The Bandit is located in the beautiful hills of Simi Valley, my hometown and training grounds. I have run several 50K before but the Bandit 50K keeps drawing me back year after year. The fantastic volunteers, the amazing RDs, the beautiful weather and views is what I look forward to every year. The mix of technical single track, rocky fire roads, flowing downhill's and brutal climbs is what keeps me coming back! The lore of the Bandit is strong, no matter how hard I train unique challenges always present themselves, its a true test of grit and determination. I am in a secret love affair with the Simi hills even though she continues to break my heart.. This course is tough! Its a true test of all skill sets, you need to be a strong climber, good at downhill's, a technical runner and have Iron quads. You will receive expert care at every aid station, amazing views in all directions and a great after party when you finish. It will throw a little of everything out at you, so if your looking for a true challenge with great rewards this is the race for you!
When the "gun" went off I ran comfortable with Michael Eastburn, I took the lead an 1/8th of a mile out from the starting line and led all the way through the parade lap. I was thinking as I passed through a cheering crowd at Corganville if this was the best race strategy? I have never been known to lead a race from the start, I like to lay back behind the leaders and strike later in the race, clean up the carnage! The answer was yes, this is what I wanted, this is what I trained so hard for, the Bandit was mine this year. One of he toughest part of the race for me comes at mile 2, you climb, climb and climb some more, its a steep, rock strewn ascent up to Rocky Peak. If your feeling good you can run parts of it, but not for long because it will break you down and wear you out way too early in the race. As we ascended up the Wildlife corridor climb I was in the lead, by how much I was not sure, I never really looked back at all going up this climb, I just put my head down and pushed, next thing you know I am at Rocky Peak, that wasn't too bad. As I make my way past Amanda's bench around mile 3 I hear someone ask if I had ran this race before, it was Felix (the eventual winner), from this point forward it was Felix and I running together. A good part of the time we ran side by side and I would pull away from him at several points during the race, but he was always there never too far behind, like a stalker, a hunter. Was I being hunted?
Maybe I was too focused on a mission at the Chumash aid station but I could have sworn Felix continued right through the aid station and down Chumash without stopping while Michael and I refilled our water bottles. Oh well down my favorite descent of the race - Chumash! I could surely catch up to Felix here, we flew at a fast clip down Chumash, I was in a serious flow state headed down the trail, I felt good, I felt happy! The Chumash zen experience was short lived, next thing you know I am running down the only street section of the race heading toward Marrland, wait what? its Felix pulling up beside me, he compliments my downhill running and I ask how he got behind me? Turns out he did stop at Chumash and I was in front of him the whole time, we run into Marrland "Starwars land" together with Michael not far behind.
Its me leading up the charge ascending Hotdog hill, Felix right behind almost the entire way up where we made a little space on Michael. I pull away from Felix again as I bomb down another amazing descent that is Chivo Canyon, also short lived because as soon as I hit the bottom at Tapo Open Spaces Felix is right behind me again, I cannot shake this kid! We run together all the way through Tapo and we enter the half way point together at the Tapo Canyon aid station. We spend a couple minutes getting ourselves together before we head out for the second half of the race, this is where things took a turn. Headed back through Tapo Open Spaces either Felix found an extra gear or I lost a gear, but he took the lead from me for the first time in the race. Many thoughts racing through my head, I was feeling slightly demoralized but thinking he was going to burn himself out and I would pass him back up, so I just kept pushing forward. As hard as I tried to keep him in my sights the last I saw of him was going back up Chivo Canyon, that was it.. I wouldn't see him again till the end of the race! With everyone reassuring me he was only 2 minutes ahead, and encouraging me to catch him, I pushed really hard, I left everything I had out on the course. But I just didn't have enough...
If there is one race I want to win all year it would be Bandit, I feel a connection to the Simi hills and to the race itself, its not just another race, for me its personal. I ran really well and still beat my previous PR on this course by 11 minutes, I felt really good doing it, my running feels stronger and more relaxed than it ever has. I ran with passion, grit and determination, but most importantly I ran with a smile on my face. The weather was perfect, the volunteer were amazing, my fellow trail runners and crowd support were all there, all and all a great day! No not a perfect day, but a great day, I am disappointed in not getting the win. I know I cant expect to go out there and win them all but I cant help but to think something is missing from my running. I need the extra push to be a better runner from here, have I plateaued? Do I need a coach? Do I just need to dig deeper, train harder? How do I get better from here?
Huge thanks to Randy and Sarita Shoemaker for there tireless effort in putting on this race every year, your commitment is truly appreciated. Thank you to each and every volunteer out there, without you there would be no race. Thank you Desirae for not only volunteering every year but for being the supportive and amazing wife you are!
I call it the curse of the Bandit, I look forward to the race every year, I train often and I train hard, but something always defeats me! Did I piss of the resting spirits of the Chumash Indians that once inhabited these hills? After two 3rd place finishes, I felt like 2016 was my year to win, I felt it in my heart, I felt it in my brain. Yes I PR'd this year and came in second and yes I am happy with my finish, but I still feel like I have unfinished business on this course.. I will be back next year to take care of business, till then a beer to celebrate and a trail to run..