Saturday, April 16, 2022

Run with the Burros Trail Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend was the Run With The Burros event. There was a 10-miler, 17.5-miler and the marathon distance... Obviously you can guess which race I choose (especially since I had 25 miles on the training plan for the day ;)).

A burro race?! Sign me up!

Let me tell you - I WAS STOKED! I read Christopher McDougall's book, Running with Sherman, a while back (Sherman's a donkey) and thought the idea was super cool. I never thought I'd be able to do something like it, but gave him a HUGE round of applause for being able to run a race with an animal (I mean, don't get me wrong, I've done a couple 1-milers with a wiener dog, but Walt's all of 25 pounds, not HUNDREDS!). My thought was running a race WITH people who were running with burros was the next best thing, right?! (Maybe I could get some of their awesomeness via osmosis, hehe.)


Ok, ok, I'm a bit way too excited and getting ahead of myself... Before I get into the race deets, let's back it up a second.


If you've been around my corner of the InterWebs for a few weeks, you probably know that I've been dealing with some "injuries" and have been going to physical therapy to try and fix them. (The short of it is - I strained my hamstring/ abductor/ hip flexor in November on a 50-mile bike ride and my muscles have been "scared" since then. I've been working with a PT for the last few weeks to try and get my muscles to efficiently lengthen {and eventually strengthen}. If you want more of the nitty gritty, you can read the full update HERE.) All that to say I haven't technically been cleared to start running yet. I'm currently walking all my mileage (if I have 6 miles or less on the training plan, I walk the mileage, if I have more than 6 miles on the calendar I walk the approximate amount of time it'd take me to run them). I'm walking A LOT!

Trying to get "strong" at physical therapy...

A week or so before the race I went to the hubby and asked him his thoughts. I told him I had originally put this race on the calendar because it fit into my training plan (I had 25 miles on April 9th and this race was 26.2 - perfect) and because I figured we could camp at one of the hubby's fave areas afterwards - Kern River. When I originally registered I assumed I'd be running the race, but now I was slightly worried I might not even make the 9 hour cut-off because I was going to be walking the 26 miles (with over 4,100 feet of elevation gain). I put the ball in his court and said that if he'd prefer, I was absolutely okay with either reaching out to the race director to see about transferring my registration to a future event or considering it a donation to the cause. He asked me if I wanted to do it. I told him I was excited about it and seeing as I needed TIME ON FEET for the 100-miler, this was okay in my book (but he was the one who would be waiting around for my slow strutting self). He said that if I was okay with it, while I was huffing about in the desert, he'd drive over to the river, do some fly-fishing and then around the time I was expected to finish he'd make his way back. I told him that sounded like a perfect plan, so I prepared to meander around the Eastern Sierras with other riDONKulous runners and pack animals. 


I was joking with Sarah (from Sarah Marie Design Studio) about how I needed her to edit her "run all the miles, pet all the dogs" sweatshirt she had just posted on Instagram for me - "Walk all the miles, pet all the burros" - maybe next year ;)

Obviously if she did it, it would look professional and not like a kindergartener made it ;)

With the race being on Saturday, we planned to leave Friday afternoon once the hubby wrapped up work for the day. Before we left I made sure I had EVERYTHING I needed for race day (I figured I could get by for a day of camping if I forgot something, but being in the "middle of the desert" would be difficult to track down an essential had I forgotten it). 

After the hubby was able to close his laptop and we had the truck packed, it was finally time to hit the road. We pulled out of the driveway a bit later than we would've liked, especially with Friday traffic on the horizon, but we'd make it work.

Walt was panting because it was in the 90s due to a heatwave we were surviving, but don't worry,
the hubby and I both took one for the team and turned our air conditioning vents towards him ;)

Originally we were planning on packing dinner and eating at the campground we were planning to stay at for the night, but once we saw the time and the ETA with traffic we knew that wouldn't be an option the night before a race (even if I wasn't planning on racing). There weren't a ton of options I felt comfortable with eating (I'm always down for roadside Mexican food, but spicy probably isn't a smart idea when you are camping with limited facilities and then walking around the desert for {what I was expecting to be} 8-9 hours the following day), so a Subway sub it was (in case you care about my order ;) it was multigrain wheat bread with spinach, red onions and extra pickles - boring, bland and thankfully easily digestible). 


Eventually, around 8:30pm we finally pulled into Walker Pass Campground, found a spot (it's more like BLM with pit toilets, but there are designated sites) and popped the top of the truck. We walked Walt after being in the truck for 5 hours, got everything ready for the following morning so I wouldn't wake up the hubby when I got up (I give myself at least an hour to get ready on race mornings - 30 minutes to do my PT stretches/ exercises, 15 minutes to "get ready" and 15 minutes of wiggle room to use the restroom) and then sat on the picnic table stargazing before calling it a night. 

Race morning came early (especially because I had a wiener dog who didn't want to sleep in his own sleeping bag (yes, we do have a sleeping bag for Walt... it's probably a toddler bag, but it was marketed as a doggy bag so of course the hubby wanted it for the pup) and kept me up all night while he moved around and pushed me with his paws. On our drive to Inyokern the day before the temps hit 104* {we were having a heatwave at the coast and it was in the high 90s the previous three days}, but since we were at higher elevation the temps were only in the 50s. I was hopeful the the weather would stay just as nice as we drove down to the race a mere 15 minutes away, but no such luck - OH DRATS! By the time we pulled into the parking lot for the race (around 5:50am) it was already 72* and the sun wasn't even up yet!

We had to park in a "truck/ SUV lot" because we had more clearance and could make it over the bigger ruts ;)

The hubby always thinks it's hilarious when he makes Walt look like he's driving ;)

Because we weren't in town the night before for bib pick-up, I had to arrive by 6:30am to grab my goodies. I snagged my bib, timing chip and (HIGH VIZ) participant tee before I had the hubby snap a couple pictures of me before the start.

Let's do this thang! We were starting around 3010 feet above sea level and climbing from there.

Are you calling me slow?!

The race was set to start at 7am (the 17.5 miler and marathon), but it was a little late. I was okay with it and took the time to meet and greet with the burros. There was actually only one doing the marathon (Cheeto) and one doing the 17.5 miler, and because both distances were starting together (with the burros going first) I got to say "HI" to the fuzzy creatures. 

This is Cheeto and he's from Colorado. He was between 12 and 15 years old
and was rescued from BLM land about three years ago.

The majority of the burros were doing the 10-miler (which the race directors deemed as the introductory distance, so I can understand why people who were renting a burros for the race might pick that length), so while we still had a few minutes, the hubby and I made our way back to them. Some of the burros were yeery, but all of them were soooo cute! I told the hubby before the race that I wanted a burro (and, of course, we would need the land for him and my goats and my carrot ranch) and obviously as soon as I saw them I KNEW it was the case. Also, I FOR SURE wanted to run with one!


Eventually it was time to stop gawking and run walk. There was a beautiful pre-race prayer, then we recited the "oath". 

Don't worry, I said "dang" when we were reciting it ;)

I'll be honest, I was a little nervous but a lot of excited. I was nervous that there was a possibility I might not make the cut-off, but I was excited because I was out in nature, getting time on my feet with like-minded individuals and BURROS!

Ready or not, here I come!

Like I mentioned, my PT hadn't officially cleared me for running. I pulled the hubby aside at the start and asked him, "if my body feels okay, do you think it's okay if I jog some of the downhill?" He said that if nothing hurt and I didn't have to change my gait to compensate for my "scared" muscles that he didn't see a problem with it. Obviously he is NOT a professional, so I was taking his suggestion with a grain of salt, but was also glad he didn't say "absolutely not". My game plan was to walk/ hike any of the flats and uphills, but if I came to a decent downhill I'd give it a try without over exerting myself (I was NOT about to risk messing up what my physical therapist and I have been doing for the previous 3 weeks).

They let the burros (and their racers) go first before the other runners started. We were also told that burros don't love surprises, so when you're coming close to them, make yourself known by saying "good morning" or "on your left". We let them get a decent head start (until they were out of view from the starting line) and then it was our time to shine.

This is technically a picture of some of the 10-miler burros the hubby snapped
before he left the parking lot to go fly-fishing, but you get the idea ;)

When I was "preparing" for the race, I was looking for an elevation profile but couldn't find one. I posted in the Facebook page (the main source of communication) and what I heard was "it's uphill for the first 8 miles and downhill the next 8". Once the race director said "GO" I knew I was in for quite a bit of straight walking. I started at the back of the pack (as to not get in the way of the runners or people trying to race) and just started putting one foot in front of the other.

Apparently I must have been pondering the long walk ahead of me... Or maybe rubbing in my chapstick...

Although the course was uphill for a big chunk, the views were gorgeous. I started the race with an attitude of gratitude and hoped to keep it the entire day. I did my best to soak up the sights, smell the flowers and chat with those around me.

If I remember correctly, this was around Owens Pass.

With as little water as we get, it's always amazing that things can grow and flourish in these conditions!

Looking back from the direction we came (and a bit into the sun).

My attitude totally saved me this race. (Spoiler alert - I finished this race within 10 minutes of the 50K I ran a month ago, but I was so much happier during this one. I have to credit it to the fact that I assumed I was going to be RUNNING the 50K and when I did so much walking I was bummed. This race I assumed I'd be WALKING it all, so when I was able to jog a bit of it, I was STOKED!) Running is such a mental activity and a positive perspective can make a HUGE difference!

I like to smile, smiling's my favorite...

There were photographers on the course and even though I was "only" walking they were still commenting on how big my smile was. I reminded them how lucky we were to be out enjoying the day with all the amazingness around us.

A lot of folks started off running, but with all of the uphill, it seemed like I was catching quite a few of them.

Some folks may think the desert is boring, but I find it so beautiful!

4,100+ feet of climbing is no joke, but thankfully my legs were used to the fast walking from the previous month!

The course was awesome. One of the aid stations was actually in an abandoned mine - I mean, how stinkin' cool is that?! 

I didn't know we'd be running through here (or know anything about the Nadeau-
Magnolia Mine), so it was awesome to turn a corner and come upon these sites.

#RealTalk - The sign did NOTHING to make me feel welcome into this "creepy" homestead ;)

Remnants of the mine all about the area.

We even had a "water crossing" on the course (which I was NOT expecting, seeing as we're in the middle of the desert!)!

So it wasn't anything big and we were able to cross
using the stones on the left, but still pretty fun!

I was STOKED when I came up to the burros along the course. First I caught the one that was tackling the 17.5 mile distance. They seemed focus, so I made myself known, tried to snap a sneaky picture and kept on trucking along.

I can't even imagine how difficult it is to not only get yourself 17.5 miles in the desert but also try and get a
wild donkey over the terrain as well! KUDOS TO THESE RUNNERS AND THEIR ANIMALS FO SHO!

When I came up to Cheeto and his handler we were cresting a little hill. I gave them some encouraging words and then the runner told Cheeto to try and keep up with me (I started jogging once we went over the peak) - so I was able to actually run in step with a burro for a couple paces! HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN SAY THAT?! Not many, that's for sure!

These two were the only ones brave enough to take on the marathon distance!

Around the halfway mark of the first loop (like I mentioned, there was a 10 mile, a 17.5 mile and a 26.2 mile race - the 26.2 mile distance did the 17.5 mile loop {minus about a mile where the 17.5 milers ran back to the finish} followed by the 10 mile loop), the uphill thankfully started to go downhill. I had taken my agreement with the hubby seriously and hadn't done any running until I got to some decent descent. I wasn't planning on killing it or pushing myself, but it was nice to open up a bit and let the legs loose on the way down. Remember, it had been about a month since I had already ran last! 

SHHHHHH... Don't tell my PT I was jogging ;)

I was doing my best not to look at my watch, but around the halfway point I did make a note of the time so I could tell the hubby. I shot him a text letting him know I was SUPER SURPRISED that I had finished the first 13 miles in around 3 hours, so if I could keep the current pace I'd be done in closer to 6 hours (instead of the 8-9 I was originally anticipating). 

If you look closely, you can tell that as the race goes on I get saltier and sandier ;)

I did my best to constantly be checking in with my body to see how I was feeling (not just with my "scared" muscles, but also with the heat and my hydration levels). I try to stay as self-sufficient as possible, that way I don't have to stop at aid stations along the route, but it's always great to know they are there if you end up needing something. The volunteers at all of them were awesome - always giving out tons of encouragement and offering their goods and services to anyone in need. [In total I ended up drinking about 104 ounces {64 ounces of plain water from my bladder and 40 ounces of water with nuun from my two-20 ounce soft flasks} and having 5 servings of PROBAR BOLT chews. I probably could have had the sixth serving of chews I had with me, but I thought I'd be fine and ended up suffering a bit the last half mile or so.]

Pink Lemonade BOLT Chews are my JAM! (And normally how I fuel in races short than 50 miles.)

A mile or so from the split (where the 17.5 milers would head towards the finish and the 26.2 milers would head out for the 10-mile loop), a fellow runner jogged up beside me and we spent the next mile or so walking and chatting about life. I found out about his jobs and hobbies, we chatted about the races we had done and were planning on doing, etc. Unless I am running with the hubby or friends, I normally prefer to keep the chit-chat to a minimum (don't get me wrong, I love giving encouragement to those around me, but it's normally in little spurts of "you're doing great" or "keep it up" in passing, not full length conversations). Running is normally my personal time - where I can talk to God, work through things in my life or just zone out - but it was refreshing to be able to spend 20 or so minutes just making a new friend. 


After some fun downhill jogging in the first loop (don't worry, it was probably only a total of maybe 4ish miles that I was going faster than a brisk hike and my body was still feeling good), we made the split for the 10-mile loop and it was back to more uphill. Not only that, but the 10-mile loop seemed to be a lot of sand. I appreciate softer terrain, but sand is difficult to run in... you sink in and it's like it sucks all of your momentum (not to mention it gets in your shoes and socks a lot easier than packed dirt). I told the hubby once I finished that if I were to do this event again, I'd probably stick with the 17.5 mile loop - it was definitely the more scenic (even if it had 1,000 more feet of climbing in it, it actually felt easier to me).

Just in case you've never run in soft sand, I can confirm - 0 out of 5, would NOT recommend.

I also did a lot more walking that second loop. It wasn't only the sand that was making it a little tougher, but also the fact that I was out on my feet longer and it was heating up fast. Remember, it was in the 70s when I started and by the time the hubby and I were pulling out of the parking lot it was in the 90s. (I'd much prefer dry heat to humid heat, don't get me wrong, but it was still starting to zap some of my energy.) I texted the hubby when I hit 20 miles [I kept my phone on airplane mode to save battery unless I was trying to communicate with him] and still seemed to be on pace to finish around the 6 hour mark. (Note - reception, especially at trail races {due to lack of service} or large races {due to an overloading of the systems} can be spotty, so make sure you have a back-up plan in case you can't reach your people.) 

Major props to all of the people who made this event possible - whether they were stuffing participant tees into
packets, feeding folks at aid stations, talking photos on the course, etc. YOU ALL ROCK MY SOCKS!

Even though the 10-mile loop wasn't my fave, I still did my best to search out reasons to smile. The hubby laughs at me often and calls me Cinderella because I talk to most (if not all) of the animals/ wildlife/ creatures we come across. Well, of course I had to stop and chat with some on the course (and check out the desert landscapes along the way!)! #ImWeird

This little one was cruisin'!

When I saw this bush in the distance I thought there was a big growth on it...
until I noticed it was moving! The hubby was mad at me when I showed him
my pictures because he said I shouldn't have gotten that close to the bees...

The desert was a-bloom!

#RealTalk - I'm always a little nervous about getting lost on the trails. My sense of direction is crap-tastic (I could get lost in a paper bag), so I was extremely appreciative at how well the course was marked. There were ribbons on the entire 26.2 miles, along with paper plate arrows I started seeing on the 10-mile loop. Since there weren't a ton of people in the race, there were times where I couldn't see another participant anywhere in my view, having these consistent signs were great!

Thanks to the volunteers who marked (and unmarked) the course for runners like me!

Oh yeah, and in case you thought I'd take a break from my #3PieceChallenge, you'd be wrong. I was actually very proud of my fellow runners that I didn't see any litter on the course from participants (minus burro skat ;)). Everything that I picked up was "desert debris" - sun bleached cans, shotgun shells, etc. My hydration vest came in handy to stuff the trash in (although I forgot when I got home and all of the sand and such ended up on the floor when I was unpacking...)! 

In case you don't know what my #3PieceChallenge is - I pick up {at least} 3 pieces of litter on my runs/ walks.

Eventually it was time to finish. I saw the hubby and pup in the parking lot about a half mile before I actually would be crossing the finish line. At this point I was walking 95% of the time and was 100% okay with it ;) I'm sure the hubby and pup would've prefered I picked up the pace a bit, since they were sitting in the 90* heat, but, hey, I was doing my best!

Seeing the finish line always is a mixed bag of emotions - I'm usually happy that I am finished but sad it's over...

Flying high since I was coming in 2-3 HOURS sooner than I originally expected!


There were a few awesome folks handing out medals (which happened to be wooden keychains) and one of them even commented on how much they liked my outfit. Many of the participants were still hanging around under some pop-up tents eating and celebrating, so I got a nice finish line welcome when I made my way to the "finish sign". 


The back side of the medal is the head of a burro! HOW FUN?!

When all was said and done the 25+ miles (trail races never seem to be exact, so I ended up with 25.76 miles on my watch even though the Garmin Connect info the race posted had the distance at 26.08 miles) in slightly over 6 hours.

My watch also had us climbing a smidge over 4,100 feet (again, I could never find official info on the elevation profile anywhere, but the UltraSignUp site did mention ~1,100 feet for the 10-mile loop and ~2,300 feet for the 17.5-mile loop).

Like I said, the 17.5 mile loop is no joke!

Any just in case anyone cared about my splits during the race

We didn't hang around long (in fact, we snapped a few photos, then all I could think about was the PROBAR PROTEIN bar in the cooler calling my name) because Kern River was beckoning us! We jumped in the truck and peaced out. 

Frosted Coconut used to be my favorite, but they discontinued the flavor, so
Frosted Peanut Butter is my new go-to (or Mint Chocolate depending on my mood).

Even though I had technically cooled down by the time we got to our site, I figured an "ice bath" was necessary ;) The hubby and I hung out in the river for about an hour while the pup looked for trash to eat or worms to roll in on the bank.

I took a few pictures of the hubby and pup, but thought this one looked like he was yelling and LOVED it!

Once our legs felt good and our tummies were growling, we went into town for some dinner. We ended up getting pizza (although we won't be going there again) and on the way back we stopped at the market for a few celebratory snacks :)

And don't let the picture fool you, the hubby had the beer AND an ice cream cookie ;)

With the lack of sleep the night before and the desert adventure during the day, I was ready to hit the hay shortly after the sun went down. Thankfully the pup stayed in his sleeping bag and I was able to get a decent night's rest. We set the alarm for about 7:30am so we could be up and at 'em. The plan was for me to get in another 2 hour walk (I had 13 miles on the calendar) while the hubby did some morning fishing and then we'd start the 4ish hour (depending on traffic) drive home.

A couple minutes into my walk I realized I didn't bring a bag, so I'd probably only be able to carry a few pieces of litter... Well, within minutes I saw a plastic bag in a tree. I grabbed it and filled it with bottles and cans in the first 2 miles. 

Honestly! I don't know if I should be happy or incredibly sad this happened!

Around mile 4 I found another grocery bag, but this one had been a bit fried in the desert, so it was brittle. Once I got it full the handles broke off and I had to just carry the sides of it. It wasn't super convenient, but at least I could carry more.

They didn't understand the assignment...

I got in my two hours of walking, filled two grocery bags of bottles and cans and made it back in time to see my two faves!

Definitely wouldn't recommend the road route I walked, but it's the best I could do.

We decided to take one last McDot shot down by the river before packing everything up and calling it a trip.

The hubby's phone was on "live" and we somehow caught Walt with his tongue out - HA!

And then... it happened... On the walk back to the truck from the river the pup stepped in fire ants. OH GOLLY GEE! He has done this before (as well as stepped on bees, which he is allergic to), so we did our best with the situation. We took him back to the river to try and washed off whatever we could. We then had to rush to the market (with another stop at the river because he was in so much distress) because our "bee sting kits" that we had made up for our cars had expired so we needed to buy new Benadryl. I ran into the store, bought string cheese (so he'd eat the medicine) and the Benadryl. (NOTE: Our vet has told us this is what we should do for Walt when he is away from a doctor - I am NOT recommending you do this for your pup without consulting a professional.) Eventually the medicine started working and Walt was able to stop nibbling at the pad where he stepped on the ant(s), kicking his foot uncontrollably, crying, etc. And, like Benadryl does with me, it pretty much knocked him out (again, check with a professional on dosage if your vet recommends this line of medication, but due to Walt's weight and size the most we can give him is half a pill). 

He slept on my lap just about the entire drive back home.

Thankfully by the time we were pulling into the driveway the pup was starting to wake up out of his antihistamine haze. 

He was starting to get back to his usual self - THANK GOODNESS!

Besides the Walt drama (let's be real, there's usually something with Walt), it was an FAN-FREAKIN'-TASTIC trip! The hubby and I were even chatting about renting a burro next year for the 17.5 mile run. We just have to figure out how to make the training work (since you need to work with them prior to the race so everyone is comfortable). If there's a burro race in your area, I HIGHLY recommend signing up! And, if you can make the commitment to run WITH the burro - DO IT!


Do you know the difference between a burro and a donkey?

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