When I saw that I had an opportunity to experience the course as a Race Guard, I knew this was the year I'd been waiting for all along. The Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu Hills, while extraordinarily beautiful, include some extraordinarily tough hills. This time of year is also typically very warm and dry, made even more intense by the infamous Santa Ana winds. Let's see - big hills, heat and strong gusts of wind - yep, I want to be there to help!
Long story short, the race directors pulled off an amazing, last-minute relocation of the Start/Finish due to the government shutdown. This race is usually based out of Paramount Ranch (a National park). This year, it started and ended at Malibu Creek State Park and the course was slightly adjusted to accommodate the change.
I took a shuttle from the Agoura/Calabasas community center to the Start just before 6:30am. Parking was a breeze and the shuttle ride was short and sweet. I arrived early to meet up with the Race Guards team but I was supposed to meet them at the Finish, which none of the park staff or volunteers could direct me to from the Start.
|An unassuming and calm Start (1 hour before race time)|
After a few minutes of panic and a quick conversation with another runner who did know approximately where the Finish was in relation to the Start, I finally headed off to find the Race Guards tent. I've run 4 races with this organization this year and they really are an exceptional group of runners and triathletes! Since this was a small event (both in attendance and the fact that the 10K route was just a shortened version of the 10 mile route), we had a smaller team than usual. How awesome is that backdrop?!?!
|2013 RAD Race Guards Team|
Here's the course we were in for! Check out those first 3 miles. Yowza!
Good thing I've been doing some regular long distance trail running these last few months. I was pleasantly surprised at how great I felt on the hills. Granted, this is a completely different race experience. I'm focused on other runners when I run with Race Guards - I listen to their breathing, watch their facial expressions and body movements.....always on the lookout for signs of trouble or just signs that someone could use a mental boost. "You look awesome on this hill!" "Almost to the top - you can do it!".
Just before the race started, the announcer reminded everyone running the 10-miler about the Outlaw Mountain Showdown. This was a contest to see who could run up Outlaw Mountain (extending between Mile 1 and Mile 2 markers) in the fastest time, per age group. The prize was a "commemorative shirt". Seemed like a good way to encourage people to blow out in the first 2 miles but I also understand the intent which was to provide some extra motivation to get up that big incline! We're runners..... anything for a t-shirt, right? :-)
The first quarter of a mile was mostly flat as we headed out of the park and onto Las Virgenes Rd before making a quick left on Mulholland Highway. We wouldn't see anything resembling a flat road again until Mile 9 when we were almost back in the park.
|"Outlaw Mountain" between Miles 1 and 2|
While the 10K runners turned back at Mile 3, the 10 mile route continued West towards Malibou Lake (yes Malibou, not Malibu!). The Pacific Half Marathon course runs around this lake so I have had the privilege of running through this area a couple of times in the last 5 years. It was as beautiful as ever, despite that nasty headwind at Mile 5. I do want to mention how much course support was out there in addition to us Race Guards who were running the course! Plenty of water stops, awesome and encouraging volunteers and at least 1 Sheriff every couple of miles. Impressive!
|Malibou Lake - In Mile 5|
Some small sections of the course were shaded but for the most part, we were baking in the sun from about 2.5 miles in.
|On the way down, over looking the Finish. Nearly at Mile 8.|
|In Mile 8 on the way back down Mulholland.|
And now for the big Finish!:
So there you have it. This really was a great event!!