Monday, May 29, 2017

Horseshoes are lucky, right?

The Coastal Horseshoe Lake trail race was special for several reasons:

  • I somehow managed to get us registered before it sold out. Several times we've decided to do this race only to find it's sold out. (One year I volunteered instead, which was its own kind of fun.)
  • It was going to be my third weekend in a row running a Half Marathon. I hadn't done anything that aggressive since February of 2014.
  • These trails are some of the best around. And since this was an out-and-back course, I'd get to see lots of friends - even the faster ones - during the race.

Horseshoe Lake is up on Skyline Road in the middle of nowhere (right Ynot, not your real name?) with no cell service.

It also had no heat.

I thought Canadians would do better in the cold.
It was surprisingly cold at the start, with a frostbitten breeze that was way out of place in California spring time.

But the cold was mostly temporary - once we started on the trails, we warmed up pretty fast. We started with a sprint  through a parking lot, allowing us to sort ourselves a bit by speed, then turned on to some fun single-track. It was a bit of a conga line for a while, but it went fine.

Conga lining up the switchbacks was kind of fun. 
The course is not flat, but the climbs are fairly modest. (There is 1800 feet of climbing for the out-and-back course.)

After a bit, we ran along the edge of the woods on a wider trail, and the conga lines were no more.

Wow - this trail was so much fun!
Ironically, many of these trails are notorious for being hot and exposed. Heat was not an issue today.

"Hi there Eiram! Not your real name!"
It wasn't long before I started seeing the faster runners already heading back. I get a huge kick out of this sort of thing.

"Hi there Drannyl! Not your real name!"
Our aid station was near the turnaround, which meant we got to see it twice. "Just go out a bit less than a mile and you'll see the turnaround." What was not said was "And you'll have to climb a hill to get there. Both ways."


Pick a color. Any color.
This was my first race where I had to grab a rubber band to prove I had gone all the way to the turnaround, which was pretty exciting! The surprise was getting to choose the color of rubber band that I wanted. I stood there trying to decide, then grabbed a purple and a blue one, felt bad for being greedy (there must have been a thousand rubber bands there - there was no chance of them running out), put the blue one back, started to leave, had second thoughts, paused, then rolled my eyes and forced myself to be happy with the purple one.


"Hi brave Nelle, not your real name!"
On my way back I started seeing the longer distance runners heading out for their second lap of the course.

"Hi Mrs Coastal, not your real name!"
Just before I ran into Mrs Coastal, I had seen a boy charging out on the trail that I didn't realize, until it was too late, was Coastal First Born. (He had a pacer, but I swear he was trying to drop her.) Mrs Coastal got this picture of me:

Photo by Mrs Coastal. Dorky look by me.
Mrs Notthat was wise and ran the 5M race, which interestingly used a completely different trail than the Half course. Mrs Coastal got this picture of Mrs Notthat gliding on some downhill:

Photo by Mrs Coastal. Happy smile by Mrs Notthat.
I was getting close to the finish and was happy about that. I went into this race knowing I wasn't going to be fast - I had a goal time of 3:30 or so. At the turnaround I was already up to 1:45, and since negative splits are not in my wheelhouse, it looked like I was going to be doing good to finish in under four hours.

Mrs Notthat and Not a Canadian came out a bit to see if I was still alive. That poor guy in the middle was just out for some peace and quiet. This was not a quiet time.
Once I was back to the lake, it dawned on me that I actually still had a chance at beating 3:30. What I hadn't realized was that the course was mostly uphill to the turnaround, which meant it was mostly downhill back to the finish, and I had been making reasonably good time (for me).

Not a Canadian: "Do NOT stop and play with these! Keep running!"
I started pushing a bit harder with that 3:30 goal in sight. Even the allure of toy dump trucks couldn't slow me down.

A funny thing about this race - there is an aid station about 50 feet from the finish. It's for the long distance people who turn around and head back out to do the course again. They made sure I didn't stop, tempting as it was.

The medal, shirt, bib, and anguished over rubber band.
And that's about it. I ended up at 3:30:59, so with some generous rounding, I can say I hit my 3:30 goal, which was a huge surprise given my time at the turnaround.

This course is a blast - if you are a faster runner and don't like conga lines, start nearer the front, or if you are like me, be sure to start nearer the back so you don't end up holding up the conga line. The fact that there even is a conga line means you're on single-track trails, which is always a great thing.

This felt a lot harder than a Half with 1800' of climbing should feel, but the variety of trails, views, and high fives on the out-and-back made it go by pretty quickly. A huge thanks to the volunteers and Coastal for putting on such a fun event - I'm so glad we finally got to run this thing!

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

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