Race Weekend Recap: Valley Crest Half Marathon!

June 12, 2018   /   byrunningwhilevegan  / Categories :  Food, Running, Travel, yoga

I just ran Valley Crest Half Marathon, which is kind of a big deal because it was my very first trail race! I found the race one evening while looking up races in SoCal, checked out their website, and slept on the idea for a few days. I signed up about three weeks ago, the same time I signed up for Rock’n Roll San Diego. I went on a long (15 mile) training run at the Claremont Loop, and considered myself trained up. I’ve been running so many street races, I was excited for the new challenge!

Pre-race, and a nervous wreck!

I always assumed my first trail race would be a 5 or 10k, because trail running intimidates me. I bought a pair of Skechers trail shoes, back in January, with the goal in mind I would hit the trails for training — mostly for hill training and a change of pace with my LA Marathon training. I also thought I needed trail shoes for Zion (which didn’t end up happening), but was told right after my shoe purchase that it’s actually on road, not the trails.

Mike and I had some interest in attending Rock’n Roll Seattle, when I realized a few weeks ago that I’d be getting weekends off at my new job! Once we looked into plane ticket prices, that interest was squashed. It’d been about a month and a half since our last race, and I was getting antsy. I’ve become a racing machine this year! I set up for RnR San Diego last weekend and Valley Crest this weekend. Valley Crest hosted a half and a 10k; I chose the half. I was up for the challenge! I had a feeling if I signed up for the 10k, because I was scared or intimidated, I’d regret not living outside the comfort zone and pushing myself to my full capabilities.

The start line was a rustic kind of glamorous – def different than I’m used to! Runners clad in hats and hydration packs, getting ready to tackle that hill!

I was scared, I was intimidated, I was sore from RnR San Diego, and sore from riding a bike to work everyday. I was tired from a new schedule at work, plus picking up an extra day, which meant no days off between RnR SD and Valley Crest. But that part didn’t phase me too much, because I always think of this quote by Sarah Sellers, a non-elite runner who placed second in Boston Marathon ’18, “When you are doing your hard workouts after a long day of work, you’re just never going to feel good or comfortable. So in a strange way I was very used to not feeling good while running. I think that helped me.” She was talking of course about the weather conditions during Boston, but I think it applies to anyone who doesn’t get to train for a living. I stand all day, I deal with customers, and it’s exhausting, but running is my happy place, and feeling uncomfortable training on tired legs from work alone, is part of the deal!

Because Mike and I are living with his parent’s right now, the travel races are a way for us to seek alone time on the weekends! Even though Valley Crest was pretty much a local race (about and hour and half away), I got us an Extended Stay room in Woodland Hills, near the race in Tarzana. I worked a short, five hour shift, rested, ate, packed my stuff, and then Mike and I were off! I had gotten the room through Priceline’s Express Deal, for a 2.5 star hotel, which means the low price was set, and the hotel name would given at checkout. We’ve been loving this method of finding rooms, and I was stoked with getting an Extended Stay because they feel like little apartments. It’s really, really nice to have a full fridge and freezer before a race, for water, ice packs, and snacks. Plus a full kitchen if you need it!

Then I read the reviews. The room was non-refundable, and I warned Mike it might be…disgusting. Due to that, we took our time getting to Woodland Hills. And then, IT WAS TOTALLY FINE! It was a 2.5 start hotel yes, but it was clean and in a nice part of town. The carpet smelled a little, which I only noticed when I did yoga, and is kind of to be expected anyway. I had even brought us extra towels, due to one nasty review! ALL UNNECESSARY! Mike did point out that maybe our expectations were a little low after expecting the worst, and having stayed at some run-down Extended Stays in both Phoenix and Louisiana. I’d book the one in Woodland Hills again.

I did Confidence Boost Yoga, Yoga for Runners and Yoga for Hips. I was nervous, and I was tired, but I knew I had to eat dinner because I can’t eat the morning before a race. We hit up 99 Cents Store for a gallon of water, bananas, some candy in case I needed a boost on the run, gum because I love it while running, and some cheap toiletries we needed at home. Next up was Veggie Grill in the Westfield Topanga mall, which was okay.  I miss the Super Rica Burger, and will probably stick to the Buffalo Bomber or B-Wing Salad until they do something else with Beyond Meat burgers I love (not the Lucky Star burger). I drank a ton of water with dinner and a Gatorade before bed; according to Garmin, I passed out at 10:41pm, with 6 hours, 56 minutes of sleep, which is probably the most I’ve ever gotten before a race! Getting up at 5am for work is having a better effect on my race schedule. I’m tired at 8:30pm, in bed by 10pm, and so the 5am wake-up call race day morning is much less brutal!

I got the Nashville Hot Chik’n Sandwich. Eh. I’ve been spoiled by Donna Jean’s Nashville Hot Shrooms!

Alarm went off — race day morning! Yikes! What to wear? I had gotten an official race email, stating it was going to be a hot one, so wear cotton because it soaks up water and stays wet. I had Mike’s Nathan Hydration Backpack, and two frozen water bottles (also by Nathan). I knew how to dress as a street runner, but was I prepared for the trails? I wore ankle socks because I get too hot running in compression socks. Would I get rocks in my shoes, or scraped up? I wore my tiny running shorts because they don’t chafe me, but rubbed Body Glide on my armpit chest and thighs anyway (over the thick layer of sunscreen). I had my LA Marathon trucker hat, Goodr shades, and a fully charged Garmin. I had candy, gum, bandaids, sunscreen, water, and extra buffs to hold ice in, in case I needed quick cooling mechanisms at the aid stations (a head’s up from the race director’s email). I tied up my hardly-used-at-all yet trail shoes and I was ready. Would I blister? Did they fit right? What was I doing, OMG.  Oh, and my energy drink – I love them race morning; coffee for all the other mornings. I also had a healthy dose of CBD oil to calm my nerves and help me enjoy the whole experience. This was supposed to be fun, I reminded myself!

Mike and I got to the start line, at Marvin Braunde Mulholland Gateway Park, in the Santa Monica Mountains, in Tarzana. The race was to take place on historic Mulholland fire road. Parking is very sparse, and because of this, Mike dropped me off to get my bib and watch me start, then headed back to the motel to shower, check-out and, and pick me up a post-race tall can. I was nervous as we were waiting around, I had picked up my bib and emptied out my bladder — now I just had to wait to start. My friend Markus, from my BlacklistLA days, showed up and that elevated my spirits exponentially! A familiar face! As we were getting closer to the start time, Mike took off and Markus introduced me to some runners he knew. And then…7:55am came around, with five minutes to the start. We had a quick debriefing of the trail, and short countdown and we were off! Straight uphill!

Flyin’ through the finish! I couldn’t stop, I was so happy to have completed it and it was steep! Starting and finishing!

It was great. I finished in 2 hours 41 minutes. My goal was anywhere between 2:30 and 3 hours. I walked the hills, ran the flats and downhills. It felt like all uphill and it was HOT. The race started on a steep incline, and I struggled to catch my breath on it. But after that, pretty smooth sailing! The views were tremendous, and I was doing something new! The race was bigger than I had anticipated, but still small, especially compared to RnR or LA road races. I had fears of getting lost, or coming in last, neither of which happened. I got tired around 9 miles, and then REALLY tired around mile 11. It was a challenging course, with a lot of uphills. We finished where we started, so the finish was downhill! I didn’t run down it very fast because it was super steep, but I was smiling through the finish line! What an accomplishment! Mike said he was very impressed with my time, and said I looked better after this race than some of my street races! (I followed my strict “no-drinking before a big race rule,” which I’m sure had something to do with it. RnR New Orleans was flat, and I can’t put it up there as one of my best, but still def one of my favorites, haha.) There were plenty of aid stations, I didn’t need my candy, and I had a really good time! I was relaxed, I listened to my body, and I enjoyed myself! I’m not sure I’m ready to sign up for another trail race quite yet*, but I am excited about this new world of trail races being opened up to me!

Still wearing my lucky bandana – it’s been there with me since half marathon #1!

It’s completely different from a road race for a few reasons. It attracts a different kind of runner — the trail runner. It’s too soon to say, but I think this quote from “The Difference Between Road Runners and Trail Runners” sums me up perfectly: “Others are road-running converts who turned to trails to revitalize their athletic lives.” Granted, by buying Mike and I the RnR 10 race Tourpass, it’s a lot of races to do in one year, on top of races outside the Rock’n Roll series we also want to do. And in this, I may have lost my passion for running. I’ve noticed a shift the last few months, in that my heart isn’t in it the same it used to be. Or maybe it’s just that I realized a PR doesn’t matter to me as much anymore, and I’m not pursuing it. Maybe I just miss my run groups in LA. No matter the reason, I want to enjoy running again, and thanks to the Tourpass we’ve had the opportunity already to run in some really cool cities. I use running as my happy place, a time to think about my day, my life, my goals, set-backs, and triumphs — I don’t want to live and die by my pace anymore. My Blacklistla friend, Markus, has imparted some wisdom from his love of trail running onto me over the years, telling me the best part of training is sometimes stopping to take pictures, and that if I start training on the trails, it will make road races a breeze. I also noticed at the Valley Crest race that nobody complained. There were long bathroom lines in the morning, and the heat got to us all a little, but everyone knew what they were in for. Road races have been getting to me lately, with all the complaining across social media, when we hit hills on the course, when the Expo is crowded, when every tech shirt and medal from the Rock’n Roll race series looks similar…etc. When I told Markus this, he scoffed in agreement, telling me trail runners can’t complain — every run is so different based on the weather and elements, but that’s part of the adventure!

All smiles with my new race medal!

This race was a tough one, but completely do-able for a newbie like me! I would definitely recommend it for a seasoned runner and a trail race beginner. The max elevation gain is about 1700, with beautiful views. It was such a great run to appreciate life, where running has taken me, what my mind and body is capable of, and fall in love with running again. I thought a lot about the sudden death of Anthony Bourdain, what he meant to me as someone who’s worked in restaurants over a decade, and how sad I was about his passing. I’d look at the scenery and realize how grateful I was to be in that race, on that run, putting one foot in front of the other, and accomplishing this huge goal. The volunteers were awesome, and the aid stations were stocked with snacks, Coca Cola, pickle juice, plus ice cold water and Gatorade! It made me really excited about the world of trail racing, what’s possible, what’s out there, and getting back on the trails for training, asap!

It has been an exciting and adventurous couple of weekends!

Afterwards, Mike and I had some fun conversations with other trail racers, and then the two of us had lunch at Krimsey’s in NoHo on our way home. Krimsey’s was a first for both of us (I’ve been wanting to go there forever!), was absolutely scrumptious, and brought back great memories of our recent Nola trip!

*Googles BullDog 25/50K and Oregon Coast 30K.

 

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