Clear blues skies promised warm temperatures as I parked my car at the designated parking, collected my race number and T-shirt and waited in line for the shuttle bus to the start area. Despite the temperature in the car saying 48f forecasts were expecting a high of 70f. The Boney Mountain Half Marathon had been rescheduled for today due the wildfires of last year. Ironically the week prior we had experienced a weekend of rain and now it was expected to be a wet course.
Over 400 runners congregated at the start area, however not all were running the half marathon as there was also a scheduled 6k race as well. The pre-race briefer advised us of the aid station locations and told us that there were some wet patches and “river crossings”, but not to worry as they were not waist deep, carrying water was the order of the day especially given the change in elevation we were going to expect; more about that later.
I was “race-testing” my Nathan Race Vest and had donned my Dirty Girl Gaiters so combined with UD handheld bottles, I at least looked the part! I have to say I am amazed when I see people running in basketball shoes and a wife-beater, but you see them at every event.
We meandered over to the start line and I switched on my Nike+, there was an iPod ban, so I had no headphones, it actually froze at 5.5 miles and stopped recording. My Garmin chirped into life, there was the usual ceremonial countdown and we were off.
The first two miles or so were a shaded paved road that wound its way down to the bottom of the canyon, oh good; this of course means that there is only one way to go: up! I was keeping a steady pace and really still warming up and was surprised at the number of people charging through. At the one mile mark we turned off the road and onto a single track trail. Here runners bunched and flowed trying to politely overtake while keeping a solid footing and avoiding the deeper mud that was at the side of the trail. From mile 2 through 4 we broke into the sun and started to climb (you can see them zig zagging up the hill in the photo), not wanting to burn out too early I power walked as best I could up, overtaking a few walkers and to my surprise one or two runners. We topped off the second climb at around 1000’ and started on the mile and a half and 700’ drop down.
Single track was the order of the day and the path wound its way down to the canyon floor, the several “rivers-crossings” we had been warned about proved to be streams with stepping stones but I still saw some people charge through the water, can you say blister! We popped out onto a level fire road for a brief respite and past an aid station; the quiet before the storm. A little way later we were back onto single track. I felt the cool emanating from the stream that ran alongside and it was here that we had a few smaller stepping stone river crossings. The path was gently angling uphill and lulling us into a false sense of security, rounding a bend it took a sharp steep uphill and continued with minor variation for the next 5 miles. Most of this section was walked and not by just me; it was a tough section and combined with the fact that I was partially conserving myself for next weeks 50k and didn’t want to do anything silly walking seemed the best option. By this time we had broken through into a sun drenched path that switched back and forth up the side of the hill, the heat was a little worrying as my running habits have shifted to running well into the evening when I have no concerns about the heat and sun, April can be a warm month here and I hope that I get a chance to re-acclimate myself to the heat between now and then.
Halfway up we were treated to a short section of downhill and while my calves took a rest it was time for my quads to start screaming, this was short-lived and only lasted a third of mile before we started on the uphill again. We finally topped out at the ten mile mark at 1830’, a 1500’ climb and about an 1800’ elevation gain. Here's the view. From this point it was downhill, all the way, well except the last hill and the little bit of flat by the finish. The last three miles didn’t quite fly by but I did manage to make up some ground and overtake a few runners in the last mile or so.
While this was never a “race” and was more of an opportunity to try out some new kit and also to get some “trail-time”, I did have the target time of 2:30 in the back of head. Clearly not a fast pace but one, given the terrain, that would allow me to sense check with some certainty (hah, famous last words I know) my target time of 6 hours for next week, which has the same elevation gain but it obviously a lot longer. I saw the countdown on the timer board at 2:30:45 and my Garmin Moving Time was 2:28:29 which allows for the stopped time at the aid stations which was minimal but also the time I stopped to take some photos etc so I was pretty much on target.
So in summary; a tough race that answered some questions
Kit wise: the Gaiters were great and kept out all the usual trail debris that finds its way into your shoes. The Nathan vest was also great however I have discovered that it “flaps” with my camera in the pocket, so I need to get a smaller, lighter camera or find another way of carrying it. I was again running with Perpetuem which kept me going nicely and I supplemented it with water from the aid stations, I consumed over 24oz (a bottle and a half) and took two gels (at 45 minutes and 1:40) I could/should have had a third at the 2:15 mark and given the heat I should have had my SaltStick tablets. Oh yes and much as I love my hat I should have worn a visor!
Condition wise: I hadn’t quite shaken off the cold/cough that has been with me since the beginning of the year and I could hear and feel my chest rattle on the tougher sections, hopefully this will be fully gone by next weekend. My running was ok; my pace was over a minute faster than the Pt Mugu 50k which was a tough run but was two minutes slower than the Pt Mugu 18k (11 miles) which by comparison was not as nearly as tough, was three miles shorter and had over 1000’ less elevation gain. I need to work on my hill climbing and get some more time on the trails. I start running double long runs at the weekend at the beginning of February one of which will be a trail. Running my hill intervals seems to be working somewhat, I just need to do more of them and find a longer hill, they only give me a elevation gain of 300’ over 0.6 of a mile and running down in between is not giving me the sustained hill climb that I need. Oh well nothing like a challenge
Here is the MotionBased data: XTerra Boney Mountain Half Marathon