I am not exaggerating when I say if I hadn’t dropped to the 10K, I would have DNF’ed the half and likely have needed help off the course.
I first heard of Space Rock last year and thought it looked awesome but likely too far away. A little Googling and I learned it was only 3 hours south! But I had an insane October already last year with 2 halves at opposite ends of the state and a 2+ week work trip. So I passed. Instagram adds got me this year and I signed up.
Then the last 3-4 weeks went to hell in a hand basket and I wasn’t sure I was going to even start the race. However I knew that if I did, I was not in the mental shape for a tough trail half nor was I feeling physically up to it so I messaged the race and dropped to the 10K.
I headed down towards Santa Clarita on Friday wondering if the race was even going to happen due to large fire about 20ish miles away. Somehow the air over Vasquez Rocks seemed clear. I picked up my race stuff and checked into a hotel.
The race swag was awesome- the coolest tye dyed shirt and cutest canvas bag.
Race morning dawned clear and early. Parking was fairly convenient in a dirt lot. Then I walked the mile in to the start. The race started about 30 minutes late due to one of the bus shuttles breaking down. Just gave me time to use the port a potty.
Did I mention I was running this race in new trail shoes and a new watch?? 😂
We lined up and we were off.
Mile 1- 11:58
I was wheezing 1/4 mile in. Wait, what? It wasn’t cold and it wasn’t humid. The only thing I can figure was that I breathed in a bunch of dirt. I’ve run numerous trail races but I’ve never seen as much dirt in the air as I did here. I now understood the people I saw with Buffs over their face at the start- they knew. Other than that, we had a decent downhill and then we on to the single track. And the first person to fall in front of me hit the dirt. He rolled well and was up and running before I could finish my question if he was ok.
There was some climb here and I still couldn’t breathe properly but the main slow down was the out and back. We were running super narrow single track and it was and out and up then down and back. Those going up slammed to a stop numerous times to let the runners coming down through. We were doing the best we could but we kept bottle necking. And the second person took a tumble.
Mile 3-4- 14:58, 15:12
I still couldn’t breathe. I loved the downhill and I loved the scenery of the canyons as we were running. We came out of the canyon and started the climb that would break me. Oh, did I mention we ran through the darkest tunnel ever??
Mile 5- 18:06
I have never stopped during a race before, and I have run some doozy trail races. I stopped a few times going up this climb because I could not breathe and I felt like my heart was going to pound out of my chest. My only consolation was that I was not the only one struggling. Everyone around me was hiking and I wasn’t the only one coughing.
Mile 6- 17:20
Are we ever going to stop climbing?!! The woman next to let a few f-bombs fly when we reached a false summit. I agree. I ran all the downhills and struggle bus’ed the climbs and stopped a few more times. Passed an adorable orange haired boy doing the 5K and he cheered me on. So cute! Then we were down near the rocks again and I was walking to the finish. I maybe jogged 20 yards at the end?
Slowest 10k ever! I crossed the line wheezing and tired.
But the medal made me smile and the hot coffee being served made me want to jump for joy.
I would do this race again for sure, just maybe a little healthier and with my face covered in the beginning. Plus for all the roadblocks this race organization hit, they did a remarkable job adapting on the fly. Like water- their original water provider couldn’t get to the race due to the fire but they had plenty of bottles on hand at the finish and the 2 aid stations on the course seemed well stocked. Also, other my lungs, my body handled all the ups and downs well, I was only a little sore in my calves the next day. Oh and somehow in my struggle up the hill in mile 4, I landed in the top 10 in Strava segments. Yeah right!
What was the last race you underestimated?