It's no secret that this year has been tough on athletes (and everyone!). People who like to race suddenly had things they were looking forward to and working hard for taken away. To some, this won't seem like a big deal, "It's just running" or "there are so many bigger things to worry about". While true, to runners it IS a big deal. We often run to help deal with the bigger things. It keeps us healthy in both mind and body so we can face the challenges outside of running head-on. If running teaches you anything it's that there will be low points. You will not always feel great. You will have to push through uncomfortable situations. You will be side-lined from injury. You will heal. You will fight to get back in shape. You will not always win. You will be defeated and frustrated. You will accomplish things you never thought possible. You will feel like you can fly.
The world has turned to virtual races where it is not safe to gather in groups in hopes of keeping that race spirit alive. I am not a huge fan of anything virtual but it's a nice option until real in-person racing can return safely. Still, I don't feel the need to complete a bunch of virtual races and challenges. I like to keep training because I like the act of training. Do I want somewhere to test my speed and fitness? Absolutely! I'm no stranger to running personal challenges when things that were supposed to happen don't. For instance, back in April I did my own Ironman Oceanside 70.3 on the day that race was supposed to take place. Was it in Oceanside? No. Was it a 70.3? No. But it was a 69.1! Rode 56 miles and ran 13.1 out my front door and I had a blast. In June, my mom and I ran our own 50k in the Santa Monica Mountains on the day we would have been running Bishop High Sierra Ultras. It was a fun, hard, good time!
Now to the exception: a local series of races turned virtual on our home trails. This sounded like fun! You have a stretch of time to complete the course whenever you want and submit your results. This started with the Tough Topanga 10k on trails that my mom and I run about once a week. We knew every turn, every climb, and every descent. I don't often bust out a fast 10k but this sounded like the perfect opportunity. I ran as fast as I could and enjoyed it. Then came the waiting for results. I'd check Strava every once in a while to see fast ladies get out and beat me. Could I have kept up if we were all running together? I doubt it! Still, a virtual time-trail is not the same as seeing someone ahead of you and giving everything you can to catch them.
Next in the series is the Tough Mugu 25k. This race has the option of running solo or as a two person team. With a generational team being an option, my mother and I clearly had to go for it! This course was not one we were familiar with so I studied the maps and wrote down the directions to have with me. We'd give it a go and have some fun. What could go wrong?
We got to the trailhead, started our watches, and headed up into the clouds. We weren't even to mile 3 yet and I heard the unmistakable "thud" behind me of a body hitting the ground. She popped right back up and assured she was fine to keep running. She is no stranger to running with blood dripping down her leg. Tough is one word for my mother.
Ray Miller, Overlook, La Jolla...we were on track! Suddenly we came upon a gate with a "trail closed sign". Hmm...didn't see that one coming. This was an overgrown part of the trail but we didn't see anywhere else to go. Clearly bushwhacking past the gate was not the right choice. The mind starts to race. Where are we? Did we miss something? The clock is ticking! After a very frustrating and very long time we turned around.
We made it back to the parking lot with no problems other than feeling defeated. Time didn't matter anymore so I stopped to take a picture of the ocean. You really can't beat running the trails with the Pacific Ocean in sight.
I was pretty bummed that we didn't finish but, the thing is, it doesn't matter! We had an adventure of 14 miles on beautiful trails. And there's still time to go back and try again.