Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend was the culmination of hours of text messages, race registrations, details and anticipation - it was finally time for #Dirt2Strip! In case you didn’t read Friday’s post, some friends and I were embarking on a “crazy” {self imposed and totally unofficial} running adventure - tackling 3 races in 2 states within a matter of approximately 36 hours.

Saturday morning was the first race in our journey - the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon. But before we get to the start, I’ve gotta share some info… California is currently on fire. And I don’t mean like in the slang “lit”, I mean literally on fire from multiple wildfires. In fact, on Friday one started in Griffith Park and we were worried the race would be cancelled.

Some of the articles that popped up when you searched "Griffith Park" on the day before the race.

Thankfully Keira, the amazing race director for the Griffith Park Trail Runs (along with other awesome races), kept us informed. She was onsite for many, many hours on Friday and we were assured the race would go on.

As you're probably well aware of by now, I'm what some would consider “frugal” (ha, that may be a tiny understatement ;)). Because I was already paying for a flight to and from Vegas and hotel in Vegas for two nights, I decided the hubby and I would drive up bright and early at zero dark thirty the morning of the race instead of paying for a hotel in LA.

As you can imagine, that forced some VERY EARLY alarms...

Thankfully the roads are pretty empty before 4am so we didn’t have to deal with the usual hell that is Los Angeles traffic.

Crazy... there is no traffic at 2:45am - WEIRD! 

With a wake up call around the time some party animals were calling a cab from the night before, I knew I had to have everything ready to go for Saturday morning (including everything I needed for the two additional races and days in Vegas). Laying out a #FlatCarlee helps alleviate the “am I forgetting something?!” worries that normally stress me out.

I thought this shirt was perfect to kick off our #Dirt2Strip adventure. This #FlatCarlee included: Classic Red, White and Blue PRO
Compression socks
, red Handful bra, royal Sparkle Athletic skirt, baseball tee that I made (grabbed a blank one from Dick's Sporting
, then the hubby mocked up a spoof on Elf's "Smiling's my favorite" and my friend printed it on her cricket so I could iron it onto
the tee), a hat I made out of felt and hot glue, red and blue QALO silicone wedding bands, red and blue Momentum Jewelry wrap,
elite Road ID, red Knockaround sunnies, a Nathan Handheld, my Garmin Forerunner 935, an Epic Wipe and Brooks Cascadia 12.

The game plan was to get to the parking lot at Griffith Park at 5:30am so we could meet up with Brian, David and Richard, grab their stuff (since they were taking an Uber from Richard’s house to the race and the hubby would be dropping the four of us off at the airport after the race), then head to check-in to grab our bibs and get the party started.

Our schedule may not have looked like Buddy the Elf's, but it was jam packed! 

Everything worked out perfectly and we quickly grabbed our bibs and participant shirts (the guys got tees and the girls got tanks {more on this later}). Unfortunately, with the craziness that was Friday with the fires and all that came with it, safety pins fell through the crack so the runners were offered duct tape to attach their bibs. Thankfully for us (and the guys’ lululemon clothes ;)), Brian had a few spare pins in his luggage so when we took our participant shirts back at the car we were able to make it work. {Side note: I probably have a billion and a half safety pins at the house and yet had ZERO in my car [isn't that how it always works?!]… I rectified this immediately when I got home from Vegas and filled an old nuun tube with pins and put it in my glove box so in case a similar issue arises in the future a crisis can be averted ;)}


Once we got back up to the starting area we found some more of the crew and snapped a few pre-race pictures.

The start wasn't much to look at, but when it comes to trail races - less is better!

This is what you call #RunMatchy... right?!

Put your right foot in, put your right foot out, put your right foot in and shake it all about...

Runners make amazing friends!

Eventually it was time for Keira to give some pre-race announcements. She apologized profusely for the safety pin fiasco (it really isn’t that big of a deal, but runners can be extremely Type A so when anything deviates from their norm they can get a bit testy), as well as for the slight delay in the race (the race ended up starting about 15 minutes late, giving folks time to finish at the port-o-potties). She promised her races normally run without issues, but the previous day had been one of the hardest she had to deal with and unfortunately there were a few things that may not go according to plan...

I guess her comment about things not going to plan was a bit of foreshadowing...

Then it was time for the countdown (no frills, just counting down from 10) and to hit the trails. #LetsGetThisPartyStarted

Seeing as there weren't "spectators" on the course, I didn't need folks to cheer my
name... but the blue hat went with my outfit ;) #Priorities

Now, let me preface this by saying not everyone in our crew is an avid trail runner. When looking at logistics, we looked at the elevation map, past finisher times, etc and guesstimated that we'd probably finish in close to or under three hours (which would give us just enough time to get to the Burbank airport to catch our flight). I swear, both Brian and I remember looking at the elevation chart when we were considering our Saturday morning race for #Dirt2Strip and seeing one with a decent amount of climbing in the first 2-3 miles (maybe 500-1,000 feet), but after that it was pretty flat and downhill. Well, let’s just say something must have changed… I don’t know if we were looking at something wrong or between the time we looked at the info and race day the course changed because we were WAY OFF in our assessment of the course.

We were wrong... sooooooo wrong!

Don’t get me wrong, the course was gorgeous, the volunteers were awesome and getting out on the trails with friends was amazing, but it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. As you can see from my Garmin’s elevation information below, there were three big climbs we had to tackle (adding up to about 2,500 feet of elevation gain) - instead of the single one we were expecting. Let’s be fair though, although Brian and I both remember the same thing, the website currently reflects the elevation we encountered (David said he checked it earlier in the week and it showed the “three mountains we had to climb”, so this could have definitely been user error on Brian and my parts… OOPS!).

Despite the hills never seeming to end, the scenery was AMAZEBALLS! If you don’t run on the trails, you may not know this, but trail running seems to be a lot more laid back than road running. Most folks walk/ hike the uphills, the aid stations are full of yummy snacks (instead of the standard water, electrolyte and potential gooey fuel), and the environment is much more lax. With that said, I made sure we stopped along the way to enjoy the views (while also catching our breath).

Everything was very clearly marked (and if there was ever a confusing
spot, there were plenty of volunteers there to direct us in the right way)

I thought the runners looked like ants marching up a hill

I think when I pass away I want a trail in my honor for everyone to enjoy and reminisce on

You can see the smokey haze in the background from the nearby wildfires

Not gonna lie, one of the hubby's TOP reasons for pondering an ultra was the aid stations! #RunsForFood

The hubby and I are a bit more versed in trails and elevation than some of our crew, so there were a few spots where we'd pull away from the group when we got into a groove, but then we’d pull over, snap a selfie and wait for folks to catch up.

Surprisingly you could see the LA skyline in the distance (normally there is smog and I would have expected smoke from the fires) 

Source: @PavementRunner's Instagram feed

Despite the fires, the air quality didn’t seem terrible. At the beginning of the race, when we were huffing and puffing up the first major climb, I'd say I noticed my throat burning a little more than normal - and my teeth felt like they were a little more gritty - but overall I would say that although we could see smoke/ haze, we were incredibly lucky to not be effected.

LA might not be my jam, but man, aren't the views stunning?!

Even though Los Angeles is only 90 miles from Oceanside, the hubby and I avoid it like the plague. Traffic's always horrendous and we tend to stay in our little North San Diego County bubble. There are a few reasons we make the trek to LA, but for the most part, we steer clear. But Griffith Park is one of those places I'd make an exception for. It's awesome!

We found the Hollywood sign!

I'm not sure if Ryan thought he would blow away or what... 

Despite the lack of rain we've had recently, the hills were still pretty green.

Almi snapped this shot of Brian, Ryan and I. As you can see, I'm more concerned about my footing
and not falling than looking at the camera for a picture --- maybe eventually I'll be talented enough to look up.

With our tight timetable, I was keeping my eye on the time. If we were going to finish in three hours, we needed to average around 13:45/mile. Normally that would be a walk in the park for this crew, but with the unexpected elevation gains and new terrain (to some), we were definitely cutting it close. That was until we realized we were going to be short on the half marathon distance. You see, the course went out to the Observatory, then to Chapel Hill and then back to the start. Well, at the turn around point we were a little over half way, but we weren’t going back to the Observatory so I wasn’t sure how we would be making up the missing distance. Come to find out… we weren’t. The course ended up being 11.5 miles long. When heading to the finish, we speculated that maybe this was one of the things that Keira was alluding to that “wouldn’t go according to plan” like she mentioned in her pre-race announcements. I’ll be honest, I was a little bummed about the short course, but I also know that had those additional 1.6 miles included more elevation gains, we would have been cutting it extra close to get to the airport on time (we did discuss running around the finish area and parking lot to get in the extra distance, but none of us seemed to care "that much" to do it at that point).

The medal was HUGE (and the blue background was actually see-through {like stained glass})

FYI: Looking at the website, it appears as though the chunk from Mile 6.5-9 was what was cut out during Saturday's race.


If you look at this elevation chart vs. what we had, we are missing the low, flat part.

But, let’s be real, I knew this race was never about a time on a clock, so whatever the overall mileage ended up being, I wasn’t too worried. It was about the moments and the memories. And this race was filled with plenty of both!

Source: @blingwhore's Instagram feed

And here's what it looked like from the other side - HAHA! Thanks for snapping this one, Almi!

After crossing the finish line, I went over and gave Keira a big hug and thanked her for the race. I can’t even imagine the stress of putting on a successful race, let alone have a natural disaster to have to deal with. She apologized for the shortcomings, but I told her not to worry about it. We all completely understood the circumstances she was dealing with.

Not only did we get a participant tee (or tank), an awesome medal and yummy food throughout the morning,
we also got a pint glass when we crossed the finish line! I wish more races did this (or mason jars or maybe hats!).

Just like the fully stocked aid stations, the post-race spread was awesome! There were Subway sandwiches (egg whites on flatbread, turkey or veggie subs), tons of salty and sweet snacks, and plenty of re-hydration options. Had we not had a plane to catch, I absolutely would have hung out a while, cheered in other runners and took in the chill vibes.

Not too shabby! We definitely felt spoiled!

Before leaving I asked Keira if I could swap my participant tank for a guys tee. She told me that was absolutely fine, to find a specific volunteer and ask her to help. I found the woman, relayed the info and told her I'd run to the car to grab my tank and be right back. She said it’d be absolutely fine, so off I ran. (The guys took their time to head back to the car, but I didn’t want to make them wait for me, so I figured I’d run ahead.) When I got back I gave her my tank and asked if I could get a men's extra small or small instead (whichever the smallest size was they offered). She then told me the smallest they currently had was a LARGE… Wish she would've told me that before I ran an extra mile or so to grab the tank… So off I ran, back to the car with my tank in hand. (PS This is no fault of the race, I was asking them to swap me for something I was technically signed up for, but I did wish they would've mentioned the women would be receiving a tank because then I would've selected the mens’ shirt to begin with. Also, I knew of at least four of our friends who had registered and didn’t come due to the uncertainty with the fires so I thought maybe they’d have extra, but I was wrong.)

Although I love bright colors, I thought the guys tee would be something I would actually wear frequently. I also love the simplicity
of the shirts (and the fact they aren't covered with sponsors or other unnecessary info). 

Once I got back to the parking lot we snapped a quick group picture before everyone made their way to Vegas (minus the hubby… he was heading to Oceanside to keep Walt company and to visit with his dad who happened to be in town).

Eddie (on the far left) came in first OA in the half, Almi (next to him) came in first in her AG and third female OA - ROCKSTARS!
All but the hubby were heading to Vegas to continue the weekend of races. (Eddie and Almi drove, but the rest of us caught a flight.)

I decided it'd be easier to change before we went to the airport, that way I could leave my clothes and trail shoes with Ry, instead of packing dirty stuff. Thankfully Epic Wipes sent me a couple convenient wipes to use for such an occasion (I'll post a full review soon, but for now, know a product like this is much needed {and appreciated by your aisle neighbors} when going on adventures like this). Nothing like a little "shower" in a parking lot in the company of friends ;)

I wasn't sure if I should show the "after" because it might be a little
gross, but I wanted you to see the size and hashtag real life ;)

And, before we knew it, we were leaving on a jetplane. {FYI - Traffic to the Burbank airport was surprisingly light at 10:30am and security was a breeze, so we got to our gate with about 45ish minutes to spare before boarding!}

Thanks for the ride, Southwest!

Now you’ll have to pop back tomorrow and Thursday to read parts II and III of the #Dirt2Strip adventure! PS Just in case you're a crazy runner like us and interested in joining us in the future, these adventures are always open to whoever is down! (And if you have ideas of other shenanigans or different races to consider, we are always open to suggestions!)

I figured the best place to show off my medal was IN THE DIRT!

Side note - despite the short course and lack of safety pins, I'd definitely consider running this race (or any of Keira’s other events) in the future. Now, I probably wouldn’t have suggested it for the morning race before flying to Vegas once I knew “the real” elevation - but that's only because it may have been realistically beyond the ability of all of the runners we had with us to comfortably complete the challenge. I have only ever heard amazing things about Keira’s races, so I'm absolutely willing to give her a pass this go around due to the fires. {And just so you know, because I want to be completely transparent, I did receive a comped entry to this race, but the hubby and friends paid for theirs. And, as you hopefully know by now, the generosity of a free bib does not cloud my judgment when it comes to my recaps or reviews.}

If you were to run a race and it was short, would you complete the distance on your own or leave it as-is?

1 comment:

Tracy said...

That happened to me a few weeks ago. A race that was supposed to be a five miler got cut at about 4.6 because of a construction related course change. I was bummed as I would have had a five mile PR. Still, I did have a solid race and felt the best I did all year!