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PCRF Reaching for the Cure Half Marathon Race Recap

I figured that two long, harder efforts would serve as good preparation for the Boston Marathon, so I ran two half marathons in one weekend.

The morning of PCRF felt relaxed compared to the craziness of the previous day’s Pacific Half Marathon. I drove to Irvine Valley College, easily found a parking spot, and then spent all of 1 minute walking to the expo area. I ran into Chris, who would be the pacer for a 1:50 finish time, and we planned to meet for a few warm-up miles. Once back in my car, I peered into my packed “swag bag.” Not only did participants receive the standard race shirt, there was also a very nice hoodie sweatshirt, a water bottle, and various other smaller items. I learned later that the sweatshirt was a 20th anniversary gift. I’m giving this one a 10/10 on the “swag bag” scale.

After a 2 mile warm up and strides, Chris and I made our way to the start line. I’ve listened to many renditions of the pre-race national anthem over the years, but this performance was one of the best. Dawn Wright, national anthem singer for the Anaheim Ducks, sang it beautifully and powerfully. Her voice echoed in my head as we all jockeyed for position down the first narrow straight-away. The first half mile took us through tight twists and turns inside of the Irvine Valley College campus, after which we headed down Barranca Parkway. Right after the mile 1 marker, a female runner pulls up and asks if she can run with me for for a few minutes. Molly was using this race as a workout before half marathon championships in May, and would be starting a fartlek segment after mile 3. She was so nice and I wish she lived closer so we could train together (she lives in Boulder)! I bid her good luck at the mile 3 marker and she took off for her first interval.

The next few unexciting miles were on the riverbed. I continued to chug along, passing the occasional runner and enjoying a change in scenery. I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt having run a hilly half marathon the day before, I was also aware that I still had a substantial number of miles left to run. Somewhere around mile 6, Molly ducked into a porta potty and the lead cyclist for female runners latched onto me. I knew it would be only a matter of time before Molly blazed past me… and I was right. She encouraged me to tag along for the intervals, but I don’t think I would’ve been able to hang.

Course map

The PCRF course could be categorized as “hilly”, but there aren’t any major climbs. The miles clicked off without much fanfare. It was quiet, but I was enjoying it. A bike pacer rode with me miles 9 – 13 and we talked here and there. I welcomed the distraction, as my legs were definitely beginning to feel the fatigue of two races in on weekend. At one point, he asked me if I knew what pace we were going, to which I hastily replied “NO, AND I DON’T WANT TO KNOW.” I immediately apologized for the aggressive response. I wore a watch for this race, but didn’t check it until after crossing the finish line.

Jeremy-4397

Once I recognized that we were close to the campus, I picked it up and tried to close fast. An object was obstructing the finish line clock, so I didn’t see 1:25:xx until I was a few feet away. I’d run harder than for the Pacific Half Marathon, but wasn’t expecting to clock a personal best! It was a chilly day, so I set out on a cool-down before becoming too cold. I ran into Molly and we ran a mile-ish together. After the 2-mile slog, I came across my friend Hannah who had also PR’d!

Justin-5664

Chris, Hannah and I walked around the festival area, which was different from normal race expos. There were small carnival rides (Chris took a trip down the giant slide), a reptile exhibit (I pet a giant monitor lizard) and a large kids zone. I collected my overall and age division prizes, including gift cards to In-N-Out and Chipotle and a branded pint glass. I was ravenous at that point, so Chris and I enjoyed lunch at Mustard Cafe.

I felt sore and tired on Monday, as expected, but strung together another solid week of training, capped off with a long run workout on Saturday with a new group. Two more weeks until the Boston Marathon!

 

 

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The Great Race of Agoura Hills Race Recap

I’d run the Cheseboro Trail Half Marathon in 2016, but decided to return to the roads for this year’s Great Race. The beautiful scenery of the Pacific Half Marathon course serves as a distraction from all of the hills! In addition to pretty and challenging courses, the “swag” and post-race festivities are great. I’ve had great experiences each time that I’ve participated.

Race morning was stressful and hectic. After a ~one hour drive to Agoura Hills, we had to swing by Chumash Park (finish line for all races incl. the Cheseboro Half Marathon), grab our race bibs, and then drop me off at Paramount Ranch (start line for ONLY the Pacific Half Marathon). We arrived at about 6:30am and I began to worry about making it to my 7:30am start when we were directed to park in a lot very far away from the park. After (what felt like) running around for 2 miles in search of porta-potty, I then sprinted across the very large park to pick up our race bibs. I threw myself into John’s car and we made our way toward Paramount Ranch, navigating road closures before hitting the long line of cars going into the ranch. John would have to drive back to Chumash Park to make it to his start line, so I gathered what I needed for the race and ran to the ranch. I’m sure I looked odd running alongside the crawling line of cars, but I made it there with time to spare (and J made it to his start!). Ann and Annalise arrived at around the same time, so we met up and headed to the start line area together.

The Pacific Half Marathon is a road race while the Cheseboro Half Marathon runs on the trails. Due to rain in the previous days, sections of the trail race were too muddy and all half marathon runners would be on the road course. This change resulted in the traffic congestion entering Paramount Ranch as well as a delayed race start. I ran into a few friends at the start line, tried to stay warm, and then we were off! 

Ann and I had briefly discussed running together and going out on pace for a ~1:35 finish time. We definitely started faster than a 7:15 minute/mile pace, but it felt smooth and we were talking. The fastest pace group was 1:40, so I didn’t have any idea where we would finish or what pace we were running at. There is a short, but very steep climb within the first half mile followed by 2 miles of cruising. The surrounding mountains enshrouded in morning mist were a sight to see and part of what makes this course so spectacular.

The toughest stretch of the course is between miles 3 and 4. We chugged up it at a decent clip, passing a few runners, but I think we were both glad to reach the top.

Naturally, some of those runners we’d passed came bombing down the hill. Ann put some distance between us on the downhill section, but we hooked back up and cruised through the next few miles together. I don’t remember being passed by anyone after the downhill, but we did pick a few people off. We passed a female runner somewhere around mile 10 and I began to wonder what place we were in. My legs felt tired from the undulating hills, but my breathing felt controlled and my energy levels were good.

I maintained through miles 10 and 11, but caught a second wind after mile 12 and passed quite a few runners. The final mile enters a neighborhood via a steep uphill, and then follows a trail downhill past Agoura High School and into Chumash Park. I was quickly catching up to a male runner who kept looking over his shoulder at me. He wasn’t slowing down and a mini race toward the finish line ensued. I flew down the last hill and ran strong down Argos Street toward the park, finishing in 1:29:49. Ann was only a few seconds behind me and we ended up finish as the 2nd and 3rd overall female runners.

Annalise came through a few minutes later and we met up with John. We walked around, grabbing free bars and coconut water, and then sat in the grass to enjoy our complimentary plates of pancakes and hot coffee. The finish line expo for this race is quite large and festive!

LOL moment: I found a picture from the 2016 Cheseboro Half Marathon… I guess this is my go-to Great Race ensemble.

Los Angeles Marathon Race Recap

Back on my Feet, a charity organization with whom I used to be part of, sent an email out about $100 entries to the Los Angeles Marathon. The email was sent out on Wednesday, I completed my purchase on Thursday, and was going to return to run through the City of Angels on Sunday! I hadn’t trained specifically for this marathon, but I felt like I’d been running enough mileage to make it through the race.

Molly was running it too, so we went to the expo together on Saturday. Upon arrival at the bib pick-up tables, I learned that I hadn’t actually paid for a full marathon entry. The initial email and all correspondence emails with Back on my Feet had referenced the “Los Angeles Marathon.” There was no mention of the charity half marathon relay (two people raise money and run half of the race – stadium to Hollywood, Hollywood to the sea), but that’s what I was registered for. I’d paid $100 (versus the current price of $220 for the full marathon), so a part of me felt like I had no right to complain. However, I had no desire to drive back to Los Angeles, navigate the logistical difficulties of getting to and from the race, just to run 13.1 miles. I spoke with a race representative and left with a full marathon entry. With that being said, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to purchase an entry from Back on my Feet and save $120. Thank you also the race representative who helped me work it out.

After taking a giant breath of relief, I walked around the expo with Molly and then went home to pack and rest before my 6th Los Angeles Marathon.

Molly and I drove to Joe’s place in Culver City and he kindly transported us to Dodger Stadium. The standard pre-race activities took place: make sure we have what we need for the race, leave our bags at gear check, visit the porta-potties, and then head to the start line corrals. Being a larger race (25,000 runners), there are A-D sub-seeded corrals and then an open one. Not only would I start in the open corral, having registered 5 days prior, but I started in the very back. The race officially started at 6:55am, but I didn’t cross the start line mat until 7:09am. The first 6 miles were spent negotiating choke points and taking to the sidewalks to circumnavigate the crowd. I nearly stopped 3-4 times because I was stuck behind walls of people It was 100% my own fault and I learned a lesson: register early and get into a sub-seeded corral!

2018 start.PNG

It thinned out after about mile 6, but I still felt like I spent 26.2 miles passing runners and pace groups. I finally found a rhythm after mile 10 and just cruised along, enjoying the course and reminiscing about past Los Angeles Marathon running experiences. I was excited to see Cristina and Ellen on the course at mile 17 and before I knew it, there they were! Around mile 20, I felt into step with a male runner and we chit chatted. He was running faster than I want to at that point, so we parted ways and I continued to enjoy running through the different cities. The race runs through 8 cities – Los Angeles, Echo Park, Silverlake, Los Feliz, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Westwood, and Santa Monica (finish). It also passes a number of L.A. landmarks – Dodger Stadium (start), Disney Concert Hall, Thai Town, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Sunset Strip, and Rodeo Drive. I love this course because it’s interesting, diverse, and lively.

In 2016, the race organizers were forced to re-route runners around the federally-operated Veterans Affairs campus at mile 21 instead of through it. It was a notoriously difficult section of the course due to 1) lack of spectator support or fanfare, 2) a sharp ascent. I hadn’t run it since the change, so I was curious about it. While it wasn’t as quiet, it did feature a longer, but more gradual, climb. Michael, from the South Bay Running Club and USA Marathon Training, ran alongside me for a few feet and let me know that I’d get to cruise into Santa Monica after the uphill.  The finish line crept closer and I still felt great, so I slowly picked up the pace.

I actually felt really good and ended up knocking out 6:45 minute/miles for the final 5K. I blasted down Ocean Boulevard with a giant smile on my face and finished in 3:15. I was elated to have run such a solid time while treating it as a long run effort. After walking half-a-mile in the wrong direction, I finally re-united with Joe and Molly in the beer garden. Not only had Molly run a 4+ minute personal record, but she had inched so much closer to a BQ. I’m confident that she’ll earn her Boston qualifier very soon!

We hung out in the beer garden for a few hours, running into Gil, Alan, Hannah, and Adrian. I’ve written about this a few times now, but it never ceases to amaze me how interconnected the running community is. I’ve met so many great people through running and at races – it so fun to catch up after a race, endorphin-filled and relaxed! Post-beer’ing, we made our way to Rush Street and shared a collection of appetizers + libations: sweet potato fries, buffalo wings, caesar salad, and chilaquiles, beer and bloody marys. I returned home full, sleepy, and content.

Tustin Hangar Half Marathon Race Recap

Curious about the unique course of the Tustin Hangar Half Marathon, I decided to run the 2nd edition of this race. “Seventeen stories high, over 1,000 feet long and 300 feet wide, the hangars were, and still are, two of the largest wooden structures ever built. Designing and building the two structures in 1942, during wartime, on a hyper-accelerated schedule and with a nearly all-wood design, is what earned the hangars their 1993 listing by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the “Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks” of the 20th Century.” I’d never run a race in the city of Tustin and was curious about these hangars… as well as where my fitness was at!

John decided to tack another 5K onto our weekend of racing, and came along with me to packet pickup at the Tustin Marketplace. It was a gloomy, rainy day, so we treated ourselves to Portola Coffee Lab on the way out.

I didn’t sleep very well the night before, and race morning started too early. We arrived, parked, dawdled, visited the bathroom, and then I met up with Cristina and Ellen for a 2 mile warm up. The on-and-off rain had persisted into Sunday, and I hoped that it would let up by the time we started. After the warm up, a shirt change, and one last bathroom stop, I had to book it to the start line. I met C & E, the National Anthem was sung, and then we were off!

A lady pack +1 formed within the first mile and we all ran through the hangar together. It was very large, dark, and eerily quiet with the occasional “woohoo”s and “wow”s echoing throughout. The 4 of us pictured coming outside of the hangar exchanged a few words before gaps formed. I focused on settling into a comfortably hard pace, but couldn’t quite find that sweet spot. While I felt decent enough the day before at the Saints Run 5K, I’d been feeling stale-legged in general.

Mile 2-4 run were uneventful and peaceful, taking us straight along Tustin Ranch Road. I never found myself completely alone on the course, but it was definitely a smaller race. I somewhat settled into the pace as we twisted and turned through a quiet auto center (miles 4-5).  Whilst briefly chatting during the first mile, the eventual female winner had warned C and I about the abundance of turns on the course. She was right!

I enjoyed running through quaint Old Town Tustin (miles 7-8) as I’d never been there before. I saw Ellen again after a u-turn at mile 8 and she looked great! Right after passing the mile 10 marker, we were back on Tustin Ranch Road and took it all the way back toward the Marketplace. I didn’t know what pace I was running or what my elapsed time was at any point, but felt generally meh/okay for the entire race. I still feel like I’ve lost that higher gear that I had for the Holiday Half Marathon. The course was well-delineated as the two courses (half marathon and 5K) merged toward the finish, and I absorbed the words of encouragement from the other side. One last turn right after the mile 13 marker took me to the finish line.

Cristina, Ellen and I re-united and compared race stories during a 3 mile cool down. By the time I hit 18 miles, I felt depleted and famished. The giant, shiny Whole Foods storefront beckoned and John and I hit the hot bar hard. Kombucha + vegan chilaquiles taste 10x better after a good run. We hit the Portola Coffee Lab one last time before heading back.

I’ll be honest… I was slightly disappointed with my finish time. While a 1:27:53 is a very respectable time and not slow by any means, I don’t feel like my effort matched the pace. However, my mile splits were even and I didn’t fly and die, so that’s good. Plan: throw speedwork back into the mix!

Saints Run 5K Race Recap

I had low expectations for this 5K having completed no speedwork since December? January? I can’t event remember. Actually, I ran my “rust buster” workout a few days out, but that was more for mental preparation to run “fast” on Saturday. Additionally, I had a week of low mileage about 2 weeks prior to the race. A down week + the lack of speed work = low expectations.

I convinced John to run the 5K too and we arrived to register around 7:00am. With an 8:00am race start, I had plenty of time to sign up, visit the bathrooms, and dawdle before I went out for a 2.5-mile warm up. After one last bathroom stop, I jogged to the start line area and and chatted with Kathleen, who was running the 5K as a tempo in the middle of a long run. I also ran into my friend and podiatrist, Dr. Graves, who’d won the race outright last year.

I started a few steps behind Dr. Graves and watched a male runner slip and fall within the first quarter mile. The first mile was challenging as we navigated tight turns and slippery sidewalks. It had been raining on and off in the days prior and rained lightly before the race. I passed Dr. Graves and another male runner within the first mile and found myself in 2nd place overall. There weren’t mile markers and I didn’t look at my watch, so I didn’t know what pace I was running or what mile I was at. I focused on running fast and strong, but at an effort that I could sustain for 3.1 miles.

After the turnaround on the beach path, I was 90% sure that we re-traced our steps back to the lighthouse, but came to an un-marked intersection. I paused and looked for a volunteer or some sort of course marking, quickly deciding to go back the way that I’d come. As soon as I came upon a race volunteer, I inquired about whether I was going the right way and they re-assured me that I was. For some reason, it felt too early to head back and I worried that I’d accidentally cut the course. After asking another set of volunteers on the course, I accepted that I was going the right way (phew!). I hoped that this wouldn’t be another 2.9 mile 5K like the Aloha Run!

The return trip was rough and I couldn’t bring it in as hard as I would’ve liked. We were back on the slippery sidewalk of Shoreline Village and I was navigated large groups of walkers coming toward me. Many of them weren’t paying attention and I had to yell “coming through” or “on your left” often. I checked my watch as I approached the lighthouse and saw that the course would actually be long. There was one last hairpin turn before the finish line, at which I glanced at my watch and saw 3.1 miles in 19:00 flat. The course ended up being 3.15 miles and I clocked a 19:16 official time. My splits were even and I’d run faster than expected sans speed work, so I was happy with the effort!

I ran the first mile of my cool down with Dr. Graves and we chatted about the race. He was battling a bad cold and had only decided that morning to actually run it. After we parted ways, I ran to the port via the Queensway Bridge for the rest of my cool down miles. I love running over that bridge because it’s part of the JetBlue Long Beach Marathon course. Upon returning to the festival area, I spoke with Andy who had handled course operations, and suggested some cones or some sort of delineation for the last mile. Other than that, I thought it was a well organized event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sean O’Brien 50 Mile Race Recap

I’ll be honest – nervousness left me with a messy head during the week leading up to the race. I had to work hard to stay focused on my work, the stress of which didn’t help my pre-race emotional state, and not think about the upcoming Saturday. Despite being nervous, I felt confident that weeks of high mileage, hills, two big training weekends, and mental strength work would all serve me well on February 3.

Unfortunately, race “weekend” didn’t start well – I was in a minor car accident on Thursday. Nobody was injured and my car was fix-able, but I went into the weekend feeling even heavier with worry. Annalise, Ben and I headed toward her parent’s house, conveniently located close to the start/finish line, on Friday morning, shlepped around, went to Stacked for dinner, and then visited packet pickup. We closed my birthday with Billy Yang’s The Why which served as a great pre-race boost. The film follows Billy as he completes the famed 100-mile Leadville race and explores the reasons for running ultra-marathons. “Sure, on the surface you can cite self-improvement, challenging yourself, so on and so forth. But the longer I do this, the more I started to explore answers beyond the surface. How we relate to discomfort, uncertainty and pain. Do we have it too easy and thus, we’re drawn to the opposite end of the spectrum where we’re reduced to “survival” mode and drinking/eating/moving forward? Are we in our more natural state when this is what our world is reduced down to? I find myself pondering that often, especially when I’m enduring non-ideal weather conditions or dragging lead-filled legs through a run. I think that a part of me… embraces the discomfort. Whether it’s a result of me having it too easy in other areas of my life or because I’m a masochist, I don’t know.

Bday

I turned 50K years old!

Race morning began with a shower, breakfast and a triple drop bag check. This race allowed two drop bags, one of which I would have access to twice (bag #1 @ mile 13 and 31.3, bag #2 at mile 22.7). Since I wouldn’t have to carry any of this during the race, I basically stuffed them both full of crap like at Avalon. The most important items were 1) an extra handheld water bottle, which was required for a hot and difficult section of the course, and 2) chamois cream. Spoiler: the only things I touched in the bags were the water bottle, a towel, and a bottle of Coca Cola.

Facing only a 10-15 minute drive to the start line, we left at 4:45am for a 6:00am race start. We all commented that it was “warm” while packing items into the car, as it was in the 50s, then watched A’s car temperature gauge plummet into the high 20s as we drove into the mountains. We hid in the warm car, leaving only to dump our drop bags and use the loo. At about 5:45am, it was time to depart the comfort zone. I felt calm, nervous, excited, curious, but mostly ready to do the damn thing. The start line for the 50 mile race felt small, but electric. I said hi to Carrie, who had seen her husband off for the 100K race. That was the “premier” event as it offered 4 golden tickets. There were also 50K and marathon distance races, which started later.

Keira, the race director, laid down some instructions, imparted some wisdom, and then sent us off into the darkness of the Santa Monica mountains. For the first 5 miles or so, I happily chatted with the surrounding (all female! runners). I was extremely cold and not enjoying the rocky, single track trail, but just trying to settle in. I’m still very much a “road runner” who dabbles in trail, but I especially struggle with rocks and narrow paths. I felt better as the sun rose, rockiness subsided, and path widened. Of course, nature began to loudly call after I forwent a porta-potty stop (there was a line, what the heck) at the mile 6ish aid station. I answered that call at, what I later referred to as, “Poo Rock” and continued on my way.

Jump attempt #15 @ bib pickup.

Annalise and I ended up running into the mile 13 aid station together and I realized that we’d been there before, just a few weeks prior. It had been a back-to-back weekend of 25 Saturday miles and 15 Sunday miles. When we’d finished the 15-miler, I laid down in the parking lot and basked in the fatigue. I reflected back on training runs often during the race, reminding myself that I’d put in the work to be there. The moment of reminiscence was cut short when my foot slammed into a rock and I slammed into a bush. Annalise kindly pulled me out and I pulled myself together over the next few miles, which ticked by quickly and without any noteworthy events.

PC: Annalise!

By mile 15 or so, the temperature had increased significantly. I’d shed my long sleeve shirt, beanie and gloves at mile 13 and felt good in a tank top and hat. I’d decided to leave my hydration pack at home, carrying a single hand-held until picking up a second one at mile 22.7. Miles 15 – 22.7 included running uphill, running downhill, single track trails, gorgeous views of Malibu, salted potatoes, Coca Cola, various other snacks, and a growing sense of gratitude. My body was responding well to the arduous task of running 50 (very hilly) miles, the brilliant blue of the ocean was staring at me from below, and I was playing in the mountains. How could I not be thankful?

I gladly picked up my second water bottle at mile 22.7 and filled both bottles to the brim with ice and water. All of the aid station volunteers were extremely helpful and lightning quick with assistance! The aid station fare was tasty and I left this aid station feeling like perhaps I’d overeaten, but was glad that I’d indulged because the next section required a lot of energy. I was the only person running the 4 mile climb, likely receiving a few unspoken “you’re stupid”s along with the audible “good job”s. I remembered something that Anton Krupicka had said in The Why – “I guess I try and remind myself that this is the reason that I signed up for this event… to be challenged, to get to a point where it’s not easy anymore, where I don’t feel like I will be able to finish.” I reminded myself that this was the reason that I’d chosen this race as my second 50 miler, to be challenged.

Jump attempt #6 @ bib pickup.

The short descent which followed didn’t offer the relief that one might believe it would after so much up-ness. I waffled between handing the reigns to gravity and keeping one foot on the brakes, but it hurt either way. I passed my friend Vanessa, who was running the 100K, and we chatted briefly. Finally, I reached the bottom and started to climb again. I knew I’d prepared well for the race because my legs were totally on-board for all of this vert. I was met with a blast of icy cold water upon arrival at the mile 31.3 aid station. That + cold sponges felt so refreshing. I re-filled my bottles again, shoveled potatoes and ginger chews in my mouth, chugged a mango smoothie and continued on. I still felt great, mentally and physically.

The course is an out, loop, and back, so the last 18.7 miles felt familiar. I certainly felt different during the return trip – more tired, hot, probably dehydrated, but happy. I had no idea where I was time-wise, but believed that I was the 4th or 5th female 50-miler. As I left the last aid station at mile 42.9, I felt a small  pang of sadness that this would be over soon. Months of training and forward looking to these hours would wrap up in a little over 60 minutes. I savored these miles and the rode the race high all the way into the finish line. I completed my second 50-miler in 9:40 and as the 3rd overall female. Annalise rolled in a few minutes later, followed by Ben.

I felt slightly star struck being so close to a few of the big-name runners chasing the golden ticket. I saw badass Courtney DeWaulter, female winner of the 100K, in the finish line area. Not only did Courtney win the 100K and earn her golden ticket, she ran it faster than I completed the 50-miler! I also passed Billy Yang and told him that I’d really enjoyed The Why, feeling like a total fan-girl. Annalise, Ben and I hung out with a group of new and old friends for close to 2 hours before heading to the car. The rest of the evening included a warm shower, pizza, and many Zs!

My legs definitely felt sore on Sunday, but not as tired as I’d expected. We all slept in and then set out for breakfast burritos. Sloth mode ensued for the rest of the day, with the exception of a walk to Trader Joes. At 3:00pm, we settled in to watch the Super Bowl and before I knew it, we were packing up to leave. Annalise’s parents were wonderful hosts and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality! The departure was bittersweet – I was happy to return home, but sad that such a great weekend was ending.

SD Trail Marathon Race Recap

Last year, at my best friend’s wedding in Brawley, I discovered that one of my high school classmates had gone on to become a very talented runner. A few weeks after the wedding, I received an email in my work inbox inquiring about an elite entry to one of our events. Recognizing the name, I asked if he had graduated from Brawley Union High School in 2005 (graduating class of about 150). In summary: JJ came to Southern California from Las Vegas in October to run one of our races, we became friends, he told me he was running the SD Trail Marathon (his first marathon!), I convinced Annalise that it would be a good training run for Sean O’Brien, and we registered.

During the drive to Escondido, A and I were discussing how oddly calm we felt heading to the start line of a marathon. Not because we are like, totally trail marathon experts, but because this would be half of the distance we would have to run in a few weeks. Additionally, it would be almost entirely flat, compared to the course profile for SOB. We were treating this as a casual training run, with the added perks of different scenery, a race shirt, and a finisher medal (and pint glass!). The drive, arrival, parking, etc. were without hiccups. We even had time to take a few pre-race pictures!

At 7:30am, the race started and we headed toward the turnaround at Lake Hodges. The first 13.1 miles were fairly uneventful: I was enjoying the different scenery and running easily. I chatted with Greg for a few minutes before ascending Raptor Ridge, the only major climb of the day. I exchanged words of encouragement with a few runners and before I knew it, I was making a u-turn. During the return trip, I began to feel the effects of the elements (mainly sun and wind), but was still running easily and feeling good. A cup of Coca Cola at each aid station kept my stomach happy and energy levels even.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel ascending Raptor Ridge again, but my legs responded beautifully. I flew up it, passing the fourth place overall runner. The last few miles were somewhat boring and warm, but I caught #3 and barrelled through the finish line in 3:27. Annalise finished a few minutes later and we were excited to learn that we’d finished as the first and second overall females! The usual post-race chit-chat and race recaps ensued. I caught up with Sean, enjoyed a cup of homemade vegan chili, and learned that JJ had won his first marathon. We agreed that pizza was in order to celebrate our accomplishments so A and I met up with JJ and his family at Pieology. The pizza and conversation were wonderful and I was relishing the post-race endorphins and warm feeling of good company.

I usually expect to feel somewhat sore and tired after a longer-distance race, but I felt fantastic on Sunday. While I ran easy that day, I completed one of the toughest hill circuit workouts I’ve ever run on Monday and again, felt perfectly fine the next day. It’s slightly disconcerting to recover so easily, but I guess it bodes well for Sean O’Brien…