Today was The Great Race of Agoura Half-Marathon (13.1 miles to the layman). With a 7am start time, I knew I had to be up and at 'em at an early time. So of course it was still dark when my alarm went off at 5:15am but as bleary-eyed as I was, I was up and ready to go.
First item of business when you're about to run for 2+ hours is of course, the bathroom. Being unaccustomed to being called to duty (pun absolutely intended) at such an early hour, my bowels refused to cooperate. No big deal, I thought. I'll just go after the race.
Um, not gonna be the case as you soon shall read.
It was about a 30 minute drive into the far valley of Agoura, so I made my usual pit-stop at the Coffee Bean across the street from me for a cup of joe and a plain butter croissant. On my stereo was my favorite morning team of Kevin & Bean courtesy of a wonderful concept called a 'podcast'. By the time I finally pulled in to park, I was awake and eager to get running.
One little problem. Thanks to a boost from my morning coffee, my bowels decided that NOW was the time to wake up. This is after picking up my bib and tech t-shirt on my 10 minute walk back to my car to put the shirt away. After seeing the typical race day lines at the port-a-potties walking back, I knew there was no way I would make the 7am start. Unfortunately, at this time most of the nearby shops and restaurants were still closed.
Except for one.
Like a beam of light shining down from the heavens, Majesty Cleaners had its lights on and doors open. I walk in, offer the guy $5 if I could use the facilities. He was kind enough to let me use it, but would not take my money. I didn't have time to argue with the guy so I did my business as quickly as I could and refused to take back the money as I bolted out of there (thanks again Majesty Cleaners - I owe ya one).
Problem was, I had taken longer than anticipated and knew it was right near 7am. I hurried up the hill as fast as I could to the starting line but while I'm still about a length of a football field away, I hear an airhorn go off.
Ohhhh shiiiit, I thought, tell me that wasn't the start of the race! Sure enough like a herd of bulls, down come the runners. I have no choice but to bolt up as fast as I can to the start. Of course, this takes a good deal of wind out of me and I'm panting furiously as I finally make my way across the mat to get my chip read and 'offically' start the half-marathon. Thank god it started downhill.
Once I regain my composure and breath, I run at a decent click and start passing some runners. After about 2-3 miles, I even manage to catch up to a couple of friends who are also running in the race. After chatting for a few moments, it's clear that we're running at different paces, so I pull away and keep on running. The trail portion of the run started around mile 4 so I slowed down my pace to negotiate through the paths. I thought it would be just straight fire roads, but there were sections that got pretty complicated at times with hills, rocks, softer sand - even a couple brook crossings. Throughout the trail portion, I saw at least two gals take a header on the path.
The section I think myself and many others were dreading was 'the hill'. This came at around mile 8 and it was about a 1,000 ft climb. And let me tell ya, when it finally came into view, there were several moans and groans that came out of the group I was around. And it was pretty damn daunting looking. Moving up like an army of ants, many of us started the grueling ascent to the peak.
Thankfully, what goes up must obviously come down. And what I was rewarded with was a long descent down the hill. Using gravity as my ally, I started hauling ass at a near 7 min/mile pace, passing several people along the way. Once I reached the base, I kept chugging along at a sub-8 min/mile pace. There was one more hill that I had to hike but at about the 10 mile mark, the trail ended and I had nothing but pavement and a mostly downhill course ahead. Feeling strong from running somewhat conservatively for the majority of the race, I kept putting the pedal to the metal and charged forward at about a 5K pace for the remainder of the course. Besting my previous PR from December's half was within reach and a sub-2 hour run was definitely in sight.
Alas, the former was not to be as I stormed to the finish line at an unofficial Garmin time of 1:56 and change (PR remains 1:55:29). But since I did not think that I realistically had a shot at my PR, my second goal was to come in under 2 hours which I obviously did.
Overall, I was happy with the result. This was to be a race to gauge my progress since incorporating more long and speed runs in anticipation for the marathon in San Diego. I think I can safely say that I'm making strides and reaping the benefits of some hard work. On a flatter course, I'm sure I could have done a sub-1:50.
Some residual soreness aside, I feel pretty good. Next race will be a full trail run in Malibu Creek (14 miles). More immediate, I have an 11-mile trail run to look forward to tomorrow morning in Sycamore. No rest for the sore, dirty and weary!