May 27, 2014

BTR 2014 - Whiskey Jerry, A Raramuri And The Marshmallow Man Walk Onto A Ranch...

The BTR Tribe
I woke up in my tent with a parched mouth and a terrible headache. The camp was still quiet, so I figured it was probably very early morning. Painfully, I turned over, opened the zipper door and fumbled out in the faint light to go get a bottle of water, kicking empty beer cans on the way to Sweeney’s car. My head throbbed and I couldn’t quite remember how the party ended the night before, aside from a vague memory of face-planting in the dark on my way to the Port-a-Potty.

Welcome to Born To Run, the Burning Man of ultra running.

This was the morning before my 50K, I couldn’t walk straight or mumble more than 3 or 4 relevant words in a row. Looking for some sympathy from fellow partyfaces, I stumbled to the Clemens camp to see if anyone had made coffee. Tyler handed me a Tecate, which I pushed back to him, gagging. “Are you nuts?!” I said, trying to keep my cookies. He broke the can open and handed it back. “It’s open now. Gotta drink it!”.

As more tent-zipper, groaning and can-kicking sounds arose, the camp slowly came to life on the glorious California morning of the Chamberlin Ranch. Everyone looked like shit, with some emerging out of tents that weren’t theirs, or others still buzzed from the craziness of the night before. If you’d taken a snapshot at that precise moment, no one would have ever believed you were among ultra distance runners, and some of the best ones at that.

was not listed on Ultrasignup's event schedule.
I slouched down on a chair at Margarita’s camp with the most hung-over Josue Stephens I’d ever seen and we tried to slowly come back to life through excessive belated water drinking. On one of my first zombie pee walks to the Port-a-Potty, I came across one of my favorite running people. “Apache TONY!!! How’s it going, brother?” - The puzzled look on his face hinted that this maaaaybe wasn’t the first time I’d seen him during the past couple hours... “Hummm… you… don’t remember last night’s campfire much, do you?” he said, smirking. Oh man.

When your weekend of running includes half-naked men dressed like trees, archery runs, beer half-marathons and heavy metal mariachi shows, there’s no need to devise a hydration strategy or meticulously prepare your race-day food; your only job is to survive the party, surf the tidal fun wave and wait for the horrible Norteño music, 5:00 AM wake-up call and Luis Escobar’s broken voice over the PSA screeching “You have 15 minutes to show up to the starting line, dressed up and looking like a distance runner”.

Don't ask. No, seriously.
Seriously, though, what else could I expect? Born to Run 2014 was the literal gathering of everyone I love in the sport, with so very few exceptions that I could count them on the fingers of a single hand. Almost every person who’s made my life the homeless heaven it was this past year was camped out somewhere around me in concentric circles, starting from the “Mas Loco Village” established around La Mariposa’s car. It was a festival of love and a celebration of the running life.

Even our Raramuri friends were here, with Equipo Caballo Blanco running its first BTR-sponsored event. Despite grand fears that this whole freak show would terrorize them forever, it was delightful to see them walking around the camp, hanging out under the shade of trees and – yes, you read this right – smiling. They looked relaxed, perfectly at ease, in maybe what they might have interpreted as the gringo-style Tesguinada (traditional corn beer party) they are so familiar with as the landmark event before any big Copper Canyons running meet.

Surrounded by my whole tribe, I spent the rest of the morning trying to rehydrate and telling everyone who’d listen (read: nobody) that I wouldn’t drink another drop of booze until after my run.

BTR's idea of sticking to
a strict pre-race regimen
Since I chugged away my wise pre-race decisions at the Beer Mile just a couple hours later, I guess I didn’t deem it worthy to get my gear ready or to prepare a proper final meal before my 50K. I spent the rest of the afternoon sharing beers with Papa Jim and the Clemens Clan (kinda sounds like a rock band) and had a family-sized bag of chips for dinner with my friend Greg Lowe, while a very drunk Alejandro fell off his camping chair and was lovingly rolled onto a blanket in the shade. Then Metalachi showed up, so I *might* have had a couple shots of tequila and that god-awful Fireball crap, which seems to have become the official allwedoisrun poison of choice, while screaming along at “We’re not gonna take it” to the sound of distorted trumpets.

Soooo, as you can imagine, 5:00 AM came in crashing, with a vengeance. I’m not sure what was the hardest: finding my running clothes in the dark and something liquid that was not alcohol to fill my hydration vest, or keeping in an increasing need to puke. I managed to shove a Clif Bar down my throat and walked to the starting line. In the half-obscurity of the early morning, things looked like the police had just busted in the ranch and were rounding up a herd of half-drunk hobos to put an end to this debauchery. At least, I thought, everyone looked equally “ready”.

Somewhere between the Beer Mile and the rock show,
I was officially adopted by the Clemens Clan
I don’t know if I spaced out badly or if the shotgun misfired, but without much ceremony, we somehow just got moving out the gate and onto the course. And then something really weird happened. We started running.

Between awesome segments with kick-ass Jody and my buddy Jon Zaid from Nine Trails, the first loop felt like an easy 5K. Shortly after that, I played catch with Durango Mike for a bit, saw Benedict whizz by like there was nothing to it and then came across the radiating beauty of Amy, closely followed by the highly inspiring Dan. I completed my second third of the run with my girl Crista, chatting and joking the miles away until we crossed the gate for the second time.

I really thought things were going OK, considering, but it only occurred to me that I might be doing really well when I reached the last aid station before my finish, with about 10K to go. I got in to get food and was really happy to see Margarita… and casually smiled at Michelle and Bobby, who were- Wait. What the hell were Michelle and Bobby, by all means WAY faster people than me, doing at that aid station?

This one serves to prove there was actual running involved
After some moments sinking in the realization that maybe I should get my ass back on the trails and actually try and keep up with my friends, we all took off together and dropped the hung-over hammer to get this thing done, I guess, and maybe see who still had a cold beer or two? Margaret was in a lot of back pain, so our merry band stretched out a little bit on the last long downhill. I only started to feel the burn on that last 1-mile stretch where you cross the finish line, keep going a half mile out then turn back for the real finish because, in the RD’s own words, “You still owe me a mile”. The heat had risen and the shenanigans from the last couple days had left my reserves, well, depleted to say the least, but I still managed to drag my carcass to the finish chute. I ended up ahead of Michelle, who forgot to run under the gate and had to turn around, which is absolutely unfair. But really, I don’t think anyone was counting that hard.

After catching my breath a little bit, I started wondering if I could really have ran my best 50K ever, ill-prepared and badly hung over, or if this was all some sort of withdrawal syndrome, post-alcoholic hallucination. So I went back, looked at the clock and marveled at what I can only call the Born To Run magic.

6:16. Go figure.

Born To Run, C'est le Woodstock de la course d'ultra, un festival de la folle amitié qui nous unit et la réalisation incroyable que ça se peut, courir 50 kilomètres sur un lendemain de brosse :)


  1. Flint, when I ran with you, I had no idea. You really got your shit together after a night like that. I guess Luis's admonition to get dressed up and look like an ultra distance runner worked. Looking forward to running with you again.

    1. Jon you kicked so much ass out there! Huge congrats on a first 100-miler!!!

  2. Had such a blast running with you, Flint! Awesome post!

    1. You know you're one of my favorite ultra chicas, girl <3

  3. Dearest Blue Feather, the words of your heart, bring such joy to my spirit! The weekend was the culmination of celebration among our loving Mas Locos family, and many beautiful people. Our Born To Run Tribal family, embraced the energy you created, and danced among the magic of the Chamberlain Ranch. Andale, a mas Aventuras! Abrazos Fuerte, La Mariposa

    1. Again, my prima, this beautiful story comes to a full circle as the last adventure in a year of absolute elation, a year spent doing what I love most, and a year to enjoy your crazy, generous, wonderful friendship! Much love, "the guy that lived in your driveway" <3

  4. Awesome post Flint! Thank you for recapping pretty much just as I remember it as well. What an awesome party where an ultra broke out. Starting with Ultra Caballo Blanco and now this Born to Run Ultra my appetite for adventure has been reignited. You are one of the many incredible people that I've had the pleasure of getting to know. Looking forward to seeing my ultra family again. Andale!

  5. Thanks for a great read ! I love it, I love it so much that the greedy gnome in me wants more !