Race Report: Harding Hustle 30k Trail Run

After listening to an ultra marathon podcast on a flight to Dallas for focus groups, I decided to look online when I got to my hotel for some trail races to try out to see if doing a 50 miler or 100 miler some day might be something I could tolerate or even enjoy.

To my surprise, when I began looking for races on Trailrunnermag.com’s race calendar I found the inaugural Harding Hustle 30 kilometer (18.5 mile) trail race taking place just 20 minutes from my house in the Santa Ana Mountains of the Cleveland National Forest. The only problem with this race was that the day I was looking at the computer, it was Wednesday, July 7th and the race was taking place in just three days on Saturday, July 10th! Not much time to prepare… mentally or physically.

After having done a decent amount of trail running in the 7 to 10 mile range the week prior in Kauai, 18.5 miles didn’t seem like too big of a deal although if the distance didn’t kill me, the nearly 4,000 feet of climbing might. So I decided that when I returned home from Dallas, I would prepare myself to run the race on Saturday morning.

Saturday came and I woke up at 5 a.m. to drive out to the Oakley headquarters in Foothill Ranch, CA where a shuttle picked me and a bus load of ultra runners up to take us to the race start at the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon. The first thing I noticed was that these were no ordinary runners, they were trail runners, ultra marathoners, the true hippies of the endurance sports world and I loved the vibe I got from them. Most of them trained for longer distances so the Harding Hustle would be more of a training race for them, to test their fitness as they prepare for bigger events.

I registered, got my race number, and paid the $60 entry fee. Yes, I paid 60 bucks to suffer up and down a big ass mountain for 30 kilometers. After paying up I was lined up at the start line and then the race began. The race was an out-and-back (or up-and-down) course meaning that you run 9.25 miles up and then turn around and run 9.25 miles down, so in theory, the way down should be much faster than the way up.

When the course climbed over 500 feet in elevation within the very first mile it became clear that this was not going to be an easy day. On the way up I just tried to keep an easy pace and never stop running. There were two small descents on the way to the top but they were hardly noticeable at the time. I made the turn around at the top of Four Corners on Main Divide at 1 hour and 43 minutes. Happy with my time to the top, I began my descent but couldn’t go nearly as fast as I had planned. It turns out it is hard to descend at my desired 6:30/mile pace after I had just ran uphill for 9 miles.

Happy to be running downhill, I just tried to maintain good form, lean forward, and not strike with my heels. It was still exhausting and my knees, hips, and internal organs were nagging me to take it easier on the descent. Hands down, the toughest part of the day was climbing up two short climbs that came on the way down. I had hardly noticed them as a benefit on the way up but sure didn’t have any problems noticing them on the way down as they drastically slowed my pace and put the hurt on me when I had to climb them.

With two miles to go, I noticed there was a chance I could break the 3 hour mark so I decided to step on it a little harder. I didn’t quite make that new goal and crossed the finish line in 3 hours 1 minute and 39 seconds. The good news about this time was that it was much faster than I had anticipated going, the bad news was that since I was ahead of schedule, I finished before my wife ever got there to see me finish. Oh well, I was glad to be done.

The post race massage was provided by a local massage therapy school and was seriously the best one I have had, and the post race food and snacks were pretty good too. All in all, Dirty Feet Productions put on a great race.

My results were a final finishing time of 3:01:39 putting me in 4th place in my age group, the 27th male, 32nd overall, and I made a bunch of great new friends. It was a great day and I definitely plan to do more trail races and maybe even consider an ultra someday.


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