Born to Run Weekend 2014

Born to Run 2014. Period. That’s really all I can say because no amount of explaining, stories, photos, or videos can really share with someone the magic of Born to Run if they weren’t there. But alas, I’ll try.

There are many different stories from many different people; this one is mine, from what I can remember. The problem is that I’m sure some of my favorite memories are actually things I can’t remember…such as Metallachi, finishing the Beer Mile, finishing Thursday’s Beer 10K, and everything that followed each of those events.

Born To Run 2014

Born to Run 2014What is Born to Run? In the weeks following the event social media was flooded with attempted descriptions of the happenings. A running festival, a distinct mix of an ultramarathon and Burning Man with Mariachi music, a camping trip? Maybe a crazy mashup of a bachelor party, July 4th, graduation day, a rodeo, and your great aunt Elma’s birthday? Weird. With everyone trying to describe Born to Run I think one thing is for sure, if you weren’t there, you won’t get it. Personally, I went into Born to Run knowing that it would be one of the best party of the year…little did I know that it would actually turn out to be the best parties of my life!

Today, almost 2 months after Born to Run, I’m still picking grass burrs and stickers out of my socks, even though they’ve been through the laundry cycle multiple times. Every so often I get a sharp pain from a sticker piercing into my foot while I’m heading out for a jog, a not so gentle reminder of the great time we had out on the ranch.

For me the weekend started on Wednesday night. My brother Tyler and I headed up to Santa Maria from Santa Barbara to spend the evening with friends at Race Director Luis Escobar’s house. We helped load the trucks with gear and shared dinner and drinks with everyone. The next morning we all woke up early, grabbed coffee, and finished preparing for the ranch.

BTR Spash Zone - Photo by Kelly Maggie Akyuz
The Splash Zone – Photo by Maggie Akyuz

While everyone else was loading vehicles Tyler and I borrowed a shop vac from Luis and inflated our two 6’ x 10’ inflatable pools, the Splash Zone for the ranch. They were huge and definitely not going to fit in the back of Tyler’s truck. Luckily Luis had a trailer hitched to his truck. We loaded them on and strapped them down…I wonder what other drivers thought of two inflatable pools barreling down the highway in the Santa Ynez Valley!

We got to the ranch on Thursday and started working. The course needed marked so we grabbed ribbons, a few friends, the Tarahumara runners, a cooler of beer and set off. At one point Tyler’s truck with the Tarahumara runners stayed on the course while I joined Jess Soco to mark the ridge trail of the second loop. We grabbed a handful of ribbons and two cold beers and set off on foot.

Jess and I covered the first half quickly, then got to a dirt road and totally forgot where the course went. I had completed the 50K last year, Jess had mastered the 100K, but neither of us could remember where to go next. We considered that the truck might be coming to meet us so we sat in the shade and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally it was apparent that we were on our own. With both beers gone, no water, and the hot midday sun we knew we needed to get moving. After doubling back a few times we found what we were 90% sure was the course. We started running and after almost an hour we finally found the big red truck with our friends and ice cold water…one of the only times over the weekend I picked water over beer!

Born to Run Beer 10K - Photo by Vanessa Runs
Chris Beer 10K – Pat Beer Half Marathon – Photo by Vanessa Runs

We had been out on the course for awhile and our friends were back in the camp breaking world records. Well, Sweeney was…he was attempting to break the Beer Half Marathon World Record and he invited me to join. A beer half marathon? Drink a beer, run a mile, drink a beer, run a mile, on and on for 13 miles. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t survive 13 beers, let alone 13 miles. By the time we got back he was 8 miles in. I decided that I should try to do a Beer 10K, just 6 beers and 6 miles. I joined Sweeney, though it was hard to keep up with both his beer drinking and his running! He finished his successful 13.1 run and broke the world record (read about it here) and I made one last lap to finish my first ever Beer 10K in something like 1 hour and 20 minutes, and I was still standing! More friends arrived and I’m sure we all hung out, but there’s not a lot more that I can remember from the night, but I bet we had fun!

Friday morning we woke up with more work to do. The previous day the crew in the red truck marked the first loop only, and Jess and I got a little lost on the second, so the course needed to be finished. A group of us climbed in Tyler’s truck and we took off. Papa Clemens was there, he had arrived the previous evening, but I don’t remember that part.

BTR Course - Photo by Kelly Maggie Akyuz
Hanging the skeleton – Photo by Maggie Akyuz

We drove around the ranch, hanging ribbons, marking turns, and taking swigs off PBR’s and Fireball Whiskey. We made the rounds, hung a skeleton from a tree, played in the port-a-potty, and generally had a good time blasting country music and hanging off the truck to tie ribbons on trees. By the time we got back to the camp area Born to Run was in full swing. We were ready!

First up was the Beer Mile, an annual tradition. This event was huge. We waited a bit for some friends to arrive from Arizona and then set to it. With so many people toeing the line it would be hard to know whose beers were whose. My drink of choice was Budweiser, as it was for about 30 other people. I went with warm cans, though I know during the race I drank a few cold ones, so I apologize to whoever picked up my warm beer.

I am the reigning Beer Mile Last Place Champion, never finishing better than last place in any beer mile I’ve participated in, ever. I had no goals other than to not puke and hopefully come in last place again. Every finisher gets a beach shovel from Race Director Pat Sweeney and I was looking forward to adding to my collection! As the crowd ran back and forth down the 1/8th mile course and cans littered the start finish line I made progress slowly. This year I was dangerously close to not coming in last place and 5 of us all finished in last place together, holding hands and prancing around before joining the entire group for a class photo.

BTR Beer Mile - Photo by Nancy Kaplan
2014 Beer Run Champions – Photo by Nancy Kaplan

From there I missed the Patagonia treasure hunt (blame it on the beer mile) but was ready for the event of the weekend, a live concert from Metalachi. This band is a strange mix of mariachi music and heavy metal rock, aka, awesome! We grabbed some cold beers (just kidding, our ice had already melted…it was warm beer for the rest of the weekend) and made our way over to the stage. Everyone was out dancing and rocking to the music, having a grand time. There was a big race in the morning, everything from 10 miles up to 100 miles, but if you didn’t know you wouldn’t have guessed it…we just looked like a bunch of partiers, rocking hard at an outdoor concert!

After Metalachi finished Race Director Luis Escobar killed the entertainment and shooed everyone off to bed. The race was going to come early.

Saturday morning started abruptly with multiple blasts from a shotgun and loud annoying mariachi music booming from the stage. It was time for Born to Run.

Born to Run - Photo by Jack Rosenfeld
Pre Dancing – Photo by Jack Rosenfeld

Everyone gingerly made their way out of their tents, kicking over bottles and stretching tired muscles from the dance marathon a few short hours ago. I rummaged through my gear, a little frantic as I couldn’t find my running shoes and I was starting a 31 mile race in 25 minutes. I started asking around and Papa Clemens found them under the main stage. I must have kicked them off and danced in my socks all night, which might explain the stickers and burrs I’m still pulling out of them.

In addition to my shoes, I also couldn’t find the $300 that I brought for burritos, Luna Sandals, and other fun stuff. I looked all over Tyler’s truck, checked my tent, our campsite…nowhere. I went through the rest of the weekend and even got home without finding the cash. The only thing I can think is that I gave it to Metalachi. At Rancho San Juan last February we had a local band playing and Luis asked for donations for the band. We had been enjoying PBR’s and I kept telling Tyler to go back up and give the band a $20. After a few requests for donations the band was gone, and so was all of our cash (over $100). Well, at Born to Run we upped the ante, but it was worth it! Special note, that’s the most I’ve ever paid to see a live concert…once in high school I paid $150 to watch Creed…yeah, I still think Creed is cool, whatever.

Anyway, we had a race to do. We grabbed our gear and assembled at the starting line. Race Director Luis gave one last warning, “You have 5 minutes to get yourself to the start line and look like an ultrarunner.” After repeating the oath (If I get hurt, lost, or die it’s my own damn fault) we were off.

BTR Pre - Photo by Krista Cavender
Pre Lives in Me – Photo by Krista Cavender

In case you haven’t noticed, I attended the race this year not just as Chris Tarzan Clemens…but also as Steve Prefontaine. It’s not perfect, but I had quite the mustache and chops.  Even though I looked somewhat like Pre, I definitely did not run like him.

We took off, with Pre in the middle of the pack probably for the first time in his life. We made our way around the first loop with friends, hanging out, chatting, and jockeying for position. On our way back into the camp area we saw Papa Clemens. He ran the 10 miler but I was surprised to see him back in the camp already. “I missed the turn” he said. Funny, he helped us mark the course. Oops!

I took off on the second loop and ran a lot of it with Crista Scott. We enjoyed seeing the lead pack finishing the second loop as we were heading out to the ridge section. Eventually I ended up running by myself back into the camp area and out for my third loop. Just like the previous year the third 10 mile loop was painful. The buzz from the previous night had long worn off, it was hot and exposed, and I was ready to be done.

Eventually I rounded the last corner and shot into camp the cheers of “Pre, Pre, Pre!” I crossed the finish line only 5 minutes slower than last year, a 5:50:14. After almost 6 hours out on the trail I was ready for a seat and a cold drink, unfortunately we only had warm beer.

Some of our friends had already finished and more were pouring in. Several runners were enjoying the Splash Zone and the festivities of Born to Run were in full swing. As more runners finished the party at the stage grew and we all hooted and hollered as 100K and 100 mile runners passed through the start/finish line. Soon live music filled the ranch and runners on sore legs started swaying, then bouncing, then all out dancing…not something you typically see at the end of a road race!

Pre with Luis Escobar
Pre with Director Luis Escobar

The celebration continued and culminated with stage dives and crowd surfing. We all took a turn and then Race Director Luis stepped up on the stage to shut it all down, but first he took his own stage dive and crowd surfed, a well deserved celebration for another successful Born to Run weekend! Then, once the crowd surfing was done, Luis did shut it down. Bummer.

Sunday morning people started milling around the camp area, picking up trash, bottles, and chairs. A few 100 mile runners were still making their way to the finish. Luis gave Tyler and I both our cell phones…who knows when or where we lost them, but for some reason Luis had them both. It was nice to have a dead cell phone for 4 days, disconnected from the world, and everyone except our 500 closest (and dirtiest) friends. Typically I take tons of photos and videos to document the fun times. This year I didn’t even pull out my camera, I just lived and experienced the moments as they happened, with nothing to look back on except my memories (and everyone’s pictures on Facebook).

A group of us hopped back in Tyler’s truck and started taking down the course. We drove the first loop, stopped in camp, and then took off on the second loop. Four hours of driving later the course was cleaned and most everyone was leaving the ranch. We helped Luis pack up the gear and then we all headed up to his house to unload, make some food, and celebrate with guitar singalongs, cold beers, and showers. It was our last chance to all be together for awhile and we enjoyed a low key evening with close friends.

Born to Run Tribe - Photo by Jeffrey Genova
Born to Run Tribe – Photo by Jeffrey Genova

Tuesday it was back to the real world. Work, bills, and responsibilities. The adjustment back from Born to Run was almost harder than coming back from 4.5 months on the Appalachian Trial. It was an abrupt, kick you in the ass wake up call. Monday I woke up at the Escobar house and we made 5 or 6 pots of coffee, sat around on the back patio, and talked about life, adventures, living in vans, and stealth camping. I packed up the car and headed back to Santa Barbara. Tyler’s apartment was locked and I realized that I left my house keys in his truck, which happened to be sitting out front. The only problem was that the truck keys were in Tyler’s apartment…..hmmmm. I left all my gear on the patio and rode my bike downtown to my office, walking in unshaven (and still looking like Prefontaine), wearing a tie dye shirt, and smelling like a mix of cow manure, dirt, and campfire. Then it hit me. Everyone around town was stressed, hurried, and no one seemed to be enjoying the day, the sunshine, the breeze, the dirt. It is weekends like Born to Run that give us a chance to unplug, be real, and experience life the way it should be.  Natural, beautiful, and happy….living free.

Born to Run:

Unapologetically Ultra Podcast:
Patrick Sweeney’s Beer Half Marathon:
Graham Kelly’s Blog:
Criasta Anna Scott’s Blog:
Billy Barnett’s Blog:

More running posts here.

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