Back in 2011, I ran the Great Race of Agoura Hills Pacific Half Marathon. I remember thinking it was one of the prettiest courses I’d ever run before, and that still holds true. I also remember a few friends raving about the Cheseboro Half Marathon, which is a trail half marathon on the same day (both are part of the Great Races), and thinking that I’d like to run it in the future. I finally had the chance to experience the sell-out race yesterday (feat. Frank!).
The Pacific Half Marathon takes place on the roads of Agoura Hills, starting in Paramount Ranch, running through the hills of Malibu, and finishing in Chumash Park. The Cheseboro Half Marathon starts in Old Agoura and runs through the Cheseboro/Palo Comado Canyons. (Yes, Cheeseboro Hills, but the Cheseboro Half Marathon). Fortunately, the CTHM starts and finished in the same general area, while the PHM runners are shuttled out to their start line.
Unfortunately, the parking area in which we ended up was very far from the festival area. We should’ve checked a bag, but walked .6ish miles to the festival area, picked up our bibs and shirts, visited the porta-potties, and then went back to the car for final race preparations. The festival was very large with a lot of vendors; I remember the 2011 post-race festival as being pretty lively. As an event management professional, I notice the small details of race events, and felt like the event was seriously lacking in signage. At one point, we were waiting in line for a porta-potty, only to be told that we were actually at the vendor porta-potties and not able to use them. However, I was impressed with the “swag:” a nice green tech tee, a green drawstring bag, a few granola bars, a Trail Runner magazine, and a few other small items.
Since the parking area was further from the start than I’d anticipated, we had to rush a bit to make it to the 7:00am start. Once there, I gave Rudy (the best race announcer ever) a hug and waited to start running! The Cheseboro Half Marathon starts on a residential road and takes us downhill for, what felt like, almost a mile. In my excitement, I probably went out a bit too fast, but dialed it back once we started on the trails. Since Frank is still returning from a serious injury, he planned to run the entire race very conservatively. I knew that it was a net uphill for the first ~7 miles, so I focused on getting through the first half.
I commented to a fellow runner that I wanted to take this weather, bottle it up, and use it for future runs. It was my ideal running weather: cool and very foggy. At one point, we were up on a ridge next to a giant pool of grey mist. The trail section started at about mile 3 and though the herd had spread out a bit, it still felt busy. During miles 2-7, I just ran what felt good, keeping my effort even on the ups and downs. Despite the elevation chart, it didn’t feel like 6 miles of steady climbing, more like a lot of rolling hills. Each person that I passed fueled me a little more and it felt kind of like a Ragnar Relay race. There was a 2 mile section of single track where I got caught behind slower runners a few times, so my effort wasn’t as even as I would’ve liked, but I also wanted to save my legs for the large hill that was right around mile 8. The hill was steep, but the downhill on the other side… wow. I would estimated my pace to have been right around 6:00 minutes/mile going down. I completely let go and just flew down that damn thing. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t very smart because we had 4+ miles to go, but it felt amazing.
The course flattened out after the climb and descent and I asked a fellow runner what mile we were at. For some reason, I believed us to be past mile 10.5, but we were at 9.25. I still felt good, but no longer great. I knew that miles 10.5-13.1 were downhill, but wasn’t sure what I had waiting for me until then. There was one very steep and one not-as-steep-but-long climb and my legs finally felt tired after that final climb. Thankfully, the last 1.5 miles were indeed downhill (road) and I just rolled with it.
To be completely honest, I thought it felt like I ran faster than a 1:39. I finished strong and felt slightly deflated when I heard Rudy exclaim that I’d broken 1:40. Having returned to faster-paced running only a month ago (and only one hill workout), I shouldn’t expect any spectacular race times quite yet. I went into this race hoping to run sub 1:45, and I did, but I guess my pace slowed enough on the inclines to bump my average pace up. All said and done, I’m very happy with the effort and how I ran. I managed to place 1st in my age group and 8th overall female.
Frank finished ~10 minutes later and we walked around the festival for a bit. Again, I wish we would’ve checked our bags because I got cold very quickly! We didn’t hang around for very long and started the “long” trek back to my car, getting lost along the way. In search of our post-race meal, we stumbled upon Wildflour Bakery & Cafe. It was amazing and we definitely plan to return to Agoura Hills for some trail running and WF breakfast burritos. Note to self: leave a Yelp! review for this wonderful restaurant.
I enjoyed a 10 mile easy run with F, R and J this morning and my legs felt a little tired, but nothing extraordinary. I’m excited for another week of training and continuing to get as much of my fitness back as I can in the short amount of time between now and the Boston Marathon!