Trail Quake Half-Marathon Recap

I was out of bed by 4:30am, busy getting dressed, eating a bagel with banana, and going over my mental check list, for the millionth time, of everything I could need for the race.  After forgetting my garmin at a race last month, I was super paranoid I’d forget something incredibly important again and not have anyone to save the day.
We were gone by 5:25am and on our way for our hour and a half drive to Saratoga, CA.  The race didn’t start until 8am and I wanted to get there by 7am, when bib pick-up started.
Small group of ‘half-marathon hikers’ about to start (30min before standard half-marathon started)
Honestly, I didn’t have a clue of what I was getting myself into.  And I underestimated the course elevation.  No joke.  Now on to more pictures.  I took a few pics of the scenery the first few miles, then felt I was putting my safety at risk with the multitasking while running on crazy terrain.
After the first quarter mile we hit our first hill climb and almost immediately, every single person was walking.  I don’t know that this photo even does the ‘steepness’ of these elevation climbs justice.
I swear there were some parts I could practically put my hands in front of me and crawl up.
But I was too embarrassed, so I refrained.  This is about the time I started thinking my time might be a whole lot slower than I had anticipated.
Remember how I joked about there being cliffs??  Um, no joke.
I wish I could have run with a video camera, maybe then you’d get a better idea of just how beautiful and earth-y it all was.  Definitely a change from the city/suburban scenery that I’m used to.  It looked better than some old forest in real life, trust me.
I believe this was the first downhill after over three straight miles of steep uphill.  My calves and lower back were harmoniously singing praises of relief.

 This was just past the 9-mile marker, almost to the last few miles of a very steep downhill, quad-tearing, shoe-skidding adventure.  The 64-year-old man behind me was a friend I picked up about mile 7.  We chatted during a couple miles of rolling hills before I lost him after an aid station and picked up the pace.  He helped distract me from my muscle soreness as he told me about his 40 half-marathons and 80 full marathons he’d completed.  He’s my hero.  When I asked if he had run this particular course before he said, “No I definitely haven’t, this is the hardest half-marathon I’ve ever run, and I’ve run 40 of them!  This is one of those races you just try to finish, you don’t run for time!”  Amen veteran runner, amen.

See that couple crossing the finish line behind us, I found a close up of them while browsing through the race photos…
I wonder how long he was carrying her..
 You’re not hardcore without a dirt-line
 I was excited when I found out I’d be receiving a second medal for placing 2nd in my age group.  But I was mostly laughing because I knew there must have been only one other person around my age.  I checked, there were four.  Score.  I was 1 minute and 20 seconds behind the girl who beat me in my age group and almost 20 minutes ahead of the girl who placed 3rd in our age group.
The race had the most intense and exciting course that I’ve run.  There were many areas where the trail was too narrow to fit more than one person, making it impossible to pass anyone.  There were many areas that were so steep, all you could do was walk and pray it would plateau soon.  Aside from running on dirt, these are things that made this course different than any other I’ve run:
  -the patches of rocky areas that were only safest to walk through
 -stretches of windy and zig-zag turns you had to stop and walk the corners of
 -a fallen tree completely blocking the path so you had to climb over
 -areas that fallen trees were partially blocking the path so you walked around it
 -a few areas of bushes to literally push yourself through
 -hundreds of tree roots sporadically dotted the course, random boulders and wet patches to leap over
 -hearing a guy tell someone {as we all walked up the longest, steepest hill} how in the last few times he had run this same course, there was a person or two who had torn their calf muscle from all of the steep uphill climbs–um, ouch.  Now I’m literally, rather than unreasonably, nervous my calves are going to explode for real.  Oh and my ears popped several times from the elevation change.
 -skidding on the downhill and trying to stop/slow down, especially during the final 5k, because it was that steep
 -stopping at mile 11 for a girl who had fallen, busted her knee open down to the bone and was waiting for medics to come.  I offered what little medical advice I could to her and her friends waiting with her, then continued running when they reassured me they’d be fine and someone was on their way.
-seeing several runners at the finish line with bloody scrapes all over them and feeling lucky I didn’t fall
 -The aid stations were awesome.  Each station had water, sports drink, orange slices, banana chunks, watermelon slices, pretzels, skittles, gummy bears, bite-sized cookies, m&m’s, salt capsules, and gu gels.  Who said you couldn’t please everyone?!  I had two cups of water and a watermelon slice at practically every station, banana chunk at one station, and pretzels at two stations.  Basically, I went all out for a 13-miler.  I mean heck, why not.
Just to show you how slow I am give you an idea of the intensity of the course, I finished this race exactly one full hour {down to the second} slower than the half-marathon I ran May 5th {while slightly injured w/shin splints}.  And the elite runner who took first place for women at this race set a new course record of 1:55:15, six minutes slower than the half-marathon I ran May 5th.
By the end of it all, I felt excited and so glad I was able to experience my first trail race.  The environment felt nothing like a road race, but it still emanated the same type of energy, excitement, and accomplishment of one.  My calves and lower back were tired and sore from all of the uphill while my quads were tired from the downhill.  But what I noticed most afterwards was how tired and sore my feet felt from running on rocks at random areas of the course, they felt all beat up–no wonder they make specific shoes for trail running, hello, news-flash.  I thought my body handled the run very well considering I was sick throwing up just a few days before the race, I had no complaints.
I’d love to do another trail race, maybe one with less elevation gains [or actually train on a trail with lots of hills, I’m sure that’d help], but I’d love to do another one.
Any trail runner veterans out there?  I need advice.

2 thoughts on “Trail Quake Half-Marathon Recap

  1. I found your blog because I am thinking about doing the 5k. I really enjoyed reading this post. That couple is so cute and I love the list of how this race was different. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think it sounds like fun!

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