Tough Mugu 5 Miler Race Report 2023

I barely made it to the starting line of this year’s Tough Mugu race. Quick life update – the last few weeks I was on a stressful jury duty panel, caught a week-long summer cold then strained a hip flexor at the end of that.
After several weeks of zero running I was able to get the OK from my physical therapist to test out my running to see if it would be OK to race.
Yeah, not the ideal lead in for a race.
I had already DNS’d the Tough Topanga race which happened a couple of days after the initial injury so I didn’t want to miss another race.
Besides, there was another reason to make the race. By looking at the entrants list I could tell that there were only 2 men in the 50-60 age group. Unless several other of us oldies showed up, a finish meant an age group podium. The SocalTrail races are some of the few races that actually have age group awards.
After going on a 2-mile test run on the race course the day before, I felt ready to give it a go.
I got to the race nice and early and got a great parking spot since most folks came in from LA County and parked on the other side of PCH. I picked up my bib and went back to the car to pin the bib, leave my race shirt and hide from the mosquitoes for a while.
When I went back, I saw Christophe, Nicole, Mike and Ricardo checking in. It was great seeing them out there. Of the group, only Mike and I were doing the 5-miler.
I got some video of the 25k race start (video below) then got into race mode for our start 30 minutes later.
This was going to be a low ego race. I wasn’t going to push on the uphill even if I still had a little energy to spare. After the race start, I found myself towards the back of the Ray Miller Trail climb but there were still about 6 people behind me. I ran some and hiked some and after half a mile a couple of women passed me. One woman was behind me for a bit then I told her to go ahead and she did and said, “I’m going slow so…” I wanted to say “well, you’re going faster than I am”, but didn’t say anything.

The Ray Miller climb has two scenic view areas overlooking the ocean, one is at mile 1 and the other is at mile 2. By the time I got to mile 2, a group of 3 women had caught up and passed me. From that point there is a final climb up to the top on the mountain just off of the Ray Miller Trail. As I started that final climb, Mike ran down past me and said that there was a tough climb coming up. I’m very familiar with the climb and it’s a minor soul suck but I just put my head down and kept plugging away. I caught up to the 3 women who had passed me then made my way down the other side towards the Ray Miller Trail where I would turn around to start the way back. 

Last year I had just gotten to that part of the trail when the lead 25k racers zoomed by with videographer Victor (@behindtherun) right before them. This time the lead guy, Chris Myers, was already blazing by, once again followed by Victor. In @behindtherun’s video you can see me dropping down the mountain. Nope, I wasn’t able to catch them.
I hiked a little bit at the start of the trail then took a deep breath and took off for the big 2+ mile descent. I ran some then slowed down a bit then sped up some and started to catch people. I passed the two women who had passed me at the beginning then caught a couple of guys and probably a few more people.
When I got to longer straightaways I put on the gas and my legs were able to respond. I never got to the highest gear but was doing a 9 minute per mile pace by the end of the race. I started searching for the little turn off towards the finish line and thought it was earlier than it was and finally found it to do the last turns to the finish line.
I felt good after the race and surprisingly beat my time from last year by a few seconds.
As I was heading up the mountain, I was trying to keep an eye on other 50-something looking guys to see how my bid for the podium was looking. Last year I thought I had a chance at the age group podium but was off by two. This time I checked the race results screen and saw a “3” next to my name. Yes!
When my name was called for the age group award (a nice SocalTrail glass) even the race director Daniel was a little surprised.
This third place finish when there were only three runners in the age group might elicit an eye roll but I’ve been running for over 10 years and have never won an age group prize. Plus, the whole purpose of age group awards is to have different competitions out there and one of them is just to make it to the starting line and finish. We had one runner who was 9 years old and another who was 86.
It was another great race experience and the coffee, beer and tacos were great. The volunteers were all awesome and it was overall a fun event on a beautifully cool weather day.
My next scheduled race is the Mammoth Trail Fest races but I want to have a race simulation run before then. I don’t have much time to ramp up for those races so it’s time to get a running.
Thanks for following along and let me know what’s next on your race or adventure calendar.