Monday, December 1, 2008

Race Report: Xterra Topanga Turkey Trot

I'm not much for trying to convince other people to do things. While I am perfectly happy throwing myself into potentially miserable situations, I get pretty ansy at the prospect of doing the same to others. So it was slightly out of character for me to try and organize my extended family to run a 5k trail race over the Thanksgiving Holiday.
After 2 months of cajoling my family members to register, coming up with politically incorrect team names, and daring one another to wear Turkey mascot outfits, the day of the race approached. We celebrated the evening with a boisterous family with dinner at an Italian place in Brentwood, starting what might be my new favorite pre-race tradition of drinking Laphroigh single malt scotch. I am fully aware that this tradition could be very dangerous if left in the wrong hands. We emerged unscathed. This time.
My brother and cousins and I decided to stay at my aunt and uncle's house so that we could get as much pre-race sleep as possible the next morning. This is starting to become one of my more favorite pre-race traditions- packing huge numbers of people in small rooms to sleep in ridiculous situations (we did a similar thing in a hotel room during the Big Sur Half Marathon last month, and I found it highly humorous). My youngest cousin snagged his bed, my little brother and I scored couches, and my older cousin was forced to re-evaluate the coffee table. To his credit, the coffee table was padded and grommeted, which is just plain weird. I mean, one ran a high risk of spilling one's coffee on the table were they to use the piece of furniture for its intended purpose. So my cousin's appropriation of the coffee table as a bed was perhaps less weird than using it as a coffee table. He shoved a comfy chair against one end, spread out, and slept better than the rest of us. We also found that if you eat individually wrapped Hershey's chocolates in bed (after you have brushed your teeth) you have better energy to power through your dreams. We called them "Sleep Snacks", which at the time was hilarious. Maybe you had to be there.
We stumbled through the next morning, and the adults drove us up to Topanaga Canyon. The parking situation left something to be desired. We attempted to drive close to the site, but were turned away by two very nice and diplomatic women who told us to park, walk up to the elementary school, and then catch a shuttle. We did just that, but waited at least 15 minutes for the ~20 passenger van. We made it up there with time to spare, but the race organizers had to delay all of the races 10 minutes- not sure if the shuttle had anything to do with that, but hey, it's trail running.
Between my mom, aunt, cousins, and brother, we ranged in age from 21-64. We had one foot surgery, a hip replacement, 2 newbies, a tall skinny natural, and a sore IT band (me). When the megaphone went off we charged up the hill. And up, and up, and up. You always look at the topographic profile and say "Wow, that looks awful, but..." and then you actually do it. It was 600 feet in 1 mile, on fire roads, and it was sunny- it was brutal. I kept myself going by looking a curve or 2 ahead and seeing my long, lean brother in the pack with the fast men. I felt like I was 10, watching him on the playground and making sure he was okay. After that, the trail took a left down into the fun windy next couple miles through the canyon. Banking off of mud walls, couched in Oaks, rocks studding the trail...if you relaxed, really relaxed, you could just be there, running fast, open and free, for seconds at a time you felt there, actually in the flow. It smelled clean and beautiful and canyon-y. It was nice. Deeply and truly nice.
My brother finished in the top 10. I was the 3rd woman. My littlest cousin came in around the middle, his longest run ever. My older cousin threw up at the top of the hill, almost quit, and after seeing one of the 10k runners, re-committed and finished. My mom, a lifelong runner, finished after being told 4 years ago that she would never run again. And my aunt finished, race walking the whole way and only falling once.
Afterwards we milled around the parking lot, the non-running adults fawning over us and taking pictures. My youngest cousin suggested that next year we think about the 10k. And so maybe my cajoling, despite my discomfort with it, had its place after all.

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