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Raptor Ridge Half Marathon Recap

Raptor Ridge Half Marathon Recap

 

Trail races scare me, but in the best way possible. I don’t run trails very often because as a mom of young boys I don’t always have the freedom to run outside. I’m also a wuss about going off into the lonely trails by myself.

We have a few trails close by that are pretty safe, but still, I really don’t get out there that much. I’d like to though and need to find someone to tackle some trails with me (in all my free time of course). Ha.

It really is a whole other world out there though that is so darn magnificent.

When I was reading up on why balance is important for runners, one of the suggestions was to add trail running to your routine to help with balance. I totally see why that is now. There is so much more going on physically and mentally out there. I swear every single muscle in my body was working at some point out there on the course.

 

My first trail race was the Stairway to Heaven Half Marathon. That was one heck of a tough course to welcome me into the world of trail races.

I was told that the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon, which is also put on by Dirt Devil Racing, was a much easier course. I didn’t preview the course or anything. I never do. I like to be surprised. Ha.

 

I did read over the final race instructions sent by Dr. Runco beforehand though. The two instructions that really stood out were these:

                    1. Port-Pots : There will be 6-7 pots and hand washing stations available. There are NO pots on the course so if you have trouble during the race we recommend either carrying toilet tissue with you and be ready to head into the woods or wear a diaper cause we can not get any pots out on the trail!
                    2. Rattle Snakes. There are rattle snakes in California. Hopefully you will hear one before you see it! That is their way of letting you know to take a wide berth. YOU CAN’T HEAR IT IF YOU HAVE HEADPHONES ON!

Yes friends, it’s a whole different game out there. There was also a warning that the last aide station was three miles from the finish line so to make sure to be prepared and carry water with you.

 

I was nervous because trails are still a new thing for me and because I really didn’t want to fall down or see a snake. Those were my main concerns going into the race. Nice, huh?

I woke up with a bit of a sore throat (which turned out to be this nice head cold I’ve been fighting all week), but figured it was allergies or something. I knew I wasn’t really planning on going fast so just figured I’d see how I felt out there.

I tried to make sure I had on my best trail racing hair which called for a higher ponytail and wider Halo Hairband than usual. Ha.

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It was going to be a hot day so I was glad the race started at 7:00 am.

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Parking was a breeze and everyone was just hanging out and chatting and waiting for the start. It was very low key as opposed to other big road races where everyone is scrambling to the right corral and everything.

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I had to switch my bib once I got there since I had the wrong one, but it only took like 30 seconds and I was all set.

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There were just a couple port a potties so the line was a little long, but it went quickly. I don’t think anyone wanted to take any chances after the warning that there were no bathrooms out on the course.

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I wasn’t planning on running fast, but I took a Vega Sport gel with me just in case I felt like I needed it. I also ran with my fuel belt instead of the backpack because it was lighter. I don’t take any chances with dehydration these days.

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Oh hey, you know, just trying to look like I’m a trail runner. Thank you Mizuno for the the Wave Kazan shoes so at least I had the right footwear.

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Black socks were a must too.

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When the starting time was getting close, people hung out closer to the starting area.

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Right before the race started we got our last minute instructions from Dr. Runco.

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That little flag there he’s holding is what we looked for out on the course to make sure we’re going the right way. There were also bright plates with arrows and chalk arrows on the dirt to mark the course.

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If you were planning on running an 8 minute mile or faster you were told to get to the front of the crowd. They don’t have timing chips or anything so everyone gets the same starting time so I figured I better get my bootie up there.

One last little silent self request to not get lost, see any rattlesnakes or fall down and we were on our way.

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I ran at a comfortable pace for the most part. The course was nice and flat at the beginning, but did have some areas with soft sand. I had to watch my footing on those little parts. The weather was supposed to be in the 90s for the day, but since we were on the side of the mountain and in the shade for a bit, it was actually a lot colder than I thought it would be.

I didn’t take any pictures or pay attention to my pace. I have no idea how trail running paces compare to road races so I figured I just wouldn’t pay attention and enjoy the run.

After passing at least five different beautiful photo opportunities and climbing up the single track ridge, I finally gave in and got my camera out.

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Obviously right as I did that I got passed.

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Ha ha.

It was a little tricky to keep running while fumbling with the camera especially on a bit of a downhill. I realized I’m a much better climber than I am a speedy downhill person.

 

The course is an out and back course. It was nice to know exactly where to go after the turn around point. Some of it was single track up the ridge which really was the only technical part and when we were on our way back down on the single track you had to be careful with other runners coming up.

Here’s the course description from the website.

Course Description: The Raptor Ridge half marathon is an out-n-back course that begins with 4.5 miles of flat and fast jeep road that winds east towards the San Diego Safari Park and Raptor Ridge.  The single track up Raptor Ridge is completely doable for stronger runners.  Runners who are not as strong should expect to “do some hiking” up to the top.  At the top you are rewarded by views of the entire valley.  October is a gorgeous time of year and the view at the top of the ridge is impressive.  As you continue down the other side of Raptor Ridge you really make up time.  Lean into the hill and run fast down the opposite side as you make your way back into the flats and towards your turnaround point.

After the turnaround, running up the backside of the ridge is easier than running up the single track.  The hill is longer and on less of an incline.  Try to run all the way to the top as you feel your quads burning.  As you crest the top get back on the single track and “trail-surf” all the way to the bottom.  This is trail running at its best.  Running downhill, really fast with great views all around you.  Spectacular!

As you run along the rolling jeep road toward the 5th aid station with the mountains on your left make sure to ready your bottle for filling.  It is only 3 miles to go now and it is all flat.  Now you are on your way back.  Farms are on both sides of you and you can settle into a nice, comfortable pace as you near the end.  As you come closer you can hear the sounds of cowbells ringing and volunteers calling “Runner”!  It gives you a jolt of energy and will allow you to speed up as you cross the finish.

It might have been helpful if I would have read this before the race. Ha.

 

Random thoughts I had during the race:

Do I hear a rattlesnake?

Beavis, my GPS didn’t start.

This single track business is no joke.

I can’t feel my fingers.

It’s chilly.

I’m glad I wore black.

Please don’t see a snake.

I hope I don’t have to go to the bathroom.

Whoa, that’s a lot of dust to inhale.

Going downhill is scary.

Do not fall down.

Hey, I feel pretty good.

Hey, I haven’t seen a snake.

What time to I have to pick up the boys again?

Smile

 

The course was great. It was relatively easy and a good course for runners like me who are just starting to dabble with the whole trail thing.

I liked the out and back so we could see other runners and know where to go to get back to the finish.

It was beautiful and I liked the views of the wine country the best.

My GPS didn’t work at the beginning or at the end, but my phone running app did so here’s a look.

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I didn’t know my exact finish time for a bit, but I did know that there was this gal on my tail the whole way down the single track on the side of the ridge on the way back.

I don’t know the whole trail race etiquette so I didn’t know if I was supposed to step to the side or what. I just kept going and probably went faster than I would have gone down the hill.

It’s so funny how when you’re racing you’re worried because someone is right behind you for so long and you’re thinking “who the heck is that?”

Then at the end of the race you see that it was that one girl who passed you earlier. Then you finally meet and talk and realize how nice that person is.

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My new friend who made me work it down that hill is Catherine. She’s a rock star. This was her first trail race and she did awesome.

Smile

The finish line was pretty low key also. They just called out the numbers as the runners crossed the finish.

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They are really quick to bring you your fancy swag.

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I hung out long enough to spot a cool Mizuno shirt

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and check the results to see my finishing time.

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1:42:43 and 7th overall female.

I’m happy with that.

I have no idea how that compares to other trail racing times, but I have to say that I really felt good the entire race and even felt good at the finish. I’m glad I just took things easy and took the whole experience in. It’s been a long time since I felt good at the end of a race. I needed that.

I also have to say that this guy, Dr. Runco, not only runs an awesome injury prevention and rehabilitation center, but knows how to put on a darn good trail race.

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It was a really great morning.

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Like really great.

I’m definitely not 100% and have a long way to go, but man does it ever feel good to finish a race feeling stronger than I have been.

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I’m really liking the trail race scene. I’m excited to see what else is out there.

There’s just something so invigorating about being out in nature, being scared and uncomfortable with not much around and just getting through it to come out on the other side.

I have a feeling there is a lot more trail running business to come.

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Getting dirty is pretty darn fun.

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Have a good one friends!

 

Have you ever ran a trail race?

What’s your biggest trail running (or walking) fear? Obviously mine is snakes.

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Comments

  1. 1

    You’re making me want to run a trail race! And how nice to end a race feeling so great!

    Most of the ones near me are not for beginners – they all have long, threatening warnings to scare people off. Probably won’t stop me for much longer though, I keep looking at them and really want to check one out! 🙂

  2. 2
    Erica says:

    I feel inspired every time I read your blog <3

  3. 3
    Kim says:

    I think maybe you have an ultra in your future:) If I weren’t such a wimp I would say let’s do one together but….

  4. 4

    Trail races are fun to run! I’ve seen too many snakes on my training runs, but never one during a trail race, fortunately! Congrats on finishing 7th!

  5. 5
    Michelle Kim says:

    I ran a tough trail half marathon before and was pleasantly surprised to be 3rd woman overall and first in my AG. Haven’t run a trail race in a long time now, so I don’t know how I’d do these days.
    That’s a fantastic time for a trail half! Congrats!

  6. 6
    Erika says:

    I have been waiting for this! Awesome recap. Loving the trails. I was a XC runner in HS so I’m excited to be back at it again. This series looks way fun.

  7. 7
    Laura P says:

    What a great time! Congrats, looks like a fun race!

  8. 8

    Definitely snakes. I have a fear that I’ll get out of bed in the morning and step on a snake in my bedroom. i have no reason to think that there are snakes in my house, but I think about it every day during the summer.

    I don’t ever look at course elevation charts. I don’t want it to psych me about before I even get to a race.

    I’ve done a few trail races, they are so much different than a road race! Having to pay attention to your surroundings/footing/etc. so much more closely is draining!

  9. 9

    I’ve done a couple trail races and I love them. The pressure is much less as far as how fast you run, and I really enjoy the terrain. One was In Temecula a few years back. It was a 10 mile race called That Dam Run, and it was by some dam (duh) in the area. It was so hard but so fun, though one of my girlfriends took a fall and broke her nose!

  10. 10
    Kathy says:

    No thank you ….. if you may or may not see rattlesnakes I would have to opt out. I don’t like our MN baby ~ harmless snakes ~ I can’t even imagine something bigger and deadly.

    #freakysnakegirl ha!ha!

  11. 11
    morgan says:

    I did my first 10K trail race this fall and it was awesome! Just having the beautiful scenery made up for the fact that I felt like I should have boots on and a walking stick 🙂 although we don’t have snakes here, the alders were so close around the one person wide trail I was worried that a bear would grab me and no one would know! Bears are my biggest fear. Even though my husband is a bear hunting guide and people pay him to find them huge bears, I “see” them around every corner when I am out on a trail- I am the weenie hunter wife! Alaska running for you: bears, moose, crazy drivers in the dark… hmm.. must be getting close to Halloween

  12. 12
    Joe says:

    Wow – congrats on the trail race finish. You are inspiring. I almost want to try one now. Yup, snakes are a bit of a scare. When my wife and I were vacationing in Big Bend National Park, I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. He was sunning himself in the middle of the trail, and I never even saw him until I stepped over him. Yikes.

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