Race Report: The Holcomb Valley Trail Run

The campground started to fill with light as I snuggled in my nice warm sleeping bag, in my tent filled with too many people and a dog, underneath a beautiful pine tree. When I signed up for this race, I signed up for the camp spot right across the street from the start of the race, so the fact that I was up at 5am and the race started at 7ish, and that I had absolutely nothing ready for my race of the day didn’t worry me.

My race of the day: The Holcomb Valley 33. This would be the longest run and race of my running career. Was I worried? For some strange reason, no. For a race of this magnitude, I did absolutely no justifiable training. In fact, I didn’t even try to counter that by eating clean and healthy. According to my boyfriend, I was eating pizza, mozzarella sticks, donuts, chicken tenders… So I corralled my group of support along with my hydration pack, an empty handheld, and some snacks, and headed to the race start.

I never really got nervous for this race, and I think it’s because I never really got ready for it. I had looked at the map of the course, but didn’t really pay attention to the total elevation gain, or what kind of terrain I would be running on. It was a trail race right? The 33 mile race as well as the 15 mile race ran along the same course, and I had the option at aid station #3 to drop down to the 15 mile race if I felt I needed to. I think this information acted as a security thought, but I was still going to give it a go. So here we go!

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The wave I started in had about 10 women, 30-39 female, and 40-49 female. As I looked around at my competition, I realized that I have never run in a race where I had this much of a chance at placing in my age group. I’m a terrible judge of age, but the odds were looking pretty good for me. If only I had trained!

So we all started running at the sound of the horn, and I knew what my game plan was going to be. I had to survive 33 long miles on a trail I knew nothing about. All I had to do was endure and make it. I figured I had 10 hours to get this thing done. Right off the bat the trail became very technical, and went up for almost 4 miles.

IMG_3021I had planned on hiking up all the hills, and running down when I could. Usually I have a hard time making myself slow down or walk at the start of the race because I feel like if I am at a race, I should be there for a reason, and that is to run. I felt very much relieved though when most everyone around me also started walking. At the top of the technical trail, was the first aid station. I didn’t think I needed anything yet, so I yelled out my bib number and continued on, and to my sheer joy, to be connected to the PCT. At this point I was already starting to become bored. Sure the first 4 miles were interesting, but I still really had not run anything, or looked at anything other than the ground beneath my feet.

IMG_3027At this point I had already tripped on rocks over a handful of times, and was anxiously awaiting the one trip that was going to land me on my face. Once I realized that I was on the trail that I had learned so much about, in the book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, I was rejuvenated.

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The trail itself was a beautiful single track under the cover of the pine trees of Holcomb Valley. The trail was nice and smooth, without all the rocks I had become accustomed to running on.

The trail meandered a bit up into the hills again, then connected us runners onto fire roads.

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IMG_3024I really should have done more homework in this race, because it would have been helpful to know how far apart the aid stations were. This is the point in the race that I realized that I didn’t think I was going to make it. I knew that I had be through aid station #5 by 12:45pm to continue onto the remainder of the race. I began to climb once again for what seemed like a couple miles, until finally I reached station #2. When I got there I decided that some salted watermelon along with a handful of peanuts would satisfy me. I filled my handheld with some Hed, and found out that I was only at 8.6 miles and it was 10:30am. I had been at this for about 2 hours, and in 2 more hours I had to be a 20.5 miles. I knew from this point on I would have to keep up a faster pace in order to make the cut off. Leaving station #2 put us right back on the PCT. A runner in front of me that at the pace he was running he would should make the cut off by 12:30pm, so I kept up with him for a few miles. Meanwhile, I contemplated on whether I really wanted to run 33 miles.

  • I didn’t train
  • It was hot
  • I wasn’t crazy about having to run a faster pace when all I wanted to do was sight see
  • I wanted to spend time with my family at the lake
  • I wanted to swim in the lake
  • I was getting bored

After all this I had to contemplate whether I really wanted to run 13 miles more after I made it to station # 5. It didn’t seem like something that sounded like fun, and then I tripped. I tripped so hard that I was surprised that I actually caught myself. I thought for sure though that my toenail was bleeding, and it became painful to put pressure on the front of my right foot. My decision was made. I called it quits at station # 3 and dropped down to the 15 mile race. I notified those in charge at station #3 and headed on back down the technical trail. Usually running downhill is my favorite part of the run. Not this time though.

IMG_3026The trail was so littered with rocks, that actually running down it was not an option for me. It drove me crazy to be so close to the finish line, but I couldn’t go any faster than a hike. When I finally got to a point that I could run, about a half mile to the finish line, I ran with all I had left in me and crossed the line at 3:17:14.

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So what did I learn? Well, it does help to train for a race. Even just a little. Second, I should do my homework. I knew that I had to be through station # 5 by 12:45pm but I kept forgetting that important detail because I was so focused on running slow and steady because I had 10 hours. I should have taken a look at the elevation profile, and possibly have had an idea of the distances between stations.

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So overall I had a great race, even though it wasn’t what I had in mind. I am  thankful for the opportunity and the fact that my legs carried me for 15 miles, and I was able to walk the next day! This race was hard, but I definitely would love to give it a go again.

Happy Running!

Dirt Devil Racing – The Grand Slam Progressive Series

This is the second of a 2 part race profile, if you missed the first one click HERE.

The Grand Slam Progressive Series hosted by Dirt Devils Racing, consists of 4 different distanced races. Since the first race of this series has yet to be here, you can still sign up to complete the whole series. To do this, you must sign up for each individual race in the series, but don’t wait! These races will sell out!! Those who complete the whole series will be entitled to special goodies at the completion of the series. Also, the Grand Slam Progressive Series dishes out points for racing. More info on the points here. You can sign up for one race, or all of them.

  • Coyote 5k – June 2, 2013 Tecolote Canyon, San Diego2012-Coyote-Logo-e1358365997910-205x300, CA

Course Description:  This localSan Diego 5k is located in centralSan Diego just minutes from Sea World, and runs throughTecoloteCanyon right in the heart ofSan Diego.  The race starts atTecoloteCanyonNatureCenter at the end ofTecolote Road and crosses the entire canyon.  The trail starts out as a wide jeep road that gradually ascends for the first mile until you can see Tecolote Golf Course on your left.  At this point the trail gets slightly steeper and becomes narrower (single track).  The 5K makes two quick left turns and returns the way they came on a flat and fast 1 mile stretch back to the finish.*

Use coupon code KATECOYOTE13 to save!

  • Sidewinder 10k – July 7, 2013 Marian Bear Memorial Park, San Diego, CA

Course Description: This localSan Diego 10K runs throughMarianBearPark right in the hsidewinder-10k-logoeart ofSan Diego. The race starts atMarianBearPark parking area on the West side ofClairemont Mesa Blvd directly South of Highway 52. The course is a mix of single track, double track, and about 150 yards of road. The 10K course will have some technical sections as well as 2-3 creek bed crossings. These will most likely be dry but will have loose rocks or wet if rain the week before. (Not gonna happen in July. Famous last words.) The course will start with a small loop, approximately 1 mile, and then become an out-n-back.*

Use coupon code KATESIDEWINDER13 to save!

  • Stairway to Heaven – August 11, 2013 Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, CA

Course Description:   Runners will follow the course markings through the grasslands ustairway-to-heaven-marathon-logontil they begin to ascend a steep ¾ mile hill at mile 2 encountering their first aid station at the top.  After reaching the top, runners will wind down into the canyon on a combination of narrow single track and fire road trails.  After reaching the second aid station runners will descend intoSuycottWash making their way towardsSouthFortunaMountain and the “Stairway to Heaven.”  When runners reach the stairway they will ascend up South Fortuna on steps that have been carved into the mountain.  Once at the top their efforts are rewarded with spectacular views of the valley … and our own Dirt Devil Stairway Angel.

Runners now make their way to the 3rd aid station (which was also aid station #1) before descending the steep ¾ mile hill and enteringOakCanyon. OakCanyon is rocky and technical but eventually eases up as runners make their way over historic Old Mission Dam and theSan DiegoRiver before turning left for a short half-mile of road. After turning left off the road you will finish with a stretch of double track trails returning to the finish area.

*****WARNING*****

THE 15K STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN IS A DIFFICULT, HILLY AND TECHNICAL COURSE.  HOWEVER, IT IS ALSO ONE OF THE MOST REWARDING AND CHALLENGING TRAIL RUNS IN SAN DIEGO.*

Use coupon code KATESTAIRWAY13 to save!

  • Raptor Ridge Half Marathon – October 13, 2013 San Dieguito River Park, San Diego, CA

Course Description: The Raptor Ridge half marathon is an out-n-back course that begins with 4.5 Raptor-Ridge-Logo-300x293miles of flat and fast jeep road that winds east towards the San DiegoSafari Park and Raptor Ridge.  The single track up Raptor Ridge is completely doable for stronger runners.  Runners who are not as strong should expect to “do some hiking” up to the top.  At the top you are rewarded by views of the entire valley.  October is a gorgeous time of year and the view at the top of the ridge is impressive.  As you continue down the other side of Raptor Ridge you really make up time.  Lean into the hill and run fast down the opposite side as you make your way back into the flats and towards your turnaround point.

After the turnaround, running up the backside of the ridge is easier than running up the single track.  The hill is longer and on less of an incline.  Try to run all the way to the top as you feel your quads burning.  As you crest the top get back on the single track and “trail-surf” all the way to the bottom.  This is trail running at its best.  Running downhill, really fast with great views all around you.  Spectacular!

As you run along the rolling jeep road toward the 5th aid station with the mountains on your left make sure to ready your bottle for filling.  It is only 3 miles to go now and it is all flat.  Now you are on your way back.  Farms are on both sides of you and you can settle into a nice, comfortable pace as you near the end.  As you come closer you can hear the sounds of cowbells ringing and volunteers calling “Runner”!  It gives you a jolt of energy and will allow you to speed up as you cross the finish.*

Use coupon code KATERAPTOR13 to save!

* All Course Descriptions are copied directly from dirtdevilsracing.com

Dirt Devils Racing – The Animal Half Marathon Series

This year I have signed up for two races that Dirt Devils Racing puts on annually. These two races are part of two different series’, The Animal Half Series, and The Grand Slam Progressive Series. So I thought it would be fun to get more people out there to participate, have fun, get dirty, and support a local racing company.

Here is the breakdown of The Animal Half Series. This is a two-part race profile, for the second part, The Grand Slam Progressive Series, click HERE.

The Animal Half Marathon Series is a collection of 4 trail races. These 4 races earn points for male and female runners placing in the top ten. The first race of the series has already passed and with that the chance to enter for the points for this series, but have no fear, those of you looking to run a great trail half marathon can sign up for one or all the remaining races. Don’t wait until the last minute because these races always sell out!

Runners who earn a qualifying finishing time in any of the half marathon races will be invited to the Dirty Invitational Marathon.

  • Wildhorse Trail Half Marathon TBD 2014 San Diego, CA

Course Description:

This race has passed but make sure to look for it in 2014!

Situated around Otay Lakes and the USA Olympic Training Center, the Wild Horse Trail Half Marathon traverses some of the most spectacular surroundings that can be found in San Diego County. Runners will park in the North Boat Launch Parking lot, and pin their bibs on. At mandatoryWild-Horse-2012-Logo-No-Date-300x235 check-in they will show their bibs to ensure they have an official start time. As the gun goes off, the racers will start on the Southwest side of Otay Lakes with sweeping views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. As the race begins, runners can take advantage of the flat, fast start for the first mile following the dirt/gravel road around the lake towards the Olympic Training Center. Once there the trail dips down along the lake edge offering well groomed single track on the way to the first of many footbridges and aid stations. After the first aid station the trail bends around the lake and continues on single track trail right along the lake shore. The trail remains flat and fast winding amongst the trees until aid station two at mile 3.7 near Otay Lakes Road. Depending on the lake water level runners will either continue along the lake shore or be diverted onto Otay Lakes Road for a brief period of time before continuing around the lake. Runners arrive at the turnaround and 3rd aid station and should pause to take in the view of this inspiring San Diego resource. The views from the third aid station are amazing. On the return trip, runners will be diverted to Upper Otay Lakes (and the smaller of the two) and then return onto the single track going back the way they came. The race finishes back at the Start/Finish area where you will be cheered and greeted by the Dirt Devil Racing staff and crew, in addition to family, spectators, and a Finisher’s Award Medal. After re-hydrating at our Sponsor’s Tent, or being tended to for any minor aches, you are encouraged to give that Victory pose to our Professional photographer with beautiful Otay Lake in the back-drop. Photo opportunities are free of charge for all runners, and their families. Photos are available for viewing at the Awards After Party, and for purchase a few days following the event.*

  • Foxy Trail Half Marathon April 28, 2013  Rancho Bernardo Community Park, San Diego, CA

Course Description:  This local San Diego Trail Half Marathon runs around beautifulLakeHodges Foxy_logo1right off of Interstate-15.  The race starts at West Bernardo Park and crosses the new stone suspension bridge from the South side of theLake to the North side.  After crossing the bridge runners head west along theNorthShore trail overlooking the lake.  After passing through the marina runners enter a wooded area and run along the lake shore. This race is an out-n-back.*

Use coupon code KATEFOXY13 to save!

  • Cougar Half Marathon  May 26, 2013 Hwy 78 Trailhead, San Diego, CA

The event starts at the San Pasqual Trail and the first 4 miles wind through orange groves and localcougar-pic-for-website-150x150 farms on a mix of single and double track trail.  Cougar Mountain ascends 365 feet and most are capable of running to the top, with some needing to run/walk their way up the trail. The trail down the backside of the mountain is mostly single track and lots of fun to run. The last mile is flat again before runners get to the turn around point.  The San Pasqual Trail is part of the Sea to Crest Trail that connects historic Julian to theSan Diego coast at Del Mar.*

Use coupon code KATECOUGAR13 to save!

  • Raptor Ridge Half Marathon October 13, 2013 San Dieguito River Park, San Diego, CA

Course Description: The Raptor Ridge half marathon is an out-n-back course that begins with 4.5Raptor-Ridge-Logo-300x293 miles of flat and fast jeep road that winds east towards the San DiegoSafari Park and Raptor Ridge.  The single track up Raptor Ridge is completely doable for stronger runners.  Runners who are not as strong should expect to “do some hiking” up to the top.  At the top you are rewarded by views of the entire valley.  October is a gorgeous time of year and the view at the top of the ridge is impressive.  As you continue down the other side of Raptor Ridge you really make up time.  Lean into the hill and run fast down the opposite side as you make your way back into the flats and towards your turnaround point.

After the turnaround, running up the backside of the ridge is easier than running up the single track.  The hill is longer and on less of an incline.  Try to run all the way to the top as you feel your quads burning.  As you crest the top get back on the single track and “trail-surf” all the way to the bottom.  This is trail running at its best.  Running downhill, really fast with great views all around you.  Spectacular!

As you run along the rolling jeep road toward the 5th aid station with the mountains on your left make sure to ready your bottle for filling.  It is only 3 miles to go now and it is all flat.  Now you are on your way back.  Farms are on both sides of you and you can settle into a nice, comfortable pace as you near the end.  As you come closer you can hear the sounds of cowbells ringing and volunteers calling “Runner”!  It gives you a jolt of energy and will allow you to speed up as you cross the finish.*

Get out and have fun on the trails! Make sure to check out The Grand Slam Progressive Series!

Use coupon code KATERAPTOR13 to save!

*All course descriptions are directly from dirtdevilsracing.com