Saturday morning, I ran the first part of the OC Chili Winter Trail Run Series. It is an approximately five mile race through a beautiful wilderness area*. Proceeds of the event went to Trails4All, which helps to preserve the 700+ miles of natural surface trails in the Orange County area. It was a great little race that I plan on repeating in March and April!
Kelly, Heidi and I drove the 35 minutes to O'Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon. We registered for the race. Because it was in the park, they couldn't collect money. They handed us each an envelope and asked us to pay the registration by mail. That is a lot of faith in humanity. I guess they know that runners are great people! They were smart, however, and asked us all our e-mail addresses. Later that day, I had a PayPal invoice. I was happy because that is so much easier to pay that way. Plus, I didn't have to pay the Active.com registration fees. Score!
It was chilly that morning (chilly by Southern California standards) and I had wondered if I should have dressed a little warmer. It was in the low 40's (I know... I know.... east coasters please don't boo at the screen), but I stashed my sweatshirt in my car and went with my long-sleeved tech shirt and capris. Heidi kept her sweatshirt on, but tied it around her waist pretty soon into the run. It didn't take long for the sunshine to warm things up nicely.**
The run/race started with a "ready, set, go!" There is something really nice about a small race. There were about 200 runners. It was a friendly group and we all started running with very little fanfare. There was some chatting and bantering at first. I debated whether I wanted to stay and run with Kelly and Heidi or run at my pace. I thought that it would be fun to run it with them, but there was also a part of me that wanted to see how I could do. I knew that it was a small race and if I am ever going to place in my age group, this was the kind of race to do it. I decided that I would start out and see how I felt. Turns out, my legs felt great and I wanted to RUN. Kelly and Heidi were telling me to go. Since they were together, I decided to race it a bit.
It was my first run since the marathon. I had planned to go out during the week and get in a good recovery run, but I was fighting a chest cold all week and thought it best to nurse that.*** I wasn't sure how I would feel, but it felt great to get out there on the trails.
The first two miles were brutal. They were very steep. In fact, the first major climb had stairs cut into the trail. It was quite the bottleneck. Everyone was walking. I felt good and considered trying to pass people, but it was really narrow and I couldn't see where it opened up. Passing would probably just be a huge waste of energy. I thought I would save that energy to pass people when it opened up. At the top, it was much easier to run and pass people.
I tried to run up the hills, but they were really steep. I walked quite a bit. It seemed like just about everyone was walking up these things. I was also getting hot. I was second guessing my choice of the long sleeved shirt. I started out using the thumb holes, but was soon pushing the sleeves up to my elbows. I considered at one point taking off my shirt and running in just a sports bra. I am just not fast enough nor young enough to pull that off, so I thought better of it. I was glad, since the shady areas on the way down were still pretty chilly.
I don't normally bring my iPod when I run with the girls on Saturdays, so I didn't even think about bringing it. Unfortunately, a small race like this gets pretty spread out pretty fast. It got a bit lonely. I really could have used my music. However, I am glad to know that I can run a good race without music. I just don't like hearing my panting as I make my way up those hills.
The trails were uneven and had plenty of little gullies from the recent rains. Overall, they were in great shape, but you had to watch your footing. In fact, on one of the uphills, one runner took a pretty hard fall. He said he was ok and kept running, but it was a good reminder to watch our step.
There were two water stations on the course. I was really thirsty, so I stopped to drink. The first was on a slight downhill, so I was a little bummed to stop. I couldn't really just drink on the run because the trash box for the cups was right there by the table. You can't really toss your cup on a trail. Unlike a road race, there isn't anyone there sweeping up the cups. The second water stop was the same way and I felt like I needed water, but hated to stop. Next time I am carrying my water. Even though it is a short race, the hills got me very thirsty.
Right around the half-way point, the trail started back down. At one point it was really steep and I worried about my knees. I just tried to stay light on my feet and keep it easy. The downhills were pretty fun. I think I actually said "whheeeee..." One portion was run on the road and there was a sign that said "honk on the corners," so I did. I love it when I can have fun during a run. That is why I keep doing it.
We then went into my favorite part of the course. The last two miles or so were on a single track trail through deep brush. Often it was like I was running through a tunnel of trees. The ground was much muddier here, leftover from the rain last week. At one point I had to decide whether or not to run through the mud or track through the brush around it. Through it sounded better than scratches and risks of poison oak, so I went through carefully. I knew if I went too fast, I would end up on my butt. It was so narrow that there was not room to pass. At one point I heard someone running behind me. I glanced back to see a woman who was running at a faster pace than me. I didn't want to look back much, because I knew I would trip. I called back to her, "when you are close enough to pass me, just let me know." She did and I stepped aside so she could pass. I ended up passing a couple of guys a little later****
The last 3/4 of a mile was on pavement and I tried to push pretty hard. My heart rate throughout this race was pretty high, much higher than in the marathon. It felt good. As I approached the finish line the clock read 49:xx. I thought it would be pretty cool to finish under 50 minutes. I pushed at the end, but the clock clicked over to 50 minutes. Oh well...
I finished in 50:10. That was good enough for 3rd in my age group!! It was 58th overall out of a field of 201. I am pretty happy with it. If I can do that on post-marathon legs and a chest cold, what can I do when I'm 100%. We waited for the awards ceremony. I had never finished so high before! The woman announced that due to feedback from last year, they would be giving raffle prizes instead of AG awards. What?? My first AG award and I don't get anything? Oh well... at least I have bragging rights, right?
Kelly and Heidi came in about eight minutes behind me. They both enjoyed their runs a lot. It was a beautiful and challenging course. It was a nice change of pace from our regular Saturday runs. I really wished I had brought my camera or phone to take some pictures. Maybe next time! There are two more races in this series and all three of us are ready to come back in March and April.
Wow... this is a pretty long race report for a relatively short race. Thanks for reading.
Mile 1- 10:20 (ran pretty fast at the beginning and then hit a bottleneck at the stairs)
Mile 2- 12:20 (a LOT of very steep, rutty hills)
Mile 3- 9:00 (half a mile of hills and half a mile of steep downhill)
Mile 4- 8:52 (through the single track)
Mile 5- 8:22 (back on pavement with a little gravel at the end)
*It was such a wilderness area that as we pulled into the park they handed us a flyer on what to do when encountering a mountain lion. The ranger told us about lion sightings and told us whatever we do, don't run. Uh... we were running a race! We decided that whatever we do, run faster than at least one person!
**I had invited blogger Penny to join us for the run, but with her crazy work schedule she needed a day off. I know she would have hated the gorgeous sunshine. It got pretty hot, especially on the steep uphills.
***As it was, I wasn't completely over the chest cold and the run made me get even sicker. The last two days have been spent coughing and losing my voice. I guess running hard wasn't such a great idea. My body, still technically recovering from the marathon, just quit fighting and let the virus take over. That happened to me after my first marathon, as well.****Yeah.... chicked them!