Fire RouteOn December 15, 2007 -- for the fourth consecutive year -- six of us touched the ocean and then turned around to run to the top of Saddleback Mountain. The run started under a pitch black sky at 5 a.m. and we ran for over an hour through El Moro wielding flashlights. Eventually sunrise produced a radiant orange sky that lifted our spirits, even as we saw the finish line some 30 miles away!
This was the first year we ran a different route. Due to the So Cal fires, we couldn’t run to the peak via our traditional Whiting-Santiago-Joplin trail. These were closed and we were required to find another way. After weeks of scouting for a new course, the group settled on what will be dubbed the "Fire" route, a circuitous 36 mile trip via Holy Jim Trail.
As the sun rose we scampered through the Seizure World section of our run until we reached our first aid station. Knowing we would be running longer than the standard Saltwater 32 miles, Ultra Rob stashed food and water at four locations along the path. These Ultra Rob "Cache's" were a critical addition to this year's run given the potential extra miles before us. We pressed on through Sorrano Creek when we were greeted by a coterie of Santiago and his female cohorts. After lots of hugs and brief conversation we continued our salt-to-summit journey until, for the first time since the maiden run in 2004, we lost a runner! It was salt veteran Swiss Gerry! We discovered this only after first timer Kevin got a call on his cell phone. It was my wife telling us Gerry was lost! Suffice it to say things were calmly worked out and we got back to the business of running within a few minutes. Whew!
When we reached the trail head of Holy Jim around 11 a.m. (mile 28), all the runners were carrying a new weight on their shoulders as they just learned that no vehicles would be allowed up the mountain. This meant everyone seeking to "summit" would have to run back down the mountain, a total of 44 miles for the day. We started the day thinking we would be covering 36 miles. The prospect of running an additional 8 miles was daunting, particularly since several runners were nursing injuries at this point.
2:00 p.m. -- Two runners reach the summit. Three runners have turned around before the summit and are descending, two due to injuries, one for not meeting his "cut off" time to pick up kids.
2:12 p.m. -- Third runner reaches the summit.
2:20 p.m. – Saltwater crew Rob S. reaches the summit after hiking Holy Jim. He quickly descends after round of high fives.
2:30 p.m. – The three runners at the summit are waiting for mountain bike escort with camera and beer. Worried bike escort is lost, they begin to descend.
2:32 p.m. -- Bike escort finally reaches the summit (after bonking half way up Holy Jim trial). Runners turn back to the top for summit photo and beer.
2:33 p.m. -- Two beers are opened and shared among the four members of the Saltwater entourage below a cool and clear blue sky.
2:50 p.m. -- Summit photo's taken. Entourage refuels, begins descent.
4:00 p.m. -- First two runners finish the run at the bottom of the mountain
4:50 p.m. -- Last runner finishes. 2007 Saltwater 5000 is concluded.
5:50 p.m. -- Beers opened at my house for Saltwater celebration.
Thank you Patrick, our bike escort, for staying in your saddle for 11 hours and getting to the summit with beer. Thanks to Al and Rob S. for your great crewing another year, to Jen for the salt party, and to Greg and Cindy for your pre-dawn escort to the start. 2007 was another great year for Saltwater 5000!