I’ve heard good things about the Point Buchon trail but never managed to follow through. Which is also silly as the Jurassic trail I’ve done multiple times uses the same parking lot. Granted Point Buchon was closed for a chunk of time during COVID and as the entire trail is actually on PG&E property, that was a hard closure.
To get to the trail head, you park at the very last lot in MDO and head for a tall fence. The small gate in the fence is only open on certain dates and times. Once through there, it’s short uphill paved drive to the check in. You have to sign in and out at the ranger station and you have to be off the trail by dusk. Like I said PG&E property and technically part of a nuclear power plant, so they take that pretty seriously.
It is also probably due to those reasons that this is the most well marked trail I have ever been on. There is no way to get lost, zero. Numerous trail markers along the way, signs warning you when the trail was going to end. As well as numerous look out points along the way with benches to sit and just enjoy the views. There were also multiple signs which would talk about the native wildlife, the Native American tribe- Chumash- who used to live there and what PG&E is doing for conservation. There was a sign referencing that the lighthouse used for the original Pete’s Dragon used to stand on what they call Disney Point. It was only up for a short period of time but it’s cool story. There is also still a working ranch on the property and part of trail takes you though cow pastures. There were babies!! Oh, and a sinkhole!
The trail is just under 8 miles out and back and very user friendly. The first 2 miles is nice and wide, very runnable. The last 2 miles turn to single track and on windy days you will get pushed around. There is also a half mile stretch in there of very soft gravel, your feet will sink but still very manageable. There was also access to a porta-pottie at Windy Point. We went all the way to the end before turning around. The views were amazing and it was a nice clear day when we started. Once you hit Windy Point, you can also see the power plant in the distance.
For a bonus, as we were almost back to the start, we found an offshoot trail that led to a private beach. It had some really cool rock formations as well as a cool cave to explore.
This was a great trail and I have no idea what took me so long to get to it. Except for the snake. I hate snakes and I had my first snake sighting about 6 miles into the trail. I still do it again, haha.
Race dawned early, chilly and wet. I made my way out to Montana de Oro and arrived with plenty of time to pick up my bib, use the port a potty and chill in my car. My car was parked about 30 feet from the finish and 15 from the bathrooms, ha!
There were 5 distances running that day and we all started at the same time. The RD gave a few directions- which color flag to follow and where not to go. He called out all the distances and we all raised our hands each time- I was suddenly thankful I had done the smart choice and dropped to the 13K. Valencia Peak is rough on a good day and this was not my day.
The race started and we were off- uphill. Ha! The first mile weaves along the bluff which gave us great stormy waves to watch. It also brought the first rain and crazy wind. My hood flew off and never stayed on again. I was run/walking the flats as I knew the proximity to the ocean and the rainy, cloudy day were just an invitation to my asthma. My plan was to run/ walk the flats, power hike the climbs and run the downhills. This plan did work in the respect that I did not have even the slightest of a wheeze but it also resulted in a time I would not have predicted. And I was aiming pretty low.
The first real climbs started in mile 2 but also gave me some good downhills. I couldn’t run the downhills as fast as I would have liked as I learned real quick that black mud has similar properties as black ice- hit a patch and you will go for a ride. I managed to stay upright but a runner behind me on one of the uphills was not so lucky. I heard a thud and crumpling plastic and turned to see a woman down. She popped up and said she was fine and we continued up.
I was slowing way down as the climb got steeper and wetter. The wind was picking up and it tore my hat completely off my head. It was also wasn’t to bright of me to try to catch it as there were drops on either side of me. My right foot was starting to hurt as I was realizing that my trail shoes and I do not get along.
I was sliding and slipping but still climbing. I may have been taking a few breaks to catch my breath too. People, I legit turned in a 34 minute mile for mile 5. Yes that was the last mile to the summit but how in the hell? I mean that mile was by far the sketchiest mile and a mile I find hard even in peak shape and good weather but how on earth did it take me 34 minutes????
Once at the top, I grabbed my rubberbands- you know proof I was there, even if I did take a wrong turn at the end and go the hardest way to the summit- and headed back down. Time to run free!!!
Except not really. Every time I hit a rock with my right foot, pain radiated. I may have started cursing. Out loud. A Lot. So, if you were out in MDO on Saturday and heard someone dropping f-bombs along the trail for a couple of miles- yep, that was me.
I finally hobbled my way towards the finish, over 2 hours after I started. Seriously, at one point, my mother sent me a text asking if I had fallen off a cliff. Well, I came close, ha!
So yeah 13K in 2:22:36. Y’all I finished dead last.
Which honestly I am fine with but it does confuse me. There were at least 4 people behind me when I left the summit- and I swear their bibs were the same color as mine. Either they didn’t finish or they were running one of the longer distances. I am just confused.
Even last, I still had a blast. Even if I was cursing for 4ish miles of that. Now, I am going to go start a bonfire for those shoes and ice my foot. I have big plans for 2020.
First race of the year, first 25K, first recap of the year! And it was a doozy. I tend to get long-winded in recaps so let’s see if I can condense this somewhat. And feel free to shake your head and grumble/ yell while you read.
Thursday- Checked the race website late that night and discovered a course change. They had offered a 5 mile, 7 mile, 25K and a 50k. Now the 7 mile was an 8 mile and the 25K course had changed. Previously the description said that the course was out the Bluff trail up and down Valencia Peak, back to start and then up to the grassy summit of Hazard Peak and back. Now, it stated that the course was up Hazard Peak, down the backside to a farther point before turning around. Waah. Truthfully, I had been trying to talk my mom out of doing the 25K for the last two weeks- all the way up to start time.
Race morning dawned bright and sunny. It was 65º at the start with not a cloud in the sky nor fog-in January. See where this may be going? There were a few pre-race announcements and we were off!
Miles 1-3 —-14:02, 14:02, 15:52
Ok, not too bad, we’re doing good. Damn, mom walks fast, I can’t keep pace, but when I jog I out pace her. Tricky, tricky. Mile 3 starts the climb.
Mile 4-5—- 18:34, 26:48
Hello Valencia. I start outpacing my mom, her knee was sore but it was manageable. I stopped and waited for her at times on the way up. Disclaimer- she told me to do that- shouldn’t have done that. The thing about Valencia is that it is deceptively tall, you think you’re near the top, but it takes so long. Plus the shale makes footing sketchy. But we made it- first climb done.
Mile 6-8 —- 22:14, 15:27, 15:38
Again, shale made the first part of the downhill sketchy but we turned to a different trail down. Hard pack, much better. Picked up the pace as we made our way down to the start line and only aid station. Those continuing on for the 25K and 50K went down some funky stairs behind the finish line before going through the parking lot up another set of funky stairs to another trail. Let’s call them the stairs of death. Man-made, uneven, random heights and absolute hell for someone with a sore knee. Can you guess what’s coming?
Mile 9-11 —- 20:53, 22:41, 25:37
Heading up Hazard in full sun, the temp had climbed to above 70º. My mom was in pain and slowing down. I was trying to not get too far ahead of her but sometimes I did and would double back. She started cramping at mile 10 but refused to quit. She had been drinking water and had eaten her fruit snacks but it was hot out there. We stopped and I made her drink more and gave her the pretzels that I had in my pack for the salt. I also took her pack at this point. We continued up pausing for all the runners coming back down and mountain bikers and horses. Once at the top of Hazard, I tried to get her to quit again. I also thought it was only .5 mile to the turn around. Ha!! Closer to a mile. A nice runner offered my mom a gel but we didn’t think it would help. I had become a water dictator and was telling my mom to drink every 2-3 minutes. I also noticed that my Garmin was off… by a lot.
Mile 12-14 —- 23:12, 23:35, 20:04
It was hot, she was cramping but refused to quit. I ate it on the shale but managed to pull some cool shale surfing move and stayed mostly upright. At least it felt cool, not sure what it actually looked like. At this point a woman passed us on her way back and says-“Oh, I thought I was last”. Umm, not cool. Particularly when there were 2 people behind us. On the way to the turn around, I pulled out my phone and noticed numerous texts from the Pops. Crap. I tried calling but lost signal. A nice runner man had given my mother 2 salt tabs at that point. They didn’t stop the cramps but probably kept them from getting worse. My phone rang when I was almost back to the top of Hazard- Pops!. My mom was a little behind me. He asked where we were (mile 13) and I predicted it would be another hour at least. He asked about our water- I said she still had a bottle and I had given her my Gatorade. What I didn’t tell either of them was that I was completely out by then and we had 3+ miles to go. I felt fine but knew it was getting warmer and that was still a fair amount of distance to go. I popped a piece of gum so I could trick myself. 🙂 I had started the day with 3x the amount of water I usually take for a half marathon.
Miles 15-16.2 —-18:12, 17:56, 3:17
We kept plugging along. I stilled yelled drink every few minutes and we paused when she had a cramp. She now says she will never tell a tennis player to play through the pain again. Just before mile 15, I looked ahead on the trail as it had widened out and saw something awesome. Pops!!! I literally threw my hands in the air and yelled this. He’d come to see the finish but brought supplies because he’s awesome like that and had started hiking our way when we had talked on the phone. He had his camelbak and 2 20oz bottles of water. He’s the best. I took a bottle and we trekked on. .3 miles from the finish line, the only 25K person who was still behind us ran past. Boo. Once again we ended with the damn stairs before crossing the parking lot to the finish line.
Finish — 5:18:10
Once crossing, a volunteer saw me first and asked if I wanted a soda or water. I said my mom needs water, she grabbed a bottle and ran to my mom. We made her drink that and brought her some watermelon as well. She was glad she finished but she was hurting. After water and some stretching I realized that we should have seen Pops by now. So I left her at a picnic table with the packs and water and went to find my pops and get the car so she didn’t have to walk back up to where we parked. I found pops waiting in his truck, he said he’d already walked more than planned and was not going down to the cove. We chatted for a bit and I went to move my car to go pick up my mom so we could all go to lunch.
I was stuck. I tried to back up and just spun my tires. Seriously?! My poor car. I was near my pop’s truck, so I opened my door and yelled for my daddy. There was group of high school boys out hiking that day and 2 of them came over to help too. I finally got loose and headed back to the cove. By now my mother was walking up because she was wondering where the heck I was. So with all the drama, we have no finish line pictures. Boo.
But we finished! Should we have? Probably not. She agrees that next time she will stick to the 8 mile. If this race had been last November like usual, I think she could have rocked it. It wouldn’t have been so warm and she wasn’t hurt yet.
I am not sure why my Garmin was almost a mile longer. I know I walked balk to her a few times but even she agrees it wasn’t enough to get anywhere near a mile. I am not sure if anyone else had a similar issue as we were the last 25k finishers and didn’t do a lot of chatting after. The race was very explicit about the fact that they only had the one aid station and that you needed to carry your own water in between but I think with the temperature being so freakishly high they should have put some water bottles up by the turn around. Just after we left my pops on the trail, a volunteer with a full camelbak was heading up. His plan was to be a roving water station, but by then everyone was 5 hours in. Looking at the finishing times, one 50K’er took the full 9 hours. It hit over 80 that day. Which is great for a day at the beach not so much for an ultra marathon.
Giant shout outs to everyone who helped that day- the girl who offered the gel, the man who shared his salt tabs, the awesome volunteer at the end who helped my mom. I am horrible and didn’t get names but they were all awesome! And I met another SLO ambassador at the top of Valencia- Hi Jason! And to my awesome pops, he saved the day,
After 11 days off (stupid flu!!!) I finally got out there and did something! I also made it to work on Thursday and Friday. Wowza, Thursday was rough, I was exhausted. No lie, I got through the day with a lot of Diet Coke. But anyways, on to Sunday.
With the 25k 7 days away, eek, Sunday was my last day to get in a trail run/hike. Plus I needed to test run my race day gear. Because of the narrowness on the trails and the chance for ticks, I am wearing clothing that is a little more form-fitting than usual. I also had a new hydration vest I needed to test. The first one didn’t work out so well. It didn’t fit right with water in the bladder and just didn’t feel like it was made well. I replaced it with a new one a few weeks back but hadn’t been able to test it yet. This one doesn’t have a bladder but has 2 water bottles in the front. I stashed snacks in the back pocket and filled the bottles. Success! Well, except I haven’t figured out how to easily access my phone. But I’ll work on that. 🙂
With me being sick and my mom being slightly hurt, we have readjusted our general time goal for the 25K. Sunday, the plan was to head out to the race course and hike part of the last out and back. According to the course map, that section is 8.4 miles. We had troubles finding the right trail head but we were near another one that my mom had hiked before and really wanted to again. The sign said it was 3 miles and it looked to be all fire road. Fine by me, 6 easy miles was probably all I was up for anyways.
It was freakishly warm! High 70’s and I was burning up! Being a fire road, the trail was easy but I was still coughing a bit. The trail ends near a worn down, beat up, old barn. It was equal parts creepy and cool. So of course we had to take a few pictures right? When we headed back, we passed a tiny, almost hidden single track trail head. My mother insisted she had hiked it before so we should do it too. Holy mother of incline. We gained 700 ft over the next 1/2 mile. Once we finally made it to the top, we found a picnic table. We took a break and ate a few snacks. And enjoyed the view. 🙂 We headed back down another way, hoping it was shorter way back. Ha!
Since we weren’t positive what mountain we were on, I pulled up a park map on my phone. It didn’t really help. Or maybe I just don’t know how to read it. Eventually we found our way down to a trail intersection. According to the map, the right trail led to a dead-end and the left trail was the backside of Hazard peak. We went left which meant we then had another climb in front of us. My mom’s knee was just starting to hurt and we coming up on 6 miles and we weren’t even at the top of the mountain. Our pace had slowed but we mad it to the top once again and enjoyed more views. There were some mountain bikers at the top discussing trails and I overheard one say that the trail we had not chosen led to another fire road. Really?! That would have been so much easier! Where were they when we could have used directions?Then it was time to head back towards the parking lot, down the front side of Hazard Peak. So at least we were able to check out the race course from that direction. Down hill it’s not too bad, but I am wondering what the uphill will feel like after 8 miles. Guess I’ll find out next weekend! We finally made it back to the parking lot- 9.65 miles later. We survived, haha! Even with getting a little turned around, going farther than planned,and getting a little sunburned, it was a good hike. I don’t think I would have hiked that far without getting turned around but some coughing attacks aside, it was great to get outside and do something again. Plus it was a good practice run for next weekend. It gave us a general idea of what kind of time to expect. Sunday’s hike was just that a hike and we covered 9.65 miles with 1400 ft gained and maintained a 17:00 pace. Next week the race will add some speed on the downhills but a little slowness when we climb Valencia Peak, but that’s only 1.5 towards the beginning, so fingers crossed?Sunday’s route took us from fire road to single track, packed dirt to loose shale and then loose sand. The surroundings changed from scrub brush to trees then to a Eucalyptus grove. The sun was shining and sometimes we could hear the ocean. I’d call it a pretty good day!
How was your weekend?
Ever got lost in the woods? (yes, I wasn’t in the woods but still) 🙂