I only had two more races scheduled for 2023 after the Sean O’Brien race but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump into the Point Mugu Trail Run which would be on local trails.
I had an unorthodox training buildup as I was running every street in Santa Paula and was mostly running 2 or 3 miles a day and up to 6 miles on weekends. Vert was minimal and now I entered myself in a race that starts with a 1,000 foot climb.
My last race had actually been the Anytime Runners 3-Hour Time Trial at Veterans Park. This fatass run has you run up a ridiculously steep mountain with 2,000 feet of elevation gain then you’re supposed to run up and down the mountain as many times as possible. I wasn’t able to make it up the entire hill once. My body gave me signs that it was going to go into a dizzy spell so I turned back not too far from the top but far enough that I didn’t want to chance it. When I got to the bottom of the mountain my head started spinning bad. I took a motion sickness pill and was glad that cousin Christina had driven that morning. By the way, if you’re not familiar with the term “fatass race” it is a race that doesn’t have entry fees and doesn’t usually have aid stations.
I think running the streets of Santa Paula gave me the confidence to not be discouraged by that vertigo incident and eventually I really forgot about it. I was running every day, even in the rain, and I was determined to get the job done. The day before the Point Mugu race, I had finished all the streets in my town.
Leading up to the race, I was curious as to whether we were going to get good weather or if it was going to be a rainy slog. Speaking of rainy slog, I volunteered at the Griffith Trail race a couple of weeks before and it was more of a mud run for participants – but fun.
The day arrived and it wasn’t rainy. Yay! I got to the race pretty early to get a good parking spot and check-in hadn’t even started yet. I waited around a bit, said hi to friends who were volunteering then walked back and forth between the check-in table and the finish line area where DJ Keith was just getting setup. It seemed like an eternal wait.
I did something that I rarely do and that was to actually run a bit to get warmed up. I noticed that in my Santa Paula street running, I would start and stop a lot to check my app to see which stretch of road I would go down and it would really wind me up because I was running fast between stops. Then, if I ran 3 miles that day, I would finished still revved up. I figured there was something into all the warm ups that much faster runners do before races. Before I thought that warming up would be a waste of energy.
I didn’t overthink things but I did have race goals. It was probably a bad idea but I had it in my head that I wanted to be in the top three of my age group. I had studied the start list via Ultrasignup and there was really no way that I would podium. But I thought it would be something that would push me. The main goal was to run within myself and not blow up.
Finally, we were told that the start line was back near the check-in area so I headed down and waited for the 17K race to start. They were off and I recorded everyone heading off then step by step made my way over to the starting area. After chatting with new friend Mike for a bit, I went towards the back of the start line so I wound’t clog up the single track for the faster folks.
I placed myself in a pretty good spot. No one was hot on my heels and I didn’t need to pass anyone for most of the first mile. Even though I had warmed up, my body’s engine wasn’t revving high yet. I power hiked, ran then power hiked to the first vista point the overlooks the ocean right around mile 1. A couple of people had passed me but I didn’t overdo it to try and pass them back.
Mile 1 to 3.5
I was pretty much running with another fellow for most of the climb. We’d speed up and slow down at the same spots and I didn’t feel the need to pass him because we would probably just end up leap frogging which is a waste of energy. But eventually we topped out around mile 2.5 where the trail curves toward the final climb and the trail is wide there so I cranked it up and passed him. My calves had been feeling the 1,000 foot climb so I didn’t have much but I was able to gap him. I crested the Ray Miller Trail and had already been seeing 10k runners come back the trail. I didn’t slow down too much on the descent and when a woman in front of me slowed to let some runners pass, I passed her up as well.
From Ray Miller, we turned onto Overlook trail and it was a muddy mess. I ran down the middle of the mud and splattered around a bit and turned up the speed. I had totally over dressed for the day and it was warming up just a bit and I had to take off my jacket and wrap it around my body. I hauled down to Fireline and could see a lot of the 10K runners who were only a couple of minutes ahead of me come back my way. They smiled as they saw me haul ass.
Mile 3.5 to the finish
When I made it to Fireline I said Hi to Chris, tied my shoe then. turned around for what would be a little bit of a slog back up the hill. It wasn’t that bad and I managed not to fall on the mud on the way back.
I was back on Ray Miller and made my way up the small climb. I wasn’t pushing too hard as I was saving it up for the big downhill portion. When I started the descent I let loose and started flying down the mountain. There were a lot of people coming up the trail. This might have been the most hikers I’ve every seen on Ray Miller at one time. On training runs I’m super courteous and I will slow to a walk when I see a group coming up but I was in race mode and I was zooming. I accidentally bumped two people on the way down and have never done that before. Sorry!
I was able to catch a few runners on the downhill and that was pretty cool. I think one or two 17K runners zoomed by me but that was pretty much it.
On the final stretch of the trail before the final turn I was just about running at top speed and was no longer checking my heart rate to see if I was running too hot. I could hear footsteps behind me and tried not to block the trail but also wasn’t about to turnaround and slow down to let them pass. At this point they were going to have to make a move around me. The footsteps got closer as we made the final turn down the trail towards the little creek and I could see another runner ahead and he was limping his way down. I kept charging and at the turn just before the end of trail I stomped on the board that was there on the water crossing just a second after he did then went into sprint mode towards the finish line some 20 yards away.
I wanted to give it 100% to the finish line as I knew the person behind me was probably a lot faster since he had run 7k more than me in just 15 more minutes of time. He passed me a couple of feet from the finish line. Even though he passed me and wasn’t in the same race sine he was 17K and I was in the 10K, it felt great to be racing hard at the very end. The guy who had passed me had a big shocked smile and gave me a fistbump after we crossed the line. It was a blast.
After all that adventure, I had to go look at the race results screen and saw that I was last in my age group. I instantly felt dejected. I wasn’t DFL (Dead F’ing Last) or even last male but I still felt sad. I wish I could have savored the race more but that took a lot of wind out of my sails.
I tried to explain to my wife that I think all runners feel some of that even if they win. You could have always done a little better. Even if you win and set a course record, you could have shaved just a bit more off the time and you’ll do better next time. But, I feel much better about the race a week after it and haven’t been thinking about the age group placing at all.
Tale of the Tape
My official race time was 1:37:17 for a distance of 6.8 miles.
I came in 70th place out of 81.
This was my first time running the course and this distance so it was a PR!
This was my 2nd fastest time on the Ray Miller Descent. The only time I ran faster was 2 years ago when I did a memorial run for my doggies. I’ve run on this trail over 70 times.
I think I ran about as best as I could have. I didn’t push too hard on the climb and had tons of energy on the descents. I have to work on not bumming myself out with the race results. I had a great time and the volunteers were all great. My next race is the Leona Divide 30K and that will be exciting as it will be on all new to me trails. What’s next on your race calendar? What keep you lacing up these days? Hey, I’m 55 and grinding every day. If I can do it, so can you!