Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Have Joined the Trail Runner's Club

Yep. I joined the club of trail runners this past weekend. My experience can be summarized in one word - WOW!!! What an experience! This is a long post, so if you are in a hurry, here's the not so short (8 and a half minute) summary of what is one of the highlights of my almost three year old running career:

Now for all the lurid details...

When we all left for the weekend, I had mentioned that I was doing a trail race - the WTRS 21K. After a restful Friday (scheduled rest day), I got up bright and early Saturday morning. The hills beckoned:

I drove up the mountains to the start point at Blue Jay campground in the Cleveland National Forest. The winter rains have left beauty all around:

I noticed the trail in the distance. Here's a photo of the first couple miles of trail as it climbs through the chaparral and scrub toward the high point on the course:

I no sooner parked my car when my friends, Lori and Rick came pulling up behind me. We had been up Whitney together last sumer and it was Lori who had told me about this race when we ran into each other on the Back Bay. They snapped this photo of a trail running virgin:

At an elevation of about 3,000 feet , the air was a crisp 44 degrees, and Friday's rains had cleared the air. I was already liking this. Here we were running a half marathon. No 6:30 AM start time. All 150 or so runners were there and mulling around in the cool crisp air. As it turns out, one of those runners was Lisa from Discovering the Meaning of Stonehenge! She saw me first and introduced herself. She had just run her first trail race the week efore and hs obviously caught the bug! What a pleasure meeting face to face!

One difference with trail running is there can't be traffic cones and mileage signs guiding runners. So the "Race Director" Baz Hawley gave us all the skinny on where to be careful so that we wouldn't end up lost and the subject of a search and rescue (did I tell you this was exciting?):

Pretty soon, someone said "Go" (no air horn, no start gun, no load annoying PA system) and we were off!

The course was essentially shaped like a big lollipop. The first 3 and half miles or so uphill (950 feet of elevation gain) to the only aid station on the course.

From there, the real trail running started, as we descended 1500 vertical feet over 2 and a half miles through pine forest on a single track:

At the bottom of the descent, we were at the low point of the course on Trabuco Creek. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. It is hard to believe that this type of wilderness exists in the urban sprawl of Orange County:

Then, the work *really* began. My quads were pretty tired from the downhill push, but now we were going to have to climb out of the canyon, up 1400 vertical feet in 1 and a half miles. What a lungbuster!

Part way up Horsethief, the clouds came rolling in and the temperatures started dropping. Soon we were in the fog. Penny would have loved it! I was relieved as we topped out on the ridge:

This was the same place that L.A. Runner staffed his aid station for the Twin Peaks Ultra a week before:

The rest of the course was a rolling series of hills with spectacular views back to the aid station at mile 10:

By this point I was trashed. My quads were burning like they haven't burned in a long time. I had been walking the uphills and shuffling the downhills since the stream crossing 4 miles back. I pulled into the aid station and had a great conversation with Steve Harvey, who runs a series of races himself. Thanks Steve for helping us out! I'll be signing up for this race for sure!

The final two miles was back down the fire road that we started on. I shuffled on toward the finish, hitting the line in 3:21:44. And loving every minute of it! I managed to avoid the three "D's" - no DNS, no DNF, and was not DFL! Success!

To be sure - this was as tough a run as I've ever done. 12.8 miles, 3100 feet of total elevation gain (and subsequent loss).

But it was an absolutely beautiful and rewarding experience. Some of my thoughts:
  • I loved that the run required concentration. I had my iPod on, but when I started down the single track after the first aid station, I had to turn the music off so I could concentrate on where I was putting my feet as I sped downhill.
  • I loved that there were trash cans that everyone used at the aid station! No cups and used gel packets all over the ground.
  • Most of all I loved the fact that I was racing to finish. No times involved. I had a chance to take in the scenery and breath the fresh air.

Thanks Lori and Rick! (Rick won his age group in a blistering 2:25:19)

I will definitely be back for more trail racing in the near future!


  1. I love it when people, me included, push themselves outside their comfort zones!! It's exciting, spurs some serious endorphin action that lasts for days.

    The photos you posted were great, it's a good year to start the trail running, what with the rain we had, it'll be a beautiful spring.

    Enjoy your new sport!!

  2. sooo awesome :) isnt trail running SO FUN!!! glad you had such a great time out there :) love the pics!

  3. Congrats Glen!!! So glad you had a good time, it really is a wonderful world in trail running. Steve's group has a new member meeting this Saturday in El Moro.

    Deirdre ;)

  4. Great Glenn. Fun report and you seemed to really enjoy it all. Great. Look forward to reading more Trail Run reports.

  5. Just to warn you, trail running is seriously addictive!

    Great job on those trails. I remember also being so surprised on my first OC trail experience. It was opening up this whole world that, for 18 years of living in OC, I had never even known about!

  6. I'm popping over from Irene's blog ......... love the photos, very beautiful country!!! I really like your race report, from the pictures to the videos. Felt like I was right there along for the ride for a little bit of it.

  7. that is seriously B.A. I can't imagine doing that. Great pictures too!

  8. What an amazing run! Talk about spectacular views...wow! Trail running sounds so intense and exciting! Glad you had a great experience!

    I wasn't able to view the videos, but your pictures were awesome!

  9. What gorgeous pictures, it doesn't even look like California! Trail running is so energizing, nice job and it sounds like you're hooked!

  10. I know that area well, although I've never run the trails -- what fun!

  11. Congratulations! It looks like you had tons of fun, but those hills looked brutal. I loved the video and pictures. It's crazy that that's right in Orange County.

  12. Hi Glenn,
    Congrats for joining a trail running group!! It looks like it was so much fun:) Thank you for sharing those awesome pictures!! I can tell how excited you are and that have have such a passion for the trail running!! Good for you:) Your report makes it seem so fun...it makes me want to give it a try:)

  13. Great run, Glenn! Trail running is its own thing -- so different. I'm glad you met up with the wonderful Lisa!

    It looks like you had a wonderful time, and the pictures are beautiful. :)

  14. WOw Wow WOw! Totally crazy and so beautiful! I see why you loved it so much! The views are breath-taking! Great job!

  15. Awesome job Glenn. Trails are really what it's all about. I'm glad you got the bug and hope to see ya at future races!

  16. Good LORD that elevation chart was nuts. No wonder why your quads were burning!

    Can't wait to hear more about trail running.

  17. Wow. Those pictures are amazing.

    Trail running rules!

  18. You really set the bar high for race videos, Glenn. Love the comment at the end about thrashed quads. Yes, that's a bigger danger during descents - having "your legs fall out from under you." Glad you had a blast.

  19. Glenn, that is awesome. Congratulations on your first trail race! I love the pictures and the videos. A very cool race report, and I am glad you had such a wonderful experience!

    Keep up the great work!

  20. i loooove it glenn!! i'm so glad you enjoyed it :) and congrats on your first trail race! the pics and vids were amazing - so beautiful. that's one thing i like about trails vs. 'regular' running -- much better scenery and less pressure on speed. i could do without the potential hazard of getting lost - i'd be prone to that if i ran in the woods more often.

  21. Thank you for putting it out there. speaking as a middle of packer runner it is nice to hear from other. elite runners are great to hear from but i can run my ass into the ground and never reach their status. keep it up. it is the brave person who runs and ever braver who does trail running.

  22. Great post. I posted a link on the Go Trail Running Facebook page. Hope you continue to enjoy trail running.

  23. beautiful race report and pictures. you look so happy in all of them! and who knew that did exist in the OC? :-)

    the getting lost part is why i don't do trail races. i have zero sense of direction in the woods. but yep, you do have to either take off the ipod or turn them way down like you did.

  24. I have been waiting to read this until I could spend the time and give it the attention this post deserves. Glenn - You Rock!! That scenery is absolutely beautiful and the sense of camaraderie I sensed throughout your post sounds like so much fun! What a neat race - I'm glad you had such a great time (your smile is awesome at that finish line, btw!!)