A logo. That’s the only reason I signed up for this race. While browsing the Pasadena Pacer’s Facebook Page I noticed there was a post asking for volunteers to form a team for this race. The team needed 5 members in order to get our name on the back of the shirt. I checked the race website for details and promptly signed up. We quickly found others to join the team and we got our sweet logo on the back of the shirt!
Or so that’s all I thought I was running for. This race turned out to be quite more. The location and timing tested my resolve. The course tested my training. By the end of it, I had realized that running had quickly become more than a “hobby” it is now one of my passions. Well I am getting ahead of myself so let’s just get to the recap!
When I first looked up the location of the race, it didn’t look that far away on Google Maps. The directions given were just one bus ride away and about a mile walk. Totally do-able. Then I realized I needed to be there at 6:30… and it would take an hour to get there by bus… so including prep time, I needed to be up by 4:30am on a Saturday and I had plans with Meghann on Friday night.
I had grown accustomed to being out the door by 5:30 during my weekday runs so what was another 30mins? Yeah, I was up by 4:15. I was surprised at how quickly I had my pre-race routine down:
- Eat 1/2 Cliff Bar
- Drink cup of coffee
- Apply sun block and Body Glide (no not the fun version)
- Put on tech-shirt, soccer shorts, running socks and athletic underwear (totally worth the $!)
- Grab Keys, ID, Phone, armband, sweatbands and wireless headphones.
It took me less than 15mins to get ready and get out the door. The ride there was uneventful but I did notice I was the only person on that bus that wasn’t heading to work. The rest were half asleep and dressed in their work uniforms. I had already gone into my pre-race panic/excitement mode.
By the time I got to the race location the first two pacers had shown up and the event looked like it had been set up hours ago. I met up with the team and we started stretching.
I looked around and saw nothing but hills around us so I asked if anyone knew what to expect from the course. Two of the pacers had attended the course preview the week before and said it was a very hilly course and most of the trail goes up the first “small hill”.
Yeah, I thought I was done for. Up until now I had only ran three flat courses and the lone trail race had been my worst showing. The week before was the first time I even started doing hills training on the treadmill. Now I was looking at a course that was filled with hills and rough terrain. I was warned to be aware of the narrow edges, uneven pathways, cracks in gravel, and random pedestrians since the course was not closed off from the main trail. Oh and the High School athletes would be unleashed 30mins after our wave…
This race benefited a local high school race and by 7am the entire park was filled with teenagers. I was quickly reminded of the annoying teenage volunteers from the Aquarium of the Pacific 5k and the Devil’s Gate Dam 5k. Now they would also line this course by the hundreds and run amongst us if we were falling behind. I made it a point to finish before those bastards could step foot on the course.
We lined up for the start, I looked around and noticed all of the other teams; Nike Team Run LA, Gritty City Track Club, LA Tri, ARC Racing Club. These fuckers were fit and looking to make new personal records… I was just looking to outrun the hounds/teens. So I stepped towards mid-pack. I let all of those with six pack abs and shorts-shorts take the lead.
As the rules were read aloud to us, everyone shut up and put their game face on. I ignored most of the chatter and just focused on waiting for the signal. I did a few more shoulder rolls to release the tension and stretched my calves one last time…
At the first hill we were all funneled into a narrow trail. I found a fellow Pacer and just followed him for the first kilometer. Around the second hill I noticed Mullet Lady behind me. She was the same Mullet Lady from the Aquarium of the Pacific 5k whom I had followed through the pack. It was my turn to repay the favor so I broke away from the Pacer and charged ahead up the first “small hill”.
I lead us through a group of hipsters, past someone who looked like Jack LaLanne, and left a smug 10 year old in our dust. I could feel the energy of the crowd! The power of each step! The… burning in my thighs and knees!
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have charged up that hill. By the time I reached the plateau I was thinking of finding the nearest bench and curling up in the fetal position. I ignored those thoughts and settled for jogging at a slower pace. Mullet Lady would have none of that and quickly made her way past me. She continued her trek to bring back the style. Maybe next race I will be able to keep up with her past the first mile. God bless you Mullet Lady.
Around the 1.5 mile mark the trail opened up and reached a point where I could see downtown Los Angeles in the distance. With the sun rising in the background, I took a moment to take it all in. I had never seen LA from this height and with such a grand view… this is one of the reasons why I run; to see more of the places that I love. I felt re-invigorated.
According to the data from Endomondo, shortly after seeing downtown I ran my quickest kilometer of the race. Sure it was mostly downhill but I still think LA saved me from giving up on the race. If it had been an ugly course like Devil’s Gate, I don’t think I would have kept up the pace.
But then, as I rounded the tennis courts I saw it… the big hill. It finally hit me why they had called the first one the small hill. The elevation gain of the small one was about 10m… the big one was 30m. Fuck.
The hill had collected quite a few of us. There was a lady in a cross-fit shirt who had pulled off to the side looking like she was dry heaving. An older man had decided walk it. Young dude came up from behind us and tried to charge it… only to stop halfway. Then a stick figure of a woman flew past us at a leisurely pace. What did I do? Well I tried to keep a jogging pace and failed once the trail curved to show that we were only half way up the hill. A collective “FUCK ME!” was yelled out. I did manage to beat the pack up the hill but the old man ran past me on the flatter section, crafty bastard pulled a tortoise. I made a mental note of walking up steep hills in future trail races. There is no shame in being realistic.
Over the last hill I saw the starting area and my biggest fear… the teenagers were being given their 5 min warning. Oh hell no! I ran down the hill and flew past a few others. As I came closer to the final mini-hill I noticed that the teenagers were lined up against the ropes and they were… cheering? The hell? I expected some sarcastic remarks or insults. But instead I was greeted with kids trying to read my race bib to cheer me on and telling me that I was close. One even shouted that I need to finish strong. That was just what I needed.
I used up every last bit of energy in the final km. According to Endomondo, I hit my max pace of 4min/km during that stretch. As I ran through the finish shoot, I heard people cheering my team name. A few “GO PACERS!” and one “COME ON MARVIN!”… to be fair the print on my bib was a bit small. I knew I should have written Marlton or Gulpo. I finished in 24 mins 59 sec, one second shy of the mark I wanted to hit. I hunched over and chugged a bottle of water. Then I heard the teenagers unleashed onto the course. I cheered them and myself.
I stayed along the finish to cheer on my fellow Pacers. We exchanged sweaty high fives, compared notes on the course and complained about that bastard of a big hill. The race expo didn’t have much for me so I headed back to the bus stop.
Halfway back to the stop I passed a group of teens warming up:
Girl 1: I hate running
Girl 2: What? Then why the hell are you here?
Girl 1: I need it for my college application. I’d rather be sleeping
Girl 2 looks at Girl 3: Not us. We love running.
That explained why they were so nice. These kids were on the road as early or earlier than I had been and were there because they wanted to… well except Girl 1.
As I got on the bus for the 45min drive home, the one mile walk back to my apartment and the cold shower that awaited me I knew this is something I was doing for myself. I could have called it quits at various points but each time I kept with it. This is something I want to keep doing for the foreseeable future.