This was a difficult run. Like, super difficult. As difficult as it was, it was one of the most pretty runs ever. You run right along the coast for a good section of the course, and the other parts of the course you get to run through this awesome forest with streams and waterfalls.
Here are the course elevations for all the races that day:
And here's my course elevation map:
So essentially, you start out the course going straight uphill to one of the toughest hill climbs I've ever done, Cardiac. The forest is beautiful as you run through it, but it is really challenging. Lots of climbing, lots of slippery steps, and you can get distracted pretty easily by the gorgeous streams and waterfalls you are running by. The first few miles weren't too bad, mainly because I had a vague idea of what to expect. What I was NOT expecting was the Warrior Dash-esque ladder I had to climb up in order to continue along the trail. There were also lots and lots and lots of steps in the first 3 miles.
When you get to the top of Cardiac, you are awarded with an aid station. An aid station has never looked so glorious. (Well, maybe as glorious as that final aid station in Bear Creek last year...) I refilled my sprint bottles, and met up with a gal from my running group had driven up with me. We decided to continue on together. After you climb up and up and up through the forest area and reach the Cardiac aid station, you get to what you expect to be the "easier" portion of the trail. During this section, you get to leave the canopy forest and venture out into a more meadow type running trail area. This was awesome, because you got to see the entire coastline from on top of the mountain. Then you run along this for about 5 miles, enjoying the peaceful coast view the whole way.
Except for the rocks. And the mud. and the tricky terrain. This is one of the most technical trails I've seen! The trail in some portions was so ridden down by mountain bikers that it was a perfect V and you had to try and step through the grassy section next to the trail. Then there were tons of rocks you had to be super careful of not turning your ankle on. Plus, lots and lots of mud. I almost lost a shoe in the mud! Given all these factors, the "easier" part of the run was definitely not so easy. It took a lot of patience and attention to correctly place your feet and not get stuck in mud or turn your ankle. Too bad for me, I fell. Again. I shouldn't be so surprised by now. Totally wiped out right in front of my buddy who was running with me. She was super worried, but by now I'm used to falling down, scraping myself and getting all bloody, and carrying on. The sucky part about this fall, however, was that I still had 13 more miles and 1600 more feet of climbing to do. Oh well, time to carry on.
So after you manage to navigate through the rocks and mud (all while enjoying the view), you are rewarded once again with the second aid station. The run to this station was the toughest for me, because there was a long flat section that lead you through a meadow to a pasture with horses. It was a pretty boring part of the trail, and all I really wanted to do was get to the aid station at Muir Beach which signaled that I was more than halfway done with the race.
I finally got there, refilled again, and got back on the road. I ended up running with a small group of ladies who looked like pretty seasoned CTR runners. I got to talking with them, and it was a pretty cool experience. One of the interesting parts of this race is that you are running with lots of other runners, but they may not be running the same distance as you. One lady I ended up chatting with for a while was doing the 50K! I was totally blown away by this, I couldn't imagine doing that first climb to Cardiac all over again. She was a trooper!
So, after that second aid station you get to climb all the way back up Cardiac again. It was definitely painful the second time, but I had a better idea of what to expect and when it would end, so that made the climb a little more manageable. At the top of Cardiac when I got to the aid station for the second time there were all these hikers picnicking at the top, and they looked at us runners like we were crazy, which, we probably were.
I was so happy when I got to that final Cardiac aid station! There was only 2.9 miles left after that, and I was closing in on my goal of around 4 hours. I trooped on and got to the forest part again, which was actually pretty difficult to descend. All the steps that you didn't really take a huge notice of in the beginning were pretty hefty obstacles to deal with. The wood was a little slippery and it definitely took a toll on your knees. I ended up getting a rock in my shoe with about a mile and a half to go, but my knees and legs were so dead from all the climbing and stairs that I just left the rock in my shoe and ran with it the whole way back.
I ended up crossing the finish line at 4 hours and 10 minutes, and I was super happy with my time. For my first 30K, I'll take it! This was definitely a great first 30K, mainly because of how beautiful and diverse the run was. It was a tricky, tough, hill climbing run, but the views you got and the memories were worth the pain.
Here is the course map of the run. The 30K runners followed the pink, orange, then pink routes:
Although I was pleased with my finishing time and proud of myself that I had completed the race, the whole second part of the course all I could really think about was how there was no way I was ready for a 50K. I could not imagine doing what those other ladies I was talking to were about to do. Finish the whole course, get to the finish line, and then turn right back around and do it all over again. No way. I expressed this thought to my running partner in crime at the end, and he said he had the same thought. I guess I'm really going to have to put in some heavy heavy training and give it a lot of thought as to whether or not I will be ready mentally and physically to run a 50K at the end of March. I guess only time and training will tell!
So, it was a great (and challenging) weekend! The run served as a great mental and physical fitness check, and although I don't think I passed the test, I know where I have to go if I really want to perform well in my 50K. Overall, it was a great course that was really clearly marked (even though I got a little turned around) and that had great support at the aid stations. I would definitely run a Coastal Trail Run again, it was a great experience! All photos in this blog are courtesy of Coastal Trail Runs at their website www.coastaltrailruns.com/sr_steep_ravine.html
Thanks for reading, and keep running!
What a great (and challenging) weekend! The run served as a great mental and physical fitness check, and although I don't think I passed the test, I know where I have to go if I really want to perform well in my 50K.