March 29, 2010

The Great Fail

This weekend I ran the Chesebro Half Marathon as part of the Great Race of Agoura Hills.  Since my first half marathon a little under a year ago, every half I've completed since then has been a PR - if not in time, then in other ways like surviving thousands of feet of climbing (see Catalina Buffalo Run).  Races have always been a ton of fun and I've surprised myself every time with how well I've done...until this weekend.  This was my first race where essentially nothing went well...which is why I'd like to rename it, The Great Fail.

First off, the race started at 7am.  If I had seen this before signing up, I probably would not have opted to run this race.  Agoura Hills is just under an hour and a half drive from Huntington Beach, meaning I would need to leave my apartment by around 5:15am to get to the race.  Then, a long pre-race email was sent out explaining that parking is going to be crazy and to plan to walk 10-20 minutes from where you park to the park where you had to pick up your race bib, etc.  For the Chesebro race, the starting line was an additional 10 minute walk up-hill from said park.  I ended up having to awake at 4:15am, drive an hour and a half, and then spend about a half hour walking just to get to the start of the race.  I am NOT a morning person.  Personal Fail #1.

After sleep-driving to the race (don't really even remember driving there), parking, walking, walking, walking, picking up my race bib, walking, going to the bathroom, hanging out with Pete, and walking some more, I realized 5 minutes before the race started that I totally forgot to put on my Garmin.  Great!  I also remembered that I had "popped" the trunk of my car to get my forgotten Garmin out of my backpack.  Not only was I anxious about the race, but I Garmin-less, and concerned about my trunk being open with all of our camping gear for the rest of the weekend with no way to let Pete know to shut it.  PF #2.

The first 3 miles of the race were on road, followed by about 7.5 miles on trails, and the remaining 2.5 miles on road again.  Although I swore off trail running after the Buffalo Run a couple weeks ago, I went into this race thinking it would be no big deal because the amount of climbing I'd be doing was about 1/3 of that in the Buffalo Run, so I started off feeling fairly confident and strong.  The first mile was also downhill.  I started off and what I thought was a good pace, but not having my Garmin I really had no clue, and by mile 2 I was already starting to realize I started off way too fast.  Soon before the 3 mile mark, I asked a kind lady I was running next to with a Garmin what pace we were moving at.  7:40 min/mile.  PF #3.

I slowed down, but right after mile 3, we made our way onto the trail and my legs were done.  Just done.  My legs have felt like garbage all week, ever since the 20 miler, and any optimistic thoughts I had that they might miraculously feel any different during this race vanished.  I wanted to just quit and walk the rest of the way...but I kind of sort of had another 10 miles to run. Ugh.  PF #4.

As much as I wanted to stop, I kept jogging along at an I-have-no-idea-how-slow-cuz-I-forgot-my-Garmin pace, so I guess that may be win #1.  However, this is also when I realized there were not going to be mile markers every mile.  So now I didn't just not know how fast/slow I was running, but I had no idea how far I had gone either, which was extremely difficult for me when I was feeling that crappy.  PF #5.

Thinking to myself, "I bet I've gone about 7-8 miles by now," I round a turn and see a nice big "Mile 6" sign.  Obviously, I was discouraged by this, but took a bottle of water they were giving out (which was a fail on their part since bottles littered the trail everywhere) and continued on my way.  Some single track started at this point and suddenly I was at a dead stop.  I could see some people sort of yelling up the hill in front of me but didn't really know why.  As I slowly made my way closer to the commotion, I realized there was a guy running with his 1ish yr old baby in a stroller.  WTF?!  I realize running a race with your child can be a special occasion or whatever, but this was a half marathon, on a trail, with single track, and rough spots, and you're blocking about 1000 people!  Parenting Fail #1.  

I ended up running behind "stroller guy" for a while because he was extremely difficult to pass, and running slow enough for me that I didn't care too much.  I kept getting so nervous watching him tho, as the stroller kept nearly tipping over.  Then, it happened.  There was a mini "ravine" in the trail and the stroller tipped completely over.  The kid was wearing a seat belt, thankfully, and seemed to be fine.  But really dude?  Parenting Fail #2.  Random side note: looking back, "stroller guy" reminded me a lot of The Hoff.  That may explain some of it.

Soon I was marching up a steep hill to the high point of the course.  I felt like I was part of an ant parade, but nearing the top, it was fun to look down and realize I was definitely not going to get last :) Win #2.  After this long, steep climb, we got to run back downhill for a while and my legs were feeling a bit better, and I knew I'd be able to finish this beast.  I came around a turn to some volunteers holding trash bags to throw our water bottles from the previous water station in.  The course had flattened out a bit at this point and my legs were feeling tired and heavy again.  A few of the volunteers were laughing and smiling and yelling "mile 7!! not much further to go!!"  It felt like we were WAY past mile 7...I looked to the girl running next to me, she looked back, and we hung our heads nearing tears, and proceeded to slowly walk up the next hill.  Again, I was ready to be done, and couldn't believe I had only gone 7 miles.  Upon reaching the top of the hill a half mile or so later, I noticed it looked like we were turning off onto the road again (meaning we only had 2.5 miles left) and sure enough, I exited onto the road and saw the 11 mile marker shortly after.  Thanks volunteers at "mile 7" that was SO nice of you when not everyone has a Garmin, and there was only one mile marker on the trail.  Laugh away!  Volunteer Fail.

Again, more downhill and I knew I could make it back.  Being annoyed at the volunteers gave me an extra boost as well.  I was tired, but I was so close I wasn't going to let myself walk anymore.  With about 0.2 miles left, I rounded the final turn and felt the same urge I felt at the Buffalo Run to throw up.  I had to stop and compose myself.  Who stops that close to the finish, really?  PF #6.

I finally reached the finish with an official time of 2:24:06.  I think I should have been able to run this course between 2:10 and 2:15, so I was a bit disappointed, but I guess I can't win them all!  I finished 706/1038 overall, and 22/34 in my age group.  Definitely not my best, but not my worst either.

On a positive note, the people who ran this were some of the nicest people I've encountered while racing.  Everyone was encouraging, had great race etiquette, and I even saw a couple people picking up litter they saw along the course.  And thanks to all volunteers that were not at "mile 7!" :)  I'm excited for my 18k trail race next weekend - redemption here I come!


  1. The good, the bad, and really no ugly, except for those volunteers, geez! Never heard of such a thing. Anyway good for you getting it done. They all can't be good or the PRs and the good ones wouldn't mean so much.

  2. Try as I might, I can't run at a 7:40 mile for any duration of time. You're fast.

    My first trail half came in at just under 3-hours. Those events are so different than a regular race and it seems to me that you did a great job.

    I have a feeling that OC wont know what hit it.

    All the best,


  3. All things considered, you did a great job, making half-decent lemonade with some pretty rotten lemons. Way to tough out the obstacles and still persevere - that will come in handy in the future.

    For what it's worth, I talked to a guy who ran the same marathon I did this weekend and he had to stop like 500 feet from the finish because his leg seized up so bad, and eventually had to basically hop across on one leg.

  4. my god, that's awful. i mean i saw the stuff on twitter and thought to myself, "how bad could it actually have been for her?" Well, it seems like it was that bad and then some. hope this week is going better for you and you'll certainly get that redemption at Sycamore. (@spectorjosh)