Going in to this race, I had no idea what to expect.
It was my first ever trail race. I knew it was in a super hilly area, but the race director mentioned it was the perfect course for a new trail runner. I couldn’t find a course map, and I know she’s known for her tough races so I was a little skeptical and prepared for hills (mentally, not physically, oops). I knew I’d be slower than normal but also secretly hoped I could randomly pull out something closer to my PR.
Sometimes my optimism is so laughable.
Brendan wanted to come for support (what a guy!) and I was so thrilled to have him there with me. On race morning we arrived at Griffith Park about 45 minutes early. No traffic, perfect directions, super easy parking with lots of available spaces = plenty of time to spare! The logistics of this race were so simple. I just walked up and grabbed my bib and race tank top (TANK TOP! My first race tank top. I think.), downloaded a couple new songs for my playlist, and spent the rest of the time fake-stretching (pretty sure I just did one 2-second quad stretch), chatting with Brendan, and watching the marathon start, which began 30 minutes before the half. Right before the half start the race director gave a mini speech about the course, I gave Brendan a smooch, and we were off! SO EASY. Races like this are fantastic. I totally love the energy and excitement that comes with huge races, but this was a perfect, no-stress small race.
Almost as soon as we started there was a set of stairs, so with everyone funneling to the staircase it got backed up. I ended up walking for maybe 3-4 minutes just to get to the top. For the first four miles or so the course was only up or down. I don’t remember anything flat – it reminded me of the running portion of the Rev3 Quassy 70.3. But of course I was all “I’m gonna cruise by all these people walking up the hills so I feel like more of a badass!”. Which basically just shredded my legs and set me up to crash later on. WHOOPS.
There were also a couple downhills on which my life flashed before my eyes. They were so steep and because it was all dirt, I was convinced I was going to slip and slide and go tumbling down the hill head first in front of all these people. (REMINDER: Get trail running shoes.) Thankfully I stayed upright but my brain literally felt fuzzy from fear on one particular decline. I was trying so hard to focus on NOT FALLING that I couldn’t think of anything else. Does that even make sense? I can’t explain it.
Around this point I also was thinking about how heavy my water bottle felt and how badly I wanted to toss it off a cliff. It was bothering my shoulder (WTF?) so I kept switching it from my right to left hand, but it felt really awkward in my left so I’d switch it back about 5 seconds later. Great way to spend energy, I know.
The terrain leveled out for the middle 5-ish miles. BUT there was a portion that was mainly just sand, which is so brutal to run in. On the way out (it was an out and back) I felt okay; actually pretty strong despite feeling so tired. Although, in the back of my head I knew I went out too “fast” AKA didn’t conserve any energy for the second half. We turned around once we reached the second aid station around mile 6.5, and once I reached 7 I felt like I was barely moving. I constantly wanted to walk. (THIS IS WHY I DON’T RUN ON THE BEACH.) I kept reminding myself that it’s so much harder to get back into a running groove after walking and it would slow me down so much in general. And Brendan was waiting for me. Soooo I kept shuffling along. I started focusing on reaching the girl in front of me and not letting the guy on my heels pass me. I seriously don’t know how I did it. My quads were already lactic-acid-y and I was randomly getting a blister on the top of my toe, which got me thinking about how different trail running really is from road running.
Once I reached the third aid station (mile 9.5 ish? I think?) I stopped to drink some water and ended up chatting with one of the volunteers. He said he runs there every day and I was all “YOU’RE CRAZY WHY” but also slightly jealous of the gorgeous scenery and great workout.
At this point the hills started up again. I actually began wishing for hills because I could give myself permission to walk. (EXCEPT when the photographer was there, in which case I’d smile and wave and pretend I’ve never stopped running ever in my life.)
My legs totally wanted to stop moving but I kept shuffling along. When it got super steep I’d walk and text people like Brendan and Jen and my Dad and complain. And then basically sprint the downhill to make up time. Smart.
Once I realized I was a half mile away from the finish, I kicked it into high gear. (“High gear”.) The race organizer was out cheering which was SO AWESOME. It gave me a huge push because I follow her on Instagram and she’s like my new running idol.
I slowed down on the stairs again, but eventually came around the corner to the finish line with a huge smile on my face knowing Brendan would be there waiting and that I could stop running and go drink coffee. A few people cheered, I blew Brendan a kiss, and I crossed the finish line in 2:30:18. BUT MY GARMIN SAYS 2:25:50 so let’s go with that okay? Please?
Let’s ignore the 13 minute miles and focus on the fact that the last .10 was a 7:25 pace. #HUMBLEBRAG
They had an amazing post-race spread of delicious-looking and it looked like such a fun time…but we left so we could get home and finish cleaning, etc before some family came from New York, YAY! (Brendan’s brother and his girlfriend came to visit and I basically fell asleep at 9pm after we ate tacos. SORRY GUYS.)
And then Brendan made the best scrambled eggs in the history of breakfast.
I was on a running high for the rest of the day and totally want to run every trail race that exists now. I’m already planning on training for this same race next year and (hopefully) crushing this year’s time, now that I know how to approach a trail race. Well, a LITTLE better at least.
P.S. The photos from this race were only $4 to purchase. Such a nice change from the $25+ from big races.
Do you like trail running? How much does your time typically differ from a road race? Asking for a friend.