It was another early morning. Another early morning for another Into The Wild Trail race, my favorite from last year. My alarm was set for 5:45am but my body woke at 5:30. I didn’t get right up instead I laid there for a moment, resting and checking down a mental list of sore spots on my body.
Knees? Check! Ankles? Check! Lower back? So far, not too painful. Thighs? Really tight!
I had worked through a serious training session on Wednesday night that left me hobbling around. On Thursday I followed it with a decently challenging 5.25 mile run with the group. So come Saturday morning I was still feeling all my aches and pains. And those pains kept me up throughout the night with concerns that I wouldn’t be able to run without pain.
Still I rose and began my morning routine. I got into my gear including some suppppppa tight compression pants. I can’t say these things are what’s making my running longer distances easier but it is nice to have on. It gives that comforting feeling that I’m being held together pretty well.
So I snapped a picture of myself, yes my obligatory pre-race selfie, then headed down for breakfast. I wasn’t really feeling hungry. I had some pre-race nerves building up and my stomach was doing flip-flops all over. But I knew I needed fuel so I made a jelly sandwich on some wheat toast and a cup of coffee.
Knowing these Into The Wild races can be a challenge, I decided to try out some energy supplements while I ran this race. I’ve never used an energy packet during a race though I’ve tried some of the jellies during my weekday runs. While I picked up my packet at the REI store in Tustin, I did buy a few on the way out.
I gave myself a few choices in both flavor and type of supplement from jellies to shots to waffles. I figured the little extra boost wouldn’t hurt especially on these longer trail runs where we’re conquering hills and making our way through rocks and things.
Then it was time to hit the road. I packed up my coffee and kissed The Guy goodbye. I love driving out to these early morning races because it’s quiet and peaceful on the road. Not a lot of people are up and traveling so early.
I got there in plenty of time and made my way to group #3 where all the racers were gathering. It was kinda chilly out and there was a slight fog rolling in and touching the peaks of the hills around us.
The runners there early to pick up their packets and to check in were all bouncing around trying to stay warm. It was very cold and damp. Even though I picked up my packet the day before I still showed up early to check in. They like to have a headcount of those out on the trail in case someone doesn’t make it back. A precaution I appreciate.
I, too, bounced around to keep warm. I started out on the grass but soon felt the dew seeping into my shoes. The trail was going to be dirty enough and I didn’t need to add moisture to the dust to create mud so I made my way to the path to do my little stretches and jog some. Because I showed up so early, I was pretty well warmed up by the race’s start.
After the 21k racers took off at 8am on the dot, I pulled out my energy chews and took my first one. These were some GU Chomps in cranberry apple flavor. They are massive and took some major chewing to get them small enough to swallow. But the flavor is not bad and they didn’t make my shaky, a side effect I worried about.
Thirty minutes after the the 21k racers start, our race began. Right on schedule! By then my first chew had 30 minutes to digest and I was feeling ready to run.
Just like last year we followed a path for about half a mile then we turned off onto a dirt/pebble path that took us away from the park. I knew this route from last year so I felt confident in running steadily. I made it to the first water station around 3 miles to grab a sip of Gatorade and take another chew.
I hit my 5k distance at 34:19, a broken record!!! I totally blew away my 5k times and I was super proud. So proud I spoke out loud to myself in congratulations, garnering a few odd looks from some other racers around me. But I didn’t care! I was under 35 minutes for my 5k and that was a goal I had been striving for.
At the first water station, instead of running left we turned right. This was unexpected but I was happily surprised by the change and new route. Instead of a left hand turn, the route took us on some single file fire lines and through some tall grass, over some small hills and dips and lots of rocks. I LOVED IT! It was exciting and fueled me to run faster.
My overall pace for the first 5 miles was below 12 mins/mile. Another big breakthrough for me. I was happy to hear the little application’s voice tell me I was running under a 10 minute mile pace at times and noting that my slowest pace was 11:35 at others. But the longer I ran the slower my pace became.
It didn’t matter too much because by 5.5 miles I hadn’t walked a step! I ran 5.5 miles completely without walking. When I hit the 5 mile water station I grabbed another sip of Gatorade and made my way into the toughest section. We ended up traveling up and up to an elevation of about 683 ft at the peak and then back down to 609 ft where we started. The climb was fine until I pushed my tight legs and my burning calves to run a hill that turned left only to find that hill became steeper. That was when I knew I was tired and out of steam.
So I walked my way up and then let gravity help me down. I walked a little more on a flat portion until I could see the path that lead me to the finish. At that point I was pumped and ready to finish.
My 10k time was 1:11:52 and my overall race time was 1:21:41. We got an extra 0.7 miles added on and you won’t find me complaining. I’d much rather have too many miles than too few for a race I’ve paid to participate in.
Not only did we get a great tech shirt with our packet pick up but our medal is also a bottle opener! I thought that was a pretty cool little touch. One of these days I’ll make plans to stick around after the race so I can participate in the snacks and raffle with the rest of the racers. Mike and Alison do such a great job.
I followed my race with a nice shower and a big breakfast of scrambled egg whites with crumbled sausages, a dark chocolate protein drink and some sweet raspberry pastries on the side. Noms!
Our weekend was quite full after that. We had some soccer and egg painting and out-of-town company to hang out with not to mention a reunion ceremony at Camp Pendleton for the remaining marines who stormed Iwo Jima. It was a beautiful ceremony and one that was very emotional.
By the end of the weekend, I was completely worn out. It was a good, full weekend and I was super pleased with my race and all the other engagements we enjoyed with our friends and family.
Running the Into The Wild OC races has become some of my favorite race events. The people are all very relaxed and fun to be around from the racers to the volunteers to Mike and Alison, the coordinators. Even when we finished the 10k and people were looking at their distance and seeing it was longer than the usual 6.2 miles, no one complained. Instead we all laughed and thanked them for the extra mileage. These events are always well organized with a calmed and friendly vibe. I love them and will continue to race with them as long as I can!
I highly recommend, if you are so included to try trail racing, to run one Into The Wild Trail race. It may not be your thing but it’s a great place to start if you are interested in giving it a try.
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