What a way to end the year. December 13 marked six months since my knee surgery, and I celebrated the next day with the Xterra 15K Crystal Cove Trail Race. Killer! I've been running the trail, El Moro, for a couple of months now in anticipation of Xterra mayhem, and I knew it was a difficult run, but nothing compared to race day... for several reasons:
They changed the course due to construction. Coming from someone who's been running the planned course, the altered version was way more difficult -- the first 3 miles, that is. I also heard the trail had about a 4,000-foot elevation gain in total and the 15K grew to over a 10-mile run with the change.
It was freakin freezing. 38 degrees when we arrived, low 40s when we started, and a frigid ocean breeze keeping it chilly.
The runners were gnarly. Xterra races clearly attract a legit group of athletes who know what they're doing! In fact, I think I was the youngest female out there.
I went into the race with the mentality that'd I push myself to finish on top. Things didn't work out how I planned. Ha. But I was able to pull off 11th female out of 100+ women and first in my age group (but my AG was a very insignificant group, so that's not that impressive, ha).
My mom, who also raced, and me with our AG & finisher medals:
My mom, dad and I got to the race super early, about 5:45 a.m. for an 8 a.m. start. Why so early? It wasn't just to get a good parking spot in that small lot :) My dad was a volunteer, how cool! So while he helped set up aid stations and whatnot I hung out half asleep in the Ford F150. The frigid temp didn't help my enthusiasm. That wait sucked. I would have rather started in the dark at 6. I'm in the back here, about 6 a.m., looking tired and mean in this pic:
Finally, after bathroom breaks, food and warmup laps, I was antsy to GO! I placed myself at the front of the group this time (given the disastrous Turkey Trot start), and with the countdown so began the burn. Pure uphill for the first mile, as about 50 or so people jetted far out beyond any level I could run. Then the detour. Ouch. Right turn downhill, and down we went and went... I knew going down that far was bad news cause it meant we'd have to run up more than 1,000 feet to get back to the main trail.
As expected, that uphill lasted forever!!! No mercy, lots of pain. I was so happy to reach the top, which happened to be where my dad's aid station was. He frantically got some pictures of me:
At that point there was about 10k to go. At least I knew what to expect for the rest. Not that knowing the course was comforting: all a gradual uphill grade and hill climbs with only a few breaks. It doesn't really ease up until about the last few miles; and even that consists of steep rolling hills...uuuppp annddd ddooowwnnn...until the last 3/4 mile of pure decent.
Honestly, at any moment through the run I could have easily given up cause it just plain hurt. Even taking Saturday off didn't seem to matter. I kept thinking of excuses to stop and then I'd counter that with excuses to keep going. Mental strength was my saving grace. Not that I finished as well as I wanted to, but I at least didn't stop or walk ever.
I also tried to keep an eye on the other women racing. I felt somewhat high up in the pack, but I knew a handfull passed me and I'd never catch them. (I later found out that one of those top women happened to be a fellow blogger, Beth, who ended up third overall. I met her and her boyfriend (I'm guessing) after the race... congrats guys!)
Once I saw mile-marker 7 I was stoked, almost done! I sprinted hard on the last decent and was able to pass a couple of women to put me at 11th. Felt a little naseous at the finish, but still powered down some drinks and food. About 20 minutes after finishing, I became freezing cold... thankfully I had a cup of coffee waiting for me in the car, still hot.
I waited for my mom, who ended up third in her AG. We all stuck around for the awards, and I got some more food with my parents -- they had a great breakfast for us, even fresh scrambled eggs!
Getting my medal...
Mom, dad and me...
I'm so glad I was able to get three races in this year. Six months ago, I would have never thought that'd be possible. Especially this Xterra craziness. Geez!
Now, it's time to focus on IMCA (oh yea, and a half-marathon in a month, ha).