Sunday, January 08, 2012

Boney Mountain Half Marathon

Today, I ran my first trail race, the Boney Mountain Half Marathon

I chose this event at the suggestion of Coach Gerardo.  I wouldn't have decided on my own to do a trail race.  My goal is to be a faster runner and eventually qualify for the Boston Marathon.  When planning my season of races, Coach G told me that by doing trail running that I will become a faster road runner.  So, while I feel a bit like Ralph Macchio's character in "The Karate Kid" blindly doing his wax-on wax-off drills at the behest of Mr. Miyagi to become a karate champ, here I am stumbling along trails to become a faster marathoner.

And sadly, stumbling is not an exaggeration.  I am not terribly coordinated., which has led to a number of spills while running trails.  This is why, in spite of my height at 5 feet 10 inches, I am not a skilled volleyball or basketball player.  In fact, were it not for the coordination that I acquired during my four years as a high-school cheerleader, I likely would not be able to walk and chew gum to this day.

On Wednesday morning, I took not one, but two, spills on Dirt Mulholland and the single track trails nearby., leading to a bruised chin, scraped up palms, a chunk of skin sliced off the tip of my right pinky finger, skinned knees, and a scraped up and bruised left thigh.

So, I approached today's race at Boney Mountain with some trepidation and yet with the advice of many trail-running teammates about how much I will love running trails, how much easier it is on the knees and joints, and all the beautiful scenery.

As I told people that this was my first trail race ever, I got a lot of reactions of, "You picked this one???"  If I'm going to tackle trails, I might as well do one of the toughest trail half marathons out there.  Go big or go home, right?

The gun went off shortly after 8 am.  Dressed in a tank top, hat, trail shoes, and most importantly, running pants to protect my knees, I took off with the crowd.  The first mile was on pavement, and was mostly downhill.  The second mile had a few rollers, and about that time we had some single track trails.  This means that you can't pass.  You're as fast as the person in front of you, unless he or she lets you pass.

Then at mile 3, we had our first real climb, which was about a mile long.  I held back -- I could have gone faster, but for a first trail race, and more importantly so that I didn't trip and fall, I didn't go too fast.  So, for much of that climb I was walking.  And then there was a nice downhill from there.  A lot of people passed me.  I was cool with that.

What I liked about this race is that people are friendly.  They aren't competitive.  It's like we're all out there to conquer the mountain as one big happy family of trail runners.

I would say that the race really began at mile 6, with four miles of a steady incline, over 1300 feet of climbing.  To those of you who don't run trails, the best analogy I can think of is Masada in Israel.  While on vacation, I'm the one who went ahead of my group, ran to the top of the mountain, turned around and ran halfway down, then ran back up, while others in my tour group struggled to just get to the top. Imagine three Masadas stacked back to back to back.  That is what miles 6-10 of this course was.

Again, I walked much of this, trying to be conservative.  A few people passed me, and toward the top, I passed a couple of them.  Those four miles of climbing were tough.  But, I felt okay.  I felt like I was exerting myself, but didn't feel like I was suffering.  Maybe that means I could have pushed harder, sure, but it means I didn't push too hard.

At mile 10, we started to descend.  Now, I'm not that confident about my footing on trails, so I let plenty of people run by me. My right iliotibial band, just above my knee, started to ache, but I was able to run through that.  Around mile 11.5, I tripped, landed on my hands and knees, and without missing a beat pushed myself up from the ground and kept on running.  I knew I likely scraped up my right knee, but I ignored it and pressed onward.

At mile 12, there was a little hill.  I ran about half of it.  And then the last 3/4 mile was flat to downhill.  As we made the last turn toward the finish with about 1/2 of a mile to go, I was hit with a headwind that must have been 40 mph.  Whoa!  But, I pushed through it, running for the finish line, where my friends and teammates greeted me.
That's me slapping a high-five to teammate Chris Fisher, who had finished so much before me that he had time to change clothes and come back to cheer us on.  Bodie Olmos and Mark Shainman were also waiting at the finish line.

Finish time:  2:42.  Well ahead of my goal of 3 hours.

Me and teammate Alison Chavez, who is far more experienced in trail running, and had run 11 miles of trails the day before the race.

I stopped at first aid and had the cut on my right knee irrigated.  It should heal okay, it's not too bad.  A teammate decided to take a picture of my booboo, but I will spare you and won't post it here.

Overall, a good experience.  I need to gain more confidence on trails, which may lead to me taking fewer falls.

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