This race wasn’t on my original revised race calendar that I posted back mid-July. I think I saw a post on Facebook that reminded me about it and I didn’t sign up for it until I ran the course (kinda…I missed the last 3 miles) at the beginning of the month as a “dry run”. Since then I had been following my training plan and getting in some solid trail miles but however you slice or dice it my run base was a little thin as noted in the post about it. Given that my expectations were pretty low and I thought that my finish time would be anywhere between 3-3:30 hours. While the trail would remain that same much of the time added could be a factor of the weather. That being said it was a training race, somewhere I could get my long run under my belt and have some fun.
Without any hoopla. I arrived picked up my number, said hi to a few friends, listened to the brief and was off.
The weather was clear but not too hot and my strategy was to get to the top of the main climb, within reason, as quickly as I could. From there keep a steady pace along the top and downhill saving a little for the last climb. After the first 3 miles that ran mostly along the canyon floor the climb starts proper and the tried and tested method of “purposefully walking” set in. I passed some people and few people passed me. Mostly I was with the same group of folks and we seemed to be an “unspoken pace group”. I am not a chatty runner, beyond your typical “good job” I don’t tend to strike up conversations with people. I blew past AS1, wearing my Wasp pack meant I was pretty much self-sufficient for the day. Around the hour mark I sucked down a Gu gel. At the top of the climb (almost Castro Peak) the main descent led down to AS2. I had to stop a couple of times during this to simply to wipe the sweat and sunscreen from my eyes. Ever thinning top cover requires a pretty liberal smearing of SPF50 on my head and of course that combined with sweat resulted in an look from my eyes that I had been chopping onions for the last hour!
A couple of cups of water rinsed most of it away and I was on my way for the second half of the race. It’s not quite true to say that the second half of the race is downhill. You roll along the summit ridge before dropping down back towards the canyon floor. The downhill is not easy running, it’s steep! Steep can mean a good place to fall and it can be somewhat punishing on your quads. With that in mind I took it reasonably easy going down. It takes a fair amount of time building up to a point where you can fly downhill. A couple of people flew past me only to be picked up again once we got to the bottom. On the way down I chewed up a bag of PowerBar chews around the 2 hour mark.
At the bottom there was some zig-zagging and I was at AS3, a cup of water was all I wanted with a fist bump from the every cheering Jimmy Dean Freeman I was on my way for the last climb. Before I started the uphill I stopped and sat on a log to get a stone out my shoe. Experience has taught me early intervention is best? I ran walked…mostly walked up the last hill and then ran the rest of the way down the other side. The trail spits you out onto a road which you follow back towards the check in area and finish line.
With that a slight pickup of pace…actually I was trying to catch the woman in front. So with my nose streaming the last remnants of a 48 hour bug from earlier the week I crossed the finish line, took my medal and flopped onto a chair to catch my breath.
I was aware from the halfway point that I was in good shape for a PR, the last time I ran this race was in 2008 and I finished in 2:55:13. This year 2:43:03! AG 15/56 and OA 69/297. Needless to say I am happy. Charitable conditions certainly helped but running a sensible race and following my strategy made the biggest difference.
I didn’t stop for any photos along the way although I got this rather good one after I sat down. I call it Headsweat!”
Oh in case you’re wondering why it’s a 2011 Tshirt, there was a SNAFU with the printer, 2014 shirts are on their way!
This is a great local event, it’s well planned and is now in it’s 23rd year. The Race Director is renown for running a tight ship and puts together a top notch event. While not the easiest of races it has a generous cutoff time to allow for the elevation and season. It takes an army of volunteers to put on any race and a trail race adds complexity to that but yet there was no shortage of people there to help!
Up next, well in 7 weeks, is the Xterra Pt Mugu 18k