It finally happened: the inevitable. I've been running 30+ miles per week for over 3 years, trails being a major portion of that. I've headed out for 4 to 5 hour runs, alone, in unknown, unmapped territory, with only a handheld bottle and pockets filled with Gu packets. I've encountered rattlesnakes, mountain lions, coyote, and the single most dreaded sight on the trails....Cub Scouts. And yet, up until today, I'd never completely lost my bearings to the point of utter confusion.
Best of all, this happened at Malibu Creek Park, a park filled with trails that I've traversed countless times, twice during 25k races. And yet, at the end of my planned 14 mile, 2 hour, 20 mn run, I found myself confounded as to the whereabouts of the final 3 mile singletrack I'd run so many times. I even asked a passing family if they knew where the main trailhead was, but received only a, "Well...we parked right there," as they pointed to their SUV, sitting at another, smaller lot. Not to mention that earlier, right around mile 7, I continued up a climbing trail that dead-ended and had to back track about 1.5 miles to the turnoff I'd missed, tossing on another 3 miles. This, on a run that hands you 2,000+ feet of climbing.
I finally shot myself out onto the canyon 2 lane road and trucked up to the next parking lot, which I recognized from prior races as the final sight before the finish 2 miles later. At this point, I'd hit the wall, big time, probably at mile 15 of incredibly hard running, knowing my water supply was shot as I baked beneath the noonday sun. I was forced to walk-run the last mile, but of course hauled ass the final 50 feet, so the local hikers could be amazed by me...or something.
Planned run: 14 miles, at around 2 hours, 20 mns
Actual run: About 17 miles, finishing in 3 hours, 8 mns.