A grand time was had by all

Amiga the wonder dog & her trophySo this past Saturday was Chuck’s annual El Prieto Handicap race! Last year’s race was memorable as poor Chuck was still in his neck brace, just two weeks out of spinal surgery and I wasn’t much better, as I was still recovering from my ankle surgery. It was iffy as to whether he was going to make the race, but he was pretty determined. Everyone chipped in to help, and we pulled it off.

What a difference a year makes! I actually ran the race this year (my first time). It was an uphill year, so the course started at Hahamongna Watershed Park and ended at Millard campground. The course runs on the El Prieto Trail in Angeles National Forest and is about 4.3 miles long. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s tough on your legs, let me tell you!

It’s been a mighty wet year here in So Cal, so on Wednesday last our friends Bill, Skip and Byron went out and cleared the trail of overgrowth and trimmed back all the poison oak that had thrived on all the rain that had fallen over the past several months. That was a huge help! Then on Friday Chuck and I went out with Mia and hiked the trail, putting down flour arrows and pink ribbons marking the trail for all the runners. That left us ready for the race. Even better, our friend Bob the artist managed to prod his t-shirt supplier and we received all the t-shirts for the race. Cool!

Saturday dawned clear and warm and by 7:30am, most everybody was rarin’ to go. This being a handicap, everyone started at different times. We have a blind friend who runs the race every year, and she is always the first starter, as it takes her a bit longer to cover the distance (how she does it on single-track trail without killing herself, even with a guide, beats me!). Once she was off, the rest of us waited for our times to be called. It was a record turnout: 42 runners, so it took a while to get everyone started. I was 11 (I got a pretty good handicap which made everybody think I had a fix in with the race director becuase I sleep with him) and headed off when my time was called. It was a fun but tough course. As I mentioned, this was technically an uphill year (or as it is more fondly known, an UpChuck) but that’s pretty relative up there – there are a lot of ups and downs, period. I managed to not kill myself and spent most of the time marveling at how good and sturdy my ankle is. Two years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing a race like this. There was a lot of water on the course, so after trying to keep my shoes dry for the first two crossings, I just gave up and started splashing through them which while my feet got very wet was a lot of fun.

This year’s winner was a guy who was a bit of a ringer. He had never run the race before, so Chuck was kind – too kind as it turned out. Calvin was an ultramarathoner and totally blew the field away. He ran with his dog Amiga, who is a chihuahua/shepherd mix (the mind boggles). She was cute as the dickens, and very well-mannered with a heart the size of all outdoors. She had to swim across the puddle at the end of the race, which was too cute. Second place went to our frieend Kyra, who accidentally cheated by getting lost, taking a wrong turn and shaving half a mile off the course. Further back in the pack Bob the artist took a tumble at a particularly dicey point on the course where the rains had collapsed the trail, but was helped back to his feet by a fellow runner. And Michael, last year’s winner, turned his ankle but managed to gimp to the finish. Other than those mishaps, everyone finished within a minute or two of their predicted times (including me so hah! to all those people who think Chuck played favorites with me, which says to me I need to step up the sexual favor bribes for next year), so Chuck was very happy (he loves creating the spreadsheet that predicts the anticpated finish times of all the runners). There was a delicious breakfast spread at the bottom (people were either driven back to the start or ran back down the trail – I chose to run back down, that’s how good I was feeling) and Calvin received his trophy (a used one – a kind of weird race tradition). People were already lobbying Chuck about their handicaps for next year. Jessica, who had never run the race before, and who came dressed in a sequined super short cocktail dress (and ran in it, too!) tried to bribe Chuck by promising a more glorious costume next year. Bev and Jack made promises to run in high heels next year (well, Bev said she would and Jack said if she would, he would). The race may even get written up in the L.A. Times, as a sports writer for the paper was there, too!

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m looking forward to next year! Pics are here.