Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Valley Crest Half Marathon

Six exits on the freeway, that was all the distance I needed to drive to get to the Valley Crest Half Marathon, an entry blank and a clickety click on I am was in. My number arrived in the mail three days later and I was set. Come Sunday morning I set out a little after 7am, I drove the short distance one eye on the road the other on the sun breaking through the clouds, a sign of things to come.

Fifteen minutes later I was there. I parked up not too far from registration and went through my stretching routine, I wandered up to collect my Tshirt and listen to the usual safety brief. The race followed the shape of a “T” up from the bottom, to the right and back, to the left and back and then back down to the bottom. The route follows Mullholland Highway a dirt fireroad that winds its way along the spine of several hills within the Santa Monica range, the trail itself is nothing too technical although there are a few sections that are quite shaley and that can make for hard going.

The start was scheduled for 8am and it was around ten past by the time we set off. The trail took a short sharp uphill for the first half mile climbing two hundred feet; this was followed by a descent over the next three mile of 575’. Given the nature of the route every vertical foot lost was a foot to be made up on the return and this was to set the pattern of things to come. At the three and half mile mark there was a turnaround and I started on the second uphill (the return) to the six and half mile mark. My splits, while nothing remarkable were pretty consistent with the terrain: M1: 8:40 M2: 7:52 M3 7:54 M4 9:06 M5 9:39 and M6 9:50. Halfway through mile 7 another uphill and short down to the second turnaround at the 10 mile mark. I was feeling the heat and this is reflected in my splits M7 10:32 M8 10:11 and M9 12:36,

By this stage the sun was and up and bright, at the second aid station I filled up handhelds with ice and took the opportunity to throw some ice water over myself in an attempt to cool down. The short up lasted a mile and then the trail took another turn downhill for the next two and half miles to the last climb and then the final downhill to the finish. I picked up my pace and enjoyed the gentle cruise downhill M10 9:45 M11 9:48 and a surprisingly quick M12 7:33 it was with half a mile to go that the sun took it’s toll and I felt a cold chill wash over me, tingling in both arms and a numbness in my hands, with discretion being the better part of valor I eased off the pace completely and walked the last mile or so in an attempt to cool down and regain some composure, I have had sunstroke before and although this was not the same it was close. The last mile was covered in a painful 12:33 and the final point one in a minute and change.

I had started the day with the goals of going sub 2:00 and after the first few miles the thought of 1:50 fleetingly crossed my mind, but despite a solid first half my disappointing second half and “fun in the sun” resulted in my finishing time of 2:09:45 (113th/283) a new trail PR even though it wasn't the best of races.

After going through the chute I was handed my medal and went through to pick up some more fluids and cool down. There was the usual melee of runners decompressing and hanging out. I wandered back to my car and stretched again, it was then that I noticed my arms were covered in little blisters, which I assume was from the sun. They have since gone and my arms are now a lovely mess of peeling skin, I did get a little burnt the previous week so I don’t think that the burn was from this race and I had applied some sun screen beforehand but there was clearly something going on from the sun and heat.

On reflection and from my experience in the sun it only goes to reinforce my decision to defer my next 50 miler until the winter (read cooler) months, and after a quick email chat with the RD of Twin Peaks I snagged one of the last five spots for the race in December, it’s actually a deferred event from the beginning of the year due to the forest fires and so it is also being run in February. Without going into too much planning at this stage I now have in my mind a repeat of last winter with PCTR’s Pt Mugu and Calico Ghost Town 50Ks in November and January and the Xterra SoCal series which will start up again in the fall, I'll need to find an October Marathon or will just put in the time on the training runs. As you can see there are plenty of options to work through but hey variety is the spice of life, right!

There are some picture but Blogger is being funky and loading everything sideways! Anyway you can see them here, including the blisters, and here’s the MotionBased data.


  1. It's tough in the heat. After 3-4 miles, I start seriously eroding. Way to push on through!

  2. that's so great to walk away with a PR!!

    and i think the heat gets to me worse than other people. i totally understand. it does sound more enjoyable in cooler weather!!!

  3. Nice job on the race, despite the heat!

  4. Heat is my enemy. I'd rather it be a blizzard than hot out.

    Nice job though pushing through and coming back with a PR, trail or otherwise!

  5. Yea, what happens is your skin becomes loose from the previous exposure to the sun, then fills with sweat and looks like little blisters :-) Nice job on the trail half!! Suffering in Georgia has begun, and I empathize with your decision to put off the next fifty miler until Dec. Very smart!!!

  6. CONGRATS HOMIE!! Amazing job!! As always, I *heart* the pics. Looked awesome! Ouchie about the blister though. Oy.


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