MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! On May 20th I was the 3rd to cross the finish line at San Diego’s inaugural TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE, a one-day, 26+ mile hike to raise awareness and funds for Make-A-Wish San Diego. It was an incredible journey following the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) via the Cougar Crest Trail and ending at Onyx Summit near Big Bear, California.
I had so much fun with my girlfriends and loved meeting the other participants; we really created a little family, encouraging each other and drawing from each other’s strength and positive energy. It was inspiring to hear the participants’ pasts and stories. Hikers varied in age and hiking experience — 21 to 75 and Mt Whitney veterans to brand new hikers, and most special of all was meeting fellow hikers who were parents to Wish-kids and learning how the organization has brought such happiness to their lives.
Get all the race day feel-goods with this video captured by the event’s photographer and see my race-day recap below. Stay tuned later this week for my Top 7 Tips for a Hiking Race if you’re ready to sign up for this challenge or a similar one soon.
RACE RECAP: TEAM ADVENTURE APPEAL TAKES ON THE TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE
We started this long but glorious day at 3:15am when the 80 hikers, event staff and medics met for roll call and breakfast. We were soon out the door for the starting line with our headlamps on. My girlfriends and I started in wave 7 at 4:15am, and in the pitch black night it was so much fun to see the string of lights below and above us on the trail. Before long, the light was breaking and we watched the sun rise over Big Bear Lake, a truly beautiful sight.
The race course included 3 aid stations and they were the perfect markers for recapping later with our fellow hikers and friends. Before the 1st aid station we acclimated to elevation, navigated the trail in the dark and were moving quickly, high on coffee and race-day adrenaline. Next, we hit our stride for a 7-8 miles, going long stretches of slight incline and steady downhill. These provided gorgeous viewpoints of the valley and lots of Mojave yucca spotting.
At the 2nd aid station there were Make-a-Wish cheerleaders, friends and family with signs and cowbells and a feast of snacks. Everyone partook in some much needed restoration here and I shed a lot of layers as the sun become stronger.
The next stretch was long and solo. I hit my stride and saw few race-day or PCT through hikers for the next 9 miles. Following the race map, PCT markers and taking countless pictures and funny videos I kept on track and in high spirits. The terrain was a mix of narrow dirt paths and wide loose rocks with seemingly endless views of the Johnson Valley.
Clocking in at the 3rd aid station, I was mindful not to spend as long as I did at the 2nd, since there were just 5 miles left of the race. These 5 miles were the toughest yet, a steady climb uphill precisely when your body and mind start to break down. I kept repeating positive mantras in my head and seeing the friendly face of a fellow race-day hiker at mile 27 really motivated me to keep going.
1 mile from the finish line, the extra adrenaline and excitement of finishing was taking over and views of Onyx Summit were starting to form. We even passed the famous couch rest stop (next time ;)). Because this was a hiking race, the finish line wasn’t as clear, and myself and a fellow hiker wound up passing it, increasing our mileage and our excuses for lots of delicious treats later.
Happy, hungry and in awe of the process, I ended the race at 10 hours and 15 minutes, clocking in 29.15 miles and finishing 3rd. It was exhilarating, humbling and altogether such a push mentally and physically. Thank you for this incredible opportunity, Make-A-Wish and to all those that provided encouragement and support!