One Dirty Blog

Bootleg Beatdown Breakdown

by Erin Cartaya, Official Trail Junkie on July 19, 2018

When runners from Southern California hear the words RACE and JUNE and LAS VEGAS in the same sentence, it elicits a deer in the headlights kind of look; does one actually run in that kind of heat!? As it turns out, yeah people do, and they do a damn good job at it too. A week prior to Bootleg Beatdown, I crewed a friend at the San Diego 100. I witnessed almost half the field dropping out as we all got a taste of what "vegas heat" might be like.

With that "heat training" though, I was up for the challenge at this race. You see, in my mind, the heat seemed more daunting than the elevation profile. I had already experienced the wrath of the switchbacks at Blood, Sweat, and Beers, so I knew how to tackle that portion...and Ginger?? Please. I had it in the bag, or so I thought. But more about that later.

Back to the it turns out, Vegas had an unseasonably "cool" morning, according to some of the locals I overheard talking after the race. For a 6am start, it felt plenty warm to me, however. Luckily, the aid stations were strategically placed so that we never had to go more than a few miles without fluids. (Also, note to self: If you're sweating like a pig before 8am and kids want to squirt you with a water gun, SAY YES!!!) And Vegas, you probably don't realize this, but you give "windy city" Chicago a run for its money. I can't count the number of times I thought I was going to be blown off the edge of a trail.

Which leads me to my next point. The trails. They are a bit different than San Diego. And by that I mean Vegas trails are unforgiving at times and sometimes forced me to crawl; all the while making me appreciate the choice I made to toe the start line. It was easy to follow the footsteps of runners past that carved out these trails alongside mountain bikes, also aided by "confidence markers" that were excellently placed by the Trail Junkie team (sorry guys, if I wasn't stuck in traffic all day Friday, I would've been out there helping you guys). The desert trails out here present a different technicality that give these races that added challenge...

...And then there's Ginger. That thing is a beast all it's own. There aren't enough ginger stereotypes to curse at that hill that will make it any easier (trust me, I tried). I didn't want to believe Rob, the RD, when he said downhill mountain bikers rate its technicality a ten out of ten. The ONE redeeming quality was knowing it's early in the race and that we had to slow down, which means I had a second to enjoy the incredible view at the top. And add to that, the relief of knowing I'd soon see the bright, shiny faces of volunteers at the top (you guys rocked, at all the aid stations!). For just a moment, I forgot about the rest of the 8 miles and second major climb ahead.

And when I finally crossed the finish line, it was about more than just collecting the water bottle and stuffing my face with post-race goodies. Crossing the line into a welcoming trail running community is really something that makes me feel accomplished. The camaraderie and commiserating make the pain worth it. I mean, when people want to hang out with caked-on dirt sock lines and drink a beer, I know I am in the right place with the right people.

Reflecting back, it's hard to put into words how and why we challenge our bodies and minds the way we do. Most of the world can't comprehend our craziness. Sometimes, neither do we. But seeing the Vegas running community, and being able to be a part of it is something special. I can't put into words how or why, but I know I want to be back for the next Desert Dash race.