Saturday, February 2, 2013

San Diego Trail Marathon - Race Recap

by Rachel

When Paul and I drove up to the start line, I had a hard time getting out of the car - it was in the 30s outside! Freezing cold, I went to check in for the race - and then sat in the warm car for the next 30 minutes until it was time for the course talk. We always like getting to the start of a race early, so we can get over the stress of rushing and driving there.

By the end of the race, it would be in the 80s - such a big temperature change in just a few hours!

Paul Jesse (the race director) called us all out of our cars to give the course talk for the race - he had been there for several hours already, because the 50 mile race had started an hour earlier. We were going to be running the marathon - 26.2 miles of trail in Escondido, CA.

There was no fanfair and not very many people - trail running is a different beast compared to the start of a road marathon. There were no corrals, no pace groups, no gigantic crowds to get lost in... the marathon was limited to just 100 participants, and you're pretty much your own pace group. I really like trail races - the feel is much more chill, and it feels like more of a community.

I started the race with my new running friend, Leslie - we had a very similar pace, and so it was nice to run with her for a few miles. But I was distracted... as soon as the race started, my bladder decided it was full - again. I knew there was a bathroom at about mile 3, so took my break there, while everyone ran by.

But this was my race - I wasn't running anyone else's race. So I just did my own thing, at my own pace. When we got to our first major hill climb, I forced myself to walk as much as I could - it was only 4 miles into the race and I didn't want to waste all my energy on that one hill. I was glad to get to the top - let me tell you! Running fast down the other side was so much fun! At the bottom of the hill was the first aid station - they filled up my water bottle, and I tried to eat as much as I could.

During my race, I really tried to stay on top of my nutrition. I drank quite a bit, filling up my water bottle at every aid station, ate 3 gu packets, 1 honey stinger waffle, and whatever I could inhale at the aid stations. I also took 4 salt tabs during the race. I really do feel like I got enough calories in, and kept hydrated.

Then I was off for a very flat 5 miles to the next aid station. I caught up to Kurt and Tamara, and ran with them for quite awhile - they were both very nice! We got to the second aid station, and they filled my water bottle. Again, I tried to eat as much as I could - Trasie even fed me a piece of vegan sushi!

Back on the trail, we had a 3.1 mile stretch, that started with a path under the I-15 freeway, and then ran alongside Lake Hodges. When I knew it was all downhill, I made a dash for the aid station at the turnaround point... and got a new 1/2 marathon PR!! 2:12 - I was pretty stoked about that, but I knew that the second half was going to be... interesting, and painful. I gorged myself on watermelon at this aid station (YUM!), and then started on the long journey back.

On the way back to the next aid station, my hips started bothering me. I knew that this was going to happen; at my first trail marathon, I went through very bad aching and soreness in my glutes and hamstrings. And every training run over 12 miles gave me the same kind of aching - I hadn't figured out how to stop that from happening. So I was prepared mentally for it to happen. I think that's why I ran the first 1/2 so fast - I was giving myself a time credit, some space to allow myself to go slower later.

I stayed at the next aid station for a couple minutes, trying to let my hips calm down. I ate, hung out, even got a hug from Elizabeth, and then decided I needed to just push on and get it over with. I ran for the next couple miles, and then started feeling nauseous along with the muscle soreness. I decided that it was no longer fun to run, and my stomach would never calm down if I did keep running. So I started walking. I got out my emergency MP3 player, and put some music on (DJ Tiesto, then Kaskade!) I walked until my stomach stopped feeling queasy, and my hips and legs didn't feel so achy. It took about 1/2 mile, but I knew that my body needed it. Then I ran/walked my way to the last aid station.

I got my bottle refilled for the last time, was able to eat a banana, and was generally in pain. Dax, Chris, and Cory were helpful and got me to take more salts - and then I got outta there! It was time for the last climb of the race - and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. It was steep, and I don't know how I managed to keep my pace under 20 minute miles - but I finally made it to the top. 350 feet gain in less than a mile can take a toll on your legs!

I knew I couldn't stop at the top - during one of my training runs, I had stopped at the top with Leslie, and we were probably up there for 5 minutes or more before we started heading back down. By that point, our legs had tightened up, and it was so painful to run down - I even hurt my knee! So this time, I didn't stop at all - just walked over the crest and picked it up to a jog. But, my left knee was having none of it. I couldn't run downhill - every step was sending shooting pains into my knee. So I basically had to walk gingerly down most of the hill, and was very bummed about that because I had really been looking forward to being able to run easy down the hill!

When I got to the bottom of the hill, I had about 4 miles left to the finish line. I decided that no matter what, there would be no more walking. Just keep on going and it doesn't matter if I'm jogging slow, it's still faster than walking - and I was soooo ready to be done! So with the music still playing, I started jogging, and the only stop I made was to let a horse go by. About 1 mile from the finish, I ran out of water, and just tried to not think about it too much. After the last major turn of the run, I knew the finish was so close, and it seemed like that section took FOREVER! But I finally saw the finish line, and my husband, and was amazingly happy to stop right in my tracks after I crossed the finish line!

After the race, there was free food, juices, and coconut water! The coconut water was exactly what I needed - and the tomato soup was so warm and comforting. We stuck around for awhile after the race to congratulate people, watch more finishes, and we stuck around to watch the first couple of 50 milers coming in. It was low-key, relaxing, and a great way to finish my race!

I actually really like the course - we have run most of it many times but never the entire 26.2 (my garmin said 26.5!) miles. It's pretty flat, but Raptor Ridge is the main hill in this race, and it's no joke! All told, it was 1,236 feet of elevation gain. The aid stations were well stocked, we were aided by lots of ultrarunners (which I think is a necessity for a run like this which I would consider a beginner-friendly trail race). The information available prior to the race was great, and I am glad that I chose to run this race!

Paul was there for the whole race, taking pictures, helping out, and waiting for me - I was really glad to see him at the end, and I can't wait to run another race WITH him! For those that don't know, he has been plagued with injury since last July - he has a damaged sciatic nerve which has affected his right leg in so many awful ways. But, he is far enough along the healing process that he's ready to start running! So cross your fingers for him, that the nerve is going to behave!


  1. Amazing job Rachel! So proud of you and thanks for being a part of the race!

    1. Thanks Paul - the race was very well put together - hopefully next year (my) Paul and I will both be racing!