I signed up for this half marathon right after running the Paramount Ranch Trail Race back in December, but wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to run it until a week out from race day. Since being diagnosed as anemic a few weeks ago, I’ve been eating iron-rich foods like it’s my job, and it has definitely been paying off. Along with a lot of cream of wheat and clams (not together), I’m strength training three times per week and running every single day. The difference in the way that I feel and my running paces between now and only a month ago blows my mind. Runs are enjoyable now and I feel stronger every day.
Though I hadn’t run more than 10 miles in a few weeks, I felt confident that if I maintained a sustainable effort level, I could complete 13.1 miles. The course is described as “a faster course with some solid good hills.” Admittedly, I nervous about the hills, but reassured myself that walking them was always an option.
I woke up on Sunday 90% excited and 10% nervous. The race started at 7:30am, but LA traffic is always unpredictable, so I left at 5:30am. Parking was plentiful, the bathroom lines were nonexistent, and I had time to relax and prepare before we started. The weather was perfect: a bit chilly, but not cold enough to warrant wearing a long sleeve + overcast and no predictions of any sudden heat waves. I ran into a friend with whom I’d run Ragnar NorCal and we chatted excitedly before the start – lucky lady lives down the street from these amazing running trails! At 7:30am, the half marathon runners were off!
Out-and-back trail race courses are always interesting because you get a feel for how the last few miles will feel. Miles 1-3 were definitely net downhill, so I made a mental note to save some energy for the finale hills. The inclines weren’t too steep and I wasn’t reduced to walking any of them at this point. I knew we had a significant climb up to the aid station at mile 3, and while it was steep, it wasn’t too long. I skipped water and continued on toward the turnaround. The course flattened out after mile 4 and we were running along a lovely horse trail. There were a lot of people out running and walking, but it never felt overly congested on the path. I spent miles 3-turnaround just taking it all in and feeling extremely grateful to feel healthy and strong again. It was a series of moments I wish I could’ve bottled up and stored for later use – perfect weather, running on an awesome trail, feeling really good…
I knew the turnaround was coming up because I began to see fast runners heading back. I always love cheering for and being inspired by the lead runners. After a sharp u-turn, I began the return trip. My effort level was at about 5 out of 10, my legs felt great, and I wasn’t laboring to breathe, so I decided to pick it up a bit. There was a runner right behind me who I felt was keeping pace with me and we chatted a bit here and there. I wasn’t wearing my Garmin, so I only know where miles 3, 6.5, and 10 were based on the water station and turnaround. I recognized the climb back up to the water station, so I knew when we had hit mile 10. The climb was definitely more difficult with 9+ miles on my legs, but I didn’t end up walking.
I felt great and decided that I could run faster for the last 3.1ish miles. My pace buddy and I yo-yo’d back and forth – I would pass him on the downhills and he would pass me back on the uphills. He told me that he’d run LA Marathon and then put on 18 lbs (of muscle), which made his hill-running ability even more impressive as he was essentially carrying 18 extra pounds. At mile 11ish, I spotted a female in front of me, but I didn’t know if she was part of the race or just running the trail. As I approached, I saw a bib on the side of her shorts, so I had to make a decision about passing. I really don’t like passing a person unless I’m at least 90% sure I won’t be passed back. I knew the last 3 miles would be a net uphill, but I felt good and decided to pass her on a downhill segment. She was petite and looked to be in good shape, so I wouldn’t have been surprised to be re-passed later on.
The last 2 miles were mostly uphill and included a lot of switchbacks; I started to feel the fatigue of climbing and speeding up. After a very steep downhill and about 15 stair steps (part of the trail), I spotted the finish line and brought it in strong! My very loose time goal was sub 2-hours, and I ran it in 1:50, good for fifth place overall female. I’m certain that had I run a bit faster to start, I probably could’ve run around 1:47, but I was very happy with what I ran and especially how I felt. The amazing race director, Keira Henninger, was distributing medals at the finish. Not only was the medal very cool, but the participant shirt was one of the better race shirts I’ve received, and we all went home with a branded ceramic mug. The post-race food spread included chips, cookies, candy and subway sandwiches. She really knows how to take care of her runners.
I was a little nervous about how I would feel the next day since I hadn’t run for that long in a while, but I wasn’t sore and I was only a little tired. I ran 9 easy miles with Cristina and Ellen and felt great. I wore a permasmile after the race and through Sunday night – it was a fantastic weekend!