Inside Trail Racing China Camp Half-Marathon Race Review

Trail racing is a different scene. It is, almost inherently, more low-key and disorganized and haphazard. For a lot of people, that’s part of the appeal of trails and ultras: that they aren’t The Man. But, that’s going to change eventually with their growing number. And, it’s going to be a big cultural battle as it does change. I fall on the side of wanting courses that are accurately marked, but am ok if we don’t have a super boom in popularity like with marathoning.

Inside Trail Racing is a new race organizer and is based around here, so I’ve been hearing about them, but hadn’t done one of their races until the China Camp one Saturday.

The Expo: Um, this is trail racing, remember. There is no expo – which I consider a plus.

Actually, there was an A.R.T. woman giving away free 5-10′ treatments after the race. I wasn’t crazy impressed about the work she did on my screwed up left hamstring at the time, but it was the only thing that didn’t hurt me the rest of the weekend. So. I think that was probably better than a whole convention center filled with bullshit freebies, on the aggregate.

The Goodies: My number one favorite thing about the race was the free photos. And. AND. My photos actually looked good! See:

Going out fast at the start.
Going out fast at the start.
Shortly after I decided not to quit afterall.
Shortly after I decided not to quit afterall.

We all know good race photos are nearly impossible to achieve, so I am attributing these works of art to trail racing and possibly to Inside Trail Racing. Definitely a plus.

We also got cute technical running shirts, a nice yellow mug, and a full supply of candy at the aid station and the finish. I guess some people want more stuff, but those are the essentials and usually I throw everything else out (except for the peanut butter that one time). I suppose I won a medal too, but I wanted to go home and I told Steve unless he comes up with something cool to do with medals I’m not taking any more of them.

The Course: I run at China Camp probably once a week and there are some trails I never run on because they’re so steep it would be stupid. No one runs on them. I think you can see where this is going. It was those trails the course went up (and down).

Yeah.
Yeah.

For a trail race, though, this is relatively standard. It’s probably the hilliest I really like to do races and yet it’s one of the flatter trail races around. It was a good combination of single-track, fire roads, shaded, sunny, bridges, rocks, etc.

The Organization: The race started 10′ late, because we waited for people to get out of the port-a-potty line, which probably sums up how things worked more or less. There was one aid station, but it operated like a pit stop, getting me in and out as quickly as possible. For all that it seemed less high-tech than other races, things went relatively smoothly.

A common complaint with trail races is the lack of course markers and the tendency to get lost, but that really wasn’t a problem this weekend. Each race distance had a different color ribbon to follow and there were volunteers at the major intersections to turn you in the right direction. Of course, I know China Camp, so I knew where I was going and didn’t even look up much — so, I suppose, other people might have gotten lost? And, when I got tired, I couldn’t remember if I was looking for orange or pink ribbons. You definitely have to stay awake for trail races.

My only complaint is that having a race on single- (or double-) wide trails that aren’t closed to the general public (runners, bikers, horses) is sort of insane. Actually, it’s completely insane. It worked out ok, but that might only be through luck. People were nice and stopped and let me run by or I moved to the side and waved the mountain bikers through while running. But, it’s good they were nice, because if it had been me mountain biking and I had to wait for 300 runners to go by I would have been less nice. And, some bikers ride those trails fast. It’s fortunate no one came around a corner and head-on collided.

I suppose that’s all part of the charm of trail running.

(Update/Edit: It’s not that I EXPECT public trails to be closed to the public, but there weren’t even signs or anything warning people buying a $3 entry to the park that they were about to encounter a race. That seems sort of messed up.)

Grade: A-

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