Monday, April 7, 2008

The Great Race of Agoura Half Marathon

The Great Race of Agoura is actually a series of races during the morning of, usually, the first Saturday in April. Offering various distances; 5k, 10k, Kids 1 Mile, Family 1 Mile and Half Marathon, there is a huge expo and it has won numerous awards. The first and last three miles of the Half Marathon is run on the streets and the middle seven miles is on some well worn trails through Cheseboro Canyon. I ran the race last year and have run extensively through the park so I am very familiar with the course, there as some photos, non race day here. Going into this race I had two expectations; if I felt good to go for a course PR, if not go sub 2:00. The backstop was just to finish as I would have to walk it home anyway. What was going to be the unknown race morning was how my ITB etc would hold up, as you can probably tell from the preceding post; it didn’t. I’ll spare you the blow by blow account but here are the high and lowlights.

Miles 1 – 3. As mentioned the first three miles are on the road, you start and the top of a short sharp hill and then run a couple of loops around the neighborhood. I arrived with only 10 minutes to spare and had to run to the start line, while it is a chip timed race but there is a lot of single track on the trail section so passing can be tricky and who wants to be at the back anyways? What this did mean was that I had to skip my stretching routine; did this have any real impact at the end of the day? Probably not but I may have been pain free for a little longer. Anyway the first three miles were fine and I was plodding along at a nice steady pace M1 8:22 M2 8:21 M3 8:34.

Miles 4 – 10. Around Mile 4 you enter the park and the trail section. At Mile 5 I felt it, it started as a dull twinge but every bend in the knee amplified it. Miles 5, 6 and 7 were spent trying to ignore it. By mile 8 it was really kicking in and I was trying to ease it with some self massage as I was running, it felt very familiar and while not as bad as it had been I knew exactly what it was. Strangely it was worse on the flat and up or downhill was reasonable comfortable also the terrain is such that you’re often breaking your stride so that eases things as you're mixing up your repetitive motion. The terrain is really quite varied, you go from almost a grazing pasture, through woods then pop out into a dusty desert scene and it's actually a really engaging stretch of trail and you have to concentrate on not face planting, which judging by the gashed knees and dusty clothes several people did. Rain from earlier in the week had left some of the streams with water in and I picked up a set of wet toes at a backed up stream crossing, I confess to smiling as exited the bank and from behind me heard a splash and the cry of "my new shoes" from someone...whoops! From Mile 2 through Mile 8 you’re climbing, it’s quite imperceptible until the end where it’s quite a steep incline; from here you have a nice two mile stretch of down hill on a fire road so you can open up the throttle and in my case make up some time. M4 9:17 M5 9:11 M6 9:53 M7 10:08 M8 11:18 M9 8:00 M10 8:06 Having long legs really helps on the way down, running fast downhill is something that needs practice and can be a little worrying for some but for me it was pain free and fun.

Miles 11 – finish. Once you bottom out there was a few squiggly bits and then a sharp right hand turn and quick uphill section. There were a lot of people walking, the sun had broken through the clouds and it was warming up, I downshifted into my patented uphill shuffle, faster than a walk and slower than a run and made it to the top, from here there's about 100 yards or so and you are dumped onto the road. By now I knew I would finish and I also knew that there was a large section of flat from Mile 12 onwards and then an up and down. I fixed my sights on a group of runners ahead and made out to catch them up. It was about here that I started going backwards; at least that was how it felt. I was passed by many runners that I had previously passed on the downhill stretch and I was in full teeth gritted and determined mode, my knee/ITB felt like someone was jabbing me with a broken bottle with every step. I rounded the third from last bend, a short uphill and basically limped up, I heard my name being called and looked over to see my wife with our boys cheering me on. Never underestimate the boost of family in the closing miles. The last half mile or so was downhill and as I made the last turn I could see the clock counting 1:59:36 I amazed myself and pulled out a sprint finish crossing the line in 1:59:54. I walked through the chute, was "medaled", with rather a nice piece of hardware and had my chip cut off; I found a very appealing piece of grass and sat on it! My last splits: M11 9:11 M12 8:24 M13 8:47 and the last 0.17 (according to my Forerunner) was 1:07 with a top speed of 12.5 mph!

Post race. My chip time was 1:58:54, a bit quicker than the gun but that’s usual, I was 334/1266 overall and 41/121 in my age group, so all thing considered a pretty good showing. I could have run faster had I been injury free and would have probably got a course PR (sub 1:49:31) but hey there’s always next year. Now a day or so later and my gimpyness has gone. I spent the rest of Saturday with a neoprene sleeve on my knee to keep it supported and warm. Looking back despite the pain I am glad I ran (and finished) the race, it’s a real early alarm for what I can expect in two weeks and I have to decide what to do. Three weeks of no running with lots of stretching and foam rollering has helped but it’s not cured the issue, my cycling has helped maintain my CV fitness, my HRM peaked at 182 but I averaged at 165 which for me is Zone 4 (149-167) and for race day that’s fine. Put me in Zone 3 (131-148) and I can go all day. I am going to go back over my training logs and try and identify any patterns that can be followed or avoided for the next training cycle and spend the next week self-rehabing with a view to making a decision next weekend about Leona Divide.

Here’s the MotionBased data:

An hour later I ran the family mile with our 3 year old, I actually thought that it was going to be a quarter mile, so I was rather pleased, shall we say, to discover its true length, anyway it was a slow pace, thank you! followed but a bit of shoulder work and then a sprint finish at which point the batteries went on the camera, so no pictures of the father and son team. There were plenty of photographers on the course so there should be at least one picture of me somewhere if not well like I say there's always next year.


  1. I guess I will still be your friend if you want to hand the baton off to me. I can hardly wait to run today. I feel like I am 5 yrs. old waiting for Christmas to arrive.

    You said: jabbing me with a broken bottle. Yikes... I hurt for you! Looks like you will have a tuff decision to make here soon.

    Great finish time. Love the hardware. We all enjoy adding that to our collection.

    Hope you get some good race event photos with your son. Now that is priceless.
    As for cheating… me… never… :)

  2. Nice job on gritting your teeth to get to the finish, but more importantly, on not regretting it after the fact.

    Hopefully that stubborn IT band will get its act together sometime soon, before we have to start calling you a cyclist!

  3. Oooooooo not too shabby Mister!! Not bad at all, especially considering the ITB! Sweetness!

  4. Nicely done! Especially given all the rough leg-stuff you've been going through. Plus, with your Garmin data as proof of running in a big-ass circle with a pointy hill in the middle - I'd say your plenty ready for rest and R.E.C.O.V.E.R.Y.

  5. Sounds brutal, Stuart! How do you manage that massaging the knee while running move?? But I'm glad you were still able to rung the race with your son.

  6. Yowch! Great race report. I'm glad you got to run with your son. I hope you take some time off to recover!

  7. wow, seems like u went thru a lot! congrats on finishing whatever it takes!

  8. OHHH sorry for the pain. I'm glad you made it and don't regret it. It's always hard for me to know what to run through and what should cause me to stop. You did fantastic. I love the family support too. I hope you get a pic from someone with the boy. Sounds like a fantastic event. CONGRATS!!


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