Course rules & directions

GENERAL RULES (and heuristics):
1. Please be safe. It’s an open course (no traffic control) and it’s pretty long. Please, please, please be safe.

2. Each team member runs two legs. Back to back legs may be run. You can mix it however you want. It is not a crisis if someone runs three legs and another team member runs one.

3. Avoid having (making) anyone run both leg 4 and leg 7 or 8. Generally, if you can, mix it so each runner gets one uphill and one downhill.

4. Every team a/o ultra runner is responsible for his/her/their own aid. A rule of the event, though, is, help anyone who needs help, regardless of team.

5. Obey the traffic laws. The course is open to traffic. We want to maintain good relations with the cops, CHP, Forest Service, etc.

Three tips:

  • When running uphill, your butt is your friend. Stay upright and balanced over it and your body can engage it. (Shorter strides may help.)
  • When running downhill, keep your feet under your hips. When your feet are ahead of your center of gravity, you’re braking, which causes microtears in your muscles, as well as putting your cartilage on an anvil.
  • When facing a long downhill (like legs 4, 7, and 8), lace your shoes carefully. Your feet will want to slide forward, smashing your toes. Prevent that and your feet will be happier.

Mauricio Puerto kindly made a GPX for the course. WordPress does not (for whatever $%# reason) allow upload of the .gpx filetype to this site, but it’s easy to grab from Mauricio’s original: go here and then download as GPX.

If you want to use psychedelics during/for the run. Team racers, rely on your teammates, and agree beforehand on things like safety, dropping (being pulled) if they think your behavior unsafe, monitoring fluids and hydration, &c. (A scale in the team car is a quick way to see whether you’re dehydrated.) Ultrarunners: Tell me (the RD) that you’re planning this before race day; experienced ultrarunners only (do not do this as a first time, and ‘I did a marathon’ is not ultrarunning experience); have sober pacers for the entire distance, who are also experienced ultrarunners, and preferably familiar with the course; be sure you have the support you need, e.g., water and food on the course, backup plans, backup plans for the backup plans. Like the team runners, a prior agreement that if your pacer decides you need to stop, you stop. Particularly if it’s a hot day, this is a potentially dangerous course. Like any trip, I want you to get to the end safe and whole.

Starts at entrance to Toro Canyon Park–a little bit back from the street, but not up at the park entrance. Run too fast on East Valley Road. Take East Valley until you turn right (uphill) on San Ysidro Road. (This is the first stoplight from the start.) Continue up to Mountain Drive and turn left. Go to East Mountain and turn right on East Mountain (this is a very short left-right jog in the road–think of it as continuing in roughly the same direction you’ve been going). Handoff is at Cold Spring trailhead (being courteous to non-TE walkers and hikers). (6.4 miles, total climb 830′, 540′ drop, net change +290′)

Trail route. To run the West Fork of Cold Spring, take the trail marked East Fork Cold Spring Trail. Yep. There are three trail entrances at Cold Spring: the Ridge and East Fork on the east (Carp, Ventura) side of the stream, and a maybe-unmarked trail on the west (upper) side. Either of the two closest-to-the-stream trailheads will work, though the East Fork (east, just before the bridge) is recommended. Do NOT take the Ridge Trail, the lowest/furthest east of the trails. That is wrong. Both you and your crew will be bummed if you do. Assuming you take either of the correct trails, a short way up there’s a spur that divides the East and West Forks. There’s a prominent sign identifying the two forks (thank you, Montecito Trails Foundation). You want to cross the stream carefully, heading west (SB, Goleta). Once you’re on the West Cold Spring trail, simply stay on the trail. You’ll see the Tangerine Falls side trail on your right, but you continue (left), including when you think you’re near the top and it turns down and away from where you believe you’re going. This happens about two-thirds of the way up, a little past the Cold Spring Tunnel, so you’re not as near the top as you’d thought (or hoped); it’s perhaps a quarter mile up from the tomb-like enclosure. (Enclosure built 1905, tunnel completed 1897. Those pipes you see partially buried along the trail were laid then, using mules, pickaxes, and sweat. The ‘tunnel’ is really a borehole, but our sandstone mountains are full of cracks that hold water, so it works. Santa Barbara was growing, over six thousand people, the railroad would connect in 1901, and the town needed a more reliable water supply.) You’ll (eventually) (one hopes) emerge at the wide ‘180’ turn on Gibraltar that has a line of six boulders and a ‘No Shooting’ sign accompanied by lots of broken glass from shooting. ‘Ah!’, you think, ‘I have achieved my goal!’ No. Continue! Lucky thing you’re dauntless and care naught for the urgent entreaties of gravity! Keep going to the overhanging oak (left side of the road going up, it will be obvious. Handoff. (3 [or so] miles, total climb 1608′, 472′ drop, net +1136′) If your crew isn’t there yet, keep going. (You might want to rehearse some colorful imprecations to have on hand should this occur.) This is a poor choice of leg for anyone who dislikes heights or has balance issues. Really. If being on narrow trails next to big drops freaks you out, this is not your leg.
Drivers: The handoff is higher to give you more time. Be safe! The RD recommends the first left on Mountain, down past Westmont to 192; turn right, follow 192 (with another right at Sycamore Canyon), then a right at El Cielito, which will take you to Gibraltar.
Road route, do not go this way. Unless the Race Director says to. (West Fork is sketchy in the rain.) Your runner will touch on the bridge over the stream. Run Mountain Drive four roughly four and a quarter miles (6.8 km) to the junction with Gibraltar. (Not El Cielito.) Turn right, a more-than-90-degree turn, and continue up Gibraltar. Some light recreational swearing is entirely acceptable. Continue on Gibraltar to the ‘180’ turn and hand off. If you’ve never seen it before, it will be obvious; to confirm, look east (to the right, ascending) and you’ll see the trail joining the road. (7¼ miles, 1280′ drop, 2428′ climb. Deceptive rolling on Mountain Drive.)

Continue up Gibraltar, to the intersection with Camino Cielo and Gibraltar. Watch to your left as you run for the place behind Cathedral (Arlington) where the US invaders made a stand against the Mexican Army in 1846, holding out until the then-legit Mexican force set fire to the chaparral. In the night the US soldiers/adventurers/colonists made it up over the ridge and escaped. In any event, at the Gibraltar/ Camino Cielo junction bear left up and continue to La Cumbre Peak. Handoff at “Off Road Motor Vehicle Travel Prohibited” sign (pretty much the top, as far as the road goes). (Short 5.4 miles, total climb 2090′, 120′ drop, net change +1970′) (Savor that drop.)

Camino Cielo rolls a little but mostly downhill–the start is ~4000′, Hwy 154 is ~2200′–past Camino Cielo store to Highway 154, then STOP. Wave exuberantly across the highway to your team member. Do not cross the highway; ultrarunners cross with caution, please. This leg is a poor choice for people who have had disk issues in their backs. San Marcos Pass is the then-narrow-trail that Fremont used in 1849 on a Christmas Eve march in a rainstorm to surprise and capture the Santa Barbara Presido. Fremont was a piece of work. (Where ‘work’ rhymes with ‘hit’.) (9 1/4 miles, total climb 610′, 2315′ drop, net change -1705′)

You are standing at the top of 154, the south (west) side, on Stagecoach Rd. Scamper a short distance down Stagecoach and turn right on Kinevan. Follow Kinevan to W Camino Cielo, turn right (to the west) and head to end of pavement/start of dirt at the Gun Club. Handoff. The first part of this leg is the only section of the course where the runner is intimately enfolded by the landscape and foliage. (4 3/4 miles, pretty much; total climb 1160′, 380′ drop, net change +790′)

The first mile drops around 500′ and then you climb. Run past first tower on right to where road forks. (Fork goes back toward tower.) This happens again. Keep going, to the third tower — where the dirt ends and the asphalt begins. Your runner will be waiting there. (You hope.) Wait for your ride out to pick-up area. (9 1/4 miles, total climb 2000′, 900′ drop, net change +1100′)

Continue on to the road and down to the intersection of Refugio Road and Camino Cielo Road. There’s a lovely moment when the road turns a corner around a ridge and you leave the sere burn area to deep green and and birds and views out to Gaviota Peak. (This has grown back since the last fire, one hopes.) Handoff. Another try-to-avoid for people with disk issues. (6 miles, total climb 90′, 1910′ drop, net change -1820′.)

Go right on Refugio downhill on the dirt road. Handoff is at the bridge over Santa Ynez River. Last one for low-back-blues avoidance; not as bad as Leg 4. (6.1 miles, total climb 120′, 1960′ drop, net change -1840′)

Take Refugio over bridge to Highway 246. Go left and stay on left hand side of road, run against traffic (safer). Turn left at Alisal Road. Go though downtown Solvang area. Continue on Alisal over bridge past golf course and Alisal Ranch. Handoff. (6 3/4 miles, total climb 415′, 360′ drop, net change +55′)

Alisal Road to Nojoqui Falls Park entrance. (‘No-ho-ee’.) Wave arms in air with cheerfully triumphant dramatics. (Short 3 3/4 miles, total climb 510′, 280′ drop, net change +230′) (According to OnTheGoMap but I have no idea where the ‘drop’ is. This is basically a shallow climb, then a steeper climb, then a kind-of flat stretch to the finish.)

Drink refreshing beverages, celebrate with teammates and friends and kids, and take pics and laugh.


6 thoughts on “Course rules & directions”

  1. Looking forward to this race! Could you please post the driving map for cars that don’t have high enough clearance to drive West Camino Cielo dirt road?

  2. Same question here, also hoping to hear more about how trail contortions play in to driving m/handoffs. I know the cold spring trailhead is wrecked at east mountain drive and I think some of the fireroads are somewhat eroded.

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