So a couple of hours prior to the 6pm start, I grabbed my headlamp, water bottle and made the ~hour drive up the coast to Point Magu State Park and arrived with about 30 minutes to spare. Of course me being the forgetful dumbass I am, I left my water bottle in my car after making the long walk to the start line long ago and I now only have 10 minutes to go back for it. Thankfully my friend Colin had an extra to spare for which I was very grateful.
After receiving some instructions, us half-marathoners along with the 10K runners started the race shortly after 6pm. We started off on flat Sycamore Fire Road for about a mile and immediately about a group of 8-10 guys and girls take off in front of me. I hang back determined to not make the common mistake of starting off too fast but then I start thinking "hmm...this is only a 1/2, why not?". Nay the smarter half of me reasoned, save (most) your race legs for the LA Marathon next week.
So I ducked in behind the 2nd group of runners after a mile onto Serrano Valley Trail consisting of 1st female and a dude with a Portland Marathon shirt and eventually lost sight of the frontrunners. I finally switched on my headlamp after several minutes once evening settled over dusk. I dutifully followed along these two runners for a couple of miles on windy and at times, well-covered single tracks feeling really good. The trail eventually led out to the valley portion of the park which I love from a scenic standpoint but really couldn't see but a few yards in front of me so I kept moving along. One after another, the two runners ahead of me sidestepped off the trail to let me pass and the next thing I knew, I was running solo (and would be for most of the rest of the race).
I passed the 3.2 mile 10K turnaround mark and lost a few more runners in the process. No one really visible in front of me, a smattering of headlamps several yards behind me. Otherwise, it was me and vast darkness of the park. Loved it.
The course then began to climb a bit more (one of two 'big' climbs of the race) but was wholly runnable. It peaked out just around 5 miles before the steep technical descent down where I passed a trio of night hikers (wtf?) and another racer. Next thing I knew, I was back on flat Sycamore Canyon Fire Road running alone again trying not to let the noises in the bushes next to me spook me too much. We hit our one and only 'manned' aid station being run by D'Lynda a gal who runs Sports for Eve, a fantastic Culver City store. I topped off my water bottle, grabbed a gel and thanked her before beginning the last climb that rose about 700+ feet.
I definitely increased my exertion wondering if any other frontrunners would come into sight. It was a little disorientating with the occasional headlamp in view here and there but had no idea if they were in front or back. I kept running the entirety of the climb anxiously waiting for the downhill to really start spinning the legs. Shortly before mile 10, the course finally began to tip downward and I let loose for as fast as my mid-pack legs would take me.
Unfortunately for me, my eyes couldn't keep up with my legs as somewhere on the Overlook Fire Road my right foot caught a rock and I fell and slid a few feet forward. I'm guesstimating I was going somewhere near 7 minute/mile here. Momentarily stunned, I picked myself back up and kept on running without really surveying the extent of my injury. The only thing I did was reign in my speed a bit and really focus on each footing.
The final few switchbacks were technical and tough with some oddly placed steps to really force me to keep my focus in spite of the cowbell and cheers coming from the finish line. I eventually crossed in 1:59 (officially) and 6th place overall. The course measured a bit short (~12.5 miles total w/ 2,400+ ft of elevation gain).