Last Saturday, I ran the Cheseboro Half Marathon, one of five races offered at The Great Race of Agoura. It’s a race that begins and ends on the road, but the middle part is on the trails of Cheseboro Canyon. It was the first race I’ve run with my BRF (best running friend) in a REALLY long time!
Going into this race, I was super excited/scared/nervous not for reaching a goal time, but for the more likely prospect of face-planting into the ground and being steamrolled by those behind me.
About 95% of my training is on the roads/on the ‘mill, which isn’t great preparation for a race like this. I have no excuse, though. I live down the street from a trailhead that connects over to one of the county’s most gorgeous series of trails. It’s just that road running is so much easier! I can turn my brain off, plan lessons, sing the Frozen soundtrack that has been forced upon my car stereo for the past two months by my very own Elsa and Anna, envision future races… all things that can’t be done on the trails because trail running requires 100% focus!
Also, I am not sure-footed or confident when it comes to things like climbing up or down rocky surfaces.
Also, I am a klutz. There’s no getting around it.
With Boston four weeks away, I decided that I was going to use the first couple of miles on the road to warm up, go easy on the trails, and then push at a hard effort in the last miles back on the road. I figured that was a fair enough game plan.
So, the night before, I slathered on some good luck nail polish that the girlsies chose because it would give me Elsa’s icy magic. That’s got to be good, right? Icy magic?
You can find (my favorite!) Deborah Lippmann polishes here.
<Everybody knows that the most important pre-race ritual is a fancy coat of lacquer on the talons!>
I also made a last-minute decision to open up a fresh pair of Kayanos.
I think wearing a brand new pair of shoes is on the universal “What not to do before a race” list, but Asics Kayano 20s and me go together like bread and buttah.
My entire training week leading up to The Great Race was riddled with what felt like the onset of shin splints (something I NEVER get!) and knee nigglings. I also pushed myself possibly a little harder than I should have, considering it was supposed to be a fall-back week, so my legs felt heavy. Not even taper heavy. My legs were prancercizing-with-ankle-weights heavy.
Enter: the shoe fix. The three pairs in rotation all have around 350 miles on them, so I chose to bust out the freshies, which ended up being the only solid decision I made that day.
By the way, changing out shoes is an incredibly personal thing… I like to keep track of my miles and change them out when my legs start feeling funky, usually around the 360 mark for longer runs. Then they retire to the land of walking shoes.
WARNING: What happened next isn’t beautiful or glittery or full of unicorns. It’s gross and disgusting and an awkward reality for dehydrated runners. Read on at your own risk.
On race morning, I knew immediately that it was not going to be my day. Over the past couple of weeks, I developed a really unhealthy habit of not drinking any water at all at work because my classroom is so far from the bathrooms, so none of my training runs have been stellar (a well-hydrated runner is a productive runner), and the mild dehydration was finally rearing its ugly head. I’m really actually very good at hydrating before races, but not this time.
Let’s just say that it’s not a good sign when you wake up and you don’t have to pee, and your morning coffee is only good enough to do the usual business. Race days typically begin with a minimum of five trips to empty the bladder. Hydration is key, right?
My BRF picked me up at 6:20, and we drove to Agoura while I nibbled on half of a Honeystinger. The belly just wasn’t feeling it. Parking was no issue in the strip mall parking lots down the street from the start. With 10 minutes until race time, I dropped my sweatshirt/bag at the bag drop at Chumash park, which was a quick jog away from the start and was super quick and efficient for both drop off and pick up.
As V and I made our way up to the start, I worried just a little bit because I didn’t have to pee. <–not normal. Porta potty lines are long for a reason!
The race began about 7 minutes late, and we made our way through the streets of Old Agoura before hitting the Cheseboro trails.
Miles 1-3: 7:09, 7:48, 8:07
Within the first quarter mile, I began feeling the funk of dehydration. I was lightheaded, my stomach was flipping and cramping, and I had the most unbearable urge to find the nearest restroom. Because I didn’t know where the nearest bathroom was, I decided to slow my pace to the 8’s to see if that would help. It didn’t.
Miles 4-6: 8:25, 8:30, 9:02
Holy smokes, man! Running with the butt cheeks clenched is NOT awesome. Nor is fearing being run over if you fall not because you might get a little bloody or lose time, but because if you fall, you might crap your pants. And chills while running? I could also do without them!
It was in these miles that I was picked off by the obscenely speedy Skinny Runner in her glorious PC star socks. There were a TON of super speedy chicks out there! SR made running the trails look easy peezy!
Miles 7-10: 9:28, 10:28, 7:40, 7:33
Can you guess which mile I thought for sure I was going to embarrass the pants off of myself? Not only were miles 7 and 8 more technical than any of the other miles, but they were also the miles where every time I took a swig from my handheld, my gut cramped up and gave me the finger.
Luckily, the salted caramel GU went down with no issue (or water). Sure, it took me a full mile and a half to finish it, but it went down and saved me from impending blackout.
The trail miles of this race are so beyond gorgeous, so I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the view. Enjoying the silence of running Cheseboro is one of the best things about this race. All you hear are the metronome foot strikes and steady breathing of fellow athletes in sport. Seriously. Run this race. Your runlife will be better because of it.
Miles 11-13(.15<-not a great tangent runner): 8:18, 7:32, 7:16, 1:03
One thing I am good at is smiling for cameras through the discomfort of dehydration-induced GI issues.
As soon as I hit the pavement, I tried to take off, but it just wasn’t happening. Luckily, a speedy chick named Sasha blew past me, inspiring me to put mind over matter, and speed the eff up. These were definitely not the speediest miles I’ve ever put down, but I count them as successes because I finished the race with enough time to hit up the surprisingly clean porta potties, sparing my bum wrap and my ego from irreparable harm. My unofficial time was 1:48:24.
Feeling slightly better, I backtracked to run with V in the last half mile, which she absolutely rocked!
So much fun, right?
After we picked up our medals, I found my goal race booth and said “Hi!”
The people over at the Ventura Marathon are such cool people! I walked away with these tech shirt that I will actually wear around town on cooler evening runs:
Then I took a sip of water and collapsed on the grass and tried to wait out the gut cramps and chills.
Seriously, people. If you do ONE THING for your next race, HYDRATE LIKE A PRO!!! Don’t be like me. Be a happy runner.
I waited in the supine position until the husband brought the girls so that my mini-me could run the Family Fun Run. After catching up with an old high school friend and his absolutely adorable family, Spawn #1 and I lined up to run our very first mile together!
After the bullhorn sounded, we were off, and let me tell you…
After letting go of my hand about ten strides in, this girl ran the entire mile, picking off kids right and left and running perfect tangents like a pro. And she LOVED IT!!!
Look at that focus!
Flying to the finish with her runlove shining brightly!
I cannot express to you how much I loved running with that girl! And I think she loved it, too! She even asked when her next race is!
How did I luck out in the kid department?!?!
Overall, I highly recommend this race. I have run it for the past couple of years, and I will continue to toe the line at the Cheseboro Half until I can no longer run, which will hopefully be never.
After we got home a bit past noon, I was finally able to drink some Nuun without it causing my stomach to seize up. Thank goodness.
I spent the rest of the day rehydrating with my legs in recovery position, wrapped in PC.
And just when I started to nod off, everybody’s favorite lab called me up. She was right around the corner and wanted to go for a nice little walk together. I obliged.
I simply cannot say “no” to that dog.
Or a good race.