De Anza Springs Resort
Carrizo Badlands, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
25 September 2022
Two years since my last naked run (also a 5k) at Olive Dell Ranch, my latest naked running opportunity had arrived. Covid and a very big arrival in my life have thrown a wrench into my ability to run naked on a regular basis (and my fitness levels). Thank fuck it was again possible.
I have had my eye on the De Anza Springs Bare Booty 5k for 6 – 7 years! It is precisely the type of naked running I adore: warm, dry, desert environment – minus the warm, sandy beach, of course. My excitement to be able to finally participate was palpable for the weeks leading up to the run.
A 90-minute drive proceeded the very early start time – a necessity due to high desert air temperatures.
My fitness has not totally recovered following lockdowns and a big lifestyle change. But it is firmly on the road to recovery! I don’t anticipate matching the times of my earlier 5ks, and as we approach De Anza Springs from San Diego I notice the elevation signs. We pass “2,000ft”. Then “3,000ft”. And then “4,000ft”. I start to panic that I am totally unprepared for a high-altitude 5k! Thankfully, we descend again prior to reaching the resort. Nevertheless, this is not a sea level, warm water beach run; it is a desert run at 2,700 feet (830 meters) altitude! Without a doubt the highest race I’ve competed in – clothed or not.
Two of the four previous naked 5k races were held – like the Bare Booty – at naturist campsites: the Naturist Foundation, outside of London, and Olive Dell Ranch, east of Los Angeles. Both of these sites, while not bang in the centre of urban areas are surrounded by housing, resulting in more compact sites and constrained running trails. What a pleasure it was to discover De Anza: bang in the middle of nowhere, unconstrained and liberating. The resort seemed massive and spacious; the course, a trail run through the desert.
The run staff were great: super welcoming and friendly; registration was efficient and simple.
As seems typical, there is a large gap between registration times and run starting gun. I personally wish this could be improved everywhere; as much as I like being naked it is always awkward to be at a new site with new people, everyone skulking in discomfort. We are here to run! Let’s get on with it!
I inspected my wristband… No evidence of a chip for race timing. This suggested that there would only be gun time, with a resulting battle at the starting line to cross as close as possible to official start time. This was a disappointment. For a comparable entry fee to other races, chip times are a great way to have personalised race times for your own start and finish times across the line. I wear a Garmin running watch with GPS and record my own version of chip time, but this is unrelated to final race results and award placement. A disappointment and I recommend that De Anza Springs invest in this upgrade to the Bare Booty.
But they did have an actual canon! Nice. The canon fired — BANG — and we were off towards the hills.
Here, immediately, I encountered my first minor challenge: the race course terrain. I understood the course to be traversing the surrounding desert countryside of Carrizo Badlands on trails. While this was broadly true, the initial 1.3k looped through the De Anza Springs campsite complex on paved roads. I run day-to-day in road running shoes. My experience is in the slightest dust or gravel they slip and slide dangerously; I couldn’t imagine the outcome of dust, gravel, AND sloped, twisted terrain! So, when I left home, I grabbed my sole pair of grippy track racing shoes that lack any meaningful padding for roads. I hadn’t anticipated that 1.3k of asphalt. Ouch!
Once we exited the loop around the complex and were thrown into the desert brush the shoes were a spectacular choice, performing well through beds of dry riverbed sand, steep grades and descents, tricky serpentine corners, gravel, boulders, and everything else that was thrown at them. So light, I nearly felt barefoot!
Finally, at that point, the spectacular setting was all around me. I was running through the most amazing stone landscape naked. Pursuing the leaders and escaping those biting at my heals. That sense of primal, visceral joy burst into place in my abdomen. It had been two years! How could it have been so long? Tears welled up in my eyes as I bounded up the first incline at the 2k marker.
There is no question that – lack of warm, sandy, barefoot beach aside – this was the best setting for a naked 5k race that I have experienced. Unfamiliarity with the course and needing to watch my steps closely to prevent a fall prevented me from keeping my head up for the views as much as I would have liked. This is where my personal longing surfaced (about 3k in): why isn’t there a flat, straight naked 5k course? There needs to be! While I love such spectacular settings. I also really enjoy the physical sensations of going straight as long and as fast as I possibly can. Twisting and turning the entire time is a different experience.
(At one point we suddenly came across abandoned rail cars from the discontinued, abandoned 1910 San Diego and Arizona Railroad line, which snakes precariously from San Diego to El Centro, passing adjacent to De Anza Springs. I’ve included a few shots of that fascinating, unexpected rail line just for a laugh.)
After several climbs (where I briefly slowed to walking due to current fitness levels) and descents, we continued the clockwise loop around the edge of the De Anza Springs complex.
It was this middle portion of the run that was the most spectacular. If I weren’t running a race, I would certainly have stopped just to gaze in awe at the landscape and the inevitable wildlife. But no! This was a race, damn it; the clock was ticking.
On the final stretch as is usual for most runners I was able to dig down deep and find speed and endurance that only ever manifests itself in a timed, competitive race. That and the final stretch was downhill. I hit a new heartrate BPM high for the year in that last 30 seconds (and my follow-up runs this week were all much easier!). I probably got more training impact from the run than I did from any preparation for it!
It was all over much too fast…
I’ll be back!
After the race, receiving the official results a few days later by email, I discovered that there were no age categories; the only groupings were male/female. How do I compare my results to other runners who are often 30 years younger? Another improvement I encourage the organisers to consider!
Naked Run Facts
Date: 25 Oct 2022
Location: De Anza Springs Resort, Carrizo Badlands, San Diego County, California
Altitude: 830 meters
Time of Day: 08:57
5k Gun Time: 32m07s
5k Watch Time: 32m00s
Air Temperature: 30c+/-
Conditions: Bright, sunny, still
Barefoot or Shoes: Reebok track racing shoes
Garmin 255 GPS tracking of Bare Booty 5k trail runFollow @NakedRunning
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