Santa Barbara Red Rock Trail Half Marathon

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3:45am. That was the time I woke up this morning to run a race, a race that I was terrified of for many reasons. One being I hardly trained, two being that it was in the Los Padres National Forest which has a hell of a lot of big hills and third the race director’s emails made me nervous. I think that was his goal. The race director for this event is Luis Escobar. As in the man that was IN the book Born to Run. He was there for the greatest race the world has never seen! Unfortunately this bit of knowledge did not occur to me until I was on my way home from the race. Otherwise I would have asked for a picture with him. I guess I will have to do another of his events; he has quite a few of them here in the central coast.

So I got up, got dressed and gathered all my gear while Jesse slept. I gave him a kiss goodbye and headed out the door. I took his Jeep since any trail event we have done required a much more rugged car than my sporty thing. The whole time I was driving down the dark road, without a soul in sight I kept thinking I was nuts, that this was a terrible idea, and I should have just stayed in bed. I was all alone going to a place I had never been to before in the pitch dark to run a race that had no course map or elevation chart since the RD does not believe in that kind of thing.

I got there by following my hand written directions and then following the car in front of me as we weaved our way through this forest. It was dark so I could not take in any scenery and I was trying hard to keep the Jeep on the little one and a half lane road that we were on. I made it with plenty of time (that was another of my worries) and managed to get the Jeep parked half on and half off the road. I gathered all my stuff and joined the line for the bathroom. It is always an adventure using a Porta Potty with only the aid of a headlamp to see. I joined the others near the start since there was a mandatory pre-race meeting. It was supposed to be at 5:45am but we were a bit behind schedule. Around six the RD comes up and gathers our attention. He had some words of wisdom for us and he gave each of us verbal directions for the course. He was sure to emphasize that he did not care that the course mileage was not accurate. I think the half was closer to 14.1 than 13.1 and joked that the marathon distance was hard and hoped no one wanted to use it as a Boston Qualifier.

He finished the instructions and had us head over to the start line where he had us raise our right hands and repeat after him, “If I get hurt, if I get lost or if I die, it is my own damn fault!”. After that he shot the starting rifle and we were off.

Since the fires in CA caused him to alter his routes a bit, he said the 50 miler was much harder than last year because of it, we had to run down the road a bit to make up some mileage. The sun was starting to come up and it was beautiful. After we turned around we ran past the start and to the end of the paved road where we went around a gate and were greeted by a dirt road that went up and up and up. This race is an out and back so I knew that anything we climbed up we would get to run down and that made it a touch less painful as I climbed up this mountain via what looks like an old fire road.

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What I loved most about this race was that just when you thought your legs would give out and you just could not go up anymore you would round a bend and there would be a wonderful downhill waiting for you. I made up a great deal of time on those downhills. This course was fabulous, the views of the mountains being bathed in light as the sun came up was just glorious to see. It was very hard to stop myself from taking constant pictures because then I would never finish! I told Jesse that when it was all over I bet there was barely a quarter mile of flat in that whole race; you were either going up or going down the whole time. After a long up, then a long down, then another long up we ran passed a dam and headed to some single track. The way it weaved along the mountain, going up the sides in a switchback pattern made for a fun run. When I made it to the red flag were we turned around and headed back I was amazed that we had gone 7 miles and that I was feeling so good. I also knew that if I kept it up I would have a much better time than my last trail half marathon.

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Jesse and his mom wanted to be there to see me finish and I kinda had a hunch that I would make it to the finish line before they got there and that is what happened. I had finished the race, got my amulet and some chicken soup before they pulled up. I know Jesse was disappointed but I had a such a great run and was feeling so up and positive that I told him not to worry, it meant I did better than I thought I would.

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This event was such a wonderful experience and being in the presence of so many ultra-runners was just too cool for words. I idolize those people and hope to be one someday. I could not get over the beauty that I got see while I ran and the people that I got to interact with. I can’t wait to sign up for the next one! Even though right now my legs don’t work so well and my feet hurt. It is all worth it.

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