They Burned Down the Porta Potties! Gem of the Desert Trail Run

The proof:

Burned Porta PottyBurned Porta PottyBacking up a bit. The inaugural La Quinta Gem of the Desert 5k Trail Run/Walk was held today. The race is pretty much Alan’s baby. He has done all the planning, working with the various agencies, including the City of La Quinta and the Coachella Valley Water District, creating the course, getting all the supplies, etc. He also does all the PR work. Our local paper did a nice article about him, which appeared last Thursday, plus a preview of the race, which appeared on Friday. My job is making flyers, getting the registration running, and then helping set up, work the race, and clean up.

Yesterday, Alan and I finished picking up a few things, then headed up to the course to do some preliminary set up. Fortunately, the race start is a mile from our house (which is why I do so much running there). We dropped off some tables near the start line and drove out on the course to set some cones. Alan pointed out the porta-potties, which had been set up on the street close to the start line.

A panoramic view from the 1.5 mile point of the race:

ViewViewViewViewAfter dinner, I put labels on the race numbers, did some final planning, put things out ready to be loaded for the next morning. We were going to be a 2-man (and woman) show for this race. It was fairly small, being late in the season when the weather is warming up in the desert (although it was just perfect this morning).

We woke up at about 3 am, and after a quick cup of coffee, finished loading up the cars and headed out to the course. Alan finished marking the course, while I unloaded the cars and prepared to set up registration.

That’s when I noticed that the porta-potties were missing. At first I thought that I’d driven past them in the dark, but as I slowed down I saw what had happened. Someone had burned down the porta-potties! As you can see from the pictures above, all that was left was just a pile of melted plastic. Fortunately, they were unused, so we can be thankful for small favors. As of this moment, we’re still not totally sure what happened, if the fire department was called, if the nearby residents put out the fire, or if it just burned out. It could have been worse as there is quite a lot of dried brush close by.

Side note: As Alan and I were coming home from lunch, we saw a few firemen and asked if they knew anything about it. One of them had been there, said the call was at about 2:00 am, but by the time they got there all there was just a pile of burnt plastic. They, too, were happy that they were unused.

We knew that with the race starting at 7:00, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do besides apologize. The closest public toilet was at least two miles away, so I’m afraid that some people may have been in a bit of distress during the run.

The second surprise came when I got to the registration area. The table was gone! Alan had propped it up against a bench, not hidden, but not standing out in plain sight either, yet someone felt entitled to take it. I made do with using the bench, a couple chairs, and clipboards for the day-of-race entrants, until Alan brought me a table from the finish line.

We may not have had porta-potties or tables, but we had a ballo0n arch!

Balloon ArchBalloon ArchMy last photo, then I got too busy. People starting to gather at registration.

RunnersThe race started promptly at 7:00. I did take some photos using a friend’s camera. I asked her to send them to me, then I’ll add them to this post. As soon as the runners took off, so did Alan and I, grabbing a few things, hopping in the car, then dashing the 1/2 mile to where the course headed into the open space area at the top of what we call the Cove. In spite of our rush, the lead runner was ahead of us! Amazing, because it was all uphill to that point.

Alan had set up cups full of water on the course, so we were able to head straight to the finish line and get ready there. Our friend, Gabe Rivera, from Audiovisions, was already there. He provided the sound, so we had music and a microphone.

When you put on races, especially 5ks, it is always amazing how fast the time goes and how quickly the first person arrives at the finish line. It can be a mad rush to get ready. We had a little extra time this morning because running trails is slower, there were a few challenging hills, including the first half mile, and virtually no downhills to compensate, because of the layout of the course. Oh, and the race was closer to 3.4 miles than 3.1. (That’s trail running!)

The winner arrived in 19:40. It was an awesome time for that course, and he finished over two minutes ahead of the second place runner. To give credit where it is due, his name is Alonzo Santiago, and he is 27 years old. The first place woman just happened to be my friend with the camera. Her name is Karla Jacome and she finished in 27:47. (Her husband, Enrique, led the runners on his mountain bike. Thanks, Dr. Jacome!)

Everyone finished in under an hour, quite an accomplishment in a trail run. After hand-tabulating the results, we had an award ceremony. In addition to age group medals, the winners received gift certificates from Running Wild, a running store in Palm Springs, and discount coupons from Road ID.

I think everybody enjoyed the event. We heard a lot of positive comments from the participants. There were a couple scraped knees and hands (two falls), one lost runner (his wife said that is a common occurrence), but everyone loved the course and seemed to have a good time. Most people left pretty quickly, probably because they needed to find a bathroom!

It took Alan and me about two hours to tear down, clean up, and unload. We’re exhausted but pleased to have put on a successful event. We’ll have to wait until Monday to see if our insurance covers burnt porta-potties. I’m just happy that, in spite of a shitty rocky start, the first La Quinta Gem of the Desert Trail Run turned out to be a success.


Every house needs a balloon arch in the front yard (appropriately red, white, and green for Cinco de Mayo).

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