Harding Hustle 30K - Race Report

I woke early on Saturday morning, barely Saturday morning at 3:30 AM to do the Harding Hustle 30K.  I gave myself time to boil some water for coffee, grab my pre-made breakfast, a pb and honey sandwich, got my two bottles from the fridge and hopped in the truck for an hour and a half drive up the deserted pre-dawn Southern California freeways to the Oakley Headquarters in Forest Hills and then catch a shuttle, and old yellow school bus with a wrinkled and friendly bus driver, to the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in the Cleveland National Forest.

I don't know if I will ever run road races again, trail races seem to suit me.  No Black Eyed Peas blasting at the start line, no one reminding me over and over that today's going to be a good day, no U2 telling me that it's a beautiful day, just silence and nervous runners walking around, checking out the other runners' legs, veins like topographical maps, the nervous stretching and the confident striders, sprinting effortlessly through a pre-race warm-up.  No gun shot to mark the start, not even a bullhorn with runners' instructions, just a soft-voiced pretty blonde race director telling us to follow the ribbons and we won't get lost, then someone, not sure who said start and the nearly 100 trail runners were off to climb a mountain.

This was the first race I have ever done where the elevation profile was almost a perfect triangle, a little over 9 miles up a mountain, climbing about 4,000 feet to the top, then turning around and running back down.

The race was difficult.  I kept an easy and steady pace to the top, running with a guy named Edward and talking about other races, and longing to run downhill, but the company kept my mind off the relentless uphill, and the same muscles, over-used, begging for a change of terrain.  As we climbed above the cloud cover, the tops of mountains sliced through the fog, pyramids leading back to the ocean where the blanket was untouched.

The aid station at the top of the course was a blessing, and I re-filled my bottle, noticing that I was starting to sweat a lot in the heat towards the top, and not drinking enough.  When you are thirsty in a race, it is too late, you won't catch up on your hydration, and I was thirsty.

The downhill felt great, I was picking up speed and picking off runners, but then it started to get to me, the constant pull of gravity and the shock over and over of quads trying to slow me, pace me down the hill, trying to keep my form, trying to lean into the hill and let the earth lead me down to the bottom, trying to pee and the dark trickle of dehydration, and then walking, and self-doubt and me saying that I am weak, walking downhill, being passed by people that I had passed previously who were far behind, then a nice lady walking up the hill cheering me on, saying what a great day it was, then running again to the finish where Catra, an awesome runner, was waiting to put a shiny disco ball medal around my neck.

After sitting in the shade and drinking water, I noticed a cooler full of meat and cheese and bread on the picnic table, so I made a salty sandwich with pickles, sliced ham, mustard and potato chips and it was the best sandwich in the world and I said a prayer of thanks for trail races with no artificial pumpmeupjockjams at the start and a race director with a soft voice who provides sandwiches and shade, and I thanked my knees by icing them and I watched the ice melt over hot and tired muscles and then stream through the dirt that had dried on my calves.

Glenn shot a video of the race.

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