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The return of the Saltwater 5000

Posted Jan 15 2009 11:44pm

The roving aid station at last year's Saltwater 5000, at mile 20 on the Modjeska Grade.

I'm getting pumped for Dec. 15, when I will retrace (sort of) the "fun run" that turned me into an ultrarunner: the Saltwater 5000, an underground, annual run that is not an official race -- just a bunch of serious goofballs running from the lowest elevation in Orange County (the ocean) to the highest (Santiago Peak).

The run was started in 2004 by two Orange County dirt hoofers, Will Cooper and Jeff Padilla.

The recent fires have altered this year's course. Typically, we start at Crystal Cove, go through El Moro, run through other places I'm not supposed to mention, then go through Whiting Ranch. That's mile 20 or so. Then we run up the Santiago Truck Trail and the dreaded Joplin Trail, then up the Main Divide to Santiago Peak for a cool 32.5 miles.

This year, we won't be running through fire-devastated Whiting Ranch or up the Santiago Truck/Joplin trails. Instead, we will climb up beautiful Holy Jim -- one of my favorite trails. Depending on permits, we may have to run back down Holy Jim to end the run at the trialhead. We're hoping to get a vehicle (legally) up at the top of Holy Jim, though.

Total milage: around 37 miles.

Last year's Saltwater 5000 (named, affectionately if inaccurately, for the highest elevation reached -- it's actually close to 5,700 feet) marked the first time I had run longer than 26.2 miles. I kissed the spot on the Santiago Truck Trail that marked my deflowering. As with all things having to do with virginity and the loss thereof, the feeling is bittersweet: That spot is forever gone, having been transformed into an ungainly, generic fireroad by crews fighting the Santiago fire.

Last year's Saltwater 5000 was particularly memorable because of the funky weather. When we started at 5 a.m., it was drizzling. By the time we reached Santiago Peak some 7 1/2 hours later, sleet was slashing the sky and the temperature had dipped to the low 30s.


The eight or so runners who do the Saltwater 5000 are a fun group; we take it easy and give each other crap along the way. It's a grand old time. I'm honored and privileged to have been invited back. I guess I wasn't too much of a jerky head during last year's run.

Space for new runners is very limited, and I'm not the boss -- just a plebian (as usual). Make that a very happy plebian.
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