A last running race, on the trails, to say goodbye to California. We got into trail running here. Obviously, we had to run a trail race before leaving. We chose Holcomb Valley Trail Run, in Bear Beak Lake, East of Los Angeles. Sunday June 7th, the playboy and I were on the starting line of the 15 miles race. A friendly atmosphere and a stunning race course for a great experience.
We arrived there, the day before. We took advantage of it to go hiking on the course with a group of runners, including this gentleman (Guillaume Calmettes) I met online. He was the one to tell me about this race. Actually, he won the 33 miles race, in 2013. He was running it, this time, as a tune-up race in the midst of his training for a 100 miles, in August. And it won't be his first 100... I know!
[Mandatory groupie photoshoot, after the race]
I didn't focus my training on this race. Anyway, I wanted to have a good race, have fun and push it a bit, but not too much (it would have been a shame so close to the triathlon I'm training for). I was not anxious about it but I had a few apprehensions: running at altitude + getting lost + the first 3 uphill miles (not the only climb of the course but I was obsessed with this one).
To be clear: I don't know how to read an elevation map. I have no clue about which elevation represents which climb. The map scale can be tricky and something not so difficult may look super impressive. My point is: I wanted to SEE by myself.
Other fixation: getting lost. Let me explain you how it usually works. The playboy downloads the map of our run, to his watch. He explains me, roughly, the trails we'll take. I don't get it. Whatever, I nod in agreement. I run and I stop at trail junctions if in doubt. And I use the break to snap a photo or a video for Instagram...
A little hike on the course helped me visualize what was waiting for me. Hard, easy, it was not the point. I knew what to expect. I needed that.
On the morning of the race, we got to the start early to be able to warm up and watch the 33 miles runners get off. Plus, I had dreamt I got lost during the race. It truly unsettled me. I know that's stupid! Still, I wanted to get my warm up in on the beginning of the course to get rid of this unfounded anxiety (even if we had hiked it the day before, I know!).
The 33 miles race took off 15 minutes before our race. We saw Guillaume taking the lead and, on his heels, a Tarahumara wearing the traditional skirt and barefoot sandals. Tarahumara? Check this out: Book: "Born to run", Christopher McDougall.
We got to the start to get ready and, soon, it was time to go. We had hiked the day before. We just warmed up on the course. I knew I had to be conservative at first. That's what I did. I thought I would see runners starting really fast, as it's often the case on a race. Well, not on this one. I immediately came to run with the 10 runners leading group.
All right. I checked my pace. Nope, going slower would have been too conservative and that would have been a shame. I stayed with them.
The first 3 miles were uphill. Not steep the whole way, but some steep parts, a bit of roller coaster bumps, a large trail at first then a single track for the most part, lots of rocks. I passed 2 men, on the first mile, when the trail was still wide. Once it changed into a single track, I came behind 2 men (visibly sponsored by Newton). It was funny because the playboy had spotted them at the start and had jokingly told me to follow them. Done!
I followed them. I ended up on the heels of the last one of the 2. I started pondering my options. It felt like I could climb faster. On some parts, with lots of big rocks, they slowed down a lot. Alone, I wouldn't have run it this way. I would have jumped. Not easy to pass someone on a single track, and, actually, would it be really wise? The end of the race was far away, not at the end of this climb. I didn't force my way and stayed behind.
2 runners caught up on us. We were a line of 5 runners, up to the top, where the first aid station was settled. I didn't stop. The trail was now really wide as we were on a fire road. Guillaume had advised me to go fast on this part of the race (all in all, it was downhill, with some bumps).
It was not that interesting as it was wide and straight. A nice downhill, just after the aid station, made me pass the 2 Newton runners (who stopped). However, I was passed and left behind by a runner who was behind me during the climb. I kept him in sight, but he was widening the gap.
I expected my new buddies to catch up on me but they never did. I also wanted to go fast because I thought I hadn't seen other women in front of me, after the start. It was impossible to be sure but, at least, I could try to shorten the gap, if there were, in fact, women in front. And it would be nice not to be caught up by the women behind me! I also have to say the 33 miles runners started on the same loop than us. There was no bib difference between the races. So, it was impossible to tell which race was running each one.
Before turning to face the second big climb of the course (mile 6.5), we ran next to a clearing in the forest... gorgeous! Montains, pine trees. These trail races are not too bad!
The 2nd climb was tough. Way tougher on me than the first one. We were still on a wide fire road. I don't like that. It was made of gravel and dust, so less contact. And then, I prefer zigzags to climb. There, it was large bends. I thought it would never come to an end.
Anyway, I found motivation: the man who passed me and had taken a large lead on me, was clearly not that good at climbing. He walked multiple times. I progressively closed the gap. It's always good to have something to take your mind away from your own suffering.
Finally, I spotted the 2nd aid station (mile 8) which materialized the end of the fire road and (almost) the end of the climb. It was hot so I stopped to spill a cup of water on my head. That's when I lost the man in front of me. I never saw him again after that.
From there, we took the Pacific Crest Trail. Single track, sharp turns, bumps. I LOVED it. It was uphill at first, but I didn't feel it. It was more manageable than the fire road.
After mile 9, there were no major difficulties so I just enjoyed the ride. Pine trees, little purple wildflowers, stunning views of the lake. So beautiful.
I passed runners on the 33 miles race (I knew they were running the 33 miles as their pace was really conservative). Otherwise, I was alone.
Mile 11, back to the 1st aid station. I only had to go down the 3 miles we had to climb at the start. Not that easy as it was a technical descent, and my legs were tired. I was really focus to be sure not to fall.
On the Pacific Crest Trail, I had run pretty well. I guessed it would have been the same for the other runners. I didn't want to be passed on the last miles!
As soon as the single track became wider, I knew the end was close. The ground was less difficult to manage. I hurried up. Always better to finish strong!
I sprinted once on the road to get to the finish line. No time to catch my breath, I already had my big wooden medal in one hand and a finisher water bottle in the other. 2 seconds after that, they realized I was the first female of the 15 miles. They gave me a trophy. Another one to add to my collection. We won't have any furniture in our new apartment in France, but, for home design, we are on top of our game. Who do we have to thank for that?
15 minutes after, a playboy (mine) crossed the finish line. I only had to look at the smile on his face to know his race went way better than the Bandit Ultra Trail Run 30K, on which he had suffered bad cramps.
A very welcome smoothie (nice touch) made us wait for the results to be posted. We had the surprise to see the playboy did really well. Mister "easy peasy" knows how to push on a race. 3rd of his age group and 8th overall. 2:14:19 for 14.5 miles (the race was shorter than expected).
I knew I came 1st female, so obviously 1st of my age group. But I didn't know I finished 3rd overall. That's nice! 2:00:59 to complete the 14.5 miles.
We had to climb on a podium. It was the first time I actually did that. And we ended up with another medal. Gold medal for me(OF COURSE real gold) and bronze one for the playboy. The podiums were only for the age groups. It's a shame, I would have loved a nice picture with the 2 runners in front of me overall.
We waited for the 33 miles race finishers. Guillaume came in 3rd position, well before the Tarahumara. So impressive...
Interesting race, beautiful trails, stunning views. Well, guys, it seems like I won't give up on trail running for a while!
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