Friday, December 15, 2017

Del Dios Trail Half Marathon Race Recap

**12/16 UPDATE: We received word that we would get FREE race photos, so new pictures have 
since been added to this post. MAJOR PROPS to Endurance Race Series for this AMAZING perk!**

Ryan and I ran the Del Dios Trail Half Marathon on Sunday.

I originally heard about it from a sweet friend, Smitha. She has participated in a few of the races from the Endurance Race Series (the five races in California are deemed the "Sunshine Series") and always speaks highly of them. 

Well, the hubby loves trail running and since he's getting into the part of his full marathon training plan where his long runs on the weekends are over 10 miles I figured it'd be the perfect time to sign up for a race. I mean, why not have a training run that comes with fully stocked aid stations and finishes with a medal and free beer?!

The event offered a 5K, 10K and Half Marathon. The courses are dirt service roads or single track trails, with elevation gains between 100'-500'. When hills are present they're short but steep. The courses are out and back (no getting lost and you can cheer for fellow runners as they go by). The terrain is great for all running levels, no trail experience needed.
If any of you were following Southern California news last week, you probably saw that we were on fire. I believe there were six major wild fires burning at once, with one even in Oceanside. Firefighters have since been able to contain the majority of them (although they're predicting the Thomas Fire in Ventura will continue burning through Christmas). The Lilac Fire in Bonsall/ Oceanside had the potential to threaten this event (many people were evacuated, but the closest evacuation boundaries to us were still about 3 miles away), but thankfully the winds and first responders were in our favor and not only kept the fires at bay but also allowed for decent air quality in Escondido for the race.

I based this race outfit around my new trail shoes and my PROs (because I thought dark socks would be best with the dirt)!

I much appreciated that you could pick up your bib race morning (if you didn't read yesterday's recap, we had the San Diego Santa Mile with Walt the day prior and would have been hard pressed had we been required to pick up our bibs on Saturday). I realize that it can be a headache for the race organizers (having to cart the bibs/ participant tees all around town, find volunteers to staff the area before the race, etc) and vendors miss out on runners going to an expo and potentially shopping their products, but as a runner I'd much prefer waking up a little earlier and showing up a few minutes ahead of time on race morning with the convenience of race day pick-up.

It's no coincidence that the alarms start at 4:44am ;) 

Well, apparently my idea of "waking up a little early and showing up a few minutes ahead of time"  got us to the race over an hour early... oops! But I would much rather be early than cut it close, be stressed and have to rush around.

You can see on the map that the red "closures" was
where the Lilac Fire was still burning at the time... 

The hubby and I grabbed our gear (which was very quick and easy) and made our way back to the paring lot. The temps were already pretty warm so we tried to stay cool and save our legs by sitting in the car. About 30 minutes before the race we meandered over to the starting area so we could use the port-o-potties before finding friends.

Hubby was stretching but I interrupted for a pre-race photo ;)

Love local races with local friends!

We look ready to tackle the trails, right?! 

Fun to see the previous photo from another angle ;) 

Once it was close to kick-off for the half marathon, the runners gathered at the starting line and Jeff, the awesome race director, went over a few of the details. He let us know how the course was marked (with flour on the dirt and 12"x12" signs on posts), gave us a brief overview of the course (so we didn't go past the aid stations or veer off-course), and wished us well. The crowd was pretty small (only about 175 runners for the half) but everyone seemed like they were psyched to get the party started despite the less than perfect conditions Mother Nature was "blessing" us with.

Listening intently because I did NOT want to get lost or break my leg!

Ryan and I had three goals for this race - 1. Have fun, 2. Don't fall, and 3. Get dirty. You see, the following weekend we were planning on running the San Diego Holiday Half and Ryan wanted to try to break two hours (his current PR is around 2:05), so we wanted to take this race easy so he was ready to give it his all the following weekend. With that said, we weren't out to break any speed records. Even still, by the time we made it to the first aid station (which was at approximately 3.1 miles) I had counted the ladies who were ahead of us and I was actually the sixth female overall. [Ryan ended up having to pee at this point so we stopped so he could relieve himself and we fell back a bit, but it was still cool.]

Lake Hodges

Coming down hill makes it look like I was running faster than I was ;)

The views definitely did not suck (even if the winds did)

Hubby had to ditch his shirt around Mile 3... It was already pretty hot at that point.

Like I mentioned before, the courses are out and back, so you can see runners going by. I enjoy being able to cheer on friends and fellow runners. Smitha was even able to snap a couple pictures of Ryan and I "in action". (She did the 10K, but since the 10K ran the same route as the half until about the 6 mile mark she was able to see us along the way.)

Always cheesin' for the camera!

Ryan was FLYING!

By the time the 10K route was heading to the finish line and we were heading to the other side of the lake, the hubby and I were out of water. (I carry my Nathan handheld so I have somewhere to hold my PROBAR BOLT chews and for some back-up hydration.) Not only was it warm out, but the Santa Ana winds were blowing, making it super dry {and a little dusty in spots} so it seemed as though most runners were pretty parched. The race organizers did their best with aid stations, but Mother Nature threw a tizzy-fit and made things a little worse than they were expecting (more on that later).

Trying to be "artsy" while I waited for Ryan to catch up

Can you believe there was a water crossing on the course?!

As the course guide mentioned, the trails seemed great for all levels. I normally don't run trails (although this race made me fall in love with them for sure), but I didn't feel uncomfortable at any point due to the terrain. There were a few steep hills, but for the most part it was a surprisingly flat course for a trail race. The only negative I had of the race was that the course wasn't closed, so there were quite a few mountain bikers sharing the trails. Most of them had bells on their bikes so you could hear them coming, but at one point I did see the guy in front of me have to physically jump off the trail because a biker came flying around the corner and almost hit him. For a small race I understand that they couldn't necessarily close the trails just for us, but I wish the bikers would have stayed away for the 2ish hours we were out there.

You can see one of the random bikers coming up on Ryan

The views were definitely picturesque and made me want to do more exploring of Lake Hodges (the hubby and I have taken Walt out there for a few short hikes in the past, but apparently there is so much more to see). I bet when we aren't in the middle of a major, multi-year drought it would be even more stunning!

Gorgeous, right?!

There ended up being three aid stations on the course, two of which you hit twice. When the race director was marking off the course the day before, the temps seemed like they would be doable, but when the wind picked up on Sunday, it made for more difficult elements. In theory they should've had enough water, electrolytes, and nutrition but because of the unexpected winds and dryness of the weather, more resources were used than anticipated (i.e. people pouring water over their heads), and caused them to fall short in some of the aid station locations. Luckily they were able to refill the supply in some areas but aid was definitely dwindling or sparse when some runners rolled through. (They also mentioned they would be adding an additional aid station at Mile 6 for future races which would help out tremendously.)

HA, my HDR was on and it made my head look funny!

Since Ryan and I were in the first 25% of finishers, we weren't effected too drastically, but due to the error that maybe should have been anticipated, the race director offered all of the half finishers a discount code for any of their upcoming races (either in the remaining 2017 year or during the 2018 season). THAT is how you make things right! MAJOR KUDOS for stepping up, taking responsibility for their mistake, apologizing and rectifying the situation.

82 degrees may not seem super hot, but with 0% humidity,
high winds and fire danger - it was toasty!

Even with the aid station stops and walk breaks we took, the hubby and I were still able to finish in 2:13. Unfortunately due to the high winds whipping around, they had to take down the finisher arch before we got back, so the finish line was a little uninspiring, but I didn't mind the lack of fanfare (trail races tend to be a little more low-key than road races anyway).

Proud of our time and the work that we put in,
especially since it was "just" a training run for us

But just because the finish line was a little lackluster doesn't mean anything else was... I think the medal is SUPER cute (and that means a lot since I've donated all of my non-marathon medals), the participant tee is AMAZING and the post-race spread was AWESOMESAUCE! They had everything from fresh pancakes and sandwiches to candy and a keg.

Super cute, right?!

Normally I never wear my race shirts, but this one I may have to make an exception!

I am not a beer drinker (and the hubby normally doesn't drink Pacifico), but everyone thought it was
rather refreshing (or maybe anything wetting your palate at that point would have been appreciated...)

Ryan and I hung around for a while and chatted with friends and enjoyed the refreshments that were plentiful. Jeff, the race director, even came over and hung out for a while. Eventually it was time to head out (the wind was threatening to blow away all of the tents and Walt needed to be let out at home), so we said our goodbyes and skedaddled.


Ryan and I both said we would definitely do this race again. I actually would like to "race" it. When I got home I looked at the results and I actually placed 2nd in my age group (30-39 females) and 10th female overall. I think if I wasn't running with the hubby I could have come in second female overall (based on the times that the other females ran and the level of fitness I believe I currently have). But, who knows... Now that I'm singing the race's praise maybe everyone will come out next year and the field will be super fast ;) Either way, I'm pretty sure we'll put this event back on the calendar for 2018.


Do you enjoy running on the trails?

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