Desert Dash Beginner’s Luck 55k by Steve

As I was preparing for the Miwok 100k, my mileage was ramping up. On the training plan Ian Torrence prepared for me was this 55k. He knew I wanted to do the race and it fit the need for a long run at this point in my plan. I was to run it as a ‘B’ or training race.

I was glad for the chance to do this race because I don’t think it will be around next year. The race is put on by Desert Dash in Henderson, NV. It takes place on the Sloan Canyon trail system incorporating the McCullough Hills trails, Anthem East, and Park Peak.

I had been struggling with a quad strain for a while so I knew this wouldn’t be a strong race for me. I was hoping to get through it and get a solid run in.

I started the race and didn’t even consider trying to stay close to the lead pack. I knew I had to start easy in hope my quad would loosen up. I ran with my buddy John Music, who was preparing for his first hundred miler. I enjoyed chatting with him and shared some of my thoughts and experiences with the 100 mile distance. John eventually went on to finish his 100 miler and achieve his goal. I was so happy for him and loved seeing his success. He later thanked me for that talk we had.

Here I am with John Music after the race

A group of us came to a junction in the trails but we hadn’t seen any flags or trail markers in a while. As the group spread out a bit looking for the right trail, I pulled out my phone and brought up the map. I had downloaded the course map because it was very windy the night before. I was worried that the course markers and flags would get blown off course. I was glad I did! I found the right direction and called the group over. We found the right way and saved ourselves some frustration.

At this point, my quad started to loosen up a bit and I moved forward at a faster pace. I mostly ran alone for the rest of the race. The trails on McCullough Hills roll along smoothly. I did see my friend Lawrence (who was running the 30k) in a battle with two other fast runners. Lawrence is very fast and they were all moving quickly. It was cool to see them pushing each other. I cheered him on and kept moving the other direction to an aid station.

Around this time, I saw Nike elite trail runner Keely Henninger flying along the trails. She looked like she was having a blast and exclaimed how beautiful it was out there. I tried to creep a pic of her but she’s too fast for creepers. That’d make a great hashtag.

This is my “Wow, that girl is fast” face as Keely Henninger flies by.

As I started running towards Park Peak, I encountered some tough climbs in Anthem East. I just kept moving along at a steady pace. The climb up to Park Peak was tough in the middle of a 55k but rewarding with a magnificent view at the top. It was super windy too. The resulting awkward selfie can be seen below.

“Super windy, super tired, and I’m not good at selfies” face

I cruised along seeing friends at aid stations and just tried to enjoy the day. This race is during my busy time at work so it was definitely better than being at the office.

I encountered my friend Matt on the trails and I thought he was going the wrong way. I called out to him and tried to help him. He was really confused until I realized I was the one turned around! Oops, my bad. I didn’t realize I was that far along on the course. Fortunately, Matt understood how ultra-brain works sometimes and didn’t think I was trying to sabotage his race or something, haha.

Later, at an aid station, I saw my friend Rich. He said he was dropping saying he just wasn’t ready for this race. I couldn’t believe it. Rich is such a strong runner. I offered to run with him to the finish because it’s not like I was crushing the course or anything. He would probably still out-run me. However, he declined. I hoped to convince him to continue but he has enough experience to know when he’s done for the day.

I headed back out on the McCullough Hills trails. This race was going about as expected. I didn’t crush it but I got it done. I got the miles in. My training plan called for a fast finish on this run today. At first, I was feeling fast coming closer to the finish but I hit some hills and that fast finish stopped in its tracks… until much closer to the finish line, haha.

This is a really nice ultra course. I like the rolling hills with the peak mixed in. There’s a good amount of vert. It’s too bad this race won’t be around next year. I hope to see it return in the future.

The overall winner for the 55k was Emily Harrison Torrence. She beat all the boys! I ended up with 6th overall.

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