Born to Run is a mixture of races that take place in Los Olivos, California. The races were created and hosted by famed runner Luis Escobar.
Born to Run is a bit of a cult race with a hippie-like Woodstock meets Burning Man vibe to it with good music, large consumptions of alcohol, and other extracurricular activities, as well as a bit of running. This year’s event had distances of 200mi, 100mi, 60mi, 30mi, 10mi, and a 1mi beer run.
Run It Fast® member, and good friend, Jeff Liu had selected this race a few weeks prior to run as his 4th 100 miler. I wanted to be there to support him but was undecided on running it until three days before the race when I signed up. That’s enough time before a 100 to decide to run it, right?
Naturally, I was late leaving Los Angeles, traffic piled up, and I finally arrived at the BTR ranch about 10 minutes before the race was to commence. Since I had signed up at the last minute there was some confusion as to who had my race bib. I finally located it and rushed to get ready in my truck as Jeff waited shaking his head at my rushed entry onto the BTR scene. Jeff had been there for several hours, all set up, laid back in his Lazy Boy recliner soaking in the BTR vibes, scents, and mentally preparing to run 100 miles. I finally told Jeff to head on over to the starting line as I wrestled with some bags to find socks and Gu’s. Shortly after, I heard the final call to start the race and ran the 1/10th of a mile to the starting line.
Right before the gun went off, I was able to locate the other RIF members there including Christy Scott, Liu, Jeff Genova, Martine Sesma. I found everyone from RIF except Ed ‘the Jester’ Ettinghausen, and Ed is very hard to miss. Not being able to find Ed before a 100 he’s supposed to be at (which is about every one) is like not hearing a screaming kid at Chuck E Cheese at closing time.
Luis fired the shotgun and we started the Born to Run 100 mile race as the sun was starting to set on the ranch. I spent the first mile chatting with Christy and then with Andrew Snope, from Georgia, whom I met back in August at the Six Days in the Dome races in Alaska. I then caught Scott Newton, from Soul to Sole, and we ran the next mile or two together before he took off and left me as I helped a poor oak tree from the tough California drought with a solid 53-seconds of hydration. It was during those early miles that I realized all the things I had forgotten to do in my mad rush to make it to the starting line. The most glaring was that I forgot to put on my Zensah® calf compression sleeves. It was not a major deal though since the race would return by my truck at the 10-mile point.
The first 10 miles was on what was referred to as the ‘pink’ loop, pink ribbon…pink loop. The pink loop winds all over before bringing runners back to race headquarters. Then we headed out on a 10 mile ‘yellow’ loop (yellow ribbon) that returned us to the same spot as well. You do each loop 5x to reach the 100 miles. I’ll give Liu a pass because he had never done the race before, but Liu, Newton, the Jester, and everyone I spoke to before the race talked about how BTR was a fast course with some easy rolling hills. Four miles into that first ‘pink’ loop and I thought this isn’t that rolling or that easy. As fate would play out the ‘pink’ loop was the easier loop of the two. SMH!
I finished the first pink loop in 1:29 which was pretty fast, too fast actually! I had run it thinking that the yellow loop would be as friendly or more friendly. Upon getting back to my truck I killed several minutes, finding and putting on my Zensah’s, reloading my bottle, etc. I think I also grabbed my headlamp because the race had started at 6pm, and the sun would be down before I got back around. I headed out on the first ‘yellow’ loop and ran the first couple miles of it with Snope. He’s a super-fast young dude who is usually bare foot or in some Gandhi sandals. We talked a bit, co-mingled in the sunset, and I finally found some weeds to water so he’d get on his fast way. I was running too hard to keep up with his ‘easy’ pace.
That ‘yellow’ loop was no joke. Yellow is supposed to be the color of friendship I thought, but ‘yellow’ was not mellow and slapped me around a bit. I quickly realized that this course was going to be challenging and that I needed to figure out how and when to attack it. It’s one of the advantages of doing a looped course. You’ll be back on subsequent loops so know where you want to run, power hike, let gravity pull you (and where the aid stations are). I got back to home plate finishing my first ‘yellow’ loop in 2:04 for that 10mi and 3:33 for the first 20 miles.
Somewhere between 15-20 miles into BTR my right achilles felt fried and like it was on the verge of popping. My lower back decided to join in around the same time and give me a two piece harmony of pain that couldn’t help me to not think that the next track to be played would be ‘Symphony of Destruction.’ I immediately prepared myself that it might be near impossible to finish 85 more miles and I might ring up my first DNF…after 143 races. After all it’s only a matter of time…I started to prepare myself for all outcomes. When a DNF does finally happen, I’ll just start another streak and hope it’s just as long as the first. However, I knew as long as I could keep taking a step forward that I would continue.
The next ‘pink’ was slower but felt comfortable, followed by a slower ‘yellow’ as my run went deep into the night. My third time around was my slowest on each side, but I knew it was the last miles before the sun reappeared. My aggressive goal coming into the race was to hit 60 miles in the first 12 hours. I think in reality I hit about 57 miles in the first 12 hours. My achilles had slowed me a bit as had hunger and a bit of sleepiness throughout the night, but overall I was pleased with my movement over the first 60 miles that brought me back to BTR headquarters with the completion of three big loops (3 pink and 3 yellow). It took me 13hr 10min to do 60 miles. During that time I hit 50 miles in 10hr 27min.
With daylight anew, I felt confident with 60 miles completed. With the light it’s easier to feel more confident about your footing. It’s no myth that the sun brings energy with it as well. Also with the daylight there would be no more green eyes glowing back at me like they had throughout the night. The ranch had lots of cattle, deer, and other wildlife that kept you alert during the night. Like most trail ultras at night though, you are just going on blind faith and eventually get to the point where you don’t care what is out there…and even further to the point that it usually gets so bad during a 100 that you hope something will attack you and take you out of your misery, but even the wildest of wildlife has standards and will thumb it’s nose at you at that point.
On the fourth set of pink and yellow loops I was strong. I had my 2nd strongest pink loop on that fourth round and also my 2nd strongest yellow loop of the five total completed. I did the combined set of 20 miles from 60-80 in 4:33 (2:00/2:33). This left an ‘easy’ pink that would bring me back to BTR headquarters at 90 miles, leaving the tough yellow loop that I could simply mark off one mile at a time.
The last few times back to BTR HQ Tony Scott, Christy’s husband, who has helped me many times during the Strolling Jim 40 Miler in Tennessee, made sure I had was well fed and I had anything I could think of as he went above and beyond to help me have a good race. I’m very appreciative for Tony’s kindness and help during BTR & SJ40 two weeks before. His tent and food spread became my aid station. Tony had some great lil turkey sandwiches, with pepper jack, on Hawaiian bread that were amazing. I almost turned around once after heading out on a loop to get a few more. And of course he had Southern favorites, Zebra Cakes and Oatmeal Pies.
During that last pink loop I finally found ‘The Jester.’ I had not seen him before or during the race so I assumed he was a no-show. When I lapped Ed he told me that he had been late to the start (sound familiar?) and had started 30 minutes late. It’s always good to see Ed. He was having a rough day but would go on to complete his 100th 100-miler. Yeah, that’s a pretty amazing number. The whole Jester outfit can really detract at times from what a great runner Ed is and has been for a long time. He holds a 100 PR of like 14:50.
Around mile 80 I started hallucinating that I saw a hot air ballon with the same colors of my race bib.
Pink 80-90 went smoothly and I headed out quickly for my very last loop, my last yellow loop. I was ready to finish and for several hours I had kept my focus on the number 22:30 to keep me tuned in and keep me tight on the rail to try to finish this race without burning too much more time than necessary. It’s 100% that RIF attitude of maximizing potential and seeing what we are truly capable of doing. On that last yellow it had warmed up as it was now the hottest part of the day. I was pushing pretty hard to finish, and I started to get a bit light headed coming up one of the long climbs. I dialed it back a bit, slowed down on that last big climb, and waited to turn it back up when the next descent hit.
Around mile 96ish I went down that nasty triple-dip ridge descent for the last time. This left close to 3 miles to go and with that came a good feeling that my 30th 100-mile finish was in the bag. I enjoyed those last miles and kind of played the entire race throughout my head again as I also wondered how Christy, Jeff, and Ed were doing on the course. I had not seen Jeff in about 25 miles when we crossed at one point at an intersection. I kept hoping he had not DNF’d and succumbed to the vices of BTR HQ.
I then came down the last mile, through the BTR alley of cheering & debauchery, and crossed the finish line in 22:16:51. It was good enough for 5th overall. RIF’s Jeff Genova, the official race photographer, gave me my finisher’s amulet and buckle moments after crossing the finish.
I was pleased with my finish and my time. I had battled for many miles against my achilles, gutted it through certain sections, but had given it my all every step of the way. I could have saved more time by being more organized with my gear/food/etc at my truck where I burned more time than I should have, but that is the only thing I felt like I could have done better. My moving time was 20:27:53….so I could have done better and been more efficient at my truck when I stopped at it for sure. I felt like I minimized time at the actual aid stations.
Here is a look at some of my splits from the 2015 Born to Run 100:
Pink Loops: 1:29, 2:04, 2:17, 2:00, 2:09
Yellow Loops: 2:04, 2:33, 2:43, 2:33, 2:24
20 Mile Loops: 3:33, 4:37, 5:00, 4:33, 4:33
10-1:29, 20-3:33, 30-5:37, 40-8:10, 50-10:27, 60-13:10, 70-15:10, 80-17:43, 90-19:52, 100-22:16
Christy Scott finished sub 24 in 23:50:22 and was 1st female. Jeff Liu finished in 25:52:37. Ed ‘Jester’ Ettinghausen finished in 29:18:34 for his 100th 100-mile finish. Martine Sesma PR’d the 30-mile race in 6:00:14.
The great Oswaldo Lopez won the BTR 100mi in 17:10:07, Andrew Snope was 2nd in 17:45:22, and Ben Holmes was 3rd in 18:45:24.
Born to Run is laid back and fun for those there running one of the races, but is also a fun atmosphere for those not running as well with the live music, spirits, etc. The course is more challenging than advertised or friends remembered from prior years, but it’s a pretty course with great views and wildlife throughout.
I hope to be able to make it back next year!
– joshua holmes (RIF #1)
Run It Fast®