Bootlegger 25K

Race Name: Bootlegger 25K/50K

Date: November 10, 2012

Distance: 25K

FootwearAltra Superior

Time: 3:01:36

Bootleg Canyon has become one of the places that we really enjoy running in the Las Vegas valley, so when I heard about the Bootlegger 25K/50K I decided it was a must-do for me. I always enjoy getting out and meeting new trail runners from the Las Vegas area, and what better place is there to do so than at one of the several trail races we get here annually.

Only in its second year, with this year being the first time a 25K distance has been offered, the Bootlegger 50K should quickly gain in popularity considering the challenge it provides and the two race directors, Ian Torrence and Josh Brimhall, both being well-known ultra runners. Bootlegger picks up where the World of Hurt 50K left off after disappearing for reasons unbeknownst to me after the 2008 race. Both Josh and Ian raced in the World of Hurt, along with ultra-legends such as Hal Koerner, Scott Jurek, and Jenn Shelton.

A week before the race, Ryan and I were out running in Bootleg Canyon (on some of the same trails), when I stumbled on a rock and bruised the ball of my right foot bad enough that I couldn’t put any pressure on it the rest of that day. The entire next week I iced it several times a day, and only ran once during the week between the injury and Bootlegger. It felt okay the night before and morning of the race, but it was still tender. I was definitely worried about it and decided to wear my Altra Superiors with both the footbed and StoneGuard in place.

The Race

The days leading up to race day were very cold and extremely windy, which had me terrified about what race day would offer. There were forecasts calling for temperatures in the 40s with wind and possible rain! Luckily, when I arrived at Bootleg Canyon there was nothing but blue skies and sunshine, with no wind whatsoever! Like many runners that competed in the race, I brought a lot of clothing options depending on what the weather had in store—2 different jackets and a mock-turtleneck compression shirt—but ended up not needing any of it. In face, for most of the race I didn’t even wear the beanie and gloves that I started with.

After watching the 50K runners take off at 7:00am, I downed my package of Belvita bars (which I highly recommend before runs) and took my warm clothes off to prepare for the run. While doing so I met Henrik, who had just flown into town five hours earlier from Denmark. We ended up running about half of the race together.

Elevation chart for the 25K, showing some of the hard climbs involved

Once our starting time came, we lined up, listened to the course instructions, and we were off! I immediately made my first mistake of the race by starting far too ambitiously considering I hadn’t ran 15.5 miles in at least 6 months, and when I did it wasn’t on trails. My first mile split was 7:37 and was mostly downhill, dropping 240 feet. Red flag number one. The next mile was a short drop followed by a steady climb up the River Mountain Hiking Trail, ending up with an ascent of 351 ft and a split of 10:51. Not bad. The third mile seems to be where I really screwed up and hurt my chances for a faster race later on. With the slow steady climb over with, there was now a very sharp climb of over 500 feet, which I maintained a 14:23 pace for and managed to almost burn out my quads in the first 3 miles of a 15.5 mile race. Oops.

Luckily, once I climbed up to the saddle we only had a short climb before things leveled out for the next few miles. It was also at this point that I caught back up to Henrik, who had stopped to take pictures of the view the saddle offered of the entire Las Vegas valley. Did I mention he’s a much faster runner than I am? We hung together, mostly with him taking the lead, and pounded out the next 4 miles of the  Boy Scout, Skyline, and Caldera trails with sub-10:00 splits. I did have two slight hiccups during this portion of the race, with my first being at the first aid station. As we were only a few miles into the race I didn’t need any water, but I grabbed a small cup of Coke (which hit the spot perfectly), and a small handful of M&Ms. The Coke was a great choice. The M&Ms, not so much. It’s very hard to run and chew M&Ms, and I was working on them for the next mile while trying not inhale them and choke. The second mistake was a very odd problem that I’ve never seen before. The Altra Superior comes with unusually long shoe laces, and I ended up getting my left foot caught in the loop of one of the laces of my right shoe, causing me to stumble to the ground and cut my hand. Nothing bad, but it still baffles me how it happened.

About halfway through the Caldera trail, we hopped onto an unnamed trail that links Caldera on the north side of Bootleg Canyon to Mother on the far west side. This was one of the more difficult parts of the course, with a lot of rolling hills and elevation change. My legs quickly started to feel rather flimsy from the first three miles of the race, and I fell behind Henrik. I continued to run as many of the hills as I could and kept a good pace on the near-flat, flat, and downhill sections. Once through the tough hills of this portion of the course I arrived at the second aid station where I ate an orange, had more Coke, refilled my water, and kept running. Looking back, I spent too long at the aid station talking to other runners and the volunteers (about five minutes), which probably cost me my sub-3:00 goal.

At this point I started to catch and pass the slower 50K runners, which gave me a bit of a boost, even though it shouldn’t have as they had much further than I did to go. My foot still wasn’t bothering me and the course flattened out with some downhill sections, and I was able to carry some good speed and catch a few other 25K runners that were ahead of me. We turned east on Mother and took it to P.O.W., which was a couple miles of long downhill, at which point I really turned it up (I LOVE running downhills) and passed a few more people.

At the P.O.W. aid station I had more Coke, drank some water, and started the slow climb up P.O.W. and Par None to the finish line. At this point I only had just over two miles left, and about 26 minutes to get under my 3-hour goal, so I pushed myself as hard as I could up the hill towards the finish line, but ended up falling just short with a 3:01:30. Looking back, I can see a lot of areas that I could’ve gone faster to make up the 1 1/2 minutes. My average moving time was 2:47, so I lost a lot of time standing around doing nothing, mostly at the aid stations.

The Organization

The organization of the race was fantastic. Packet pickup the day before was absolutely painless at Red Rock Running Company, and the swag was perfect. A Pearl Izumi jacket, a Booetlegger 50K bag, and the bib. No wading through piles of unwanted advertisements and product samples that will never be used.

Race morning there was plenty of parking available, places to put our bags for after the race, and lots of friendly volunteers working the race. The pre-race instructions were perfect, providing just enough explanation while still being concise enough that you don’t lose interest listening to it. The course was well marked with orange ribbon on the trails, making it easy to follow; particularly where the trail branches, it was very well defined which way to go.

The aid stations were well stocked with everything you could ask for during a race (water, electrolyte drink, gel packs, sugar snacks, salty snacks, Coke, etc) and the volunteers were very friendly and helpful. After the race there was plenty of food and drink (including donuts, coffee, and beer for those wanting some).

The Conclusion

I had an absolute blast running the Bootlegger 25K. The course was the most challenging I’ve ran as an actual race, and the distance was perfect to be able to push myself past my recent comfort level of doing 1o to 11 miles of trails on my long runs. My bruised right foot ended up being a non-issue, and I got a good chance to put some good mileage on my Altra Superiors, which I am quite pleased with.

I’m planning on heading back next year, but for the 50K.

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