Los Pinos 50k Race Report


Recently, both my brother John and I signed up for California’s toughest 50k: the Los Pinos 50k which boasts 31 miles and 9,000 feet of elevation gain. You can read John’s post here.

Here’s my race report:

San Juan Trail

(Miles 1-12)


The race started at 6:15am.

I relaxed the first 45 minutes and mostly tried taking pictures of the sunrise with the clouds in the valley.

If you like this picture, I have 30 more that look exactly like it. So do the other runners
If you like this picture, I have 30 more that look exactly like it. So do the other runners

I quickly allowed myself to settle into what I think was last place. I hadn’t been feeling well so I thought this would help me relax and maybe perform better.

Eventually though, the downhill was too tempting to resist and I started running; passing a few runners on the way to Lazy W aid station.


Los Pinos Trail:

(Miles 12-21)


This is where the race gets really tough. It is 8 miles up really steep, endless hills.

Stairway to Los Pinos


Start of los pinos trail

Seriously, they go on and on. Don’t take my word for it. Scroll down past all these pictures and see how quickly you get bored. Now, imagine that the sun is beating down on you the whole way and every hill looks like it will be the last, but they are lying. They are lying right to your sunburnt face.

Hiking up Los Pinos

It goes on and on.

Still up

More up

Looking back

I was hiking with another runner whom I met at the aid station. This was great because talking kept us in a good mood as opposed to some of the other runners who looked miserable.

I had done the training run on this section of the course and remembered how tough it was, which gave me an advantage because I wouldn’t get my hopes up too early. (This is something known as Stockdale Paradox which I cover in Mental Hurdles Running 100 Miles)

Still, after having run the 12 miles from Bluejay Campground to Lazy W, I was a bit worn out and the trail was longer than I had remembered. I started feeling the toll.

I thought, “good thing I’m an ultra-runner, I don’t see why ANYONE ELSE would enjoy this.”

Marching up endless hills, I noticed I was slowing down. I started to feel slightly sick. It may have been the heat or because I had only slept for two hours.

Still, I kept note to what I was feeling. I was slightly overheated when I reached Trabuco.


Trabuco Aid Station


This was like an Oasis run by three Sexy Cops: A Brunette, a red head, and a man in shorts and a mustache; something for everyone.

I was at the right place at the right time. (photo by Matt Kafka)
I was at the right place at the right time. (photo by Matt Kafka)
The short pants of the law. (photo by Matt Kafka)
The short pants of the law. (photo by Matt Kafka)

They filled up my supplies and ran cool water down my neck and head.


West Horsethief

(Miles 21 – 31)


I ran downhill as quick as I responsibly could. Again, I was passing runners. This area was really hot; at least another 10 degrees. The terrain was different too. First, it started off as cool, rocky forest and then turned into hot desert type terrain. It was pretty awesome.

As soon as I reached the bottom of West Horsethief, two female runners I had passed returned the favor.

Runner climbing up West Horsethief during Los Pinos 50k
Runner climbing up West Horsethief during Los Pinos 50k

I’m told this hill is 1,000 feet of elevation condensed into one mile.

During this stretch, it seemed the two women marching up fared much better than the men. The women were gone seemingly in the blink of an eye while passing the men who were stopping, taking breaks, and trying to cool down.

On my way up, I would see they looked pretty overheated. I was overheated too, but taking breaks wouldn’t help me. I kept moving forward.

I had already not been feeling well and I realized that I couldn’t/shouldn’t exert more than a certain effort or I would start to feel light headed. There had been some confusion about the cutoff times as well, so it seemed possible that I would miss a cutoff time and not complete the race.

Why did John sign us up for something described as “the toughest?” Why couldn’t he pick “most scenic” or “most fun,” that’s the kind of stuff I want to run next.

I disliked seeing the miserable looks on people’s faces and decided I wouldn’t be a part of it.

My mood had sunk and it wasn’t helpful. So, I decided to focus on changing my attitude.

I thought of Bluto from Animal House,



Ok, now think of something funny…

Step Ladders

Ok, that’s funny. It’s a start. Now let’s listen to something cheery….

“Sing Your Life,” by Morrissey.

I wasn’t sure if I was still going to the finish the race or not, but it didn’t matter. I had written about Expectancy Theory before in my Mental Hurdles Running 100 Miles article, and I intended to live by it.

Eventually, I started to feel stronger and the terrain flattened. It was home stretch on a nice downhill.

Downhill towards Bluejay Campground

Finish Line


My official time is 10:16.

Los Pinos Finish Line

I waited for John to show up at the finish line. As it turns out, he struggled up the Los Pinos Trail and missed the cutoff to Trabuco. The sweepers helped him up the trail and were very supportive of him.

Once at Trabuco, he decided to run the last part of the course anyway towards the finish line.

There had been plenty of times when I thought about John throughout the race. It was a very tough course and I hoped he fared well.

I’m glad he did.

Even though he didn’t finish the race, he did something that is very difficult and went home with very little praise.

I think that’s the way it has to be sometimes.

To borrow a passage from the book Endurance, “They had no medals or decorations to bestow, only the heartfelt admiration for an accomplishment which perhaps only they would ever fully appreciate.”


My best,

Justin Flores

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