The Xterra Crystal Cove Trail Run

A couple of weeks after Ironman Arizona, I decided to get out on the mountain bike again for a long ride. My wife and I decided to do a good chunk of the route from The Traverse,  an upcoming mountain bike race we will be participating in this spring, so she could see what the course was like. Within the first 8 miles of the 30 mile ride, I started to feel some strange knee pain that I have never felt before. I pushed through the pain, not so much concerned about how it would effect me in the moment, but rather I was concerned that more permanent damage could be caused by my continuing to pedal.

We finished the ride but when I returned home, I quickly turned to the internet to self-diagnose. I had concluded that it was patellafemoral syndrome or chondromalacia. Unsure of how to treat it and unsure of how reliable my webMD diagnosis was, I made an appointment to see a physical therapist so I could get back to training as soon as possible.

I made an appointment with Rausch Physical Therapy in Laguna Niguel, CA. They came highly recommended from a friend and I have seen them at several race expos and knew they had experience with endurance sports athletes and even offered bio-mechanical bike fitting. The visit with them was great and through a series of motion tests, Kevin Rausch concluded that I did in fact have Chondromalacia. He gave me a series of exercises I needed to do daily and I scheduled weekly appointments to come back for treatment.

I also told Kevin that I had one more race this coming weekend that it was paid for and on the schedule, the Xterra Trail Race Series, Crystal Cove 17k run. He said that racing was up to me but that it would slow my recovery by a couple of weeks. Respecting his expertise, I decided that I would not race in the coming weekend. Instead, I would go to the race to take pictures and support Elise in her race.

Sunday came and we were there early and Elise was ready to race. Being the race addicted dummy that I am, I brought my trail running gear just in case. We checked in, got our things and even saw a few friends, including Tran Nguyen and Minh. The more I talked about the race and the closer it drew to start time, the more I was convincing myself that I should race. By the time the race director was on the microphone telling people to line up at the start line, I was suited, booted, and stretching for the race. I’m a dummy, I know.

Photo credit: Minh Nguyen

The Xterra Crystal Cove trail race is a 17k (10.56 mile) trail race that loops through the hills of the El Moro area of Crystal Cove State Park and has an elevation gain of approximately 1,740 feet. While the race seems like a quick one at just 10½ miles, it really makes you work for it with some steep grades and some organ jostling descents.

The gun blasted and we were on our way. About ¼ mile into the race, I could see all of the racers in front of me and counted back from the front, figuring that I was in 19th place. I figured I would just pace myself and slowly pick people off and hopefully make my way into the top ten or fifteen runners by the end of the race. Over the course of the next 2 ½ miles, I reeled in 8 competitors putting me into 11th place. Not many of those racers that I reeled in ever passed me back, instead, there was a whole new set of competitors who were even more patient and fit than I was because after 3 miles, I went from being the hunter to being the hunted. I kept count of those who passed me and soon enough I was in 25th place, then 26th, then 27th, then 28th. When I hit 31st place, I stopped keeping track and just went into survival mode.

I couldn’t believe how tight my legs were getting but I began to realize that while my legs weren’t still sore from Ironman, they certainly weren’t recovered and they were getting tight easily and started to feel pretty heavy.

I continued to run and cruised as fast as I possibly could down the descents back to the start line. Another thing I was starting to notice was how my feet and ankles were feeling on the descents. The feet were getting hot and my left ankle was telling me to stop it. I attribute this to my New Balance MT 100’s. The MT’s are a great shoe but I think for the way that I run and the injuries I have sustained over the years, they are just too minimal of a shoe for me on longer and more intense trail runs and I might have to get into a trail shoe with a little more support.

Photo Credit: Minh Nguyen

I kept a good pace into the finish line and ended up with a time of 1:30:02, earning me a 7th place finish in my new “welcome to your 30’s” age group. Elise came across the line with a time of 1:42:36, earning her 4th place in her age group. Elise also raced in the 30-34 year old age group for the first time and wasn’t happy about it, and not just because it made her feel old, but because if she had stayed in the previous age group, she would have been in first place by several minutes. We are getting older… oh well, time to step it up.

Our friend Tran also raced and managed a 6th place finish in her age group as well.

All in all, it was a great day. My knees held up, although I am sure it will slow my rehab/recovery a little bit, but I like to think it was worth it. My physical therapist will be happy to know that I am not signed for any races until the HB Surf City half marathon so I will listen to doctor’s orders from now on… promise.

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