Sunday marked my first venture into Xterra country with the start of the Xterra Trail Run SoCal Series. Four hundred or so runners headed out to Point Mugu State Park (just on the edge of LA and Ventura counties, between Malibu and Oxnard) for the Point Mugu Trail Run. I had previewed the course in September, so I more or less knew what to expect. Goal time was 2 hours (that’s about a 10:45 min/mile pace) – I knew I would be able to handle the flats and the downhills, but it was the climbs and the singletrack (getting stuck behind people) that really made me worried I’d be on the slow side.
Sunday morning came, and Minh and I got up EARLY (5AM) for the drive up to Malibu. The plan was to leave by 5:30AM for the 2 hour drive. We made it to the race earlier than expected (7:00AM), either due to Minh’s crazy speedracer driving or the lack of traffic, or both. I was asleep most of the time, so I can’t really say. We got a pretty good parking spot, since we were there early. Checked in and hung out in the car for a little while.
At about 8AM, I decided to go for a warm-up run and hit the potties for the last time before the race. I have been suffering from a mild case of shin splints for the last couple weeks, so I hoped that the compression socks would do the trick.
Even though I’m not the fastest runner, I always like to start these races near the front. It’s a little disheartening to get passed by 100+ runners early on in the race, but it beats adding a few minutes on my overall time from starting in the back. I tried my best to keep to the side so that people could pass me easily too. I may have expended a little too much energy at the beginning though, because I was feeling it pretty hard on the ascents during the first few miles.
After the start, Minh headed off the assigned meeting location (somewhere between Mile 5 and 6, where the 11k course meets up with the 18k course). He took some pretty nice pictures of the trail, so you can see how much MORE technical it is compared to our local OC trails. I’ve never run anything like this before, and I’m pretty sure we DON’T have trails this technical in OC. Most of our trails pretty smooth, and even the rocky ones are pretty wide.
I got passed quite a bit during the run, but I was still keeping a good pace. I ran when I could, but had to walk a lot of the ascent. I didn’t feel too bad though, because I didn’t really get in anyone’s way. For the most part, I slowed to a walk/hike when the people behind or in front were also slowing, and I always stepped to the side when I could to let people pass. I picked up the pace a little bit on flats and downhills to make up for whatever time I had loss on the climbs.
The first water station wasn’t where it was supposed to be (around 4.5 miles).. but luckily I still had enough water to sustain me until I did hit the water station (a little past mile 5). I also didn’t cover myself in poison oak like they had warned would be inevitable. There was poison oak all over the first half of the course, but I was able to avoid it. Even the one spot that was COVERED in poison oak overgrowth didn’t affect me…. perhaps I’m one of the few lucky ones that’s not sensitive to it? Minh’s not even sure if he saw any poison oak.. but then again.. he doesn’t know what it looks like.
Just before Mile 6, and the last long steady uphill of the race, I met up with Minh for the bottle hand-off. He prepared a bottle with Heed and a gel for me. It was nice to get a COLD bottle, since my bottle was starting to become not satisfying. Luckily, the weather was cool and foggy, instead of sunny and hot like the preview run. It stayed nice and foggy the entire morning, so it made for PERFECT running weather.
Once we hit the top of the last climb, I was feeling good. I knew that the rest of the course was just downhill switchbacks, and I decided to just let my momentum carry me to the bottom. My knees were starting to hurt, but my shins were feeling pretty good. What’s great about this downhill is that you can occasionally see the start/finish area, and you can HEAR the announcements going on. It’s really motivating to get to the finish. I passed a few people on the downhill, but mostly I just stuck to my pace and tried to finish strong.
I finished in 2:03:13, which is a lot better than the preview run and about what I had expected for myself. Things to work on if I want to be competitve (and I do)… overall speed, hills, ability to recover after hills (this probably goes for cycling and general running also).
Xterra Trail Run SoCal Series #1 – Point Mugu 18k
6 out of 15 AG F25-29 (190 overall)
After this first race, I’ve decided that trail running is a million times BETTER than road running (marathons specifically). On the road, it’s pretty boring. You don’t see anything interesting and it’s just the same road over and over again, 90° turns, and thousands of people around you the whole time. With trail running, sometimes it’s just you and nature, the terrain changes completely from wide and flat to technical singletrack to switchbacks. The views are INCREDIBLE, whether it be of the ocean or the mountains or a wide open field. Sometimes you see someone ahead or hear someone behind, but for the most part it’s just you and nature. It’s great. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to road running only… Maybe if I think I’ll qualify for Boston. That’s still a goal in the back of my mind somewhere.