Trailer Trash


Joshua Tree NP Traverse, two tales (Read 51 times)

running under the BigSky

    I have two different tales to tell of our Joshua Tree run.  The first tale starts about 4:00 AM where folks are rubbing the sleep out their eye (and smoke from the campfire the previous night), grabbing a quick bite and a cup of coffee and finally piling in the van to head for the half way point  (Ryan's Campground) to stash our water for the second half of the run.  We hid our water to keep any indian and cowboy playing kids from wrecking our run (jugs had well marked sharpie messages to keep to keep any well doing person from picking up "trash").  We continued on to the starting point arriving almost spot on our planned time.  At 6:40 AM we were on our way!


    The sun was coming up and the temps were in the upper 50's- perfect.  I settled into what felt like a decent pace and enjoyed the desert scenery- it was gorgeous.  The entire 38 mile length of the CRHT (California Riding Hiking Trail) has mile markers and they were great to gauge pace and serve as a reminder to fuel and hydrate.  I was soaking in the scenery and the mile markers seemed like they were flying by.  By my calculations I was only 3 miles from the half way point as I approached a pretty decent ascent, saving energy I walked the ascent and before long I was rewarded with a wonderful long descent.


    This is where the second tale starts.  Not too very far into the descent my calves rebelled- violently.  I stopped running in disbelief and walked.  Started to run again and the cramps came back instantaneously.  OK no need for panic, just walk the 2 miles to the half way point and refill bottles/bladder and take a little breather.  One by one, several of the guys passed me and everyone but one of us was at the half way point arriving within minutes of each other- a little less than four hours.  It turns out Adana was also suffering cramps (not just calf, but quad and hamstrings as well).  Sitting down was a challenge as my calves wanted to lock up (turns out getting up was even more challenging!).  My water strategy seemed perfect, I had drained my 1 liter bladder, but both bottle had water remaining.  I finished those off and refilled everything to the brim.  Adan and I decided to stick together and when we left we thought it would behoove us to walk for a mile or so.  After a mile we tried to run, no dice.  Another mile, still no dice.  Another, same thing.  We started messing with our gait and both find a way we could run even w/ the cramps, albeit not very fast (but faster than walking).  We were starting to cover ground pretty decently again and feeling good about catching up with some of the others.  At ~ mile 24 were descending a long switched back section and let out a couple of war hoops, not realizing the loose wheels were about to come off.  As we descended we both scanned the country side to see which way the trail would lead, we couldn't pick it out.  Soon it became very apparent which way the trail was going- up, way up.  The temps were now into the mid 70's which sounds rather pleasant, but coming from Montana and training in 20 and 20 degree weather- it felt hot.  The trail rose relentlessly and it was quickly taking it's toll.  My stomach started to rebel at this point and would remain in rebel mode the rest of the journey.  The light bulb also went off for me when I realized my wonderful hydration strategy at this pace was going very awry!  I started carefully nursing my liquids, cursing myself for not factoring in a much slower pace.  I turned onto another switchback and looked straight into a thorny bush, what was this?  I reached in and retrieved an old Gatorade bottle that appeared to be full of water.  No scientific testing, I unscrewed the lid and drank.  Adan was right behind and he did the same.  I fully filled one of my bottles and Adan refilled one of his with remaining water.  No one will convince me other wise, an angel looking out for me.


    We finally crested the top and arrived at Lower Covington Flat and started out our funny gait and "ran".  Unfortunately we both knew that our next destination was Upper Covington Flat and we knew what that meant Sad.  The axle nut on the wheel was only hanging on by a thread at this juncture.  In our minds we were convinced some joker had moved the mile markers apart, each mile seemingly longer than the previous one.  At ~ mile 32 we finally descended again, a long wash that lead to Black Rock Canyon.  While we welcomed the downhill, the sand was deep and loose and the joker that was moving the mile markers was now moving them farther apart.  A little while into the wash there was a junction for Eureka Peak, 2.5 miles in the other direction.  I jokingly asked Adan if we wanted to take short detour and bag Eureka Peak.  He answered that he didn't find that %#**@ing funny at all.  That made me laugh pretty hard at my own joke, but almost immediately I suffered severed cramps that had me bent over, now Adan did think that was pretty funny!  After a couple of agonizingly slow miles going down, I decided to the hell with it and cramps or no cramps, I'm going to run to put an end to this madness.  It was very pretty running through the deep sand, dodging obstacles (most w/ a thorny reward), but it was getting me down the wash faster (I later learned that Adan was inspired by my attempt to run and he did likewise, only to be rewarded a short while later with a simultaneous multiple muscle group cramp that put him head first into the sand!  I should also mention that Adan was having major problems with one of shoes as if couldn't have gotten any worse).


    I finally made it to camp, much worse for the wear 10.5 hours after our start (for those that don't like math, sub 4 hours to the half way point, 6.5 hours for the second half Shocked.  About 45 minutes later Adan arrived and I got a glimpse of what I must have looked like- not very damn good.   Slowly my appetite came back and the more I ate and the more I drank, the better I felt.  Sitting around the campfire I'd occasionally let out a yell as I mistakenly would try and cross my leg or other such move that would lock my leg(s) into a violent cramp.  But eventually all the woes were quickly washed away and we moved on, already starting to plan on our next adventure.








    Le professeur de trail

      Gorgeous pics.  As an east coaster, I appreciate pics of the west.  I am sorry about the cramping.  Hope you still enjoyed the overall experience.  I feel like I would enjoy planned out trips like this with a group of people rather than a race.  Something to ponder.


      Thanks for sharing!

      The incarnation of peacefulness and patience




        Nice adventure Mike. I'm not sure I quite read it right but 1 liter of water (33.8oz) for 4 hours sounds a little light.... or actually very light. That being said I have done quite a few longish runs  and about the time I think I have water and fuel figured out I'll have a day where everything goes awry and it's back to square one. So I know nothing.... except if we're able to run the Beaten Path I can pretty much say with certainty that water won't be an issue. Big grin


        Again, nice adventure, cool pictures, and a good write-up. Well done.

          Sounds awesome! I laughed out loud when I got to the part about eureka peak.

          And 70 is hot, after winter training, I don't even like 50 right now.

          Ultra Cowboy

            Thanks for the report.  I feel for you on the early cramping.  Way to tough it out.


            I still think I'd like to take the family camping there in March.  I'll think twice about trying a traverse though...



            running under the BigSky

              Nice adventure Mike. I'm not sure I quite read it right but 1 liter of water (33.8oz) for 4 hours sounds a little light.... or actually very light. That being said I have done quite a few longish runs  and about the time I think I have water and fuel figured out I'll have a day where everything goes awry and it's back to square one. So I know nothing.... except if we're able to run the Beaten Path I can pretty much say with certainty that water won't be an issue. Big grin


              Again, nice adventure, cool pictures, and a good write-up. Well done.


              sorry for the confusion, but I had a 1 liter bladder (sans hose) stored in the back of pack and two 20 oz bottles on my vest- one w/ water, one w/ Perpetuem- so roughly 74 oz, which for 4 hours was good, for 6+ hours in near 80 degree not so good Big grin


              yeah the Beaten Path will not have any water issues whatsoever (unless the water is locked up as snow Smile)


                Nice pictures, and looks like a great adventure.  Sorry about the cramping issue, maybe it was your incredibly short shorts Big grin.


                Seriously, do you have any idea of he cause?  How were your calories the night before and the morning of the run?  Since you were driving around, did you start the run hydrated?  Any other electrolyte or food issues?


                Glad you were able to make the most of a bad second half.  A bad day running with friends is always better than a great day at work.

                running under the BigSky

                  those are some pretty short shorts Big grin


                  had a good meal the night before, breakfast ate a bowl of granola w/ yogurt on it, small muffin and a cup of coffee; my on the run fueling was roughly 300 cal/hr- combo of Perpetuem, Clif blocks and Hammer bars (1/2 bar per hour)- I was also taking one Endurolyte and one Saltstick tablet/hour- I'm pretty sure this was more than almost anyone else- so I've ruled out electrolytes (unless I happen to be a rare case and need a heck of a lot more than most???)


                  the reading I've done points to two root causes- electrolytes- which I think I had covered pretty well (but maybe not); the other is simply neuromuscular fatigue- which with the combination of loose sand and possibly too quick of a pace at the start is certainly a possibility.  Other factors that could have certainly influenced the cramps was temps, while not really "hot" were double of what I was training in and last, but possibly not least- my training has always been around the 20 mile mark, this was roughly double from what I'm used to.


                    Electrolytes get a lot of blame for muscle cramps, but research shows it's usually the good old muscles themselves.  I think you hit the nail on the head with pace.  It might have been an easy pace for you back home in the temperature and surface your body is used to, but add the warmer temp and the sand and your muscles might not have been ready for the same pace.


                    Somewhere on RWOL there was a post linking to a table that showed pace changes with different temperatures.  I think 54 degrees was considered the ideal running temperature (not positive on that).  There was an adjustment made for pace / mile for each 5 degrees over 60.


                    Still sounds like a great time, and I love the pictures.  I'm with Jamie, I'd rather do a trip like this than an organized race.

                    Uh oh... now what?

                      All in all, a good story and adventure.  Lots of folks underestimate the additional effort running in sand requires.


                      Surely did enjoy the pictures.  We didn't see anyone while there.  Hung a red flasher on a convenient Joshua

                      tree and ran here and there during the almost full moon night, no lights needed, just homed back on the red



                      Thanks for the story, pictures, and bringing back the memories.  I think we are sending more snow your way.

                      running under the BigSky

                        AT- I agree- I'm more convinced it was muscle fatigue over electrolytes- I could actually see my calves quiver when would stop Smile


                        running with friends and then enjoying a campfire is really great, I do enjoy running races (the few that I've done), but nothing beats getting together for a run in some beautiful country just for the sheer fun of it


                        John- we didn't see a single either on the trail (plenty of folks on the road, lots of people climbing); our original thought was a moonlight run of this trail- after having running it, I think it would have been problematic- too many washes that appeared to be the trail, but weren't would be doubly confusing in lowlight


                        that's all we need is a little more winter! Big grin




                        Faster Than Your Couch!

                          Great adventure, thanks for sharing the report and pictures!

                          Those desert pictures always makes me think the desert is the ideal place to run! Cool


                          Sorry for your cramps, I feel with you. I had a similar experience on my first 50-miler (also at around 15-17 miles). For me, Endurolytes helped quite a bit (I had not taken any until the cramps started), but I am sure the cause for my cramps was just fatigue (pace too fast, not only considering it was a 50-miler. I had gone out like I was going to run 15 miles!).

                          And the warm temperatures also do their thing when you're not used to them.


                          Nice shorts! Wink

                          Run for fun.

                          running under the BigSky

                            even my wife commented on the shorts, I guess I didn't get the memo that short shorts were out Big grin  actually kind of funny when I was in the Carolinas last month I had forgotten my running shorts and had a heck of time finding anything w/ a 5" inseam- everything was basketball length- I guess that should have been a clue!


                            a couple more pics