When I pick my races, normally I don't like to be in the car longer than I will be running. Of course, sometimes with Southern California traffic that can limit my marathon distance runs to a 20 mile radius around my house. This run was going to be 9K and was about 80 miles away. I decided to do it anyway for a few reasons - it was a good distance (on trail), there would be an OCTR car pool, I would get to see some other people like Andy K, and Wendell and Sarah who always put on great races, and finally - it was better than calling Greg asking for tips on how to use my flat iron.
Our carpool shrunk from 4 to 3 when Sue informed me she had been run over by a mountain biker in Whiting Ranch. Mountain Lions aren't the only hazard there. Some mountain bikers think that a "Multi-use" trail means they can only ride multi-gear bikes and not that there may actually be people on foot to watch out for. Let's hope it wasn't a bad crash and Sue is back to the trails soon.
Eric, Leon and I met at the Mecca of Orange County Opulence (MOCO) - otherwise known as South Coast Plaza - or Orange County's indoor version of Rodeo Drive. Yes I do shop there at some of the stores, but there are other stores that will look at me funny if I don't walk in with a purse that costs more than my car.
From South Coast it was about 80 minutes to the trailhead. Along the way we saw countless surfers trying to catch a tubular wave. Apparently a recent swell kicked up the radical waves and it has been a surfer's paradise the last few days. While they were getting wet - we were about to get dirty and I was looking forward to it. I'll save my getting wet for another time.
When you arrive at the Ray Miller trailhead you are greeted with walls of hills all around and the novice trail runner begins to wonder what the hell they were thinking. Wendell and Sarah were busy putting on a class A event as usual while I hit the bathroom line. First of all, there are always way too many guys in line at trail races. Can't you just go water a bush? And - if you do go into the bathroom could you at least pick up the seat before you pee? Is it really that hard? If I wanted to hover and pee I would have gone behind a bush myself. Maybe next time I will be better off that way.
I got back to the start in time to see the start of the 18/30/50K races. Apparently doing 27 races per year is not enough for PC Trail Runs Wendell and Sarah, but at many of these runs they have 4 races within the race. I don't know that I want to deal with the mental power needed to put on a race like that. The last time I had to think that hard I was trying to figure out how to change the stickers on my Rubic's Cube so it would look like I was smart enough to finish it on my own.
I saw Robo near the starting line for the 50K, but for some reason didn't spot any other runners I knew. It was a pretty sizable crowd of around 300. I'm not sure exactly how it worked, but the 30 and 50K runners went one way and the 18Kers the other. The 18K runners were supposed to loop around the parking lot first to help with congestion at the single track but they cut the parking lot short and created the traffic jam anyway. It was worth a shot.
15 minutes later was the start of the 9K race. I lined up toward the back with Lori Heinselman-Craig and her entourage (otherwise known as her family). The representation from her clan rivaled the length of her name. I was happy to have finally met her earlier in the bathroom line. I knew she had been an OCTR member for a while but we had not yet met in person. However, when I saw her I first recognized her from seeing her in some other races I have run. Then I saw the tell-tale poison oak exposure that she got from the San Juan Trail and knew it was her. Don't get too excited at my detective skills - before I called "Lori" I also her her husband call her said name. I'm no rocket scientist.
We began working our way up the Backbone Trail - and by working our way I mean walking. The Backbone trail starts out with 2.8 miles of climbing. I took my place behind Lori because I figured if I ever pass her I am running too fast - even when she is out for a hike. Against my better judgement I did pass her about a half mile in to the race when she began walking backwards to keep her pace slow enough to stay with her clan. I mostly walked and ran just a few short segments on the way up. I wanted to enjoy the views, but also didn't want to rush things and end up back on the sidelines.
Somehow I managed to pass some people on the uphill. Either they didn't get the memo that I have not been running for 8 weeks or they were all distracted by some Emilo Estevez sighting that I missed.
I was only 20 minutes or so into my "run" when the lead 9K runner came bolting down the hill at a blistering pace. I think his shoes were on fire as he must of been pushing sub-6 minutes and was kicking up a dust could behind him large enough to disguise a mexican family crossing the border.
I turned around at 2.8 miles and after 1100 feet of climbing. I've done worse climbs before - can we say Joplin?? My time was 46 minutes. I had hoped for 50 minutes up and 40 minutes down to finish in 90 minutes (I'm also a math genius). I was feeling good and very pleased with my time so I started coasting back downhill with some energy to spare. One woman told me I made it look easy. At least I think she was talking to me. I was just focusing on shorter strides, proper form, not burning out - and catching a group of 3 women who I tailed all the way up to the turnaround. I passed them about about .75 miles on the way down and set my eyes on a women in blue shorts who looked to be a trail rookie. I'm not sure what tipped me off to that. Maybe it was her Keds running shoes. I still was not pushing myself but was hoping I could catch her.
I passed a guy on my way down who said "Hey you're the blogger". Apparently my marketing people are doing a good job of getting the word out but have failed to tie in name recognition. I'll have a talk with them so the next time this happens I'll get a "Hey Jessica", instead of "Hey Blogger". It's also a good thing I'm not a fast runner in line for an overall win. Otherwise I might need to start wearing disguises when I run. Sometimes it pays to be slow.
I also passed Andy K, Robo & Eric on the way down as they had completed their 12K loop and were now on the 18K portion of the course. I'm not even going to try to explain how the different courses all tied together. It practice it is actually pretty simple. But to explain it's sort of like the tax code. You need an accountant to tell you how it works. But then you ignore him anyway because you don't get it and hope someone directs you along the way if you get lost.
The finish line is in sight from way up on the hill and you keep thinking you are getting close but are not. Fortunately I had a rough idea since I ran this in November and had realized I was in line to run in 1:20 which had me pumped up. I picked up my pace slightly and cruised in to a 1:16 finish time feeling good!! The woman in the Keds finished 2 minutes ahead of me.
I finished feeling great and with energy to spare but I sent my personal assistant, Bob, to Eric's car to get my "supplies". This included a change of cloths, cooler full of Framboise, Eddie Bauer chair, my laptop, and an Easy Bake Oven. I was going to be there a while and I was prepared for that.
I enjoyed some good conversation with Wendell and a couple of guys from Santa Barbara. I watches 9K runners and hikers finished. 18K runners finish, and so on and so on. I cheered Robo and Andy as they finished 30K and set up for more. Around 3:20 Eric came limped in to the finish line blister and all. His time was pretty good considering the nasty blister. I told him running without socks was a bad idea. I'm not sure how much later Leon came rolling in and a bit later Kim finished the 30K and dropped from the 50K. She was smart and dropped due to some knee pain. No need to make it worse and be subject to friends and family saying "did you know running is bad for your knees? Told you so." Kim did beat her 30K time from November by a whopping 30 minutes. Way to go!!
We didn't see any of the 50K runners finish before we made our way back behind the Orange Curtain. Eric was a smart driver. He liked to take detours to avoid traffic. He was kind enough to take us through Compton on one of his detours. He said "don't worry you don't know what I used to do in the army". When I asked him what he did he said "fix computers". That's comforting. If we get car jacked he can threaten their computers with static shock.
It took a while but we did finally make it back to the MOCO safe and sound. But before I went home I had to stop inside MOCO to pick up a new Luis Vitton purse. I heard they had a new style out that nobody else has yet. Plus I don't have one yet in Lime Green so it was a good $2000 investment..
See you on the trails,