Monday, November 06, 2006

La Jolla Canyon

The La Jolla Canyon Legend 18k Race was in a word - legendary. Trite, I know, but all the other words I might used to describe it are over used as well. Words and phrases like awesome, fun, a good time, a kick in the pants. I really enjoyed this run. A trail run to me means a more laid back attitude. I decided to treat this as a run rather than a race. I did have a time goal and I did keep an eye on the watch but mostly I just enjoyed myself.

The race was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. The trailhead was about 1.5 hours from my house. I wanted to arrive around 7:30 so I left home at 6:00. One nice thing about the race being postponed from last weekend is the earlier sunrise of Pacific Standard Time. The sun was up at 6:00 and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. Unfortunately where I live is no predictor for the weather at the beach. The only bummer about the postponement was that I was missing out on an awesome trail run planned by Jessica. Jeff, Nattie and a couple of blogless trail runners joined her. You can read about the adventure at both Jess and Nattie's blogs. This would have been a great long training run for Tecumseh.

The drive over to Pt. Mugu was bright and sunny until about half a mile from the beach on Kanan Dume Rd. Kanan Dume connects the 101 freeway with Pacific Coast Highway through the Santa Monica Mountains. At that point the fog became so thick it was difficult to see. As I continued west along PCH the fog thinned and by the time I reached La Jolla Canyon the sun was shining beautifully again. It was at this point that I realized that sunscreen might have been a good idea.

An odd thought struck me about how places are named in southern California. The Santa Monica Mountains are miles from the town named Santa Monica. And the town of La Jolla is near San Diego nearly 180 miles from La Jolla Canyon. I guess whoever named all these places back in the day wasn't the most creative thinker.

Back to the run, I parked along PCH and had plenty of time to take care of business at the facilities, walk to registration, and take the goodie bag back to the car and get back to the starting line.

The run takes off up hill right away, no warming up mile on this one. The group was small, 118 finishers, and we fell into a single file line pretty quickly. Right out of the box we hit the rock stairs. We were basically forced to follow along single file until there was a hint of widening in the trail to get by. By the end of mile 2 we were pretty spread out there wasn't much passing going on or necessary for that matter. There was a relatively flat section between mile 1.5 and 2 then a long slow climb up to mile three. As I looked ahead nearly everyone in sight was walking the hill. I did the best I could to keep some semblance of running pace. I did walk some but passed at least two people. Mile 3 brought us out to a spectacular view of the ocean and a flat section of trail along the hill above the beach. I saw the mile marker and checked the watch. 38:24 for 3 miles of pretty brutal up hills. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMile 3 to 4, was run in 8:35 on a pretty nice downhill section that started to take us back inland. I mentally prepared myself for some more uphill. Somewhere along here was the first water stop. I actually stopped and drank a cup of water, mostly just for the rest. Mile 4 to 6.5 or so were run through a large grassy meadow. At times when I looked ahead I could not tell where the trail went. The only clue was the 12 inch swatch of dirt on the ground that was clear. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of a runner or two in front of me. I covered mile 5 in 9:32. This put me at just over 11:00 miles, about right were I expected to be based on my recent trail runs. Somewhere along here I took half a Clifshot.

We eventually connected with a fire road that climbed up from mile 6.5 to 9. Running the fire road was very familiar, reminding me of my runs in Bonelli or Chino Hills SP. Mile 6 and 7 went by in 21:03. My total time was 1:17. I was pretty proud of myself for actually being able to do the math while running to determine that I was exactly on 11:00 miles.

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Mile 8 was kind of rolling and still on the fire road at 9:56. It was at this point that I began leap frogging another runner. I would motor up the hills and pass him, and then on the flats or downs he would bop on by me. We kept this up for a least a mile. Somewhere between 8 and 9 we left the fire road and headed back onto some single track. I polished off the Clifshot around here. The last aid station was between 8 and 9 and my frogger buddy stopped and I kept going. Mile 9 in 9:18.

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Mile 9 marked the beginning of the home stretch. We came back around the front of the mountain and had a wonderful view of the ocean down below. The next two miles were a nice long down hill. The trail was switchbacks at a nice decline. The downhill wasn't so steep that I had to put on the breaks every step. It was the kind of downhill where I felt like I could just let it fly. Mile 10 came up at 8:17, followed by mile 11 at 7:54. I had passed at least three people on the down hill; nobody had passed me, at least until the very end. I was within 0.2 mile of the finish line when my frogger buddy came up from behind and beat me to the finish by 10 seconds.

La Jolla Canyon Legend was 18K (11.2 miles) of pure running joy. The course was well marked and the mile markers seemed to be pretty accurate. Sure the uphills were tough, but the 18K distance was just enough so that I wasn't completely worn out at the end. I had beaten my goal time of sub 2:00. I had determined, worse case at 11:00 miles, that I would finish in 2:01. I was fairly confident that I could. My watch was 1:53:28.

We were treated to a medal and breakfast of scrambled eggs, fruit, coffee and a Krispy Kreme donut. I hung out for nearly 1.5 hours after the race. They gave away a lof of door prizes. I didn't win anything. I was waiting for the awards. I really had no feel for my placement but I was curious none the less, due to the rather small field. The organizers were having computing problems so I ended up leaving without official results.

Since then the results have been posted, 1:53:26. 68 out of 118 (58% finished ahead of me). They used 10 year age groups so I was 14 of 23 (61% ahead of me). If they had used 5 year age groups I was the 4th M 45-49. The 3rd place guy beat me by just over a minute. A minute is a long way on a trail run. So it wasn't my fastest race ever, but it was one heck of a run. I can still claim an 18K PR!

I ran Bonelli, 5 miles as usual, on Sunday but I waited until the late afternoon. The park was deserted and it was nice to enjoy the cooling air of the evening. I finished up well before sunset.

Final miles for the week: 30.2


Danny said...

now those are beautiful pics! nothing like that in new york city....

Wes said...

Nice trail run! And again, whose fault is it I get all these fancy ideas about running the trails in California? LOL. Those hills remind of the ones north of San Fran. Unfortunately, I have yet to make it to your part of California. Nice job!

Jessica Deline said...

Great job! I'm hoping I can run this race next year. Looks and sounds wonderful!

Robb said...

Great race Darrell. Beautiful place for a race - you've gotta love the hills brother!

Anne said...

I've always wondered what it must be like to run that one. Now, I need wonder no more. In addition to your strong finish, methinks this might be good preparation for your trail marathon coming up soon.

backofpack said...

Gorgeous! Sounds like a good one.

robtherunner said...

Pictures and the description sound wonderful. Glad to hear the run went well, but too bad you had to miss the other run with the bloggers.

Joe said...

Cool run, cooler description, Darrell! You obviously packed your camera, eh??

Great prep for Tecumseh, too. I envy your access to hills!!!

Thanks for the great write up!

Rae said...

That looks like a very gorgeous run! Well worth the one week postponement!!

Great job!!!!!!!!