I was going to be in SoCal the for a few weeks in early July so I decided to look up a trail run to do in place of the Cougar 10-mile event on the 7th. The Harding Hustle fit the bill perfectly, about the same distance at 9.3 miles but with more elevation at 2400′ plus it was going to be HOT instead of running in the rain like I had been doing. The plan was to run it with Catherine’s cousin Tony but he came up with an injury and had to pull out but I decided to go ahead and do the run myself.
The race started at the Tucker Wildlife Refuge in Modjeska Canyon about 10 miles from Irvine where we were staying. The logistics of the canyon road required a shuttle bus in and out of the event from the Oakley building in Forest Park. Catherine and I checked it out the day before to see if a drop-off would work and decided that the shuttle was a better option. When I arrived at Oakley the marine layer was still pretty thick so I had hopes of starting without heat but as we drove up the canyon the clouds dissipated and the sun was hot by the time we arrived at Tucker. I would be sweating from the time I crossed the starting line.
The course is basically a giant pyramid for all distances, you go up for 7.5/15 or 25k and then you go down. OK, there are a few minor ups and downs but for the most part you go up, and up, and up in the heat, hit aid, and head down in the heat. The hill was brutal from the start and after about 45 minutes seemed like it would never end. I ran most of it but walked a few extra steep stretches and times I wanted to get a good drink or eat a gel. I kept thinking I had to hit the top of a peak for the turn-around which seemed like a very long ways away still when a downhill runner told me I had only 1/4 mile to go – woo hoo! I had downed about 48 ounces of water and electrolyte by the time I hit the aid station and was so hot and dry that I couldn’t even operate my iPhone screen w/o licking my finger first, I shot video during the event. At aid I had them refill my bottles, grabbed a banana and just charged back down the hill, it had taken a little over an hour to reach the turn-around.
The downhill felt great after all that climbing and there was a bit of a breeze going up the canyon by then which felt very good. The sun was mostly at my back too instead of right in my face on the descent. I walked the brief up-hill stretch to eat a gel and drink a bunch of water before running the last mile or so quickly and finishing in 1:47.
I wore my Merrell Trail Gloves for the run after scoping it out with Catherine and was glad I went with them instead of my Leadvilles. The steepness of the descent would have been a bit harder with the sandals plus there were places with very big rocks on the trail which are always a bit harder in sandals. On top of that, I really didn’t want my feet to burn. My new Ultaspire Kinetic vest worked great, I had 52 oz. of fluid on me and it was easy to refill at the aid station. I ran on Vega gels and a Vega pre-workout drink before the event plus Nathan electrolyte tabs in one bottle. I was hot but never overly hot and actually felt great at the finish which was amazing given the difference in climate from what I’ve been used to running in.