Finish time -- 1:45:13
Average pace -- 8:02
Overall place -- 141/1236
Age division place -- 11/58
Barry and I ran our first ever trail half-marathon at the Great Race of Agoura Hills. It was a hybrid trail/road race that seriously tested my endurance on hills.
We got up at the crack of dawn and printed out instructions on the race website. The race people advocated arriving early to park and pick up bibs (if you opted for race day pickup). We got to Agoura soon after 6am and found a parking spot at Ralph's on the corner of Thousand Oaks/Kanan then headed over to Chumash Park to grab my shirt and bib. Good thing we arrived early because we had to walk back to the lot to put stuff away. No equipment drop-off available for this race. We trekked back up Thousand Oaks Blvd to the start of the race... on a random residential street above the park.
What a crazy starting line. I imagine the residents on the street probably don't appreciate having thousands of runners trample their lawns and pee on the sides of the their houses while waiting for air horns to signal the start of the race. On the plus side, the narrow street kept everyone tightly contained behind the giant balloon arch. All those bodies close together easily increased the temperature in the mass by about 10 degrees -- good thing, because it's freezing in those hills at dawn... when you're in shorts... and a tank top. I climbed to the top of the hill with enough time to stretch my calves and shoulders before the race suddenly started.
Clearly, other runners hadn't budgeted their time well because I could see orange bibs climbing the hill to the starting line as I was already racing down, trying to break out of the pack. I guess with chip times, it really doesn't matter. The downhill start propelled a lot of folks to a quick pace and the mass began breaking up near the first mile marker. Aside from the cold, things were smooth for the first three miles. Horse ranch here, houses there... easy.
The course eventually wound its way into the Santa Monica Mountains recreation area and Chesebro Trail at around mile 3. The trail initially starts out fairly wide and flat for a mile or so. Then, kaplow! -- gullies, rocks, and mud puddles are thrown into the mix, in addition to a much narrower trail (2-people wide with an ever so gradual ascent).
For all the obstacles that runners must navigate, the course itself is pretty danged cool. If you're easily moved, the feeling of running in the hills with wilderness all around on a Saturday morning is reason enough to make you all misty eyed. Or wait, maybe that was just sweat and dust getting in my eye. The trail is impressive -- a few challenging climbs, tall grasses, bright sunshine.
I was starting to get into a nice rhythm and could just about forgive the rocks and gullies that nearlycaused me to eat it twice on the trail when I saw the hill from hell. On its slope I could trace the line of tiny shirts and shorts trudging up to the summit. I can't lie, this is when I thought I was going to lose it and either cry or stop completely. Runners passed me by like crazy and my legs felt heavy. I knew I was moving, but it felt like I wasn't advancing. I caved in and walked for about 25 yards up the steepest portion before kicking it into gear again.
Once I hit the top and began the descent, I began tearing shit up to make up for the time I lost climbing the hill. I grabbed a bottle of water at the station and zoomed downhill. Too fast, almost. The good thing about having a little paunch is that it provides me additional weight in front to make descents go by even faster. But at one point, I felt myself feeling I would tumble head over heels as my legs were unable to keep up with the inertia from my upper body. I slammed on the brakes just a bit and slowed down enough to prevent myself from taking a spill.
Oh yeah, there's a section of trail after the downhill where you run through some pretty thick sand. As if you haven't gone through plenty of obstacles already.
There's a second hill (are you kidding me?!) close to the end of the trail where I started to feel cramping in my legs. At the top, there was a guy spraying folks with anti-cramp/cooling spray but he must not have seen me, because I didn't get any of that shit.
The final three miles of the run are back on mostly downhill residential streets. As soon as you exit the trail, there's water, electrolytes and Clif energy gel blocks. I didn't grab a block cuz I thought it was a giant bowl of grapes. I had an electrolyte drink boost and enjoyed the last few miles being out of the sun trying to move as fast as I could to go for a fast finish.
I finished about 5 minutes slower than usual, which I understand is typical for this race. Hey, I'll take it. The reward at the end was a massive post-race party with tons of freebies, pancakes and El Pollo Loco. Challenging course? Yes, but the event is well-run and the limited race field meant minimal dodging and weaving on the course.