thursday night was the last race in the vasque peters canyon summer trail series. johnathon, the rd, and renegade racing always put on a great race and this series is a ton of fun each year. it’s a collection of three five mile races through peters canyon in tustin, ca held on the first thursday of june, july and august. the race benefits the olive crest group homes and finishes off each race with a great bbq and generous raffle. it’s a blast for participants and spectators alike. depending on the month, the race will either run clockwise up the canyon and then down the main, hilly ridge or counter clockwise up the hilly ridge and down the canyon. thursday’s race was the former of the two, which tends to produce a slower time.
for each of these races [and this is the seventh time i’ve done the race over the past three years], as i line up at the start i tell myself, “self, we’re going to take it easy today and just have fun out there”. and then the gun goes off and everything changes. i’ve written in the past about how certain participants have inspired my competitive side and for every time i’ve told myself i’d take it easy, i end up turning in a blazing fast time and ending up at the top end of the field.
this month, though, i meant it. i was determined to run within myself, enjoy the race and not hurt myself like i did last month. in july, i’d turned in a 34:19 for an 11th place finish and for several days afterward my quads were just dead meat. going downstairs hurt worse than when i’d finished my bq race at the oc marathon. and this was only five miles. so, i’d resolved to take it easy.
i lined up near the front, but not so close that i would be caught up in the initial sprint for positioning. the gun went off and i found that i was running with a group that was actually right about the pace that i wanted to maintain, comfortably hard. we headed up the 2.5 mile gradual climb up the canyon and i settled into a solid pace, but with relaxed breathing and a steady stride. i was feeling good and in a really good groove. i picked off a couple people on the way to the ridge but not because i’d targeted them for passing. after about a mile of running, i noticed heavy footfalls that had been trailing right behind me. someone was pacing off of me. next, i noticed his heavy breathing. he was sucking wind and breathing about twice as fast as i was.
i resolved to stick to my pace, keep my breathing steady and calm and not let him influence my pace. i had the urge to surge and get him off my shoulder, but i resisted and kept my stride comfortable and my breathing relaxed. i actually cracked up a bit as i counted his breaths compared to mine. he sounded like he was really struggling, but he was keeping pace right on my shoulder. with his
rabid rapid breathing, i was beginning to wonder how he would fare when we hit the ridge.
before too much longer, i hit the turn and the breather came along with me as we started up onto the ridge. the turn takes you onto a steeper, but still gradual, climb for about 200y before the course hits the first steep wall. breather stuck with me until the wall. i turned on the billy-goat legs and comfortably went up the climb. no sooner did we hit the wall and i heard the breather pop. he let out a huge gasp and he threw out the anchor. i looked back and he was walking. i turned around, focused on my climbing and returned to my comfortable push.
i won’t lie and say that the hills were easy. my quads burned and i did push up the climbs, but i didn’t feel like i was tearing myself inside out like i had last month. i recovered on the back side of each climb and billy-goat’ed each of the successive hills. eventually, i crested the next to last climb and could see the final hill up ahead. at the top of that climb was silhouetted a figure that looked familiar. i heard him cheering for one of the runners ahead and was assured by his style and voice that it was indeed repete.
i barreled down the hill and started up the last climb and repete spotted me. i started waving wildly and running like phoebe up the climb. repete pulled out his bike air horn and started honking and yelling. i quickly composed myself and said to repete as i ran past, “calmer than you are!”. because i was.
the rest of the race was a easy gradual descent back to the start and i just focused on stride, turn over and my breathing. the whole time i felt like i was really running within myself and was happy to have not pushed too hard. as i neared the finish line, i remembered that i didn’t have a watch on and was curious what my finishing time would be. i glanced up as i came across the finish line and was shocked to see 34:20. one second slower than last month.
my “taking it easy” had netted me a comparable time to last month on what is supposed to be a slower course. go figure. i guess i really was #ctya or at least calmer than last month.
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