Saturday morning I ran the Xterra Malibu Creek Challenge. Challenge was the operative word.
It was a challenge to get up in the morning. It was one of those nights when I wake up every hour, looking at the clock to make sure I didn’t oversleep. When the alarm did go off, I was so tried. I got up, drank my Zip Fizz, at my Luna bar and got ready to go.
It was a challenge getting there on time. I did get there on time, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time (it turns out I cut it a bit closer than I would like). It was a long drive. I tried to get some of my friends to drive up with me to run it, but they either had plans or didn’t want to run that far. There was a 6K race, but that is a long way to drive to run only a 6K. I left a little later than I had planned and luckily the freeways were empty and I made great time getting up there. It took me just over an hour.
Another runner took a picture for me. An incredible setting!It was a challenge finding a bathroom! After getting my bib etc., I needed to take care of business one last time before the race. There aren’t any facilities along the way and I knew I couldn’t wait three hours to go. This was in a state park and there were bathroom facilities throughout, but they were LOCKED. WTF?? There were two bathrooms unlocked in a little building that had four. Why unlock half of the restrooms in one little outhouse and not the other two?? I was told in the very long line that there were a couple of porta potties by the starting line, but the line was three times as long as the one I was standing in. The minutes ticked by and race time was quickly approaching. This was not a chip timed event and while I did not feel that my time would matter in the long run, I wanted an accurate reflection of my race. So I decided that I had to use the bushes. Lovely.
It was a challenge finding the starting line. After my impromptu commune with nature, I ran to the registration/starting area. My watch said 7:30, so it should be starting any second. I couldn’t see the starting line. I didn’t see a crowd, so I assumed they had started already. I asked around and was pointed down a trail to the beginning of the race. After heading into the woods and down some steps, I found the crowd of runners. Phew!! I didn’t miss it.
You may recall that I ran in Malibu Creek two months ago in the PCTR trail series. Saturday’s race was basically the same course, only backwards. It was a little over a mile shorter by virtue of the different starting/finishing area. The XTerra race was bigger. There were a lot more people. It made for a completely different race experience. XTerra had 435 finishers while PCTR had less than 125 (just under 200 total if you count the 50Kers too). Such a large field made it very interesting.
It was a challenge getting into a rhythm in the beginning. The mass start of all the runners was fun, but very crowded. We did a bit of shuffling in the beginning. We headed up a somewhat wide hiking path. We didn’t hit the single track for about a mile and a half, thank goodness. Still, I was right on the heels of the person in front of me and there was someone right on my heels. We didn’t spread out until we hit the steep Bulldog Road. I guess, since there are no chips, there is no way to send the runners out in waves. That would have been so nice.
Bulldog was a challenge. It was hot (with very little shade) and steep. It was a fire road that seemed to go up forever. Just went I thought we were approaching the top, the trail switched back and went up some more. The grade was often around 20%. I just tried to power walk and run when the terrain flattened out. At one point I told myself that if I approached someone and wanted to pass them, I needed to run to do so. It was a nice incentive to get me moving. Near the top, just when I thought that I wanted to give up, a volunteer left a message that really perked me up. Whoever this pre-runner was, he/she was awesome. In addition to the flour arrows to make sure we didn’t take a wrong turn, this person left random smiley faces (and in one case a frowny face) on the course.
Some runners found Gu wrappers a challenge. When I run and eat a Gu (or anything else that has a wrapper) I hold onto it until I can properly dispose of it. I usually just cram the empty wrapper in my bra. During Surf City, I stashed them in my arm warmer. On Saturday, I was appalled to see these things littering the trail. Are these elite athletes who are going for a world record and a big purse? I don’t think so! I picked one up and stuffed it in my bra (which isn’t the most comfortable thing). Later, I picked up another one. I ended up picking up SEVEN wrappers discarded by selfish runners. And I know I missed several when it wasn’t easy for me to stop. IF YOU ARE SOMEONE WHO DUMPS HIS/HER TRASH DURING A RUN, PLEASE STOP. Come on, people…. who do you think is going to pick these up?? This is a trail in the wilderness, not an urban road with street sweepers*. Even worse than the Gu packets were the little tabs from the top of them. They are small enough that an animal might eat them. Occasionally, I would see a wrapper next to a mile marker. I can forgive that, since someone will be there to pick that up. But these are still volunteers and why should they have to pick up your spit-laden waste?? I thought that people that ran in trail races did so because of their appreciation for the great outdoors and the beauty of the trail. How can they have such a disregard for it? As you can tell, this is a huge hot button for me. Littering is such a disgusting, selfish thing. I hate it when I see it on the roads and even more so out in nature. OK… rant done. Back to the race report.
A nice runner offered to take a picture when I stopped to get a picture of the view near the top of Bulldog.The weather was a challenge. It was much hotter than I had anticipated. When I pulled up to the park around 6:45, it was pretty chilly (in the upper 40’s, I think). I knew it would warm up, so I wore my tank top and then slipped on my arm warmers at the last minute. Um, yeah… I had to take those things off in the first two miles. I tied them around my awesome new iFitness belt and kept going. It must have been humid, because it didn’t take long for sweat to start running down my face. I decided to take a couple of Endurolytes and I’m glad I did. I ended up taking four all together and still started cramping a bit at the end. I am sure the Endurolytes (and the Gatorade at the aid stations) helped me. I carried my own water and refilled it at an aid station half way through. Thank goodness for my handheld. The logistics of the course made the aid stations few and far between. There were two in the first two miles and then not another one until almost mile 7.
While not the most attractive picture, it does show the beautiful view and how hot and sweaty it was.
Did I mention that the hills were a challenge? The downhills were almost as hard as the uphills. At least I am getting better at running downhill on the trails. People would pass me going up (note to self: hill repeats) and then I would pass them going down. At first it was fun and free to fly down the trail. It started getting harder and harder. There was a long stretch of downhill grade with no flat spots or inclines. You would think that would be a welcome relief to the endless climbing, but I was starting to yearn for a leveling off. I read in an article that trying to slow down or “braking” on the hills is worse than just going with it. I tried to relax and run down the hill. The slope was pretty rocky and I did roll my ankles a couple of times. Luckily, I didn’t really injure them, but they are pretty sore still today. I was building speed and slowing down took effort.
When the bulk of the downhill ended, we hit a road. During the PCTR race, we didn’t run on this road, but crossed the creek instead. That would have been a welcome relief. I would have enjoyed the cold water on my legs and I didn’t particularly like running on the shoulder of a somewhat busy road. At least we didn’t have to run on it for long. We soon turned into the park area and then into a single track section.
Single track was a challenge. In the beginning of the race, we were bottlenecked in the single track, but people were moving pretty quickly. At the end of the race, it seemed like everyone was walking up the single track incline. I am not saying that I would have scurried up quickly, but I am pretty sure that I would have run a bit more than I did. Passing was a difficult task. I did pass several people where the trail widened a bit, but there was often a line of about six people. If I passed one, I probably needed to muster the energy to pass the group. It was easier to sit back and follow. The frustrating thing was that when the trail headed back downhill toward the finish (one mile to go), the people in front of me were moving in an easy jog. I really wanted to push it on this section, but it was nearly impossible. Once we got to the bottom, near the campgrounds, it opened up and I passed at least six people. There was a volunteer there telling us that there was on 4/10 of a mile left. I turned it on.
I crossed the finish line in 2:50. My Garmin shows a 12:01 average pace. I was hoping to average under 12:00, but I’ll take it. My main goal was to finish under three hours, so I was happy. The official results show a 12:29 pace, which is what it would be for a 22K. This course was longer than 22K; even the race director told us that. It was just over 14 miles (a 22K is 13.6 miles).
Women 40-44: 15/38
It wasn’t my best showing, but it taught me that I have a lot of hill training to do.
The food spread afterward was great. They had several types of fruit, muffins and scrambled eggs. They also had grilled burgers, which really hit the spot. The only thing missing for me was an ice cold Coke. I love cold soda after a dusty trail run. There is only so much water and Gatorade I can drink.
Getting home was definitely a challenge! Where it took an hour to get there from my house, it took twice that to get home. I have no idea where so many people were going on a Saturday afternoon, but driving through LA was pure torture. It wasn’t that bad in March when I did that drive, I’m not sure what was going on to make traffic that bad! It wasn’t just one freeway… it was all of them in two counties. Geesh.
All in all, it was a good day. It was a good race with great volunteers. My only suggestions would be more bathrooms, better signage at the start and more medals (while I received mine, they ran out of medals for the later runners). I wasn’t super pleased with my performance, but I was glad I did it. I never would have done a tough 14 mile run on my own and I needed to kick up my training somehow. I always love running on the trails and love other trail runners. This was a gorgeous trail on a gorgeous southern California day. What more can I ask for?
*And you shouldn’t be throwing trash on urban roads with street sweepers!!