read race reports that involve itunes playlists. I can listen to music at home. When I’m running through the Mohave Desert, in places that can only be gotten to by foot, looking out over these magnificent views that haven’t been seen by that many humans, and that I will never see again, not in this same way, not for the very first time, I cannot imagine why I would want to be any less than completely present.