I ran my first trail half marathon this weekend – the Wild Horse Trail half marathon in San Diego.
It was a very wet, muddy, but relatively flat terrain. Still, I felt really good come race day…really good!
Apparently good enough to run a sub 2 hour half marathon.
I drove down to San Diego Saturday afternoon to pick up my bib (it was about an 1.5 hour long drive). Once I got my bib, there was nothing left to do but find a hotel and hang out for the evening. So I headed to the gaslamp district in downtown San Diego and picked a nice Italian restaurant to carbo-load before the race.
It had been raining and the weather forecast said it would be raining come race-day. Still, the race was on rain or shine:
The race is ON. ONLY if the CITY tells me we can not run the race will I cancel this event. It is a go rain or shine. If the city cancels the permit the race will be rescheduled to a later date. Parking is right next to Mandatory race check in. You can check in, use the port-o-pot and go back to your car if you want. The race will start promptly at 7am. There are 4 waves. Your wave start # is on your bib. ONLY START IN THE WAVE YOU WERE ASSIGNED. IF YOU WANT TO RUN WITH A FRIEND FROM A DIFFERENT WAVE JUST WAIT FOR THEM ON THE TRAIL. Make sure your bib is on the front of your body and is visible. There are 6 port-o-pots for your convenience near the race check in.
It will be muddy…very wet and muddy. Please think of this as an adventure and not a “race”. We want you to have fun out there. In wet and slippery conditions people fall…and get hurt. Don’t be one of them! There are a couple of areas that are very slippery and rocky…..it will hurt and suck bad if you fall!
I woke up at 5:00am. It’s funny, the only time I manage to wake up that early without a problem is when I’m speaking at a conference or waking up to run a race. I took a quick shower, drank a bottle of water and got dressed: compression sleeves, shorts, injinji socks, dri fit gloves, tech shirt, dri fit hat, Garmin watch, Brooks trail shoes, 20oz hand-held, and my Energy Bits (first time trying them).
I was out the door by 5:45am and I made it to the trail by about 6:15am. I checked in, stretched, ate my Energy Bits (all 30 of them) and did a little warm-up run around the lake and man-o-man was it slippery…big time!
I went back to the car and thought “wow, this run is going to suck!” I didn’t eat anything. Just the Energy Bits before the race and drank a bottle of water – so much for being prepared.
Still, I got my warm-up jog in and it was time to go… I was as ready as I was going to be.
The race started in waves – I was in the 4th wave. Once they said “Go!” I was off… I paced pretty good that first mile – a solid ~8:20. I managed to catch up to the runners in the wave ahead of me and I pushed a little harder to clear a few more before the terrain turned into a tight single-track. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck behind a slow bunch.
About 3 miles in is where things started to get interesting… The trail narrowed and zig-zagged a little and there were these little wooden bridges you had to cross to avoid running through a huge pile of water. I decided to just go for it and take off running. Sure, I was afraid of burning out and not having enough juice left to finish the race strong, but I figured what the hell, you were going to have to fight me for it.
Running out there made me realize just how much I love trails. I started to get winded around mile #5 – not tired like I was out of energy. I actually felt surprisingly good, but I was certain I was pacing too fast. I found two racers who were setting a pretty steady pace – about ~8:40/mi. They asked if I wanted to pass and I said “No, I think I’ll pace behind you if that’s ok. You’re making me work for it.” So I did.
At mile 6-7 though, we made a turn-around back. It was an out and back course. That’s when things got interesting… Part of me wanted to just stop, take a few pictures, catch my breathe and take it easy. After all, I was having fun. This isn’t supposed to be competitive and I don’t want to hurt myself. Then the other part of me kept saying “Shut up. Suck it up. You’ve got an hour left to go. It’ll be over soon, just keep pushing and you’ll take it easy later.” So I took a few deep breaths and I took off running again.
I turned to the two racers I was running behind and thanked them for setting a good pace and I took of running again. I made it a quick sprint, passed a few runners and worked on my breathing. My legs didn’t hurt, I found a good stride, but I could feel my shoulders starting to slouch – I was working too hard.
But then, a runner just beside me gave me some encouragement. He said “Great job dude, keep pushing it. Let’s do this!” We ran the next couple of miles together. He was faster than me, so he pushed on ahead. But for those couple of miles he’d turn around and yell “Dude, you just ran that mile in 8:37, keep pushing it!” And that was exactly what I needed to hear to gut it out those few miles. Otherwise, I wouldn’t given in to that voice inside my head that was telling me to stop and take it easy.
The last 3 miles, I decided I was going to make it a sprint to the finish. I took a drink of my electrolytes and went for it. I ran through puddles, darted through the trees, and passed runners on the single-track. I was flying…but I was also out of breath. I had to stop to catch my breath for a couple of seconds but I didn’t want anyone to catch up to me, so it was only a few seconds then I was pushing again.
I sprinted the last half-mile against another runner and it was a photo-finish. Whoever wanted it more was going to win this one…
My un-official time was 1:55:02 (yeah, I beat him to the finish but we both ran those last two miles great). The official race results have me down at 1:51:03 (they took some time off my finish since I started in the 4th wave – several minutes behind the start clock). That’s an average pace of 8:47/mi, yo!
That race hurt. But not like my first half marathon did. My legs felt surprisingly great. I wasn’t sore and I wasn’t tired. I was just winded. I hadn’t paced like that on any of my long training runs. But there’s a point when you’re running where you’re legs just take over, you find your stride, and you just go. I felt like I was in the zone this weekend and I’m damn happy that I kept pushing to finish strong to run my first sub 2 hour trail half marathon!
And while it was my first time taking them, I want to say thank you to Energy Bits for powering my run – I think all of that energy I had during my run had something to do with them 😉 #PoweredByBits