After a week of stuffing my face with restaurant news over at Eater LA, there was only one thing I could do last weekend: Run it off! On Sunday Kara, Rita and I ran in the Bulldog 25K, an annual trail race through the Santa Monica Mountains. The roughly 15-mile loop starts in Malibu Creek Canyon State Park in Calabasas and winds up to the ridge above Malibu for spectacular views of the Pacific. It also includes a four-mile “mountain climb” to 2,528 ft. elevation on a rocky road named the Bulldog Motorway. Before I did the run I didn’t understand why it was called Bulldog, but now I know: About halfway up your mouth starts to let out little streams of bulldog-like drool.
The race started at 7:30 when it was foggy and almost cold; it was like it was “raining” mist out. They say you’re supposed to pick someone with a similar stride to keep pace with and I decided right away that it would probably be a good idea to stick with these guys. Not only were they easy to see, but I figured if I got hurt or something they’d not only be obligated to help, they’d be able to create new and better realities and improve conditions.
If you’ve been to Malibu Creek Canyon you’ve probably visited the M*A*S*H site, where they shot the show from 1973-1982. We passed a few remnants like this, but there are lots more rusting vehicles and signage at the actual site which is only about a 30 minute walk from the parking lot. Now that I think about it, the song “Suicide Is Painless” could really be a nice theme song for this run.
After a few cool, shady miles winding along the creek, we turned onto the Bulldog Motorway. It was all uphill from here. Most of the trail looked like this: really uneven, loose, steep rock. Ideal for prancing over with a few hundred other people.
The views, however, made it worth it. This is looking back inland, towards Calabasas.
And looking south along the ridge with the ocean to the right, just on the other side of the peaks. Right about here ocean breezes starting whipping onto the trail, a sign we were almost to the top.
At the top we were greeted with the most perfect meal I’ve ever eaten. I’m no fan of Gatorade in real life but Lemon-Lime Endurance Formula chased with M&Ms is sweet, sweet runner’s crack. All this while volunteers swabbed our shoulders with ice water sponges and misted us with sprayers. Like a day at the spa!
Then it was time for the lunar portion of the race, when we scrambled over these awesome rock formations. It’s amazing how much the vegetation changes up there depending on the availability of that ocean moisture. This part, which faced inland, was super arid and spotted with creosote and yuccas. But the ridges that got the breezes were lush with grasses and oaks.
Turning a corner, we got to see exactly how and where all that moisture was flooding into the valley.
Which, of course, we eventually got to run right through. The fog was literally funneling up and over the ridge and you could feel the temperature difference just by sticking your hand in the air. Right about here, the first 50K runners, who had started an hour before us and had to run the course twice, started lapping us. That’s right, they would run double the distance in less time than it took us to finish.
One last peek down into a socked-in Malibu (normally these are where you’ll see those Pacific vistas, but not today) and we started our descent, five miles of knee-popping switchbacks.
To my utter delight, and to add to the extreme-ness of the adventure, we had to ford a creek! It was basically impossible to tiptoe across from rock to rock so I just splashed on through. Which meant running the last two-and-a-half miles with wet socks. But, oh, so worth it!
It’s funny, even with all the hundreds of people running the course, at one point it was just me head-to-head with this gecko. I kicked his ass!
A not-too-shabby 3 hours and 45 minutes later, we all crossed the finish line intact. Smiling, even.
And how about those legs? Way cheaper than a spray-on tan!
More photos from the run.