The Xterra Trail Run is a series of races across LA and San Diego (possibly other Socal locations) with the Black Mountain 15K race #6 of 7. According to the website, “The athlete with the most points- by gender and age group- after the last race in the Series earns the title of XTERRA Trail Run Series Champion and earns free entry into the XTERRA National Championship Xduro in 2012!” Unfortunately, this was my first and only race of the series, so I don’t expect to win said championship. I can’t speak for the other races of the series, but the Black Mountain 15K was a tough one (especially with one particular hill in the middle as well as the final climb to the finish. Results: 1:20:03 (9.73 miles, 8:13 min/mile), 9/21 AG, 40/245 Overall. Even as the race had just gotten under way, I thought to myself, “why do I keep signing up for these (trail) races, they’re so tough”. But I got over that initial doubt, survived the race and felt great afterwards.
The only thing I knew about the course prior to the start was that it was not an out and back, which I was happy about. I never liked running races where I knew the elevation/distance I would be running back. This point-to-point course basically made a loop around the Black Mountain Regional Park with plenty of climbs and turns as well as a ‘creek crossing’ which was more like water flowing from a wash. The course director did warn us that the distance was a little more than a 15K, but according to my Garmin, I only ran an additional .13 miles, which isn’t bad.
There were two hills that were really tough for me, the first one just before the 6-mile mark which was totally unexpected. When I saw the elevation profile before the race, it looked like you start off the race going downhill, a few gradual uphills in the middle and then a huge uphill finish. The particular hill in the middle was either too long or steep (or a combination of both), but as I was looking up ahead at runners working their way to the top I noticed most, if not all runners started walking. Going back to high school cross country, we were never told to walk up hills and/or I just avoided walking in any circumstance, and I still try to use that strategy to this day. Unfortunately, I had to walk the latter part of that hill like everyone else, which was still painful to do. It looks like it was a 200 feet climb within a very short distance. The 2nd hill was a more gradual, but definitely longer one before the finish, which felt like it would never come.
In terms of pacing, it was definitely not as evenly paced as my last (flatter) half marathon. Because it was a smaller race, I started off pretty close to the front at the start. But to avoid getting passed by too many runners, I ran a faster pace than I was prepared to run for the whole race. There were parts of the course that were single track, which helped keep me going at a reasonable pace, but I did have to surge past a slower runner at one point. I gave one final push just before the finish, although I did run out of energy at the very end and mistakenly stopped at the start, when the finish was a few yards after that (very deceiving since all I was looking for was a sensor on the floor, which was there!
I get a break this weekend and then on to my next race the following weekend in LA, another inaugural one: Hollywood Half Marathon. I wasn’t going to run it, but my cousin (who ran the LA Marathon in the pouring rain with me last year) actually asked me about it. He visited me in SD and we went for a run together and I was able to convince him to sign up for this half, which I’m hoping is a better experience than the full.