The first noteworthy tidbit is…the student becomes the master. My running padawan, Kelly, finished seven minutes ahead of me! We started together and ran the first half of the race together. As the hills hit us hard, Kelly pulled ahead. She ran a very strong race and showed that all her hard work has paid off. As I tried to catch up to her during the race, my brain kept alternating between being extremely proud and being frustrated that I couldn’t catch her. When I was frustrated I simply reminded myself that her success was also my success—even though she has done all the work to reach her current fitness level.
But I am getting ahead of myself. The morning started out shaky. It had rained on and off during the week leading up to the race. We weren’t even sure they would hold the race. The OC park system often closes trails when they get too muddy. We got word Friday night that the race was ON. Kelly let me know she was still unsure about running in that mud—the kind that cakes your shoes and makes you five inches taller. I received a text from Marci at 6 a.m.letting me know that it was raining like crazy at her house (she lives two minutes from the start of the race). She even suggested we skip the trails and do a “regular” run. I was committed. If the park ranger gave us the go-ahead, I would be running on those trails. This is our stomping grounds—of course we were running this race.
Sandra, Kelly and I hung out in my car for a while while the rain came down. We saw Marci and Kris as we headed to the restrooms. They were a bit cranky. In fact, everyone, with the exception of Sandra and me, were pretty negative about the weather and trail conditions. At that point, I was really looking forward to it. I had a horrible week* and I was ready to take my aggressions out on some trails. As the start neared, spirits seemed to raise.
The race started out and we kept a decent pace. We knew that big hills were coming, so we wanted to make some good time early. Immediately, we took a beautiful trail that we had never been on. We run these trails all the time and to find a new gem was exciting. I am eager to get back out there.
Kris getting ready to tackle the hillsThe first five miles were relatively easy (as trails go). There was some mud to contend with, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it would be. Around the sixth mile the hills began in earnest. The hills…oh, the hills…were relentless. We would get to the top of a particularly challenging incline, thinking the worst was over, only to turn a corner to see yet another hill.
I stayed with Kelly, Marci and Kris for the first part of the race. As we got into the hills, I noticed that my legs were feeling a bit weak. I was still sore from my Thursday Body Back class. I hadn’t really prepared for this race. I had approached it more like another long run. I have been following my meal plan which focuses a lot on lean protein and whole foods—not necessarily carbs. I quickly realized that I might not have a whole lot of energy stores. I don’t think I had any glycogen stored in my muscles—two hours into the race I felt like my tank was empty. Another possibility, of course, is that I am not in as good shape as I thought and very low mileage two weeks due to moving might have lost some of my zip.
Kelly and Marci slowly pulled away from me. I ran with Kris for a while. Then, as she walked during a section, I slowly pulled away from her.
This might have been my last view of Marci and KellyMy goal from then on was to catch up with Kelly and Marci. I wasn’t able to run up the steep inclines, but I powered down the declines pretty well. But I think they did too. I considered waiting for Kris, so I would have someone to run with, but I couldn’t shake the desire to catch up with Kelly and Marci.
At least the scenery was great. I didn’t get to enjoy a whole lot of it as I was staring at the ground in front of me trying not to bite it in the mud. While the mud was not nearly as bad as we thought it might be, there were definitely spots that were a bit dicey, especially on the downhill sections.
The course was marked really well. I have run several trail races and to me, this race was marked more thoughtfully than most. It was clear that the race directors were runners. As we came to a fork in the trail, there would be a chalk arrow.
They also put an “X” in front of the trail that we weren’t supposed to go down. This helped me on more than one occasion when I assumed we were going one way, but really going another way.
Of course, runners still need to pay attention. When you are running such a difficult course, that is sometimes pretty difficult. Even with the great markings, I sometimes questioned if I went the correct way. Luckily, the race directors put pink ribbons showing the correct way. As I ran down a trail, wondering if I was going the right way, I would see a reassuring pink ribbon and know I was on the right path.
And yes…runners do make wrong turns. Out of five of us, two of my friends somehow ran different routes than the rest of us. Kris ran a shorter course and Sandra ran longer.
As I struggled to finish the race (I seriously had nothing left in my tank), I powered through to the finish line, glad to be done. Much to my surprise, Kris, who I had left around mile 7 was hanging out, clearly having finished some time before. I worried that something had happened and she had to quit or something. She said no, that she had run the entire race. But…it was all single track and she never passed me. It turns out that Kris and a couple other women accidently took a turn that headed back toward the park, instead of doing a one mile loop heading away from the park. I remember the fork and thinking it odd that we were running in the opposite direction of the finish. I have to admit, I was a bit deflated when I saw that she finished ahead of me. As I was struggling through the difficult course, as mean as it might seem, it made me feel a little better that I wasn’t alone. Ironically, Kris ran almost exactly 21K where the rest of us ran closer to 23K.**
The spread after the race was really nice. They had bananas, licorice and Myoplex, among other things. They had an incredible raffle. I think everyone who stayed after long enough for the raffle won something. I won a cool buff from Buffsncuffs.com.*** Kris won a pair of Inov8 trail shoes (insert green-eyed-monster here). They had water bottles (the nice stainless steel kind, not the plastic kind) and gift certificates to places like REI.
I had a hard time enjoying the awards ceremony and raffle drawing. Sandra hadn’t come in yet and I was getting worried. I talked to race officials about whether they had a “sweeper.” I was ready to go back out to find her. Apparently, there were several runners who hadn’t come in. I felt responsible for her, not only as her friend, but as the person who suggested she run this race. She debated between the 10K and the 21K and I told her that she would be fine running the longer distance. The last thing I wanted was for her to have a negative experience her first trail race. Finally, I saw her, running her heart out toward the finish line. I screamed like a crazy woman and everyone else joined me.
She finished so strong considering she had been running nearly four hours!! She and a couple other women made a wrong turn on the trails. One of the women said she thought they ran at least seventeen miles. If she took the trail I think she did, she ran closer to eighteen!! I immediately grabbed her some protein drink, a banana and some licorice. I knew she was beyond tired. The longest run she has ever done was her first half marathon in January. When I asked her if she enjoyed the experience at all, she came back with a resounding YES. She said to Kelly and I, “I am so grateful to the two of you. I never thought I would ever do something like this and now, look at me.” On a Facebook thread about the race, one of Sandra’s comments about being lost and her tough run was, “will I do it all over again? ..... YES! ;)))” I love that girl! She has the best attitude and I am SO proud of her. Did I mention she is a grandmother?
This was the first time this race was held. I give it a definitely thumbs up. There were less than two hundred people, but I am sure there will be more next year. The race directors assure us there will be a next year. I will definitely run it again. Kudos to Alison and Mike for a great event!
*We moved (which is why I haven't been blogging or commenting on other blogs). We just moved down the street, but I don’t think there is ever the case of an easy move. In fact, the short move might have been worse since I didn’t organize and pack as well as I could have, knowing I could just carry stuff that I didn’t pack. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I didn’t run all week and was ready to run hard.
**The race was scheduled to be a 21K, but due to the rains the river was over the trail in one part. The park deemed it unsafe to cross and closed that trail, so the race course had to be changed. Where it was originally supposed to be thirteen miles, the final course was over fourteen.
***A review and possible giveaway to come soon!