Foothill Flyers Race Reviews
Last update January 6, 2011         Return to Race Reviews

Death Valley Trail Marathon & 30K Road Trip

1st Saturday in December, Death Valley, CA, Titus Canyon, 7-9 AM Start.

App and info: call 415-868-1829 or email: envirosp@wenet.net

If you have never been to Death Valley, this is the way to see it with a running group. The Harvey house in Barstow (Lenwood exit) is a good place for breakfast and gather to caravan and come in from the south end of Death Valley to tour the sights on our way to the Furnace Creek Ranch. When you come to Baker, instead of going on to Las Vegas to loose our money, turn north on Hwy. 127. The Red Buggy Cafe in the old stage town of Shoshone is good place to lunch and top off the fuel tank. First stop after lunch and into the valley is the lowest point in the USA and -282 ft below sea level, Badwater. Getting your picture at the sign is mandatory. Next stop is Artists Palate with the colorful rock striations that change with the sun angle.

Death Valley marathon start You can camp or get rooms at the Furnace Creek Ranch and settle in about 3 - 4 PM. Make your room rez in September as they do fill up quick. Call 760-786-2345 and say you want the marathon rate. There are two good restaurants at the ranch or you can drive back down the road 1/3 mile for fancy grub and a tour of the Furnace Creek Inn.

Runners assemble in front of the ranch about 7 AM for the pre-race briefing and then load up on all the school busses they could scrounge from a 100 mile radius to transport them across the state line to the marathon start about 5 miles west of Beatty and Rhyolite Nevada. The busses then take the 30K people up the straight jeep road of the first part of the Marathon to Whites pass for their start.

Titus Canyon The most interesting part of the race is the 10 miles down Titus Canyon which was formed when a earth quake fault sheared open.

When you finish you can either hop on a bus to go back to the Ranch and its natural hot spring fed pool or have a non running person drive you back in a car. Non running people in your party can take the opportunity to work and aid station or do some sight seeing like going up to Scotty's Castle for the tour. If you have any energy left that afternoon, there is a great museum a half mile north of the Ranch. Dave Horning, the race director and owner of Envirosports, usually holds an informal awards ceremony at the Ranch bar about 6 PM.

Sunday morning is a good opportunity to leave early and drive the hour up the road to catch the 9 AM Scotty's Castle tour - it is well worth it. Then leave Death Valley to the west after checking out Stove Pipe Wells on Hwy. 190 going on up over Towne Pass toward Panamint Springs. Turn Left just after the bridge on to Trona Hwy. 178. Trona is a good place to refuel. 11 miles past Trona turn left on the Trona/Red Mountain road. At Hwy. 395 turn left to return toward LA.

Death Valley Titus Canyon 30K
Catherine Gallagher's 2010 experience:

1) First time camping since college. This "inexpensive" hobby of running has gradually ramped up to the, "Hey, where did the money go?" category as I add on events that require nights in hotels. My mentor/friend has encouraged camping for about a year now, but as that aforesaid college experience involved food poisoning, the thought of pitching a tent before a race seriously didn't appeal to me. That was until a small, remote, unpleasant hotel tacked on a "resort fee" to an already exorbitant price. Okay, enough... buy the darn tent and try it. The scenery was gorgeous, the stars were amazing, the tent (that I stocked with an air mattress) was comfortable, and the surroundings were so quiet that I got more sleep than I usually do in a hotel with its strange heater/people/equipment noises. ...Converted!

Catherine at Red's Pass2) First trail run of any significance. Yes... I did the Baldy run earlier this year but that was really a "power hike." I did the 30k Titus Canyon Run in Death Valley (really more like 17 miles.) We were bussed to the start line at 5000', ran down to 4650', then began a two-mile switchback climb back up to about 5280'. Tough start and very little running for me; I knew I was facing a lot more miles and didn't want to burn out on mile 3. At the end of the race, I overheard one woman asking if anyone else noticed how their fingers turned blue at the top. Well, no... I was focusing on keeping my feet under me. However, there was this one woman who passed me a couple times and I swear her calves were green. I began chuckling to myself. No... she wasn't beating me while blissfully chatting to her boyfriend because she was nearly 3 decades younger. She was in fact part ALIEN! Yes! That's it... The rest of the run was down, down, down through some breathtaking scenery. 5280' to 0' in about 15 miles. I stopped to take a couple of pictures (one attached), but the competitive urge soon deterred that. A woman was using me as a pacer (or so she said) and seemed my age... As I stopped to take the picture - see Entering Titus Canyon above - she passed me and it took about 8 minutes to catch up. Ugh! Stop lollygagging and run! I ran a good pace for me, with virtually no slowing for the rest of the race. At the end, where I usually run the last 100 yards or so just to enjoy the speed, I was instead feeling quite feeble as three women zoomed past me right before the finish and I had absolutely nothing left to challenge them. I thought that was it. At least two seemed my age.

3) Much to my surprise, when the results were in, I took first in the division. In fact (and this shows you how small a race it was), I also beat the fastest man in my age group by at least 20 minutes!

So a few pointers for trails. Gaiters are great - Dirty Girl gaiters. No sand in my shoes! Trail running shoes definitely grip better. And always, always watch the path ahead. I took my eyes off for one minute to wonder at the awesome canyon walls around me and rolled my ankle. Thankfully, it wasn't a real twist and I was able to continue.

Mark Ryne's Death Valley 2002 Marathon experience:

A large group of Foothill Flyers participated in the Death Valley Trail Marathon and 18 miles races on February 2, 2002.

Death Valley marathon pre run brief All the runners gathered for a loud and boisterous pre-race briefing at the Furnace Creek Ranch. We then boarded buses for the 25 mile trip over the Grapevine mountains to the start area near Beatty, Nevada. About half way there, the buses pulled into a rest stop and we were encouraged to use the facilities because of the limited number of port-a-potties at the start. There are some advantages to being on the first bus...

The marathoners were dropped of at their start line while the 18 milers drove ahead to their start area. The marathon began at about 9 am with clear skies but cold temperatures and a chilly brisk wind. The course started on an arrow straight dirt road through the desert heading toward the mountains that are the eastern boundary of Death Valley. The first aid station was unmanned (just a case of gallon water bottles). Then the course began to climb up into the mountains. We reached the 18 miler start and the next aid stations at White Pass. Then came a steep downhill followed by a brutal 2 mile ascent. As we climbed, we started to see the beautiful strata and rock formations of Death Valley. We finally came to the highest point of the race beneath a towering, bright gray-green rock face - appropriately named "Red Pass". There was even a little snow on the shadowed northern slopes of the mountains. From here it was 14 miles to the finish, with an unrelenting 5000 foot elevation loss.

We were running down a wide and shallow valley over loose gravel. The next aid station was at an abandoned mining site named Leadfield. Some of the inventive support workers had pulled the back seat out of a mini-van so they could relax in comfort while waiting to help the runners.

Titus Canyon rock formation Here we entered Titus Canyon. We were running in a narrow river valley over sandy and rocky terrain. The valley walls went straight up on both sides, with lots of multicolor layers, twisted and bent in odd directions. There were even Indian petroglyphs on some of the walls. Your quads are burning from the relentless down hill and running on the soft, uneven surface.

After what seemed like an endless series of descending tight snake turns, we suddenly burst out of the canyon with a magnificent view of Death Valley spread out in front of us.

From here it was a long 3 miles down a sandy dirt road over the debris apron that had washed out of the canyon. This was the toughest part of the race. You could see bright reflections off the windshields of the cars and buses parked at the finish line. They looked like they were right there in front of you, but as you ran, they just did not seem to get any closer. But finally, being cheered by our family and friends, we reached the finish line at the road to Scotty's Castle.

One of the neat features about the race was that updated results were posted about every 10 minutes. So by the time you had cooled down and picked up your finisher T-Shirt and medallion you could limp over and read your official finish time.

The we loaded back onto the buses for the 35 mile trip back to Furnace Creek and a dip in the heated swimming pool.



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