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Mt. Wilson Trail Race - 8.6 Miles

4th Saturday in May, Sierra Madre, CA, 7:30 AM Start.
Starts at the corner of Baldwin and Sierra Madre Ave. Course is an out and back up the Mt. Wilson Trail to Orchard Camp. It is one of those local races you have to do at least once. Most hate it or love it, but you wont know til you do it.

This event fills up within hours so check the race web site in early February for opening dates and times for Sierra Madre residents and non-residents. Click on registration for on line sign up or show up in person at the Sierra Madre Recreation Center 611 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024.

The Invictus Running Academy does training most every Saturday morning starting at 7am from Kirsting Court - NW corner of Baldwin and Sierra Madre Blvd. See Coach Simon Cooper's 2020 training schedule. Three local popular races, the Santa Anita Derby Day 5K, Verdugo Mountains 10K and Fountain to Falls will be part of the training program and part of the Foothill Trail Challenge Series.

There is a Fat Ass run at the end of October that makes the loop from Sierra Madre Blvd. and Baldwin Ave. in Sierra Madre up the Bailey Canyon trail and back down the Mt. Wilson Trail.

This is an unusual event. An 8.6 mile out-and-back trail run, with a 2,120 foot elevation gain, mostly on single track trail. Starting in downtown Sierra Madre at 840 feet, it goes to Orchard Camp, on the Mt Wilson Trail, at 2,960 feet. That translates to about a 9-1/2% grade average (9-1/2 feet up for 100 feet horizontal). The grade average is the same as the Mt Baldy climb, but this is half downhill; Baldy is all up.

The unusual part of this event is that the trail is rather narrow except for the first and last miles. The first mile on the street has a real grade that serves to thin out the crowd pretty well by the time you get to the trailhead. You do have to be prepared to pass and be passed on the trail. And almost all of us have to be ready to yield (When you hear "RUNNER" called out ahead of you) to the faster participants who come down running on the same narrow trail we are trudging up.

The dirt trail itself is rough in spots, sandy in some, and rocky in others. As with Baldy, it is sometimes a very long way down off on one side of the trail. Most of the trail is desert-mountain, on the east-face slope. Much of it catches the morning sun, so it can be HOT. Sunscreen is a thought. The top mile is mostly under trees. There is aid at about halfway up at First Water (also down), and at the Orchard Camp turnaround. Search and Rescue personnel are up on the trail in several spots, just in case. Many first timers and even a few vets under estimate how much fluid they need to take in and come back down dehydrated. So drink up at the 3 aid stations.

The half of the event that is downhill is the usual double-edge sword; strong Quads and good knees really help. The downhill running also kicks up some gritty dust. Those of you with contact lenses may want a pair of light-colored, wrap-around sunglasses. Use a pale amber lens that allows you to still be able to see on the shaded portions of the trail. Clear safety/shooting glasses could be utilized.

This is very nice small-town event. Only a few hundred people running from and back to a quaint village downtown. They do limit participation, so commit early if you have your heart set on it. As with all trail runs, scouting the run ahead is of great value.

Kersting Court (start/finish line) is a great place for friends and spouses to hang out while you are out on the race. There are some great places for breakfast, just coffee or even have a brew at Lucky Baldwin's Delirium Cafe. Many have outside tables but with the number of people, it is best to bring your own folding chair. Don't fall asleep though, remember this is the movie location of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Charlie Bell bypass trail has been added around the Slide section of the Mt. Wilson Trail that intersects just after rounding the turn at Rescue Ridge but is not part of the race. However, it has 2 sets of benches with great views if you want some variation on one of your training runs.

Members of the Foothill flyers Radio Club hike up the trail before dawn to the upper checkpoints to provide backup communications for the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue as well as report first and last runner locations to the finish line. Cell phone and direct simplex radios do not reliably work in the Little Santa Anita Canyon so a ham repeater up on Mt. San Olean repeats the hand held radio signals to the finish.

There is room for runners going both directions, but they must stay to the right and be aware.

Members of the Sierra Madre Search & Rescue team and Ham Radio volunteers are at check points along the trail to assist any injured runners. Foothill Flyers Sara Dunn, Cristine Eng encourage runners and Maria Vangilder operates the ham radio at the Midway Helispot check point. This check point has a blind sharp turn so slow down a little and be aware.

Often this time of year, down in town the morning marine layer makes for a cool start. But by the time you get to the switchbacks you can be in full sun and heat which can be deceiving.

The Mt. Wilson Trail is maintained by a group of volunteers that some times have to clear large rocks that have come down after rain storms - See video of this 12 ton rock being removed from the trail just above First Water.

Tips from the Race Committee:

1. Going up the trail, stay to the right so people can pass you. When overtaking someone, it's always good to say (politely) "To your left." And if you are being overtaken, give the runner behind you room so he or she can get by.

2. Downhill runners have the mountain side (to the their right); if you are still going up, allow them enough space to pass you on your left side.

3. Watch for sharp objects from fallen trees and stumps.

4. Drink! There is water at First Water (1.9 miles up) and at Orchard Camp (4.3 miles at the turn around).

5. Thank all the volunteers, including Search & Rescue, Ham Radio, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, who are all there on their own time to make sure you are safe. Have fun and look out for each other; we are all in this together!

Cyrus Davis comments on his 2011 event experience:
On Saturday, May 28, 2011, the first day of the Memorial Day weekend, the 103rd Mt. Wilson Trail Race took place in the City of Sierra Madre. For me, this annual event ushers in the official beginning of summer. I am particularly fond of this race due to its cozy small town feel. What other race can you run into the race director, Pete Siberell, at the local pub. The race is limited to the first 300 participants. This was the first year participants were able to register online which resulted in the race selling out in record time. In lieu of the traditional race pasta dinner, I have a tradition with my wife of randomly choosing a local restaurant to sit down for a romantic dinner on an outside patio while enjoying the warm summer night breeze. This is followed by a leisurely stroll down Sierra Madre Blvd. passing City Hall, the fire station, a church and the local theatre.

The 8.34 mile trail is basically 4 miles up to turn around at Orchard Camp and head down for a well deserved descent. (The trail up to First Water is always the first Foothill Flyer trail run scheduled for the summer trail season). Last year's winner set a blazingly fast pace of 58 minutes. This year our own Sharon Pevsner, a perennial winner in the women's division, came in 2nd. The funds go towards assisting the local fire and rescue squads, which makes it easier to write a check knowing it is not going to millionaires who do not know how to run baseball teams. Our own Gary Hilliard and his crew did a superb job of keeping the trail in top shipshape. The only hiccup in this year's race was the First Water aid station ran out of water for the runners coming down (needless to say I should have had my own water).

After months of training - this year, I started in January -, I finished at 2:05 due to a slower than expected recovery from my allergies. But after a hard run race, what better way to relax than poolside at Bob and Sue Spears' nearby home. Bob greets each guest as they entered with a, "Do you want a hamburger or hotdog?" By tradition, it is a cheeseburger for me with Sue's special baked beans as my favorite side. Next year I might finally break tradition and go for a "Spears hot dog."

Click on map above for a race course map you can take with you.

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