Friday, December 10, 2021

Into The Wild Fremont Canyon 28K Race Recap

This past weekend I ran the Into The Wild Fremont Canyon 28K. This was a postponed race that the hubby and I were originally registered for in March of 2020 and had been rescheduled for the beginning of December 2021.

My first official trail race in over TWO YEARS!

The hubby and I were originally registered for the Into The Wild Irvine Parks/ Santiago Oaks 10K/ 21K/ 30K and, like I mentioned, it was supposed to happen in March of 2020 (which obviously did NOT happen due to COVID). I was stoked because I had never run a 30K, which meant an automatic PR ;) Also, the trails that the Into The Wild series races on are normally only accessible a couple times a year when they open them to the public or with a docent-led program {which I was lucky enough to do back in September of 2017}, so it's a treat to be able to get to explore these areas. Well, when the race was rescheduled it was changed to the Into The Wild Fremont Canyon 28K... Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but it brings up two small "issues". First, originally the hubby was registered for the 21K and I was registered for the 30K (he is more of a half marathon distance runner, while I love the longer distances). Well, the rescheduled event only had ONE distance - the 28K - so the hubby would be increasing his mileage and I'd be decreasing mine. Second, I actually ran this race back in 2019. Again, not a huge deal, but I was looking forward to trying a different race. Even with the slight changes, we were just pumped to be able to hit the trails and get back to racing, whatever it would look like!


As you probably remember, we're currently in the middle of renovating our new-to-us home (we sold our condo and bought a house at the end of September, stayed with friends for a couple weeks during the transition and moved into our place once it was "liveable" in mid-November), so to say life has been a bit chaotic lately would definitely be QUITE an understatement! With that said, I made sure to lay out my #FlatCarlee the night before because with most of our stuff still in boxes I was worried if it was out of sight, it was probably out of mind and I did NOT want to forget anything essential!

This race's #FlatCarlee included: PRO Compression SocksYellow Sparkle Athletic SkirtNathan VaporHowe Hydration VestPROBAR
BOLT chews
Handful Bra muscle tankHandful braelite Road IDQALO silicone wedding bandswatermelon nuun hydration
Momentum Jewelry wrapsCOROS APEX Watch, MudLOVE custom bracelet, running gloves and Altra Olympus 4.

The chaos of our current living situation leads me to the hubby's decision to NOT run this race. With all of the renovation work (he has been a trooper and has dealt with the majority of it, since he works from home currently and can be there when most of the trades folks need to do work), he hasn't been running as much as he would like. With the race distance increasing and his running/ fitness decreasing, he thought it best to bow out gracefully. (I told him he had three choices - 1. Do the race with me {however long it took us}, 2. He could run as far as he wanted and then turn back {the course was a loop around a canyon, so say he wanted to do 8 miles, he'd run 4 miles out, turn around and then run back to the start} or 3. He could opt out but he still needed to come spectate. He picked the latter and ended up getting the car detailed while I ran.) We'll just consider his registration fee a donation to the OC Parks and Irvine Ranch Conservancy.


Well, after working (and being on my feet) for 40 hours at the running store, I knew a 28K with a decent amount of elevation gain would be TOUGH on tired legs come Saturday morning, but I was up for the challenge. Apparently I thought it'd be best if I made it more challenging by going to bed late (well, late on a race night - 10:30pm) and waking up early.

And, as per usual, I was up before the first one went off!

Everything was smooth sailing on race morning. The game plan was to leave the house around 6am, which would get us to Irvine Regional Park around 7am, which would give me about 45 minutes to find parking, grab my bib, use the potty, etc before the 7:45am start time. We got there without any hiccups (surprise, there was no one on the road at 6am ;)) and I was grateful they included a parking pass (when I ran it in 2019 we had to pay $5 to enter the park on race morning). 

When in doubt, selfie it out!

The temps were a little cool (ha, I know, I'm a weather wimp now that I've been living in SoCal for 15+ years) and soggy (it's really the humidity that gets to me), so we stayed in the car for just about as long as we could. PS Although the weather might not have been ideal for standing around, 50s and overcast are near PERFECT running conditions!

I don't love seeing a high AQI either... Thankfully I'm not overly sensitive!

Eventually it was time to get out and get to the starting line. Folks were able to start 45 minutes early if they were worried about the course cut-offs (recommended for folks who expected to go 15 minutes per mile or slower), so the official start seemed to have fewer people than I was expecting, but it was still a decent turnout for a local trail race. 

A little nervous, A LOT excited, as if you couldn't tell!

A race official said a few words (mostly thanking the sponsors and reminding us that the course has a lot of UPHILL {with the steepest coming between miles 8 and 11.5}) and then one of the OC Parks employees welcomed us (sharing how the trails we would be running on were some of the more rugged and remote trails in Orange County, seeing as they're private and inaccessible to the public for the majority of the year). After their short spiels, it was time to wish us well, count us down and let us go. (If you haven't run a trail race before, there is definitely less pomp and circumstance than road races... no national anthem, no big send off, no screaming crowds, normally just a "3, 2, 1... have fun!" type thing.)

Up to the fence is considered Irvine Regional Park, behind the fence is private.

The humidity had definitely brought with it quite a foggy cover, which was fine for running, but not so great for sightseeing. The course circumvents the Fremont Canyon, so you are up on the rim, running around it. Unfortunately, with the fog, you couldn't see much. You could see the trail in front of you, and I never felt unsafe or like I was going to run off the side of a cliff or anything, but it felt like running in a cloud and I couldn't enjoy the {what I'd assume were} gorgeous surroundings.

And this was one of the clearer parts - ha.

My plan for was the race was to ENJOY IT! I didn't have a time goal in mind (like I mentioned at the beginning, originally I thought I would be running with the hubby, who tends to have a slower pace than I do, so I was never expecting to go out and gun for first place or anything like that), I just figured I would have to power hike the uphills and could cruise down the downhills. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, my running for the couple weeks leading up to this race was pretty non-existent. If you follow my weekly workout recaps on the blog, you probably remember, but I think I dinged my left hip flexor/ glute/ groin area during the 50-mile Bike The Coast event I did and was trying to let it heal. That, along with the fact that there was going to be almost 4,000 feet of elevation gain meant I was going to take it easy, dial it back and just enjoy the ride!

I guess you could see that I was succeeding at enjoying myself ;)

There was definitely a chill in the air (at points you could see the fog blowing across the trail), so I kept my arm sleeves and gloves on until about mile 7 or so. Even so, I couldn't wipe the silly grin off my face! #RunningJustMakesMeHappy

Corny smile on three.

Don't let the smile fool you, this was a tough course! It felt like you are literally going up for the entire first 11.5 miles. 

And we are STILL climbing...

My legs may have been feeling the up, but my heart was full. I was so grateful to be running pain free and enjoying God's creation (I know, we might not have been able to see it in all of its grandeur, but I could sense how amazing it was!).

And, yes, of course I am WALKING up the hill... Why would you have a photographer at the top of the hill?!

Shortly before we started the "BIG CLIMB" the sun started popping out. It was awesome to not only be able to see where we were running but also to be able to warm up a bit! (Oh yeah, the bite valve on my bladder had gotten a slice in it somehow and was leaking down the front of me, which was making me a little extra chilly since I was soaked with water.)

It was strange how we were running in and out of the fog very regularly.

As many of you know, I am TERRIBLE with directions. I could probably get lost in a paper bag (or whatever that saying is ;)), so I was super appreciative for all of the course markings. (#RealTalk - One of the main reasons I don't trail run on my own is because I'll get lost.) I never once felt like I was unsure of where I was meant to go (even if I couldn't see any fellow runners near me). There were signs, ribbons and even flour arrows (or a flour X where NOT to go) on the ground. 

Two thumbs up on course markings from this directionally challenged runner!

I chuckled to myself when I would see the arrows and X's on the ground because it seemed like if there was ever a spot where the trail went further UP hill, that was the route we would be taking... or at least 90% of the time it seemed ;) 

The fog was a little creepy at times, but I loved to see when the sun was trying to break through.

The views, once the sun burnt off the fog and we could see them, were just as amazing as I expected them to be. The hills seemed to go on forever and are just stunning. We live in a very arid climate and seem to be in a constant state of drought, so most of the land is a bit dusty and brown, but it's hard to be mad at the views, that's for sure!

Love that you can see some of the trails we were running on.

Not too shabby if I do say so myself!

In case you're curious, I was fueling with PROBAR BOLT Chews every 45 minutes or so (I think it ended up being around Mile 4, 8, 11.5 and 14). I also had nuun in my hydration vest's front flasks and water in my back bladder (which was leaking down the front of me for the majority of the race). I was self-sufficient, but there were aid stations on the course.

Pink Lemonade is my JAM! YUMMMMMY!

There were a couple photographers on the course and one of the perks of the race were FREE photos (thanks to one of the sponsors). Let me tell you, free photos might be one of my favorite things a race can offer. I always say that I'd be totally okay if a race increased the registration fee like $5-10 a person and included a few free downloads from the event.

Let's just say I don't think I "nailed" the jump... But it was around mile 15, so I did my best - HA!

I just like smiling (and running)... Smiling (and running) is my favorite! [I think I was laughing at my failed jump attempt!]

It felt like it took FOR-EV-ER to get to the top of the course, but once we did we were rewarded with more AMAZING views (the fog was sitting on the hills in the distance and honestly it looked fake!) and fun downhill to bomb down. 

The pictures don't do it justice! I think I said "WOW" like a hundred times when I was enjoying the views!

We didn't have cell reception for most of the race, so my phone was on airplane mode, but once we made it to the top I switched on my service to call the hubby so he would know when to expect me at the finish. Funny thing was, while I was calling him I saw another one of the on-course photographers, so technically the hubby is also in this photo with me ;)

Not sure the hubby could hear me when I threw my hands up, but whatever it takes for the shot, right?!

And, yes, I am a MAJOR heel striker... especially when I'm running downhill!

I probably could have stopped a million more times to snap photos (it felt like there were even more gorgeous views around every corner), but I wanted to take advantage of the downhill (seeing as it felt like I had hiked the majority of the race up to that point) so decided to take "mental pictures" most of the time and kept the legs a-turnin'. 

Let's just say there was not much flat on this course ;)

Once we got about a mile from the finish I started seeing a few more runners in my sight. The competitor in me thought about trying to pick them off, one by one. The cautious runner in me said that I should take it easy because my leg had felt great up to that point and I didn't want to risk tweaking it again. Well, the competitor in me won out and I started trying to catch the people in front of me. I think in the last mile I maybe passed 7 runners (that might not seem big, but because there weren't a ton of runners and everyone was spread out, it felt like more people than I had seen the whole race). 


And, before, I knew it, I was crossing the finish line! Again, I didn't have a blazing fast time (in fact I think I ran it about 15 minutes slower than my 2019 race), but I had a GREAT time on the course! #ItsNotAlwaysAboutTheFinishTime


I swapped my timing chip for a medal and grabbed a couple refreshments while we waited for the awards. I wasn't sure how they'd break down the age groups, but if it was 35-40 then it looked like I might have taken 2nd in my division. 

I didn't realize it at the time, but my running gear seemed to match the race's colors perfectly!

Unfortunately for me they lumped all the 30 year olds together and there were a couple ladies a little younger and faster than me, so I wasn't in the top three (not to mention, they only gave out awards for the top male and female in each age group so I wasn't even close), but it was still great to be able to cheer on all the winners. #TheRunningCommunityRocks

Any finish line is a WIN in my book! 

After the winners were announced we made our way back to the car (which was now all clean... and thankfully we had beach towels in the trunk so I wouldn't get my seat dirty only minutes after the hubby got it detailed ;)) and hit the road. We had some house work to get done before the Michigan football game, so it was a quick getaway once I learned I was not a winner (well, I mean, I AM a winner, just not officially with the race, hehe!). Normally here's where I post a picture of the hubby taking a "quick snooze" while I drive home, but surprisingly he wanted to drive so no cat naps were had!


Jokes aside, this is a great race! I love the local vibe (you actually have to mail in your paper form and physical check for registration) and the folks who put it on are TOP NOTCH! I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for upcoming runs {they're still working on their 2022 calendar} and hopefully will be able to check out some new-to-me trails at the future events.

Do you prefer low-key races or do you want/ need to energy that comes with larger races?

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