Santa Monica Mountains. Wow! What a day! 6 of us (me, Mike, Pete, Nattie, Greg, Jon) drove up from Orange County to the inaugural Santa Monica Mountains race. This race was the first southern California race put on by Wendell and Sara from PC Trail Runs - and those who know them know they put on a great race with lots of good food!
Everyone but me was running the 30K. I had 9K planned to keep myself more rested for SB9T. We did meet up with Kim who recently joined our running group and had planned for her first 50K. We also ran into Matt. Yes he is still alive! :) Matt was also running the 50K course. I figured I'd run my 9K and enjoying hanging out at a race for a change. I so often race and then bail so was hoping for a fun new experience.
Normally I'm a morning person. Really. Hey - is Nattie laughing at me?
See I'm smiling now :)
We go to the race over an hour early so had plenty of time. We ran into Matt and Kim near the registration tables. After that we went back to the car to get ready for the race. After some of us made a last bathroom stop it was to the starting line for the 18, 30 and 50K races. My race was starting 15 minutes later so I took the time to snap some pictures as the runners were off. It was rather amusing to see the bottleneck after the first 100 feet. It quickly turned into a single track and the first group of runners was some 200+. I bailed for another quick bathroom stop and was at the starting line in plenty of time.
After Wendell asked how many people were doing their first trail run I moved from the back of the start to the middle. Probably 75% were doing their first run and I figured they didn't know the meaning of "hills". Our race was off and our funnel was not nearly as bad since there were only about 80 of us. I ended up in a pretty good spot and started to climb. The first 2.8 miles is ALL uphill with a gain of 1000 feet. After this fact really hit home a few days ago I adjusted my goals from 10:30 miles to 12:00 miles. I was passed by some runners in the first mile but I wasn't worried. In fact, I think almost everyone who passed me in the first mile - I passed before we finished. Many of them were walking wounded after 2.8 miles of climbing. Even my brisk hike allowed me to pass a bunch of runners on the way up. And that is always a good feeling. Maybe my all that hill running is paying off for me...
At the 2 mile mark I had only seen some male runners coming back down and no females. 2.2 miles... still no females. I started to run a bit harder thinking I could place well in my age group even though age groups were not officially recognized in this race. It did help motivate me. I think the first female runners were heading back down as I was around the 2.3 mile mark. I pushed myself to the turn around at 2.8 and seriously asked "this is it?" I felt like we had more climbing in store but it was all down hill from here. I set a great pace from the start. My first 2 miles had been 14 and 15 but mile 3 was 12 minutes and that included uphill before the turn around.
I was "cruising" down the hills and passing LOTS of runners coming up. I passed a couple of runners going down within the first mile or so as well. I continued to enjoy the fast, gradual and smooth downhill trail. On the way down I was probably passed by about 3 people and passed about 4-5. It sure was a fun trip!
One girl passed me with about a mile to go. I was tempted to keep up with her, but I was tiring and hit my peak heart rate of 184. Yikes. Another one of the passers was an older guy I was playing leapfrog with. Eventually I said screw it and just tucked in behind him, finishing a second apart. A second girl passed me with a quarter mile to go. If I really cared I would have passed they guy and ran hard to the finish but I was content just where I was at.
I came across the finish line in 1:07:10. Which actually works out to 12 minutes miles exactly so I made my goal with no seconds to spare. Yay! I got some water, diet coke, snacks, etc and enjoyed watching the other 9K racers finished. I'm not sure what my official place was but it looked to be about 35 of 80 and any time I can finish in the top half I'm very happy :) It definitely wasn't a walk in the park though. My average heart rate was 168 and I was in my level 5 EPOC zone from about 20 minutes in until the finish. In fact my EPOC kept going up and reached the highest levels I've seen since I got my Suunto. Apparently my "training" effect was quite high today:
I hung out a bit and took pictures of Greg and Mike as they finished their first 18K then I went back to the car to change. When I got back I caught Matt and Nattie after their 18K and then Kim. Kim was going to throw in the towel but after hanging out for about 20 minutes decided to keep going and she finished 30K for the day! It was hot and that beat up people pretty bad. Maybe around 80 degrees? I heard it was 91 in Irvine so I'm not sure how hot it was where we were. I saw a bunch of 50Kers drop at 30K.
While I waited and watched I was able to talk to Wendell a bit and he is a really nice guy as some of you probably already know. I also talked to Liz from the LA Trailrunners for a while. Matt had introduced me to her before he set off for his second lap. I also got the chance to talk to Chris a bit (the former director of the High Desert 50K & 30K ). I definitely enjoyed my day at the races even though there was some waiting around. Mostly it was filled with conversations with interesting new people, some of whose names I don't remember... I also got to see Jorge Pacheco run and I'm pretty certain he won the 50K. That guy can run and he has a record to prove it.
Jon, Greg, Mike, Pete, Nattie & Kim all finished their 30Ks and had A LOT of fun. Mike set the course record for the "33K" (he got lost :) We were back in the car around 3ish and headed back home, all the better for the experience we had - and the day at the races we enjoyed. ( Pictures are here )