The tarmac path quickly ended and we were fed into a single track path that wound its way along the canyon bottom, several dry river crossings forced the pace to a walk and then a halt as we were funneled into the bottle necks until we reached the first uphill; a windy path that cut up the side of the canyon with multiple switchbacks, we had been told that at mile 1 we would be going up the first hill, we climbed 300' for a distance of about 50 yards and another 295’ of elevation during the mile. The trail wound its way further up the hill giving us some great view of the
We left the rolling plateau and headed onto a fire road which contoured round the mountainside finally finding the steepest point, at least it seemed like it, to summit and cross over into the next valley, this was the highest elevation we would reach today; 1150' and it was downhill all the way; well more or less, total elevation gain 3076' in 7.5 miles, mile 7's pace sank backward to 11:25, one of the "or less" miles and my third slowest mile after miles bsl1 and 3. At this point I broke away from several other runners who I had been playing cat'n'mouse with and made a dash for the downhill. Mile 8 and mile 9 had us rounding switchbacks left and right and precariously overtaking other runners with drop-offs of hundreds of feet down through cactus fields’ only inches from the edge of our shoes. I have to say the etiquette was very impressive and the merest deep breath from behind had the runner in front moving to one side to allow you to pass. By this time we were being teased with the occasional glimpse of the starting parking lot which was also held the finish line.
My pace was picking up and I overtook several runners who had passed me earlier as well as others that were on the 11k route; Mile 8; 8:21, and 9; 8:15. The one remaining runner; a German women with a solid pace and work ethic who had dragged me up over the high point and who I had then overtaken from the cat'n'mouse group was in hot pursuit, shouting at from behind to actually go faster downhill, and out politeness I obliged. At this point I was racking my brains mathematically as exactly how far in miles 18k was, I concluded just under 11, so I had less than 2 to go. Mile 10 rushed by in 6:59, several occasions I felt my shoes losing their purchase on the single track and with arms flailing I regained balance and continued down the hill. Mile 11 or at least the 0.92 of it to the finish line was a blistering 6:11; maxing out my heart rate at 191bpm. A cruelly placed final dry river crossing about 20 yards from the finish threw many off, myself included, their stride and I jumped up the rock covered bank and crossed to finish line in more of a stumbling than sprint finish. I managed to keep my pursuer at bay and she crossed the finish line only seconds or even tenths of a second behind me, we shook hands, congratulated and thanked each other. Medal, water, time strip torn off the race number and before you know I was out of the chute and lining up for scrambled eggs, muffins and coffee – well, hell, I’d earned it.
I caught up with some of the runners from the cat'n'mouse group and we chatted over the course and the upcoming Long Beach Marathon next weekend and the second race in the Xterra series later this month; compared to my previous experience of post race mingling which has been from road races, trail runners are a very friendly bunch. I hung around for the post race announcements and results, from memory I came in 61st in the men’s out of about 115 and 10th in my age out of 20; I'll confirm and change as required when they go live.
(10/8/07 Quick update; final time 1:44:16 Mens 61/125. Age Group 16/34. Overall 61/139. I really am a mid pack runner!)
My Forerunner time: 1:43:16 a 9:19 pace, better than I had hoped for but one with plenty of room for improvement. The great news is that my knees and hips were and as of writing this pain free.Unfortunately I did not take a camera, but I did stop on the side of the road on the way home and take a snap shot of the 'Point', see above and to the right a snap of the spoils. Here's the MotionBased data with all the day's highs and lows;