Today I finally ran a race that I’ve considered at several times but from some inexplicable reason had never run. It is the perfect distance on trails within an hour of my house. In June we are almost always guaranteed perfect weather conditions for a run so why it has eluded me for so long I’m not sure.
Anyway the planned run on the buildup to Missoula was a 15 miler. Once I saw this race on the calendar I decided the 13.1 miles with hills would make the perfect alternative to 15 miles on one of several bike path options, so on Thursday I signed up.
This was the 10th running of the Valley Crest Half Marathon. It is held entirely on the Mulholland fire road. 13.1 miles that are either going up or down. It isn’t a crazy mountain run but the total elevation gain is about 800 feet. I’ve definitely tackled worse but I knew that I was working. Even on this cool misty morning I was sweating.
I arrived at the race start about an hour early to secure a parking spot. The website had repeatedly noted that parking was limited. The morning was very heavy “June Gloom” conditions. I needed my windshield wipers at times on the drive there due to the low lying thick cloud cover. It wasn’t raining but there was a lot of moisture in the air. Bib pickup was a breeze. They were expecting about 400 runners. Shirts and goodie bags were handed out after the race.
After a short briefing from the RD, the race started promptly at 8:00 with a simple Ready, Set, Go! Right away we headed up a short spur trail to get on the Mulholland Fire Road proper. Due to starting line crowding the best tactic was to just walk up the hill. Once on the fire road things began to move along a little more smoothly. It was probably about 15 minutes in before there was adequate room to just run the pace of your choosing.
There were no mile markers on this course and since I was just running it as a training run anyway it didn’t really matter to me. I did take mile splits at the turn around points. The course was a simple double out and back. We first headed west for about 3.5 miles, turned around and retraced our steps and then continued east to the 10 mile mark, made another U-turn and then headed down the little spur trail back to the start/finish line.
I hit the 3.5 mile turn in 33:16 for an approximate 9:30 pace. The course had been predominately downhill to that point. Then began the work of climbing back up what we just descended. I just chugged along keeping pace with a bunch of folks and picking them off slowly one by one. I should have tracked my kills on the way to the 10 mile turn around point.
I hit the second turn around point in 1:06, about 10:16 pace. This direction on the fire road was mostly uphill with only a downhill respite between mile 6.5 and 7.5. After the turn around we were headed mostly downhill and I was still able to catch a couple of folks which surprised me because I usually not much of a downhiller. I had to take a quick duck into the bushes and lost some time but even then I re-caught a couple of the folks again.
The cloud cover and mist heavy at times was both a blessing and a curse (of sorts). The June Gloom kept the temperature in the low 60’s, very nice for running. The heavy mist caused my glassed to get water spotted and even fogged up, so vision was a bit of an issue. I chose my foot placement carefully, the fire road was rocky in places and partially eroded from the winter rains. The mist had dissipated for the final push down the hill to the finish which was nice.
I finished the race in 2:13:37 (10:10 pace overall). This isn’t exactly a stellar time for me at the half marathon distance, but it served the purpose of the day of getting in the miles before Missoula. Overall there is nothing not to like about this race. Unlike some other races of its size, the top three male and females all received prize money. The rest of us got the obligatory t-shirt and a medal.
I was back home and showered by noon. I spent the remainder of the day with my wife. We enjoyed a late breakfast at a local eatery and then headed down to Temecula to pick up our June wine club shipments. Quite an enjoyable day.