By Renee A.

Arielle and I were training for the Utah and Ventura Marathon, she told me her Dad Jeff invited us to an Ultra Marathon, the Saltwater 5000. It was an independent run, invite only. Jeff said we proved ourselves so we were in. As soon as she told me it was with the Running Elvi, I knew it was going to be a blast.

Runners and Crew at summit

I had a three day notice and was pretty much a dead beat since my race in Utah but I was up for the challenge. The plan was to meet them at mile 10. I asked Arielle if she wouldn’t mind if I started with them at the beginning of the run. The morning of, I parked and only knew Jeff not realizing Mona and Dave were there. Mona is a badass and someone I truly admire, I met them through Arielle at the L.A. Marathon. Strong coffee, cool people and after seeing Cracker’s pants I was excited for the unexpected. The most I ever ran was 28 miles with the crazy French man who was coaching me on trial running. Thank you everyone for the warm welcome.

McNair's Step

We headed to Salt Creek, “Ready to touch the water?” Jeff asked, “Sure” I replied. I’m thinking, are we going into the water? Once the sponge broke out for everyone to touch, I knew this was going to be a far out journey. Especially when Mona told me there was no posting pictures, I thought what is this? It was cold, these guys were fast especially Lindsay. Here comes the sun and we were looking for an oak tree. Thank goodness for the pioneers who found the overgrown trail. We bushwhacked it and I was digging it. We all had been pricked and poked from the foliage. A machete would have been handy right about now. Everyone was excited to see the water in Turtle Lake. I heard it was sadly dry for the past few years. I was told to pick up a rock, Jeff looked at me and said, “Renee, a rock not a pebble”, smiling. On the count of three we threw our rocks simultaneously into the water. It was exciting to partake in the traditions of saltwater, I just remember hearing something involving a lime tree next.

Who's Pants?
We keep trucking and I am sure these guys are probably curious about this newbie and want the scoop on me. And so I was asked, what trails I run?, “Oh, Peter’s Canyon is my back yard, I run there three times a week”. I felt the silence. Jeff says, “Those aren’t hills” Oh boy, did I feel silly. I can’t imagine what they were thinking now. “Oh wait”, as I quickly recalled running with the crazy French man. “Strawberry Peak, Will Rodgers, and Black Star”. I am now realizing I am in a whole different league with these guys but they made me feel welcomed anyways. We hit mile 10 and there was the crew. What was this, bacon, fruit, and peanuts? Boy was this interesting. I was warmed up and ready to move on.

"We're kind of a big deal"
The journey continued down Bake onto the concrete and asphalt towards Majeska we go. Whiting ranch, horses freaking out and the infamous dreaded hill. Thank you Mike who alleviated the climb with great conversation and tips on speed work. I didn’t get much time with Arielle as she was booking it with the faster bunch ahead. Then I thought, “Fresh legs.” I stayed along with Mona. Thank goodness for the 100 miler she ran the weekend before otherwise I would have been the weakest link. My biggest fear was holding everyone back. These guys were great, they would wait and regroup every so often. There motto was, “You are fast as your slowest person”, I fuckin love these people.  AHHH… the Bloody Mary stop. I have must have missed the lime tree only because as I was indulging in the kick ass breakfast burrito, I felt something hitting my feet. I looked around and didn’t see anything and after about the 3rd time, I caught Dave smiling as he let go of a lime that rolled towards me. I thought I might have been hallucinating.

slow mo rock toss vid

Onto Modjeska grade, I was impressed with the skills these guys had running while drinking a bloody mary and tagging each other with limes. Bad Asses! I held onto a line in my breast holder and told Dave, “when you least expect it bud.” Then the perfect opportunity, I was behind Dave, I pulled out the sweaty lime and tossed it towards Dave’s back. It was as if he had a shield on his hat. The lime grazed up his hat and over his head, he turned around and we looked at each other with surprise. It was something like in the Matrix, super slow motion. It was great getting to know someone a little more on long run conversations. Will asked, “So are you going to run the whole thing?” I said, “hell yea, I want the shirt.” He smiled and said, “It won’t be a shirt this year.”

Aid station? Yes! Thank you to the Crew once again. I indulged in Fritos, peanuts and a root beer. So flipping weird but it worked. By this time I was feeling fantastic. Arielle and Jeff were done. Jeff suggested I stop there, he said he would take Arielle and me there another time to run it. I was devastated! Right away I thought for sure I was holding them back and maybe it was a group decision I didn’t know about. I had it in my head and felt it in my heart that I could finish this. I was determined! I stepped down pushing my ego aside. Mona came up to me and asked if I was ready? “No, I am going to stay back, Jeff thinks it’s best”. She looked at me dead in the eye giving me a piece of bacon and said, “You can do this!” Hell yea! I was ready to rock and roll. We took the head start.

Joplin was no joke. There was no running it was jaunting and hiking. Now this was where I began to second guess myself and thinking maybe Jeff was right. Bacon, Ibprophen, GU, CBD cream and more GU. Thank you Mona for pushing me through and the killer techniques you taught me. I so wanted to ask several times if we were there yet? But I am too strong willed to dare ask. My body was fatigued. I couldn’t stop because my legs would shake and I would lose my balance. I pushed on through to break on through to the other side. All of a sudden I hear cheering from above. It was Arielle and Jeff. Hell yea!! Mona turned and smiled. We were only 15 minutes behind the wild bunch. Pit Stop and not much left to go to the finish. We layered up and boy did I figure out why very soon after. The end of a long run is always the best part because you are almost done, no going back. Mona forewarned me not to kiss the landmark at the finish. At the same time I had no idea what she meant.

Oh the finish, it was exhilarating. We celebrated, beer cans popping, cigars lit and a camaraderie I will never forget. Best of all was having my good friend Arielle there to experience this with me. It was cold and almost unbearable to stand for photos. I got something better than a shirt I got the Saltwater 5000 visor. How am I not going to be able to tell anyone about this? It didn’t stop here. The ride down Saddleback Mountain was another journey in itself. It was a rough ride but felt good to me like a massage. Thank you Marshall for bringing us down the mountain alive. I was ready to go home after getting back to Will’s, it was a long day. I was told to wait five more minutes. Jenn’s soup was the bomb and I felt honored to have been able to share the Saltwater 5000 tradition with such down to earth wild people.

Awards?? Most Inspirational?? Me?? I was totally flabbergasted but then it all made sense after the Jack Ass Award. I must have blew Jeff’s mind. This is one run I will never forget. My first 32 miler couldn’t have been more perfect. I left there a little more experienced, made new friendships and another accomplishment checked off my bucket list. I hope to be invited back.

So many people ask why I would run so many miles. Why not? Life is a journey, mine has been a magical mystery tour. You are either on the bus or not!

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