April 4, 2011

We did it!

After just 4 months of training, our very first Ventura County Galloway Training Programs group crossed their first half marathon finish line on March 26, 2011 at the Great Race of Agoura in Agoura Hills, CA.  Two of our members ran their very first 10K race – The Old Agoura 10K. This 10K is ranked in the top ten 10K races in the United States for it’s beautiful scenery (and gnarly hills!).

From Day 1, back on December 1, 2010, our target race was the Chesebro Half Marathon at the Great Race of Agoura. We knew we would likely be training many first-time distance runners and/or former runners who were ready to jump back into it. I chose the Chesebro Half over the 2nd half marathon offered during the Great Race, The Pacific Half marathon, because I ran the Pacific in 2010. While it is surely one of the most beautiful half marathon courses I’ve run to-date, it is hills, hills and more hills. The hills have hills, which are also on a gradual uphill climb. You get the idea. Definitely not a race I would steer beginners towards!  Even though I hadn’t personally run the Chesebro Half, I knew several other runners who had. Of those I talked with, the consensus was to target the Chesebro Half, which includes over 7 miles of trails and offers it’s fair share of hill climbs. 

Chesebro Half Marathon course
After the first month of building our base mileage, we started tacking on a little trail and hill work with each successive long run. Four weeks prior to race day, we tried to plan a 12.5 mile training run that would closely mimic our race day course. Then the unthinkable happened. It rained in Southern California. Rain turned into heavy rain which turned into thunderstorms. We didn’t see the sun for days. A few of our pace group leaders ran the trail on different days after the rain hit. We opted to stay off the trails for our group training run and used it as an opportunity to get in a little more hill work on the streets of Simi Valley.

Two weeks prior to race day, we were finally able to plan for and run on the Chesebro trail. More storms had passed through the week prior, but the conditions were dry enough and we wanted a test run to see what we could expect come race day. To say the journey was easy would be a lie. To say it was worth every second would be an understatement. As you can see, we had a miserable time on an ugly day.... LOL!

A breather and a photo op on our way to the peak
Breathtaking view from the trail peak

Quick stop for a photo op at the peak
Fast forward 12 days. Yet again, So Cal had been hit with more rain. I started making plans to change our race day strategy. Trampling through thick mud and navigating around exposed rocks, roots and fallen trees was not I had in mind for our runners. I crossed all my fingers and toes, hoping we'd get a last minute announcement that the race course was going to move to street-only. The National Parks Service gets the final word on whether or not it's safe to keep the trail open, not to mention the potential damage 1,000+ runners could do to the trail itself.

The next day was the first day of packet pickup. I receive a few emails from group members who have picked up their bibs. Yes, we were still running the trail. Damn. 

Due to inclement weather and safety concerns, the Chesebro race was cancelled 36 hours prior to Start time. Event organizers moved everyone over to the Pacific Half Marathon. I’m quite certain I have no idea what kind of last minute scurrying the organizers had to do to account for this change. As a runner, the changeover was seamless which I am thoroughly impressed by. This race, usually capped at 900 runners, would now double in size with the shifting of 1,000+ runners registered for Chesebro.

I was so proud of how well our group accepted this new, last-minute challenge. I worried the change would affect their confidence, self-talk and general mental state even before we lined up at the Start at Paramount Ranch. But they took it all in stride. We trained hard – we were ready. Let’s do this!

The start at Paramount Ranch

Aside from the majestic beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains, other notable points of interest along this course include Paramount Ranch, the backdrop for 100+ films, mostly westerns; Cornell Winery - a beautiful early 20th century building originally intended to be a church (I can speak from personal experience that this is a great wine tasting location!); and Malibou Lake (no that’s not a typo!). Originally a private resort, this area has also been used as a backdrop for movies, including Frankenstein. Ronald Reagan was the honorary mayor in 1953!

Pace group leader Doreen (yellow jacket) with her group.
What hills? We're just here to have fun!
In case you were curious about those hills.... Yes, this was the first half marathon for many of our members and they ROCKED this course!

 Congratulations team!!! Whether you ran the Half Marathon or your first 10K, be proud. YOU DID IT!!!


Janeth Rogers said...

Awesome recap Vera! Way to lead everyone to victory! You're a total rockstar!

Vera said...

Thank you Janeth!! :-D See you in a couple of weeks at the mud run! WOO HOO!!!

Greg Strosaker said...

Nice job on reaching the big first-race milestone, especially given the flexibility everyone had to exhibit in switching races at the last minute.

Vera said...

Hi Greg! Thank you! They really were amazing. :-)