Foothill Flyers Race Reviews
Last update June 4, 2012
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Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon, half, 10K, 5K

1st Saturday and Sunday in October, Susanville, CA, 9:00 AM Start.

Click on Bizz Johnson above for app and info

Rocky, stumpy, puddly, you shorten your gaze to a few feet, a constant reading of the terrain, trusting your feet to remember and place themselves. Peripherally the forest passes: delight. Posture, lean, lift heels, arms swing. Chi flows. -- Joseph Miller

Maria Vangilder Sez of the event:
Here are the photos from the Bizz Johnson marathon weekend in Susanville Ca. We arrived to snow on the ground in Reno & marathon morning was a chilly 18 degrees. The marathon was run on what was once train tracks and has been converted into trail. Around every turn was post card worthy beautiful sights. The finishers medal is a wooden train whistle with the Bizz Johnson logo burned into the side. I finished last of the group and in true Team Couch Potato style I was the last offical finisher of the race just making the cutoff by 2 seconds. If it hadn't been for Karen keeping me on a strict run 3 walk1 and carrying my waist pack for the last couple of miles, I'd still be out there. All in all a fantastic weekend. And most important...we looked great in our matching running outfits.

Julie Millers view of this road trip event

On Sunday, October 13, 2008, Flyers Karen Johnson, Julie Miller, Brenda, Jim and Tinkerbelle Terrier Thomason, Jan Iocco, Carolyn Youngberg, Leslie Hallimore, and Maria Vangilder carefully planned their ensembles for the Bizz Johnson marathon, in Susanville, CA.

This is one of the prettiest rail trail runs in North America. Bizz is in Susanville, CA, about 85 miles north of Reno. You fly to Reno and drive to Susanville, or take a road trip, either up the 395 or the 5. It takes about 10 hours to drive there from Pasadena.

Brenda, Karen, and Julie opted for the road trip up the 395. Leaving the Santa Ana winds of LA, the girls wore sweaters and sandals while a red-flag alert along the 395 whipped tumble brush. Then snow came. Then sleet. Then the signs that said chains were required.

The Susanville Best Western Trail Inn is conveniently located on Main Street close to all the local attractions and eats. Susanville is a sort of Mayberry crossed with Ridgecrest. The town is justly proud of its Southern Pacific rail trail heritage. Pre-race dinner at the Sage Hen restaurant was elegant for a pre-race dinner, and Flyers dined on chocolate fondue, creme Brule and squash soup.

Race morning Sunday was 18 degrees for the marathoners. It was cool, but we looked hot! While other runners ran around in garbage bags, we Flyers sported our matching royal blue flyers shirts, color coordinated with 'kitten' blue leopard print gaiters from, and a royal blue tiger-striped bandana. Maria looked smart and svelte in purple matching headband and top.

But Yow! You ain't seen noth'n yet until you've seen Tinkerbelle Terrier Thomason in a real Border terrier fur coat with matching Eddie Bauer faux leather bomber-jacket. And when Ms.Tinkerbelle wore her leopard skin cape at the race, she temporarily managed to upstage even Leslie Hallimore (who likes leopard skin but didn't race in it).

In 18 degree weather, Maria, Leslie, Jan, and Carolyn loaded themselves onto the buses at the old Susan railroad depot. The buses left at 7:45 am to drop the runners off in time for the 9 am start. This race is flat and cold and sunny. By noon it warmed up to 56 degrees.

The course is spectacular. Designed by Ms. Karen Johnson back in 1904, the Bizz Johnson trail is a former railroad bed, once used by Southern Pacific to transport lumber from 1914 to 1956. The surface is similar to a packed dirt fire road. The forested trail crosses about twelve beautiful railroad bridges and trestles and two dark spooky tunnels. But mostly, the trail traverses the sparkling Susan River. The elevation for the marathon starts around 5300 ft, and drops to about 4200 feet.

Brenda and I had a fun tooting along, blowing on the wooden train whistles from the train station every time we went by a runner. We sounded just like choo choo trains!

After finishing the half marathon, Brenda, Jim and I volunteered to help the organizers. The race organizers were impressed by how Flyers pitch in to help, cutting up fruit, filling cups with water and Heet. My first job was putting the cheese and pepperoni pizza out. Boy, as former Presidenta, I really know how to do this: one piece of pizza for a runner, one for me; one for the runner, one for me. Race organizer Brighton was so impressed with my pizza skills that he quickly recruited me to place the wooden train whistle 'medal' on the finishers. For helping out, Brenda Jim and I even got free entry into a future Bizz event.

Post-race: Karen, Maria and I went to Burke Williams for detox wraps, facials, et al. Ahhh . . . We went Monday evening, had the whole place almost to ourselves. While wrapped in thick terrycloth robes we hydrated on iced cucumber and lemonade and ate the fruit. It's easy to forget and forgive 18 degree weather while cleansing pores in the steam room, sauna, whirlpool, misting room.

And no, it's not really named after Karen Johnson. It's named after Congressman Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, a US Congressman who was instrumental in getting the 30 mile rails to trail conversion built after Southern Pacific Railroad abandoned it in 1978. The trail is named in his honor. If you are at all interested, then check out and sign up now. Check out the hotels on the website and make your reservations too. This race, and hotels in Susanville, fill up quickly, and the fees go up dramatically, from around $65 before December 1 to $125 or more after May 1.

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