The Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon

Hey guys! I (FINALLY) ran another half marathon! But this time is was on a trail… (surprised?)

The thought of running another half had been lingering in my head for a while. The last time I attempted the 13.1mi race was back in October of 2014. The LA Rock ‘N Roll Half. This was my first half and also my first ever race longer than a 5K. I was also dealing with a bout of plantar fasciitis so my training was nowhere near what it could have been. All in all, I still went out to run the half and had a great time. Finishing around the 2:37 mark.

After my trail 30k in January, I was itching to get another race on the calendar. Nothing too crazy long or difficult but I wanted another race. I perused UltraSignUp.com and saw the GP Half was a little over a month out and my boyfriend had a coupon code because he knew the race director. Not only was this race really close to home, it was a pretty easy course.

Let’s see here:

√ – race is about 5 weeks out

√- really close to home with a 7:30am start

√- coupon code

√-13.1 with a fairly easy amount of elevation gain…

It was a no-brainer.

I pushed that ‘submit’ button and I was all set. Time to get back out and run a half.

My main goal after the 30K was to rest for a week or so, and then get my weekly milage back to about 18-20mi range. I figured my legs still had the work I put in from the 30k so I didn’t need to overdo it. The plan was to go out and have fun and see how I could do for this race too. No pressure. Exactly how I like to race.

The week of the race, I decided to give myself the goal of breaking 3 hours. Since I knew I was going to take it easy with elevation factored in, I thought anything under 3 hours would be cool.

Race Day:

5:30am wake up. Coffee please. Pancakes.

**FUN FACT: The Trader Joe’s organic mini pancakes have actually been great pre-run fuel lately. I’m not sure if it’s a combination of the carbs and the sugar from the syrup that make it so appetizing. Lately, I’ve had no immediate hunger pangs or cramps during my weekend morning runs and it’s been awesome. Hey, if it works… just go with it!

I knew a few other people running the half as well as the full marathon that day so it was nice to hang with some friendly faces before the gun.

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Molly and I are ready to hit the trails! 

When I finally pinned my bib on, it hit me that I had 13 miles of trails ahead of me. Up until that point, it hadn’t quite phased me that I was running this race. My head always kind of thought this was another long run on a Saturday morning. Actually, this mentality worked out because my sleep the night before was great and no butterflies in the stomach!

Before I knew it, 7:30am hit and we were off!

Mile 1-3: The first .6 miles were all uphill. It’s tough not to get caught up in the beginning of a race and pretty much everyone was going wayyyyy too fast here. I tried to chill out but I still think my pace was a little too quick here. After the first big hill, my right calf and achilles hurt SO BAD. I was having slight pangs in this area of my leg on my runs the week prior. Not sure what was going on so I iced it a bit and rolled it out to try and loosen it up. I had no problems with it when I wasn’t running… I figured this was because of the climbing so I hoped the pain would go away on the downhill. Well… I was wrong. After the first climb, the next mile or so was pretty much down hill or flat. My achilles was so tight and hurting I actually had thoughts of stopping. Quickly changing my strategy, I really slowed up and walked every incline. Aid station #1 was at mile 3 and some of the biggest climbs were out of the way, but this was an out and back course so I was slightly worried that this sections was going to hurt on the way back. After grabbing some electrolytes and chatting with some friends working the station, I got my head in the right place and moved on.

Miles 4-6.5:  I stopped at the aid station longer than I normally would have to give my achilles a chance to chill out. Jogging down the half mile hill in front of me, I told myself to keep an eye on the pain. This race isn’t worth a long term injury so I had to run smart. Miles 4.5-6.5 was all flat horse trail. Even though it was pretty boring, I think this really helped my calf/achilles loosen up. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember having any issues after about mile 5. It finally loosened up. YES. The next aid station was at mile 6.5 and I was greeted with a happy hello from all the volunteers (especially Mayra! Not sure if she reads this…Hi Mayra!)

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Happy to see Mayra and my achilles wasn’t hurting! 

I grabbed some more electrolytes and a handful of strawberries at this station. My legs wanted to get moving again or else I was going to tighten back up. So, with a quick ‘thank you’ to the volunteers, I was off. I had about 2-ish miles of flat horse trail ahead of me.

Miles 7-10: Like I said, it was flat until about mile 9.3 and I forgot my iPod so I needed to keep my head in the game to keep moving. Seeing my fellow Fleet Feeters running the marathon after I left the aid station was a great boost! Throughout this flat section, I told myself, ‘be like a metronome… stay consistent and these miles will tick by’. And that totally worked. Before I knew it, I was climbing back up the hill to the first aid station we hit at mile 3 and I was finally at mile 10!

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Power hike pro to the aid station! 
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Thanks Lawrence for the pic! All smiles at mile 10!

Miles 10-13: I don’t think it was until mile 10 that I realized I had a shot at breaking 3 hours. When my achilles started to hurt at the beginning of the race, I kind of put that goal in the back of my brain and replaced it was just finishing strong, no matter the time. After the last aid station, I knew I had a series of rolling hills until the finish. The achilles was feeling fine, everything else seemed to be great so… I ran. The one thing I should have done better during this section was eat a little bit sooner. Around mile 11.5, I started to get a little light headed. I stayed on top of drinking water (even though the weather was overcast) but my eating could have been timed better. I pulled over and ate some of my Clif banana, beet, ginger baby food and it almost instantly made a difference. Getting the legs back in motion, I slowly started getting closer to that finish. I hit mile 12 around the 2:30-ish mark and it really hit me here… ‘I’m going to really break 3 hours! By like, ALOT!’

I hit the last downhill (the one that almost popped my achilles) with a strong stride and I started to hear Rocky cheering for me in the distance. Powering through this last decent, I rounded the corner and bounded to the finish (which was actually uphill HA!).

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Almost there! 

Final Half Marathon Time: 2:39:48

3 HOUR GOAL SMASHED! (Even with a sore achilles!)

Wow. At the end of this race, I was actually really proud of myself. I don’t want to sound self absorbed, but I did not think I was going to do that well. All the training and miles I’ve been putting in is starting to really show. If I can run a 2:39 trail half, I kind of want to attempt a road half again to see where I land… Might surprise myself again!

Fellow Oiselle bird, Kim was at the finish too! She crossed just before me. I love seeing other birds at races. This team is so encouraging of one another! She did so well and is actually training for a 50 mile race in May.

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Trail birds! 

Here’s what I took away from all this: The body is capable of amazing things. The brain can be deceiving and if you put those negative thoughts aside, you’ll be surprised. Running is such a mental game it’s crazy. With long trail races, thoughts can creep in and keeping them out is essential. I may have said this before, but smiling does wonders. If I ever feel I’m in a rough patch in a race, I force myself to smile to remind me that I’m out here to have FUN. It totally lifts my spirits. You should try it. It’s awesome.

What’s next? Not sure yet…More trails? Another 30k? Another road half?

All of the above? We shall see!

xoxo

Stephanie

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