When I told people I was racing in Fontana, the common reaction I got was “why?” or “ew.” I decided to do this race this year because it’s a fast course and I wanted to do something different than Rock ’n Roll San Diego.  There ended up being 7 of us (including myself) from my running group that ran, one being my coach, and several others being veteran runners of this race.

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We drove up Friday night and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fontana. After a restful night of sleep and some snoring (sorry!), we woke up Saturday morning around 4:30am (I insisted on setting my usual 3 alarms, 4:30am for the initial shock, 4:40am and 4:45am just incase I never woke up). By 5am we met up and drove over to the finish line area which happened to be the morning-of packet-pick up, and shuttle area. By 5:20 we had picked up our bibs and boarded the shuttle. Cars were not allowed at the starting line, so it was required that you were on a shuttle by 6:20am (except apparently this wasn’t the case because a bus actually came up during the race).  I got my preview of the race course as we drove from finish to start, and tried to pay as much attention as I could to the entire course.

We arrived to the starting area by 6am (more or less) and had about an hour and a half to kill. The race begins way up (like 2,000 feet up) in the Lytle Creek Campground. It was pretty chilly to start, but by the time the race began I had stripped my throw-away thermal.

The race was counted down from 10-1 and with a sound of a blow-horn (or lack of one, and then the horn) we were off. My thoughts moved from: run your own race, set no expectations – you just got a PR…this is just for fun!, keep it close to a 6:45/6:55, oh no I think I’m going to blow up, god this is hard, wow – races move fast when you’re running fast, etc.

The first mile was the steepest, with the proceeding 5 winding downhill through the San Bernadino National Forest. By mile 3 I was cursing myself, wondering if I screwed myself up for the race and if I was going to blow it like AFC.

I actually didn’t realize how scenic and beautiful this race would be. I don’t think anyone could have painted the picture for me either. As we ran down the mountain, the sun was shining and it got to be quite warm. Luckily, by the time we hit mile 6/7, the fog settled in and it was overcast, but comfortable and cool. It was surely a blessing because once we exited the base of the mountain, there was not a tree in sight.

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For the first time during a race, I decided to take a gel. During training runs I usually wait 45 minutes to take one, so I ended up taking one at mile 6 (42/43 minutes in).  I didn’t have a pouch or a pocket (my one pocket was holding my car key and ID and I didn’t want to chance losing it), so I ended up just holding it in my hand.  I also took water at each aid station, although the cups were over-sized flimsy dixie cups. I tried to use my method of pouring some out of the cup so I don’t choke on the water, but I accidentally kept over pouring too much, to the point where I was only able to toss back a speck of water).

By mile 7.5/8 I felt like it really started to flatten out. I told myself, as long as I get to mile 10 (hopefully by 1:10), I could asses how I felt and back down to a 7:30 pace if necessary.

I passed by a spectator who yelled “your 15th woman,” so my plan became to maintain my position not get passed by any girls. By mile 10ish, I had picked off two girls in front of me. However, around mile 12, a younger girl came out of nowhere and kicked some ass.

I started running with an older guy who gave me some motivation. Together we were going to slowly pick off each group in front of us. We ran together for 2 miles or so, but around mile 11 I lost him. I thought for sure he was going to surpass me.

By mile 10 I told myself, “just maintain and crank it in the end.”  My plan was to wait until my watch beeped at 13 miles and then run hard for the last .2 or so (I knew I had some extra distance since I wasn’t exactly running the tangents).

By 11.5 I just kept telling myself, only 10 more minutes. You can do anything for 10 minutes. You can do 55 minutes of yoga sculpt with your quads on fire, you can run for 10 more minutes. Because by the last .5 my quad muscles felt like they were actually going to burst.

As I approached the shoot I saw my team standing by. Everyone was cheering and yelling, relax your arms, just go for it, go get him, go go go. It really gave me that last push as I started my kick, which became so fast and so hard I knew I couldn’t stop without falling over.

I finished in 1:32:36!  I’m glad my coach put the idea in my head I could run a 1:30. Without this goal (a 10 minute PR at that), I don’t even know what I would have done otherwise. Maybe just try to PR by a minute or 2?

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It was a smoking fast race and I felt like I did a really good job at keeping my pace consistent, especially on the flat portions. I never thought I would be able to run more than a 5k at close to a 7 min pace.  But here we are.

Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (1:32:43):
1 – 6:30
2 – 6:47
3 – 6:55
4 – 7:05
5 – 7:12
6 – 7:12
7 – 7:11
8 – 7:12
9 – 7:05
10 – 7:06
11 – 7:04
12 – 7:10
13 – 7:05
Last .2 – 1:10

Even though it’s a downhill course, it’s definitely challenging. You have to make sure you don’t blow up in the first few miles that it makes the time made up the downhill portion useless. To train for this, we really worked on running fast on tired legs, and really pushing it for our 5k paces to prepare for the last 3 miles of this race. I would say IT WORKED!

I ended up placing 1st in age group (F19-24), 14th female overall, 108 overall.

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