“Covering the toughest trails available… If you’ve ever wanted a 5-mile run to feel like you just ran 10 miles (or a 10-mile run to feel like 20 miles), then this is for you! Beginner trail runners are highly discouraged from registering for this event.” This is how the event page for the Bootleg Beatdown begins. Toughest trails they could find? Check. Hottest time of the year? Check. I’m always up for a challenge. The Bootleg Beatdown by Desert Dash Races was definitely it.
The day before the race, a friend and I hopped in my car and drove the 5-ish hours from our Arizona homes, to Henderson, Nevada where we would be staying for the night. As my friend is newer to trail running, she decided to volunteer instead of run it with me. After some pre-race fueling at Sweet Tomatoes, and loading up on water and snacks for the evening, we headed to our hotel room to check in. Later that evening, we walked next door for some additional vittles to fuel us prior to settling in for the night. My friend had her stromboli, I had my popcorn- ah the joys of a 3am wake-up call before an early morning race.
The weather on race morning proved to be more mild than expected. Mid to high 70s for most of the morning and race temperatures that stayed in the 80s. Beautiful weather! Though, after training in 100+ degree heat, I probably would have done better against my competitors in triple digit heat. I signed up for the longest event of the day, the 10 mile race. After reading the description on the website, and viewing the confirmation email warnings, I thought I was prepared for the level of difficulty I would face on this course- I was wrong.
6:00am sharp and we were off with a bang (literally). We started uphill on a jeep road just prior to turning onto the single track trail that would be my home for the next 3 hours. As I failed to properly charge my Suunto, I would be flying blind on this course with no idea as to my pace or the distance I had traveled. That wasn’t a bad thing.
For the first mile or so, I tackled single track consisting of steep descents and climbs. This part would definitely tear up your quads and fatigue your legs early on. But at this point, all of this was runable for me. When I reached the next part and stared up at Ginger, things would change.
I am extremely grateful that as I started to climb Ginger, I was sandwiched between two guys that I would stick with for most of the race. Chatting our way up the steep climb, much of it on our hands and feet, would distract me from the crazy heights and sheer drops. We plugged along this portion steadily, but surely, getting off course at one point- only to be re-directed by a photographer waiting at the top to take our pictures. There wasn’t much of a trail here, but thankfully, Desert Dash did a great job of marking the course with small orange flags. Thank goodness for the aggressive tread on my Pearl Izumi N2s.
I remembered seeing some cutoff times on my friend’s volunteer guidelines. I wasn’t sure if they would be enforced on this route, but wanted to clear those times just in case. With just 40 minutes from the start to get to the top of Ginger, we sprinted the short distance to the aid station after clearing the mountain climbing, coming into the aid station with just 1 minute to spare. 2.4 miles in. Fortunately, my friend was there to give me a huge smile as I gulped down some Tailwind and told her that this was the toughest course I had ever seen.
As I left the aid station, my legs began to wake up as I started the gradual downhill that would be a nice reprieve for the next few miles. Almost immediately, I made a sharp turn onto loose rock that gave way underneath and was on my back with a hard thump. A small chunk out of my hand would be a constant reminder to watch my step as I continued on while chatting with some new trail friends. We moved at a comfortable pace until the 5 mile aid station near the start/finish where I grabbed more Tailwind and chugged a package of my Honey Stinger chews.
The second half of the course would be very different from the first, as we headed out onto more single track, with a twist. The descents and inclines on this part of the course were so steep that I began employing a hands and feet crab walk to slide down and keep from further injury. I would find myself doing this quite a bit over the next 5 miles.
After some additional rollers, we began the steep climb up another mountain as Lake Mead loomed in the background. At this point, I was very grateful for my Bio Skin Calf Sleeves as they reduced the fatigue in my lower legs from all of that climbing, with no end in sight. It had been miles since I’d seen another female runner, but the three guys now within eyesight helped keep the race from feeling like I was running on the surface of the moon. Soon, as I continued to head up the mountain, I was surprised to see two women coming up behind me. One of the girls started the race late and was now catching up. The second, who I got to know as we trudged up the mountain, was the founder of a local racing company, Triple Dare Running. She had gotten a bit lost on the climb up Ginger and was now gaining on me.
As we reached the top of this second and final climb, the views behind us would be well worth the effort. A short run further and we were back at the remote aid station where my friend awaited my return. 8.5 Miles down, 1.5 to go. Though mostly downhill, this final push would involve the most sliding on all fours of the day. Before I knew it, I was back on the jeep road and heading toward the finish line where I was swiftly handed a finisher’s canteen. A new buff and sunglasses would round out my awesome race swag.
This race was definitely not my best showing, but one of the funnest, and most challenging events of my life. For this course, I’m proud just to say that I finished.
Special Thanks to my sponsors and supporters-
Pearl Izumi, Honey Stinger, and Bio Skin
To Desert Dash for putting on an amazing race
And to Heidi from Triple Dare Running for the support and some great pictures
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”