The Great Race of Agoura: surviving a trail half-marathon

7am  starting line for the Cheseboro Half Marathon

7am starting line for the Cheseboro Half Marathon

Yesterday, I ran the Chesebro Half Marathon. It is part of the Great Race of Agoura, a collection of 6 different races (including two different half marathons) which were all run yesterday. It is a big fundraiser as a large portion of the fee is directly donated back to local schools. Active.com named this the top half marathon in the country and Runner’s World named the 10K, the top one in the country.

The race I completed is the most strenuous of the day, because, though it is net downhill, it has several miles of slow uphill, two very steep uphills, and much of the trail is single track (no room to pass) with uneven ground. More on that shortly.

decided to listen to music during my race

decided to listen to music during my race

The first three miles were pretty flat and I went faster than expected, but not as fast as I have in the past. Then we got into the trail. My huge problem with the trail aspect of this race is that there are no mile markers on the trail. I need mile markers and can guarantee that not having markers to track my progress slowed me down. It was very de-motivating and, I’m sure, allowed me to become ignorant of slowing down and falling off my pace. At least they had two water stops on the trail (miles 4 – 10.5 were on the trail).

It was nicely cool at the start of the race, which coincided with sunrise. With the hills, I didn’t actually see the sun for the first 5 miles or so. Oddly, my right arm was so cold that my lower arm and hand were basically numb. I didn’t even consider bringing gloves, but it wasn’t a big deal.

Around mile 5, I found myself on the ground. I wasn’t tripped – I was just careless. I was turning my hat around and lifting my glasses while running over some rocks on uneven ground and forgot to pick up my feet! One runner behind me asked if I was OK, and I felt fine, but my right knee was bleeding. I wiped the blood off with my hand and wiped it on my black shorts. My other leg was covered in dust, but a mile later when I grabbed some water and rinsed my wound, I noticed my left leg was scraped and bloody. I’m not sure that it affected me at all, other than the several times I had to stop to rinse the wound or wipe dust off of it.

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There was such a variety of terrain and I enjoyed that, but I think I couldn’t really get into race mode. I was more in “running on a trail” mode than “race” mode. The two steep hills were exhausting. The biggest hill was a culmination of 750 feet elevation gain over 2 miles (which is about 7% grade). The second hill was much shorter in length, but surely steeper than 7%.

about to exit the trail at mile 10.5

about to exit the trail at mile 10.5 (descending from the short, steep hill)

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If I were a good 25-50 pounds lighter, I would be much faster (and probably look oddly skinny).  You can see how uneven the ground is.

It was about the time the photo above was taken, that I knew I couldn’t earn a PR today. With 2.6 miles left, I needed to finish in less than 20 minutes. In my training that was doable, but not today. The last 2.6 miles is almost all slight downhill, but I could tell I wasn’t moving fast enough. In fact, miles 11 and 12 were each about 8:30. In training, I have done these miles in under 7:00.  I even had to stop a couple times in these last couple miles because I was feeling a weird twinge in my left hamstring and I certainly did not want to injure myself. Another thing! For the last 2 miles, I wanted to push but I was absolutely starving (stomach growling) – a feeling I sometimes get on long runs but not when I have fueled properly. So I don’t know what that was about. Maybe my body was in protective mode, or something, due to my leg injury. – so I took it easy until the last half mile or so, when I picked up the pace.

The final 2.6 miles

The final 2.6 miles  (you might be able to zoom in on my leg)

_DSC5641I finished in 1:56.38.     My best half marathon was the Capital 1/2 in Olympia, which is a hilly road course (1:51.59). Today’s time was even slower than the first half of my marathon at the U. of Oregon (1:54.10), but that was completely flat and I am about 10 pounds heavier today.

I also am not sure I liked racing with headphones. I think I didn’t.

evidence from the trail:  exhibit A

evidence from the trail: exhibit A

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evidence from the trail: exhibit B

After the race, there was a great expo with lots of local food vendors, products, and music. I quickly refueled with some pasta, oranges, and water, then walked back onto the course about a quarter-mile to cheer on the racers. Then I went back for more food. I saw several people I knew (co-workers and students), and it was a fun morning!

I stayed for about two hours then decided to walk home – about a mile. Along the way I went into Starbucks. Clearly, I am conditioned to crave Starbucks because I actually was very full and my stomach felt a bit weird from all the food at the expo – yet “Starbucks” sounded good. I got to the front of the line and said “I want something that doesn’t have coffee or sugar.”   Possibly, I am the only person who has ever spoken those words inside a Starbucks.

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One thought on “The Great Race of Agoura: surviving a trail half-marathon

  1. Good job Bobby! Even though it wasn’t a PR for you, that race looked really difficult, and you succeeded in finishing another half marathon- something so many people (including myself) are scared to even try.
    So, what did you end up getting at Starbucks? I can’t think of anything that doesn’t have coffee or sugar. Maybe unsweetened tea.

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