What a day it was.
I entered “Malibu Creek State Park” into my iPhone’s navigation app and got on the road about 10 minutes later than planned. I figured that I would be fine with a little under 2 hours to get to Malibu, pick my race items up, and prepare to run. Two miles into the drive up Corral Canyon Road, thoughts of doubt as to whether I’d make it to the start line in time creeped into my head. It was one of the steepest, narrowest and windiest roads I’ve ever driven on. With no areas to make a u-turn, I traveled 5 miles to the top and really wasn’t surprised to learn that I had to go all the way back down and get back onto Pacific Coast Highway. “Make a left onto PCH and the park entrance is about 3 lights down” instructed the cute park ranger. After some quick mental calculations and the realization about just how close I would be cutting it time wise, I drove as quickly as safely possible down the road and headed toward Malibu Creek State Park.
After parking, I learned that the bib pickup area was “2 parking lots over.” Unsure as to how far away that would be, I grabbed what I needed without planning to return to the car. When I arrived at the pickup table, I was told that I needed proof of registration. I didn’t have my phone or any sort of a print out, so I went to the Solutions crew and essentially begged to pick my bib up. At this point, the race was starting in about 10 minutes, and the start line wasn’t in site of the festival area. I knew that I wouldn’t have enough time to get my phone, pick up my bib, and then put the phone back in my car. I was again denied and then realized that the timing company was the same one that we use for one of our triathlons. Frantic, I half-shouted “you know me!” to one of the timing guys walking by who looked familiar. He relented and I finally had my bib! I also had a shirt and wasn’t really sure what to do with it, so I folded it into a square and tucked it neatly inside of the back of my sports bra. This was going to be interesting.
Needless to say, I felt anxious at the start line. The morning’s events and stress left me feeling tired and I was only half-excited to race. I knew that I would feel better once I started running and finally, we were off!
I had mentally prepared for 6 miles of sustained climbing, so I was surprised by the flatness of the first mile. Mile 2 included a few small bumps, but still no climbing.
“I thought we went uphill for the first 6 miles…” I said to another runner.
“We start going up at about mile 2, pretty soon here.” He responded
Right after the mile 2 marker, he enthusiastically said “welcome to Bulldog!” and we started to go up. Chris had told me about this trail, so I knew that it would be challenging. I settled into the grind of running uphill for a few miles and tried to enjoy it. Though the grade varied more than I expected, it was definitely steeper overall than I thought it would be. There were sections with 30%+ grade and sections with 10% grade, plus some switch backs and rocky parts. However, I didn’t walk at all and ran pretty strongly to the summit. We were gifted with incredible views at the top and cresting that hill felt great. It ended up being around 4.5 miles of climbing.
My legs felt tired and wobbly for the first quarter mile down the hill, but then they loosened up and I felt really good. I grabbed a cup of water at the mile 8 aid station and quickly kept going. I thought that the downhill section would be longer, but it was broken up by some small climbs. The race announcer had reminded us that there were three smaller hills in this section, but they weren’t too formidable. My legs felt surprisingly springy and fresh in this section. Of course, I wasn’t racing as quickly as possible up the climbs either. After the three “bumps,” we descended for about 2 miles and I was running fast, but controlled. The weather was perfect, the views were incredible, and I felt fantastic. Perfection.
Thankfully, I wasn’t completely lost in my thoughts and rhythm because I spotted an easy-to-miss arrow sign indicating that we were to make a hard right onto a single track trail. The runner a few feet ahead of me continued straight and I yelled at him to come back and take this trail. It felt jarring to go from the wide open, downhill fire road, to a very narrow single track trail with some small hills, but I quickly regained my rhythm and was surprised to come upon the mile 12 marker. I knew that we had one more hill somewhere in the last mile or two, so I just focused on getting up and over that. From the website:
I passed the mile 13 marker and wondered where the heck this final hill was. Once I began to ascend, I realized how severely I’d underestimated it. I’m also fairly sure that the last few mile markers were off because the last “mile” felt like 2. I saw the first place woman up ahead of me and running well, but I was struggling up the incline. After what felt like 45 more minutes of running uphill, I navigated some single track trail and came to a fire road, which took me to the finish line. I went from feeling fresh and good to feeling pretty ragged in about a mile and a half. I was very happy to finally see the finish line!
Only 20/320 people finished in under 2 hours, and only myself and the first place female finished in less than 2 hours for the women’s division, so I’m pretty proud of my finish time of 1:56:52 (2OAF).
I decided to stick around for the 22K awards distribution, but they ran out of overall and age division medals, so I walked away empty handed. In fact, I was a disappointed in the post-race offerings. A hot meal and a beer were included with registration, but I heard the announcer say a bit later in the morning that they’d run out of beer. I’d seen people walking around with plates of eggs, oranges, and tacos, but when I got in line, the plate offering was down to 1/2 of a banana and one taco. Though the course was great and my actual race experience was very good, my expectations (based on what the website stated…) of the rest of the event weren’t met. I think that I would try this event again next year and I believe that Xterra would work hard to avoid making the same mistakes.