Monday, October 8, 2007

XTerra Trail Run; #1 Point Mugu...thrills in the hills!

Well the first race of the fall, the first post, well almost post, recovery and the first on the road to Leona Divide. The XTerra Trail Run; SoCal Series #1; Point Mugu. Anyone who has driven along Pacific Coast Highway around Malibu and Ventura will have seen the rather imposing ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains rising from sea level to, well today it was just over 1100'. The race started from the parking lot at the start of La Jolla Canyon; two distances were scheduled, an 11k and an 18k; I was running the 18k. The start was delayed as Search & Rescue had not reached their appointed positions, always good to have S&R on hand! The briefing advised us that there was little risk of rattlesnakes but to be careful for the Poison Oak; things were getting better! One aid station had been nixed but water and gels would be available at the next, we were recommended to carry our own water etc; I had come prepared with a UD Fastdraw bottle full of Accelerade. We were also advised that due to the need to announce to runners that you needed to pass it was to be an iPod, MP3 etc free race, I packed my headphones but set up the Nike+ to start so I could record the mileage. The canyon was starting to warm up as the suns rays broke through over the ridgeline. At a little before 9:00am the siren sounded, closely followed by a chorus of beeps as Garmin Forerunners' and the like were started, and several hundred runners (there was a limit of 300 entries) crossed the start line.

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 Pacific Ocean with the sun glinting off it as the waves crashed below on the beach. I reached the mile 2 marker in 23:11, splits: mile 1; 12:52 and 2; 10:19, hardly flying but by this stage I had climbed a total of 995' and there was more to come. By the third mile marker I had another 508' under my belt and another 12:20 on the clock; 3 miles in 35:31, to put things in perspective my “on the flat” 5k personal best is 20:47; I was somewhat off that pace! I had guestimated on a 10 minute mile pace as an average but I was forced to a walk during the third mile, my heart rate during this mile; 184bpm. We finally topped out and headed inland across a rolling plateau that had nice tough scratchy bushes predominantly at shin height but there was also several that were determined to whip off your visor or sunglasses. miles 4, 5 and 6 were over in a flash, 8:41, 8:57 and 8:42 respectively and during the sixth mile I took a Crank gel, I opted for this over my usual CarbBOOM! or Accel Gel as it is 150% their size and I only wanted to carry the one.

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;


  1. Way to go on the run, and congrats at the lack of knee and hip pain. That can be a bummer!

    That sounded like a great run to me!


  2. SLB, this seems like a very solid comeback performance. I'm glad you didn't lose your footing while running those last high speed miles, or you might have been back to your July and August level!

  3. Good job, SLB. Wish I could've been there. I think I actually could've kept up with you!


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