Mammoth Trail Fest Weekend and Dragon’s Back Ascent 2023 Race Report


After having an amazing time at last year’s inaugural Mammoth Trail Fest, I knew I had to come back – and hopefully bring friends.

Besides the great races, chill atmosphere and friend building of last year, this year the Golden Trail World series added the 26K race to its schedule. I had to go. The Golden Trail World Series includes the best sub-ultra trail runners in the world, and I’ve been following this circuit for the past several years. They’re a fast and exciting bunch!


B and I drove up on a Thursday and scoped out the scene. This time we stayed right there at the village only feet from the starting line for the 26K and the 50K races.


I picked up my bibs then went to see the Ballet Folklorico performance. Sofia Flores’ group was great, and I later got to speak with her. She was doing the triple!


Last year I spent most of the fest parked out near the stage, listening to speaker panels, watching films and meeting new folks. This year was different because a group of my New Basin Blues running group came up as well.



To say I came into the 26K race undertrained would be an understatement. After getting off to a great start by finishing running every street in my town of Santa Paula, even in rainy March, I ran into adversity. I got sick so didn’t run then when I was ready to get back out there, I had a weird hip flexor issue and was sidelined from running for another two weeks. Then, every time I hit the trails; I ended up taking a tumble. The last time I fell I smashed my right leg, so I only walked for a couple of weeks after that.



So, I pulled the plug on the 26K. I had given myself a 20% chance of even making it to the Summit at mile 7 in time for the cutoff. Last year I was in a similar predicament, and I just ran out to the first aid station and back for a DNF. 


This year I didn’t toe the line and instead was off to support Caryn and Tim from NBB for their 26K race.



By focusing on helping and cheering on my friends and other runners, this really added a new level of fun to the Mammoth Trail Fest experience. I do a lot of volunteering in SoCal races so service is not new, but it was super cool to do this at the Trail Fest.



Tim and Caryn were up first, doing the 26K race that I skipped then the next day Daisy did the 50K race. Each day, the rest of our NBB crew followed them at the summit and other aid stations. They all rocked their races!



I was up now. The next day I got an early start to tackle the Dragon’s Back Ascent. I was super early and the first on site, so I did some walking and short runs to warm up the legs. 


Eventually all the runners showed up and the group was 3 times the size as last year’s. Tim and Caryn showed up to send me off and then we were off.



My goal was to make the cutoff time of 2 and a half hours. My only strategy was to go at a brisk but managed level. With the strangeness of the vertigo that started last winter I have been extra careful not to pass the line of no return. When that happens the world spins and I get nauseous. Not a good thing to happen.



I felt strong the whole way and jogged a few of the flatter sections. I got caught by another runner who was going based on heart rate so every now and then he would stop and chat with a search and rescue person or volunteer until his heart rate settled down. I would get a little closer to him, but I wasn’t racing.



Last year I kept checking my heart rate and the distance but this year I had a buff right around my watch wrist so I could just peek through to see where I was. I did notice that the time between mile 2.0 and 2.25 seemed to take an eternity. 



Getting to the finish line before the 2-hour mark started to slip away. I still had strength but was cautious of the line. As long as I made the cutoff, I would be fine. I also got passed by a dad carrying his daughter which is unique, but I kept my ego in check and didn’t try to over push things. 



I finally got to the false summit and took off running. As soon as the trail climbed a little bit, I went back to power hiking then back to running on the dip before the little climb. When I got to the final few turns, I put the trekking poles in one hand and sprinted up the hill. There were a bunch of spectators including Billy Yang and they were losing their minds cheering. I got a big hug from race director Tim Tollefson as I crossed the line. Shortly after that I went to go cheer in the last couple of runners then got a ride back to the village from Evelyn and Bill who were up there to cheer.



My official finish time was 2:13:54 which is slower than last years’ time, but I realized that last year the course was shorter. Last year the race was over at the false summit.



I had a blast this year racing, spending time with B and the NBB group and meeting new folks and saying hi to people I met at last year’s fest.



Race Director Tim Tollefson did a great job on this year’s Fest and his team of volunteers were amazing!



My next race is the NoName 25K in a couple of weeks. What is your next race?