Christmas to Give 5K Run/Walk, 21 December 2013

What: 5K

Where: Los Angeles, California (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Benefited: TNT the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and Back on My Feet

Time: 35:57

Photos: (click to open larger versions)

Selfie in front of downtown LA before the start of the race

Selfie in front of downtown LA before the start of the race

Waiting for the gun...

Waiting for the gun…

...and we're off!

…and we’re off!

Me (in the green shirt) setting off on what I thought would be a chill run

Me (in the green shirt) setting off on what I thought would be a chill run

Tackling my first hill. I had no idea what I was in for.

Tackling my first hill. I had no idea what I was in for.

If you squint, you can see me giving a thumbs-down. I was not liking the hills.

If you squint, you can see me giving a thumbs-down. I was not liking the hills. (Neither was the guy on the far right!)

See those dots in the middle of the picture? Those are people. I'm apparently in this photo somewhere.

See those dots in the middle of the picture? Those are people. I’m apparently in this photo somewhere.

Me and the lady behind me had given up running at this point. I was content to walk.

Me and the lady behind me had given up running at this point. I was content to walk… better than fainting and falling off the hill!

The fun part about not caring about your time is that you have time to pose for silly pictures

The fun part about not caring about your time is that you have the chance to pose for silly pictures

You can see Drew looking quite dodgy on the far left of this shot (photo taken from the Run With Us facebook page)

You can see Drew looking quite dodgy on the far left of this shot (photo taken from the Run With Us facebook page)

The lighting makes it hard to see, but I'm on my knees here, arms extended in a pleading manner.

The lighting makes it hard to see, but I’m on my knees here, arms extended in a pleading manner.

Dragging myself up the last big hill.

Dragging myself up the last big hill.

So close to the end!!

So close to the end!!

Done!

Done!

Thanks to gophers, this is what the trails looked like for the majority of the race. Dern ankle-breakers!

Thanks to gophers, this is what the trails looked like for the majority of the race. Dern ankle-breakers!

Recap: Dear race organizers, even though a race might take place in the winter, water stops would still be nice. Cold weather does not mean runners don’t have to be hydrated, and winter races in a climate such as southern California’s could definitely use water stops, since “cold” weather is actually pretty warm. I would greatly appreciate if you would take all this into consideration. Cheers.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at this race’s description, shall we? “…a fun and memorable 5k with a scenic cross country style course on a mix of dirt, grass and asphalt. The course is moderately challenging with about 3/4 of a mile of gradual hills. You will love the view of Los Angeles and the Dodger Stadium.” [Emphasis mine.]

One thing I should have taken into consideration when signing up for this race was that an Angelino’s ideas of “moderately challenging” and “gradual hills” might differ slightly from a Bostonian’s. (Drew likes to point out that what passes for a mountain on the east coast is barely classified a hill in California.) As I peered down a ravine at the race course on Saturday morning, I began to realize that “moderately challenging” might turn out to be quite a bit challenging, actually.

Before I even realized the organizers had a totally different opinion on what kind of course was challenging, I was a bit worried that I was going to show up to an empty course. The sign-up process was a bit discombobulated, and the night before the race showed only 74 people signed up on the website. There had been no reminder emails or announcements of any kind, and I was hoping the race was still on. I had no reason to worry; once we drove to the park I saw that the race was quite organized, had tons of volunteers, and many more people had signed up the morning of.

The first mile or so of the race wasn’t too bad. The hardest part was getting used to running on sandy gravel trails, which were mixed in with asphalt. My legs are used to hard surfaces, so the sand shifting under my feet made running more difficult than usual. I was purposely taking it slow this race, since I was still worried about the pain in my right foot, and I felt like my first mile was incredibly slow. Much like what happened at the Veterans Fun Run, I was pleasantly surprised when MapMyRun lady announced that my first mile was completed in less than 11 minutes.

With my foot pain-free after the first mile and my time not as bad as it felt, I ran with a bit more confidence in mile 2. There were some hills, but only one that seemed pretty bad, and quite a few downhills. I experienced another “I love running!” moment running downhill onto a grassy section, feeling like I was going fast and feeling good. That euphoria soon ended as I turned the corner and realized that I had to run back up everything I had just run down… and it was even steeper on the trails up. Plus, the trails were riddled with gopher holes (see last picture above) so it took some fancy footwork to not step in one and snap an ankle.

After giving it the ol’ college try on the first hill, I gave up. It was becoming clear that there would be no water stops, and the steep hills were making me feel vaguely fainty. Despite many other runners wearing tights, hats, gloves, and sweatshirts, the low-50s temp was perfect to me, and the sun was actually making me quite warm. Not wanting to start out my vacation by fainting and rolling unconsciously down a ravine, and not wanting to push my foot too hard, I walked for much of mile 3. It felt a little frustrating deep down, knowing that I couldn’t quite hack it, but I kept reminding myself that this race was just for fun, and for a chance to do some running tourism.

All in all, my time wasn’t too shabby considering that I walked for a little more than a third of the race, and stopped a few times to pose for silly pictures. My foot didn’t hurt at all, either during the race or after (had I healed fully, or were my new running shoes what I had needed the whole time?). I got to see some sweet views and run on a very different course from the type I tend to run in the Boston area. And, I got a pretty sweet medal. Not a bad way to start a vacation after all!

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