I ran my first Pacific Coast Trail Run today. I am officially hooked. It was so much fun.
I was in a good mood as soon as I woke up. It wasn’t raining. I could see clouds to the west, so I knew that it could still rain during the race, but we definitely weren’t experiencing one of the El Nino storms of late. I threw in all sorts of items into the car to prepare for the weather. I had my windbreaker jacket, a garbage bag, dry clothes for afterward, including my Ugg boots. I didn’t need any of that.
As I arrived in the park, I was struck immediately that this race was well organized. A race volunteer was collecting money for parking and directing us to the correct parking area. There were two other volunteers with flags, showing us the way.
I went to pick up my bib and saw a volunteer who I recognized. Danica!
Penny. She was in the parking lot and still very tired. I was excited to finally meet her. We have run in so many of the same races and missed each other. It was great hanging out before the race.
It was soon time to start! The Race Director was making announcements about the ribbons and following the trails. He then told us about the river crossing. He said it was thigh deep. THIGH deep??? A murmur swept through the crowd. All the reports from previous years said it was shin deep. I had been nervous about it before and now I was a tad bit scared. Luckily, I had asked various people about it and they told me not to worry. My trail shoes would drain the water just fine and I wouldn’t even notice after a few minutes.
I would soon find out that the river crossing was the least of my worries. The climbing was way harder than walking through a creek. It wasn’t quite as steep as the last race I did, but it went up and up and up. The course basically climbed until after mile 9. There was a total elevation gain of 3000 feet. Check out the elevation profile from my Garmin. I have labeled some of the key spots.
A. The Start. We were off! Penny encouraged me to go ahead. I wished her well and ran off. I kept with the flow of runners for a while until I looked down at my Garmin and realized I was running pretty fast. I settled into a nice rhythm and started to climb. It went into single track and the climbing wasn’t too bad. Yet.
B.The River Crossing. I was chatting with a guy who was telling me he was going to bypass the creek. He had no desire to go in thigh deep, cold water. There was a way to run to the road and cross a bridge. I considered it, but I wanted to experience the entire thing. It somehow seemed like a cop out to go across the bridge.
So he and his daughter turned off the trail to the road and I kept following the marked trail. And then I came upon the river. I had thought that maybe the RD was exaggerating when he told us about it. Nope. It was thigh deep. Crotch deep for some of the shorter runners in places. Check it out.
My husband made fun of me for not running across it. I couldn’t make him understand that we were walking on slippery boulders and I was just hoping not to fall. The reason my camera work was so goofy in the video was because I was focusing on not falling instead of what I was filming.
The crossing was so much fun. The cold water actually felt good. So much that I was tempted to go back and do it again after I was done. I even joked afterwards that I was tempted to do the 50K just so I could cross the creek again. “What’s stopping you?” one of the runners asked me. Hmmm….
C. The Climb. So in wet shoes (which didn’t seem to bug me for very long) we started to climb. And climb. And climb. I walked quite a bit. I would walk up the incline and then jog when it flattened out or went downhill a bit. But it seemed to never really level out.
The scenery was stunning.
D. Ocean Views! We were soon treated to views of the Pacific Ocean. I was so glad I brought my camera. I knew that I wasn’t racing this race, so I thought I would get plenty of pictures. Another runner even offered to get one with me in it.
E. Little Moab. One of the other runners told me that one of the areas is known as Little Moab. I love Moab, Utah and had a fabulous trip there a couple of years ago. I asked her why and she told me that it was like Slickrock. That it was. It was interesting running up (and down) this rocky surface.
F. Weeeeeeeeeeeeee……. Running down the hills was so much fun! I really had to watch my feet, but I felt way more confident than I did during the last trail race.
It was a lot like skiing moguls or mountain biking; you need to pick your line and go for it. I would find a good line down the hill that looked to have the least amount of rocks, crevices etc. and I pointed my body that way and ran. I passed a lot of people during this time.
At one point I was following a couple of women. We had a few miles to go. There was an intersection and they headed to the left. Intuitively, that felt wrong since I was pretty sure the finish was toward our right. Then I noticed the trail marker. I called out to the women who were going up the other trail. They thanked me for saving them that extra hill that they would have climbed before realizing they were off course.
G. The Flats. We ran past some old rusty cars that were left over from the filming of M.A.S.H. The sign was pretty cool. It pointed to Boston, Seoul, Coney Island, San Francisco, Tokyo, Burbank, Death Valley, Decatur and another city I can’t make out. The t-shirt for the run has a drawing of a similar sign with names of the various trails the course goes over.
H. More Single Track. The course went back into some nice shady single track. By now, it was actually getting warm. My feet were starting to hurt.
There were a couple parts of the trail where going around the water would be more dangerous than going through it. I welcomed the cold water on my feet. I also had some caked mud on my shoes and I felt like the water took some of the weight off.
I. The Finish. The end was somewhat uphill. It was on the roads in the park and it was tough. I kept trying to remember the beginning of the race to know how long I had to run on this road. Man, I was tired. I had been watching a woman in a blue shirt for the last few miles and it was my goal to pass her. I am not sure if would have finished so strongly if it wasn’t for trying to pass her. I did, by the way. And she called me on it afterward, with a smile and a twinkle in her eye. Trail runners are really nice people.
As I ran to the finish, I gave it all I had. A guy was walking past and said, “great job, way to finish strong.” It made me smile. Then as I ran into the corral, a volunteer looked up from her clipboard and said, “nice job, Lisa!” I love small races!
I had hoped to finish around three hours, but I really had no idea. I finished in 3:11:12, which is about 12:15 per mile. I was thrilled to find out that I came in fourth in my age group!! The woman that came in third, beat me by twenty seconds. I am pretty sure I know who she is… she and I went back and forth quite a bit and, in the end, she had a stronger finish.
They had a nice spread at the end. By the way, the same spread was at each of the aid stations. I had never eaten a banana mid-race before—yummy! It was nice to choose from everything from M&Ms to potato chips.
It was a wonderful, beautiful day and a really fun race. I am more convinced than ever that I need to run a 50K. I couldn’t have done two laps today, but with a bit more training, I know I have it in me. Either way, I know I’ll be back to this race next year.
Thanks for reading yet another one of my epic race reports.
*I stole the first single track picture from Penny’s blog. Mine turned out blurry. Thanks, Penny!