Olive Dell Ranch
25 October 2020
With 2020 being what it has been, it was time to get back to naked running at the earliest opportunity to bring back a sense of normality to my life; to enjoy pre-pandemic pleasures again.
Despite the lack of Naked Running blog posts over the past 4 years – FUCK, has it really been that long since I bothered to write anything? I HAVE been running naked. I simply have not been doing it at the frequency of the 2014 – 2016 period featured in this blog. And, I have been terribly busy with a number of life changes, most notably retraining professionally. Okay: that’s the end of the excuses. I hope to add some thoughts on my new preferred North America naked running spot soon. I’ve visited it several times and made a habit of sunrise naked runs along the glorious beach.
In the meantime, I’m going to guess that the subject of this blog, the Bare Burro 5k naked run at Olive Dell Ranch in Southern California, is my 30th naked run – approximately. I may modify this later if I manage to count more accurately!
The Bare Burro is the nearest naked running timed race to my new (four years? new?) residence in San Francisco. I’ve been trying to participate since arriving in California in 2016 but my weekend professional training programme prevented me from doing so. This year, I was all set to participate at the original date in Spring 2020. Then, we all know what happened. Luckily, Olive Dell Ranch rescheduled for an autumn date and the run went ahead, modified for pandemic life.
It had been over a year since my last 5k of any type and four years since my last naked 5k. And, frankly, due to lockdown and the ramifications of lifestyle changes, my physical health and performance had suffered: my running had been cut from multiple times a week to almost nothing for the entire month of July 2020. I have been ramping my exercise activities back up, but I knew this race was going to be a challenge.
Then as I packed my bags to head down to Southern California… I looked at the weather forecast… Yikes! Rain and unseasonably cold temperatures were forecast for the race; conditions very unusual for the location and time of year. I was gutted! Part of the pleasure for me is to run naked in nature with the sun beating down on me, warming my skin and boosting my Vitamin D reserves. I really didn’t know if I could face another cold naked 5k. I nearly cancelled. But, I stuck with it and the weather actually exceeded the expectations of the poor forecast: the morning of the race was 17c and lightly overcast with no wind. Really comfortable running weather, actually. Let’s go!
Otherwise, this was going to be my fourth naked 5k timed race after two in the UK and one in Vancouver. I knew the Bare Burro was more of a trail run than a flat, repetitive loop. (Of course, there have been the longer 12k timed naked runs of Bay to Breakers).
Arriving at the site and chatting with some of the organisers, I quickly realised this was going to be tougher than I imagined: “very hilly”, “long run times”, “lucky to be under 35 minutes”, etc. Given my poorer than usual fitness, the Bare Burro was going to be even more challenging than I had imagined! I decided to take the approach that finishing and enjoying was better than racing for a fast time.
The Bare Burro 5k
Departures were staggered for social distancing and I have to say this was a much more pleasant start strategy than any other I have experienced. Usually, at the start I enthusiastically get caught up in competitiveness of the “it’s a race” atmosphere with everyone running shoulder to shoulder. It is an exciting and highly competitive couple of seconds; I also think it improves times by ratcheting up the competitive environment. However, I often find that I expend too much energy at the starting line and tire too quickly, reducing my performance later in a race. This staggered approach dampened the competitive start a bit and I think it helped my stamina later in the race.
And, boy, was I lucky I did this. I had a late starting slot and discovered that the first ¼ of the course was nearly entirely up a steep hill. Many of the earlier starters were walking up the hill and I was able to continue to run – albeit at a slower than normal pace – up the entire hill. I surprised myself.
Once at the top of the incline (a near 100m elevation change), the Bare Burro turns into the craziest trail run imaginable, twisting and turning, descending and climbing, slaloming through bushes (see map of course at the end of this post). Over the course of the race we climbed 200m in altitude and descended as much. There were warnings at the clubhouse to avoid the rattlesnakes… Yeah, I want to do that. Also, my only running shoes are currently very much designed for city streets. Steep, rocky, twisty, dusty trails were treacherous. Next time I’ll bring trail running shoes and highly recommend anyone doing this run do the same thing!
On top of snake alert and the trail conditions consuming most of my attention, the music player on my Garmin sports watch was glitching and stopping. It is nearly impossible for me to run and hear my own panting breath; music is a REQUIRED accessory. This glitch was a constant distraction. Annoying. Bloody Garmin.
A shame really, because the two factors that would have normally grabbed all of my attention were pushed aside: the glorious scenery and that indescribable fire in the belly of naked running. Olive Dell Ranch is in a wonderful spot. The setting is quite spectacular and easily the most interesting naked 5k location I have experience. I wish that it had been possible to focus a bit more on the surroundings. I imagine that the second or third runs, once the course is more familiar, might permit this.
And, finally, on the last stretch back down the hill, descending to the finish line, I was totally warmed up and took the descent at very high speed (very nervous about my inappropriate footwear!). I also found myself neck-n-neck with a “warrior runner” with a spear and sporting minimalist laced sandals rather than shoes. We sprinted down the hill, exchanging positions occasionally. It all felt very primal — competitive in those archetypal ways we rarely connect with. I completed that stretch at my fasted pace per km ever, according to my GPS tracker. And in doing so that fire in the belly became the focus of my awareness.
The last half kilometre circled through the campsites and RVs of Olive Dell Ranch, with enthusiastic naked non-runners cheering us on.
Explosive at the Finish Line
Once again, I surprised myself just before the finish line. Despite there being a final, short uphill portion to cross the finish line, I accessed that energy reserve every athlete saves for the finish line and exploded up the hill, pumping my arms and racing across the finish line. I have run with a lot of hesitation for the past year, not pushing myself like I had in earlier years. I was thrilled to discover that hitting that edge of performance where there is a bit of fear and a lot of growth in capacity was still possible.
I completed the race in 31m29s, which is apparently a decent time for the Bare Burro. I ranked 30th overall, out of 163 participants.
During the drive to the airport later, I really felt that my body was loving the push against the performance envelope that it hadn’t felt in some time.
Next California naked 5k target: DeAnza Springs’ Bare Booty 5k in May 2021
Naked Run Facts
Date: 25 Oct 2019
Location: Olive Dell Ranch, Reche Canyon, Colton, California
Time of Day: 10:35
5k Chip Time: 31m29s
Air Temperature: 17c
Conditions: light overcast cloud, still wind
Barefoot or Shoes: City road running shoes
Garmin 945 GPS tracking of Bare Burro 5k trail runFollow @NakedRunning
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